Why and How to Test Your Indoor Air
As awareness of air quality concerns increases, primarily because of media coverage and the advice of allergists, homeowners are increasingly choosing to test their indoor air for allergens and contaminants. This trend is mostly positive, because shed season e it often leads to actions that improve indoor air quality. (However, unqualified air testing providers can miss potential problems or identify particles that are not a problem, causing homeowners to spend money on unneeded testing and remediation.) This article will talk about what air testing can identify, what the results may mean, and how to tell if an air testing provider has the training and equipment to do the job right.
The air inside a home can tell the story of the life of a home’s inhabitants and the life of the structure itself. Are there pets? Do the owners smoke? Has the building suffered water damage? Is the crawlspace dry? How new is the building, and has renovation occurred recently? A qualified air testing professional can find the answers to these questions and identify not only elevated counts of particles the owners don’t want to breathe, but also the sources of the problematic particles.
“But,” homeowners may ask, “How does the professional know what to look for?” The answer depends on what prompted the test in the first place. Did the homeowner smell a foul or chemical odor? Did an allergist advise a homeowner to check for particles he suspects are causing health problems? Did the crawlspace flood recently? Or are owners concerned about the health of an infant or immune-compromised adult? A properly trained professional will thoroughly inspect the property to decide how many air samples are needed and where the samples should be taken. He then will determine where to send the sample. Some labs inspect for mold only, while others include dander, mites, bug droppings, bacteria, lead, asbestos, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), and scores of other particles and contaminants.
The equipment a professional air tester should use depends on the type of test he’s taking. If he’s looking for particulates in the air, he uses a laser particle counter. This gives an overview of the cleanliness of the air and an idea of how efficiently the air filters are working. For chemical or VOC testing, the professional would use a metal canister to trap air during several hours. Allergen tests require a polycarbonate air filter cassette, which is a paper filter that traps potentially allergenic particles such as dander, dust mites, and bug and mouse droppings.
If the professional is testing for mold, he begins with a spore trap, which is a cassette that captures and compacts airborne