How Can You Test Air Quality in Your Workspace?


Quick Answer

Testing the air quality in a workspace involves interviewing the personnel, performing a walk-through to detect olfactory and visual clues, collection of samples and testing for contaminants, reports the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. No single test assesses indoor air quality, but rather samples and tests for each potential pollutant.

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Although uncertainty exists about how to analyze and assess indoor air quality, one of the most obvious danger signs involves the manifestation of symptoms of worker health problems while they are within the building that clear up when they leave, according to the Center for Disease Controls and Prevention. Employee complaints may include headaches, tiredness, dizziness, nausea, coughing, shortness of breath, inability to concentrate and asthma, states the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Poor ventilation is the most common cause, followed by contamination from internal and external pollutants, microbes, and building materials. Olfactory and visual inspections detect symptoms such as disagreeable odors, stuffiness, standing water, leaks, water damage, mold and pest droppings. Professional inspectors take samples and test to detect radon, asbestos, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde and other common contaminants.

Recommendations for the employer to improve indoor air quality include increasing the efficiency of natural and mechanical ventilation with the cleanliness and servicing of equipment, replacing damaged or corroding building materials and supplies, banning or restricting smoking, and maintaining a high cleanliness standard to prevent microbial contamination, reports the Occupational Health and Safety Administration.

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