Remember IAQ During Construction Activities

by Michael J. Carey, Jr.

As more and more buildings are undergoing construction and/or renovation activities, building owners and managers are becoming increasingly aware of the effects these activities could have on indoor air quality. Dust and odors migrating out of the work area and into occupied spaces can disrupt normal operations of the facility and, under worst case scenarios, cause injury and illness.

The most obvious problem with any construction or renovation project is the release of airborne dust which is generated by processes such as demolition, excavation, grinding, drilling, cutting, sanding, or disturbing settled dust.

Depending on the age of the building, asbestos or lead containing materials may be present. Asbestos can be found in surfacing materials for acoustical, decorative, or fireproofing purposes including plaster and fireproofing insulation, as thermal system insulation used on pipes, boilers, tanks, and ducts and as other various materials such as floor tile, ceiling tile, roofing felt, concrete pipe, outdoor siding, and fabrics.

Lead-based paint has been used in many buildings, houses, and apartments built before 1978. Lead from paint, chips, and dust can pose serious health hazards if not taken care of properly.

Vapors are often emitted from new furniture, paints, glues, varnish, cleaners, and other construction products that contain organic solvents. The harmful vapors are referred to as volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Volatile organic compounds commonly found as indoor air contaminants have been reported to produce symptoms such as discomfort due to odors, headaches, temporary decrease in the ability to concentrate, and irritation to the throat, nose and eyes.

When renovating or demolishing areas that have experienced water damage and fungal growth, work activities will disrupt fungi and spore accumulations. Certain concentrations of airborne fungi can trigger allergic reactions in susceptable individuals. Reports indicate that even low concentrations of Stachybotrys and Aspergillus fumigatus fungi can cause serious health problems or even death in infants and children.

Whatever the situation, control methods and protocals should be established before any construction and/or renovation activities are started to reduce the chances of affecting occupants health.

Criterion Labs CRITERION Laboratories, Inc.
Environmental Consulting, Testing, and Training