Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Testing

Indoor Air Quality Testing and Standards for Buildings

Building Investigation Support

Field investigations, properly designed and executed, provide a means of assessing potential risks associated with exposures to VOCs and SVOCs within an indoor environment. Since 1989, Berkeley Analytical (BkA) has provided industrial hygienists, engineering companies, environmental health and safety departments of schools, hospitals, and other organizations with high quality indoor air quality testing services tailored to the customers’ objectives. BkA’s analytical support services for building investigations include:

  • Thermal desorption GC/MS analysis of VOCs collected on sorbent tubes (BkA supplies cleaned tubes for your use)
  • Analysis of sampling cartridges and passive samplers for formaldehyde and other low molecular weight carbonyl compounds
  • Analysis of air samples collected on low-volume PUF cartridges for phthalate esters, flame retardants, and PAH
  • Analysis of dust samples and surface wipe samples for phthalate esters, PAH, PDBEs, and other flame retardants
  • VOC emission chamber studies of field collected products and materials - such studies are tailored to your specific project objectives
  • LEED Commissioning study support

For LEED® projects, pre-occupancy IAQ studies often are conducted to fulfill the requirements of IEQ Credit 3.2: Construction Indoor Air Quality Management Plan. Air samples are collected throughout a building for the analysis of formaldehyde, total VOCs, and 4-phenylcyclohexene (4-PCH), a chemical associated with new carpet odor. In LEED v4, credit for testing indoor air quality requires measurement of the individual VOCs in CDPH Standard Method V1.1. BkA supplies the necessary air sampling media for such IAQ testing and provides rapid turn around of the analytical results to help you meet tight building completion and occupant move-in schedules.

View our VOC sampling guides and contact us to discuss your IAQ testing objectives and request a quotation. Berkeley Analytical has 24 years of experience in IAQ investigations. In many cases, we can offer advice on cost-effective and productive sampling and analytical strategies to help you to provide effective solutions to your clients and constituencies for solving indoor air quality problems and meeting indoor air quality standards and guidelines.

Indoor Exposure to VOCs – Overview

As a society, we spend on average about 90% of our time in buildings. Not surprisingly, complaints about poor indoor air quality (IAQ), such as the presence of annoying odors, are common. Besides being unpleasant, such odors can adversely affect worker and student productivity. In many cases, odors are due to a VOC source that is discoverable by testing indoor air quality.

Building occupants may also experience more serious symptoms such as acute respiratory problems or CNS effects due to exposure to VOCs from indoor sources. Detection of unusual compounds or measurement of elevated concentrations of specific compounds may suggest the need for immediate action and investigation of their sources.

Situations in which pollutant concentrations are found to exceed indoor air quality standards and guidelines also suggest a need to identify the sources of these pollutants.

Additionally, as building occupants we are almost always exposed to numerous VOC air contaminants at concentrations in excess of outdoor levels. We are mostly unaware of these exposures because concentrations are well below odor detection thresholds or levels that elicit acute effects. Nevertheless, these imperceptible exposures may present chronic health risks for cancer, reproductive effects, and other serious health endpoints.

Exposure to semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOCs) can occur by multiple pathways. In the indoor environment, SVOCs partition between gas and condensed liquid phases, depending on the temperature. These compounds adsorb onto surfaces in buildings and directly onto our clothing and skin. They also readily accumulate on dust particles. This ability to partition to particulate matter and surfaces leads to dermal exposures and ingestion exposures by hand-to-mouth transfer. Exposure to some SVOCs may result in serious health effects, particularly in the very young.

The challenge, of course, is to know how to interpret test results with respect to health and comfort issues experienced by occupants. In some cases, indoor pollutant exposure guidelines are established in indoor air quality standards such as CDPH Standard Method V1.1. In other cases, hazard evaluations must be performed on a case-by-case basis. For example, cancer risk assessments often require the services of a toxicologist. BkA staff are not health professionals, but we can provide contact information for toxicologists knowledgeable regarding indoor air pollutant exposures.