Indoor Air Quality Monitoring
7 September 2007, News release from Envirocare Technical Consultancy Ltd
Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) is a term used to describe a set of symptoms experienced by workers in a particular environment1. It has been recognised as a phenomenon by the World Health Organisation (WHO) since 1982. Extensive studies by the HSE have estimated between 30 and 50% of new or refurbished buildings can cause some form of SBS2.
Exact causes are difficult to define but are likely to involve a combination of physical, environmental and job related factors. Common characteristics are likely to include:
The symptoms of Sick Building Syndrome are wide ranging and vary between people, they usually include:
These symptoms apparently do not cause permanent damage but can have significant impact on those affected and place large costs on the organisation in terms of:
Benefits of carrying out Indoor Air Quality Assessments
There can be significant tangible benefits in promptly dealing with complaints about indoor air quality.
They include improving staff morale, efficiency, less time spent dealing with complaints, lower levels of absenteeism, better staff retention, and overall a more motivated and satisfied workforce.
Envirocare can provide assistance by carrying out independent air quality monitoring within the workplace that includes expert technical advice tailored to the individual needs of clients. These include:
1. - The Assessment
Following staff concerns at a large Primary Care Trust (PCT) an indoor air quality assessment was carried out in the recently refurbished open plan office. The staff were anxious of the potential ill health effects from the cleaning substances stored adjacent to their offices. A programme of monitoring was carried out to determine VOC's, formaldehyde, dust, carbon dioxide, ozone, air flow, temperature and relative humidity. This was in order to provide essential evidence to enable a thorough risk assessment to be carried out.
The survey showed that chemical pollutants such as VOCs and formaldehyde were detected at insignificant levels in comparison with the relevant Workplace Exposure Limits (WELs). Dust levels in the general room and ozone arising from printers and photocopiers were also at insignificant levels.
Carbon dioxide levels were slightly elevated in comparison with the background, but not sufficiently to cause concern. Temperature and relative humidity levels measured over a typical working day were found to be outside of recommended comfort levels with a detected lack of sufficient air flow in the area compounding the problem.
A detailed report outlining the findings was presented to the client. Recommendations were made to increase humidity levels and decrease temperature by obtaining better ventilation and by placing potted plants in the area. The report provided the Health and Safety team invaluable information to access resources to provide corrective action.
1 - HSG 132: How to deal with Sick Building Syndrome (SBS): Guidance for employers, building owners and building managers. HSE Books, 1995.
2 - G J Raw, Sick building Syndrome: a Review of the evidence on causes and solutions. HSE Contract Research Report No.42/1992. HSE Books 1992.