08 Feb 2018
Another IAQA conference and opportunity to learn few new tricks of the field and also to worm up old bones down in Florida. Classes given by prominent practitioners and researchers alike shed some more light onto our still uncharted territory called IAQ. Unfortunately chronic lack of research funding makes it really difficult to establish proven link between so many indoor contaminants and human reaction to them. Of course, fact that every individual reacts in different way, at different dose, or doesn’t react at all make things really interesting. That is the main reason we have no standards and set exposure limits for so much bad stuff that is out there lurking in the air waiting to jump on us for a free ride. And every hard work is eventually rewarded by after hours quality time with friends and colleagues.
There is a typical call which I, and I’m sure all other practitioners in the field have been getting from distressed clients all the time. It goes like this: ”Hi, could you please test my air, something feels (smells) wrong”. Or: “I need my air tested to make sure everything is OK.” And it goes on, but I’m sure you see the pattern. Indoor environment quality is probably one of the most illusive-like concepts to general population and for that reason education is very important part of my job. The way I (and most other competent professionals) work when called about a problem is to conduct investigation with the goal of determining the source of the problem, followed by creating a hypothesis which is then tested either by sampling the air for particular parameter/s (contaminant) or by using other necessary tools for the task. Should the hypothesis be confirmed and source of the problem has been discovered, recommendation is made for remediation. I emphasize this again, goal is to remove the source if any way possible, if not, next best thing is to isolate it. Should the hypothesis proved to be wrong, further investigation is taking place and new one is presented and again tested, and so on till you get it right. Investigations could be quite simple as only walk-through and visual inspection paired with the practitioner’s experience may prove to be sufficient, and on the other hand it may turn into a “mission impossible” including multiple air and material sampling methods, building science and air distribution (HVAC) system diagnostics in a multi storey building.
Nice little ski resort in the heart of Pennsylvania set the scene for another one of Joe Hughes (IAQ Training Institute) summer (or post summer) conferences called Research to Practice for Healthy Building Professionals. As always Joe put out incredible line up of speakers with the keynote being our fellow Torontonian Jeffrey Siegel, PhD from University of Toronto. As the title says, aspect was on Research to Practice and at the end, consensus was that the industry would greatly benefit from it. No matter how great the job is they are doing on each end, if there is no closer relationship between scientists and practitioners the progress in still developing IAQ field wouldn’t be as as we would all want. The topics covered by the speakers ranged from building science, mould sampling methods and data interpretation, allergen research, HVAC system impact on IAQ, new materials used in construction and contaminants they emit into the environment, lot of case studies and some out of the box thinking projects. There is still a struggle in the industry to come up with definitive standards for air sampling, procedures and protocols and till then there will be lot of different opinions and sampling strategies and protocols will be based on individual practitioner’s knowledge and experience.
Health Canada exposure guidelines for Residential Indoor Air Quality and recommended exposure limits are our starting point and minimum threshold in every investigation.