Schools can run the gamut with all the same IAQ risks as any other building owner or employer. There are often extra contaminant sources in areas such as labs, art rooms, or vocational education spaces, such as a garage with running vehicles, where IAQ issues can arise. Too often, when there is a big concern with Indoor Air Quality and no baseline testing has been done, schools are left with a more difficult time resolving an issue than may be necessary. This can include costs to find out what is wrong with air quality—if anything, public relations issues, staff morale, and disruption of school activities.
Baseline IAQ testing can be done on a representative sample of rooms and offices in school buildings, when there are no complaints or apparent issues. This gives a place to start when a problem arises because there is something with which to compare any new IAQ test results. It helps schools from getting boxed into a corner when people say there is something wrong with the air, or mold issues, or whatever. If new air quality testing results are showing the same levels as before, schools can say that something else may be contributing to the problem because the baseline air data are the same as what they have always been. Testing during vacation or breaks when there is low occupancy, coupled with testing during occupancy but with no “problems” being reported provides a great baseline data set. In addition, periodic IAQ testing, for example on a quarterly or biannual basis, makes this an even stronger base for investigating future problems or concerns that may arise. Some IAQ issues can be extra tricky, like those where established standards for safe levels do not exist. Mold, without established standards, is often a category of IAQ where baseline testing has been extremely helpful.
When schools undergo construction, baseline IAQ testing can be invaluable in demonstrating any issues that arise resulting directly from construction activity. For example, during roofing, there are often issues with volatile organic compounds (VOCs); and there could be odor issues, dangerous dust, or even exhaust fumes from running equipment outside that get sucked into the building through the heating and ventilation system. IAQ monitoring during this time can reveal peaks in numbers related to IAQ. If it is known that this is a new issue because it higher than the baseline, it gives solid ground for asking contractors to be more careful. And, in the end, the reason why any of this is done is because it helps ensure the health and safety of all involved.
Think of doing IAQ baseline testing like a baseline physical. Tests are done even without obvious problems, such as a stress test for the heart or a complete blood count test, to name just a couple. Not only might it point out unknown problems that can be dealt with proactively, but baseline testing during periods of little to no-load on the systems can provide a good comparison for future tests or problems. Keep in mind that when there is full occupancy many test parameter concentrations, for example carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide, will naturally be higher than during unoccupied periods; therefore, baseline monitoring is not intended to fully assess indoor air quality, but to provide baseline comparison points.
Upcoming vacation breaks are a great opportunity to conduct no-load baseline testing!
RPF Environmental can help you ensure your school occupants are safer and can help you breathe easier when Indoor Air Quality issues arise. We have been helping companies plan for health and safety and providing air quality testing, including Indoor Air Quality baseline testing since 1991.
Contact RPF Environmental, Inc. today by filling out an online contact form, or by dialing 603-942-5432.