Indoor Air & Environmental Health
Environmental Health and more specifically, Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) has been causing increasing concern in homes, schools and offices. Environmental Protection Agency studies of human exposure to air pollutants indicate that indoor levels of pollutants may be 2-5 times, and occasionally more than 100 times, higher than outdoor levels. These levels of indoor air pollutants may be of particular concern because most people spend about 90% of their time indoors.
High's experts bring years of experience to bear on your indoor air quality (IAQ) issues. Our expertise goes beyond basic testing, involving an art of diagnosis of your air quality problem. Certified Industrial Hygienists (CIH), Certified Indoor Air Quality Professionals (CIAQP) with experience in solving indoor air quality issues are ready to assist you.
High EH&S consulting has experience in evaluating the indoor environment for biological hazards (fungi, bacteria, viruses), chemicals as well as for normal comfort parameters (RH, CO2, Temperature). We can assist in determining and resolving the source of occupant complaints or odors. Our team has the ability to approach your environmental health issues from several perspectives.
Industrial Hygiene Perspective
The traditional industrial hygiene goal is to recognize and evaluate exposures. These exposures are then compared against some established standard. In the realm of biological contaminants in indoor air, there are limited data available to which exposure results can be compared. Evaluation of complaint, non-complaint and outdoor samples are typically used to determine if there is amplification of biological organisms. In addition, identification of specific species of bio-contaminants can help to determine the nature of the sources as well as the level of concern.
Public Health Perspective
We also are able to consider the exposure from a public health perspective applying bio-statistical and epidemiological methods to evaluate if occupant complaints or illnesses are statistically greater than those expressed in the normal population with appropriate population statistical adjustments. Occasionally concern about an illness cluster (e.g. cancer) in a specific office setting is presented. Because disease occurs in populations normally, the question as the likelihood that the health effects are related to a common exposure vs. a normal presentation of disease may be raised. There is often a call to "test the air" when this concern arises. This is likely to be an ineffective approach and a waste of your organization's resources but may make others feel better that something was tested. This approach is typically used by groups that are not experienced in evaluation of these types of issues. In the worst scenario, there is an increased risk and it is not identified (nor can it be) by air sampling. Click for more information on the limitations of "just test the air" approach. We can assist by reviewing expressed symptoms, medical diagnoses and use these to consider if statistically significant changes are present. Evaluation of these data can help inform if it is appropriate to test the air and what specifically should be evaluated.
It is not uncommon for a facility which has been identified by occupants to be a source of their physical symptoms to develop into a social-psychological problem which results in attribution of non-related effects to the facility. In addition, physical symptoms can manifest as a result of a social-psychological event. Mass psychogenic illness has been documented on some occasions, with no apparent source of exposure. This is always a controversial diagnosis and is rarely accepted by the occupants. Understanding the psychological factors and perceptions by occupants is important to develop a resolution which will be accepted by all parties. On-going communication about risk and control of the risks is necessary. Risk communication methods can assist in minimizing panic while addressing everyone's concerns.
Our approach to indoor air quality goes well beyond that of many others offering these services. There are home mold-testing kits; there are home inspectors who will evaluate for "mold" in your home. These approaches are usually do not provide informed recommendations to resolve issues and often don't even let you know if you have an issue at all. Fungal contamination (mold) is only one of many possible sources of indoor air quality problems. Cockroach, dog, cat and rodent allergens; chemical irritants; dust mites; bacterial growth; fiberglass; high levels of carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide; and a host of other exposures could be present which have some impact on health. Rather than starting with testing, we start with understanding occupant concerns and complaints. We have the technical expertise to determine what to test for and the best methods for sample collection and media selection. We encourage you to review our staff's experience and education and compare this to others offering these services.
Preventing indoor air quality problems is always better than attempting to fix them after the fact. High EH&S offers preventative assessments for those facilities concerned about their facility health. These surveys can include recommendations for ventilation operation and design and well as general facility operating recommendations. These types of reviews are especially helpful for those facilities exposed to greater liability risk (schools, hospitals).
LEED Indoor Air Testing
High EH&S provides Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) air quality testing in accordance with US Building Council's guidelines which provides credits towards qualification of a LEED-recognized design. See our LEED testing page for more information.