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Do I Have an Indoor Air Quality Problem?

Indoor Air Quality problems (IAQ) can occur in any size building - from private homes with a few occupants to large-scale office buildings or schools. Most people feel that there are some problems with their building environment. Many sources suggest that an 80 percent occupant satisfaction rate denotes a "healthy" building. In other words, if more than 20 percent of building occupants experience discomfort/dissatisfaction with the building environment, an investigation into the problem may be warranted. Note that with the more serious Building Related Illness, numbers of affected individuals may be much less.


There are a number of steps that you can take to try to determine the cause of your Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) problems. Quite often, you can perform these initial steps yourself and solve the problems without outside help.



Some helpful activities include:

  • Writing down problems that have occurred. Keep a diary about when and where problems occur - times of day, seasons, and atmospheric conditions - all can contribute to identify the cause(s) of concern.


  • Categorize symptoms - do they fall into:
    • Irritation upper respiratory tract (coughing, sneezing, etc.)?
    • Irritation of mucosal membranes (eyes, nose, etc.)?
    • Sinus irritation (persistent infection, headaches, post nasal drip, etc.)?
    • Skin irritation?
    • Headaches, lack of concentration


Are the complaints localized to one area or spread over the entire building?


  • Look for products that affect air quality:
    • Pesticides
    • Cleaning products
    • Art supplies
    • Office products
    • Foods and cooking areas
    • Building maintenance chemicals
    • Manufacturing products/chemicals


  • Are the proper work practices for these products being used? In other words, have you followed the directions of the manufacturer?


  • Look for activities that affect air quality:
    • Cooking
    • Art classes
    • Shop classes
    • Beauty salon
    • Manufacturing
    • Any activity that uses chemicals
    • Any activity that produces dust/debris


  • Are there animals present?


  • How about unwanted animals - rodents, birds, and bats?


  • What about insects?