Air quality concerns after refurbishment

Newly refurbished buildings can sometimes suffer from air quality problems. The problems are mainly associated with off gassing from different pieces of furniture, carpets, decorative paints silicon and adhesive. These problems are most intense shortly after the installation but gradually subside. The speed at which this happens greatly depends of the rate of ventilation and temperature. Increase ventilation help the contaminants to dissipate into the outside environments and the increase temperature increases the rate of chemical evaporation. The increase in temperature has initially a negative effect and can worsen the effects but it greatly speeds up the process and is therefore a useful tool for contaminants reduction.

I have visited and office staffed by approximately 30 employees who were concerned about the air quality in their office after refurbishments. They were concerned about the volatile chemicals in the air, formaldehyde gas from new furniture, dust and asbestos fibres in the ar. The office under investigation was located on the 2nd floor of larger office type building and consisted of one open plan office and several smaller offices and meeting rooms. The rooms were carpeted, had plasterboard walls and plasterboard ceilings. The offices were naturally ventilated via windows facing a major inner city road. At the time of the assessment there were no significant adverse health symptoms reported by the office staff.

I have carried out sampling for volatile organic compounds throughout the offices and found that the levels of VOC’s were below 50µg/m3. The background concentration of volatile organic compounds in the atmosphere was 7 µg/m3.Measurements of Formaldehyde gas showed that the concentration was below 50 µ/m3. The background concentration of formaldehyde gas in the atmosphere was 12 µg/m3.

The measurements of carbon dioxide (CO2) showed a marginal increase in concentration of CO2 in the offices during the day. The concentration of CO2 gas in the offices ranged between 780 and 811ppm. The background concentration of CO2 gas was 412ppm.The ambient temperature in the property ranged between 21.7 and 24.2 degrees centigrade and relative humidity ranged between 54.7% and 57.8 %. Concentration of respirable fibres ranged between 0 and 0.0006 fibres per millilitre.

 Following the investigation I have concluded that the volatile organic compounds and formaldehyde were present in the offices at very low concentration levels not considered to be significant for indoor air quality purposes. Measurement of carbon dioxide (CO2) gas showed that the concentration of CO2 was normal. The offices were found to be well ventilated during the working hours. Airborne Respirable fibres levels concentration was well below the clearance level set by the HSE for the asbestos clearances.

Based on the results of visual observation and chemical sampling and microscopic identification it was my opinion that the offices did not suffer from degraded indoor air quality and that the indoor air was not contaminated by asbestos fibres.

By Tomas Gabor

Link through to Sysco - Nationwide specialists in hazard exposure monitoring
Hi, I have been working in my job as an Indoor Air Quality Investigator for a number of years and decided to share my experience with you. You can find lot of related information on my website toxic black mould
Leave a comment