How is the Indoor Air Quality in Vancouver?
We often hear that we have great air quality in Vancouver. Are people talking about the indoor air? No, not usually. For the most part they are referring to the outdoor air. Our wet climate and proximity to the ocean keeps things fresh and clean outdoors.
The same cannot always be said for indoor air quality in Metro Vancouver BC. When we are indoors, often the fresh outdoor air is restricted or limited. The indoor air can easily be changed by many things since the area is contained. We are going to discuss some of the common indoor air quality problems in Metro Vancouver buildings.
Moisture getting into buildings is a common problem in Vancouver. The wet conditions that keep things fresh and clean outdoors often have the opposite effect for indoor environments. Once moisture gets into a building mold may begin to grow. The moisture adds humidity which can also create a friendly environment for mold. The mold spores contaminate the indoor air creating health problems for occupants.
Another common indoor air quality (IAQ) problem is the presence of VOCs or volatile organic compounds. Organic chemicals that emit VOCs are widely used in household products and in building materials. The VOC fumes remain in the indoor environment. If they become elevated enough VOCs can give people serious health issues.
Building materials and consumer products often emit formaldehyde. Formaldehyde can irritate people including triggering asthma attacks and it is a known carcinogen. Plywood, pressed wood products, adhesives, paints, and wood finishes may contain formaldehyde. Even permanent press fabrics can emit formaldehyde. These materials can release formaldehyde into the air for several years.
Carbon Dioxide concentration in the indoor air can provide a good indication of the ventilation rate and baseline air quality of an indoor space. Carbon dioxide levels tend to become elevated in areas with inadequate ventilation. Because modern buildings have less natural ventilation than older buildings and cleaning chemicals, office equipment, building materials and furnishings produce chemical contaminants, along with carbon dioxide from occupants, it is important to add fresh outdoor air to the indoor environment and exhaust stale and potentially contaminated indoor air. If the ventilation system is not removing carbon dioxide, then other indoor contaminants are probably accumulating proportionately.
Carbon monoxide is a colourless, odourless toxic gas that is produced as a result of incomplete burning of carbon containing fuels. Carbon monoxide pollution occurs where combustion gases are not properly exhausted or are drawn into the building from outside sources. Motor vehicle emissions, car garages, loading docks, gas furnaces, hot water tanks, fire places, gas stoves and tobacco smoke are all sources of carbon monoxide.
Excessive levels of dust and particulates in the indoor air can cause allergic reactions, such as dry eyes, nose, throat, and skin irritation, coughing, sneezing and respiratory difficulties. Indoor particles come from both indoor and outdoor sources and can be drawn into the building via infiltration and outdoor air intakes.
Because we spend much of the year with our windows and doors closed and we have damp conditions we don’t always have the best indoor air quality in Vancouver. There are solutions for poor indoor air quality. They usually start with assessing what might be causing the problem and then conducting indoor air quality testing to pin point it. Call ABM Environmental at 604-568-5177 to arrange an assessment or see Indoor Air Quality to learn more. You can also complete our online assessment form to get more information.
ABM Environmental air quality testing service areas include Abbotsford, Burnaby, Chilliwack, Coquitlam, Delta, Langley, Maple Ridge, Mission, New Westminster, North Vancouver, Pitt Meadows, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody, Richmond, Squamish, Surrey, Vancouver, West Vancouver, Whistler and White Rock.