Indoor Air Quality Testing
Do you need air quality testing or allergen testing? Are you a property or facility manager responsible for a commercial building and receive occupant complaints about offensive odors? Do you need compliance VOC testing or silica testing requirements for your manufacturing facility? Are you experiencing runny nose or asthma symptoms indoors? Is the air you breathe is making you sick? Healthy Building Science offers air quality testing services across the San Francisco Bay Area.
Air Quality Testing includes screening for particulates, allergens, molds (viable and non-viable), and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Air quality lab results can help in the diagnosis of a building and confirm occupant concerns about specific pollutant or give peace of mind.
When employees see fumes or smell chemical odors they may be quick to raise the issue and trigger an air quality assessment. However, many dangerous air contaminants are colorless and odorless. Without the right air testing equipment and air quality consultant it is impossible to know what is in the air you breathe.
The EPA says indoor air is commonly more than five times more contaminated than outdoor air. We want to know if our indoor air is healthy or if mitigation is necessary, but testing air and dust requires special air sampling devices and air quality meters. Ultimately, interpreting lab results is a science best left to an air quality expert.
HBS detects and identifies indoor pollutants and helps inform clients about their environment. Usually simple and affordable changes in purchasing or lifestyle habits can have a dramatic effect on Indoor Air Quality (IAQ). Other times using an air purifier, air-sealing, or perhaps more involved mitigation is required to achieve good IAQ. Let us perform an air quality survey on your building and use air quality testing to “see” what’s in the air.
One of the more common inquiries we receive is around bad smells. “All the employees on the third floor say there’s a musty smell and they don’t want to come to work.” Or, “our office is located near a dry cleaner and we are worried about the chemical smell.” Most Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) have odor detection thresholds at relatively low levels. That means humans can often detect chemical odors at levels well below what our regulatory agencies consider harmful to health. VOCs are generally reported in parts per million (ppm), parts per billion (ppb), or in micrograms per cubic meter (ug/m3). Except in rare circumstances, we almost always find VOCs are within acceptable VOC levels according to regulatory and compliance agencies.
VOC testing methods generally involve collecting bulk air in an evacuated canister or drawing a known amount of air over a sorptive material. Air samples are then sent to VOC testing labs where a VOC testing procedure is utilized to generate precise results. The procedures and testing methods vary depending on what chemicals you are looking for, and what agency requires the air testing. VOC results can be reported as Total VOC (TVOC) and/or each identified VOC may be quantified specifically. For example, LEED IAQ Testing procedures only ask for TVOC below 500 ug/m3, but testing requirements for a dry cleaner will include detailed results for Perchloroethylene (PCE). There are thousands of VOCs that can be tested.
Air quality analysis may also include testing for Semi-Volatile Organic Compounds (SVOCs). These compounds are generally released more slowly and in lower concentrations than VOCs, but research is pointing toward SVOC contaminants being equally important for indoor air quality.
Formaldehyde testing methods are different than those used for VOC testing. Aldehydes include formaldehyde (formalin), glutaraldehyde (Cidex), o-Phthalaldehyde (Cidex OPA), acetaldehyde, benzaldehyde, butyraldehyde, crotonaldehyde, hexaldehyde, propionaldehyde, tolualdehyde, and valeraldehyde. Formaldehyde testing is the most common, but any aldehyde may contribute to unhealthy indoor air.
We are commonly called in for eye, nose and throat complaints and perform commercial air quality testing for formaldehyde. LEED IAQ and WELL Building Standard Verification Testing also require testing for formaldehyde in ambient air. Formaldehyde emissions testing is available to compare emission rates from various building materials. Healthy Building Science will send samples to formaldehyde testing laboratories or perform real-time relative formaldehyde emission testing onsite. In cases where only one or two materials, such as new floors or cabinets, are creating elevated formaldehyde exposure, real-time formaldehyde testing can help quickly identify the offending material. We are proud to be among the few formaldehyde testing companies with the ability to compare relative formaldehyde emissions onsite.
Air Testing for Allergens
Some people have allergic reactions to VOCs. Many consider the smell of laundry detergent or perfume offensive, but some actually have allergies to these airborne chemicals. Formaldehyde is a very common allergen. There are a host of particulates that can trigger allergy symptoms and asthma attacks.
Common dust and fine particulate allergens include:
- Fungi: mold spores and hyphal fragments
- Pollen: grass, mulberry, oak, pine, ragweed, sycamore
- Other plants: algae, diatoms, fern/moss spores
- Animal: skin cells, hair, insect parts, mites, dander
- Non-biological irritants: cellulose fiber, glass fiber, starch particles, synthetic fibers
When most people think of allergy testing they imagine going to the doctor, but there is also allergy testing for the home, office, retail and manufacturing facilities. Allergy testing for buildings involves collecting air or dust samples and submitting them for custom lab analysis.
Air Quality Consultant San Francisco Bay Area
Air quality testing is mostly science, but there is some art in determining locations and appropriate testing methods. Inspecting the building and hearing from occupants, forming a hypothesis and environmental testing protocol, carefully collecting air and dust samples and analyzing the lab results is work of the environmental professional. Interpreting lab results requires extensive training and experience. Some regulatory requirements require hiring expert third-party environmental consultants for air testing, and contracting an unbiased expert is always best when doing due diligence or in preparation for legal arguments.
Healthy Building Science provides you with easy-to-understand reports summarizing the lab air quality findings and offering practical suggestions for mitigation. Our air quality experts serve the entire San Francisco Bay Area, and beyond.
Air Quality Assessment Process
#1: Develop a hypothesis through the collection of information including occupant surveys, historical building records, and an initial building walk-through. What do we think the problem may be? Consider the “4 Ps“: People, Pressure, Pathways, and Pollutants.
#2: Develop an air quality testing procedure to test the hypothesis. This may involve real-time air quality meters, long-term data monitoring and/or air sampling for lab analysis.
#3: Reassess and repeat if necessary. Implement mitigation if appropriate. This is the scientific method at work.
Air Quality Inspection Sample Projects:
- Petaluma air quality testing for hospitals and schools
- Cupertino allergen testing for a retail center
- Palo Alto VOC testing in a grocery store
- San Francisco LEED IAQ testing in commercial offices
- Oakland air testing for particulates in a hospital
- San Jose testing for formaldehyde in schools
- Santa Rosa air testing for smoke and particulates in a home
Air Quality Testing Bay Area
Healthy Building Science is an environmental consulting firm providing indoor air quality testing services for commercial, residential, multi-family buildings, offices, industrial and manufacturing workplaces, hospitals and medical facilities, and single-family homes in the greater San Francisco Bay Area and Northern California. Cities we service include San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland, Sacramento, Santa Rosa, Hayward, Sunnyvale, Fremont, Concord, Salinas, Santa Clara, Berkeley, Vallejo, Fairfield, Antioch, Richmond, Daly City, San Rafael, San Mateo, Vacaville, San Leandro, and Livermore and Alameda County, Contra Costa County, Marin County, Napa County, San Mateo County, Santa Clara County, Solano County and Sonoma County.
We would be pleased to become your go-to air quality consultant and help you with any of your air quality lab testing or air quality monitoring needs.
Please call 415-785-7986 or complete this online form today!