How Do You Test Indoor Air Quality in Hospitals, Schools and the Workplace?

The air inside can be even more polluted than the air outside. Indoor environments can produce a number of potentially harmful pollutants. In the home, this can include dust, pet dander, and smoke particles. And unless you circulate or purify the air, all of these pollutants can linger, polluting the air you breathe in your home.

In other indoor environments – such as schools, workplaces, and hospitals – harmful chemicals from cleaning products and other substances can also linger in the air, potentially leading to some serious health conditions.

Symptoms of Indoor Air Pollution

Symptoms of indoor air pollution include headaches, nausea, sinus congestion, sneezes, coughs, irritations, fatigue, and a shortness of breath. Indoor air pollution can also make asthma, allergies, and other conditions worse.

In this post we’ll explore a few methods for testing indoor air quality. We’ll look at the sort of things you might want to test for and the sort of things you should measure. We’ll also discuss a few ways you can improve the air quality of an indoor environment.

How To Test Indoor Air Quality

There are various methods to test indoor air quality, you can either:

  • Continuously monitor an area for a set period of time – such as a day, a week, a month, or longer. This will give you a “snapshot” of an area’s air quality, which could highlight whether you should take action.
  • Perform spot checks with exposure patches. These can help you detect the presence of specific pollutants in the air. For example, many homes use small patches to test for carbon dioxide. These patches are usually light, but they darken if exposed to carbon dioxide.
  • Continuously monitor an area in real time. Rather than testing the air quality for a set period of time, you can also test the air quality on an ongoing basis. This way, you can detect the presence of harmful pollutants as they emerge, and act before they can cause any health problems.

Indicators of Poor Air Quality

You can use numerous techniques to test indoor air quality:

Be Aware of Signs and Symptoms of Mould

Mould is a reliable indicator of poor indoor air quality, and mould spores usually make their presence known. Black mould is hard to ignore, and a musty smell that doesn’t go away after cleaning is also a tell-tale sign.

You can buy mould testing kits on the high street. But these are not very useful, as there are trace amounts of mould in almost every indoor environment. Really, you should only test for mould if the problem becomes significant – with substantial black patches and a persistent smell of damp or mustiness. Certain companies offer specialist mould-testing services which can give you an accurate picture of the extent of the problem – along with clear advice on how to address it.

Unfortunately you can’t rely on your eyes and nose alone to test indoor air quality. Certain harmful pollutants, such as radon and carbon monoxide, are tasteless, colourless and odourless.

Testing for Specific Pollutants

Almost all buildings have smoke alarms, which alert you when they detect too much heat in the air, or too many smoke particles. But you should also consider fitting a carbon monoxide alarm.

If you live or work in an area with high radon levels, you could also test for radon. Radon testing usually involves testing the air quality with a specialist device for a set period of time – often around a week, but sometimes up to a year.

In some workplaces, such as hospitals, it’s important to test for other harmful pollutants, such as chlorine, entonox, phenol, and inhalable dust particles. An air quality monitoring procedure can monitor the levels of these harmful substances in the air, while exposure monitoring can help you determine just how at-risk your staff might be.

Ongoing Air Quality Testing

Cairn Technology carries out monitoring to investigate the levels of PM10, PM5, PM4, PM2.5, within multiple departments in hospitals to obtain baseline data to examine staff and public exposure to VOCs. This provides valuable information about the exposure of both staff members and public to VOCs and will assist in building a business case for the requirement of further air purification.

How to Improve Air Quality in Hospitals, Schools and Workplaces

It’s one thing to test the air quality in a room. But this can only alert you to potential problems. Actively improving the air quality of an indoor environment takes extra work

Air purifiers can filter many harmful particles, and they can even trap and remove certain airborne diseases and viruses. You can get small standalone purifiers for single rooms, as well as larger systems for larger rooms, some capable of achieving five air changes per hour. Head here to browse our range of air purifiers.

We also offer a workplace monitoring service. We can monitor your staff’s exposure levels to any potentially harmful substances in your workplace, helping you to understand your risk levels so you can devise an air quality solution that works for you. Head here to learn more about our bespoke air quality monitoring services.