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Who is responsible for indoor air quality?

Posted on: January 1st, 2009 by admin

More and more business executives today are looking beyond just the bottom line. Realizing that they are responsible for the indoor air quality (IAQ) in their buildings, they have pledged to work towards improving the quality of the air in the buildings they own or occupy.

Realizing that a lack of education can be part of the problem of poor IAQ, many companies are now becoming pro-active in getting educated about IAQ and implementing comprehensive IAQ programs in their buildings.

  1. In their search for knowledge, they discover that many office buildings have significant air pollution sources (such as some copy machines, sinks, floor drains, plumbing problems, dirty HVAC systems, roof leaks, incorrect waste disposal, construction materials and processes, etc.) and some buildings are inadequately ventilated, usually from their ventilation system being poorly designed or improperly operated therefore not providing adequate amounts of outdoor air.
  2. Another thing they are amazed at is that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ranks indoor air pollution as one of top five environmental threats to public health. EPA studies have shown that indoor pollutant levels are often 2-5 times higher than those found outdoors. Since people spend the majority of their time indoors, the workplace is the location where exposure to indoor contaminants is of the highest concern.

    Indoor air pollutants can increase the risk of illness. In the workplace, increasing health problems will result in decreasing productivity and attendance. One of the environmental problems caused by poor indoor air quality is Sick Building Syndrome. Sick Building Syndrome and Building Related Illness are terms used to describe the negative health effects and illnesses directly related to the time spent in a building. Lawsuits directed at building owners and employers have become more frequent as people realize that there is a relationship between poor indoor air quality and the illnesses it may cause.

  3. Many contaminants that contribute to poor indoor air quality are found in the HVAC system. In an October 1997 report the EPA stated that if not properly maintained, air duct components may become contaminated with particles of dust or other debris. If moisture is present, the potential for microbiological growth is increased and mold spores may be released in the indoor environment. Cleaning a dirty and improperly maintained HVAC System will significantly improve indoor air quality.
  4. Companies are also concerned about the connection between ventilation systems and energy efficiency. In 1999, the EPA completed an extensive modeling study to assess the compatibilities and trade-offs between energy, indoor air quality, and thermal comfort objectives for HVAC systems, and to help formulate strategies to simultaneously achieve superior performance on each objective.

Below is a quote taken from the Executive Summary of the EPA’s “Energy Cost and IAQ Performance of Ventilation Systems and Controls” report.

Purpose and scope of this report

In its 1989 Report to Congress on Indoor Air Quality, the United States Environmental Protection Agency provided a preliminary assessment of the nature and magnitude a indoor air quality pollution, and the types of controls and policies which can be used to improve the air quality in the nation’s building stock. In that report, EPA estimated that the economic losses to the nation due to indoor air quality pollution was in the “tens of billions” of dollars per year, and suggested that because of the relative magnitude of operating costs, labor costs and rental revenue in most buildings, it is possible that modest investments toward improved indoor air quality would generate substantial returns. (emphasis added)

This project is part of that effort. Adequate ventilation is a critical component of design and management practices needed for good indoor air quality. Yet, the energy required to run the heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) system constitutes about half of a building’s energy cost. Since energy efficiency can reduce operating costs and because the burning of fossil fuel is a major source of greenhouse gases, energy efficiency has become an important concern to the building industry and the promotion of efficient energy utilization has become a matter of public policy. It is important, therefore, to examine the relationship between energy use and indoor air quality performance of ventilation systems. (emphasis added)

View the full EPA report

For a full assessment of the state of your system’s health, call us!

Anderson Air Conditioning/AMS
1872 N. Case Street, Orange, CA 92865
(714) 998-6850