Do I have an indoor air quality problem?

Indoor air quality problems can occur in any size building, from private homes with a few occupants to large office buildings or schools. Most people feel there are some problems with their building environment. Many sources suggest that if more than 20 percent of occupants experience discomfort or dissatisfaction with the building environment, an investigation may be warranted.
With the more serious building-related illness, the percentage of affected individuals may be much lower.
Below are some steps you can take to try to determine the cause of your indoor air quality problems. Often you can perform these initial steps yourself.
Determine which category your complaint falls into
  • Write down problems that have occurred:
    • Keep a diary about when and where: times of day, seasons and atmospheric conditions. All can help identify the cause(s) of concern.
  • Categorize symptoms. Do they fall into:
    • Irritation of the upper respiratory tract (coughing, sneezing, etc.)?
    • Irritation of mucous membranes (eyes, nose, etc.)?
    • Sinus irritation (persistent infection, headaches, post-nasal drip, etc.)?
    • Skin irritation?
    • Headaches?
    • Lack of concentration?
Consider the building
  • Are the complaints localized in one area or spread over the entire building?
Walk the building
  • Look for things 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 being followed for the products above? In other words, have you followed the manufacturer’s directions?
  • Look for activities that affect air quality:
    • Cooking.
    • Art classes.
    • Shop classes.
    • Operating a beauty salon.
    • Manufacturing.
    • Any activity that uses chemicals.
    • Any activity that produces dust/debris.
  • Are there animals present?
    • How about unwanted animals: rodents, birds, bats?
    • What about insects?