For this project we were called to carry out an assessment of indoor air quality at a police station, looking for biological and chemical contaminants with reports of burnt odours on the premises and symptoms of irritation amongst the staff. After evaluating the general state of the building, it was our opinion that the indoor air quality of the building was good, with adequate air supply. Our investigation suggested that the intermittent rubber/burn-like odours are most likely caused by the intake of exhaust fumes from a nearby factory. The reported eye, nose and throat irritations mentioned by the staff were most likely caused by very low humidity levels in the working areas. To improve the air quality we recommended the installation of carbon filters into the building’s air management system.
The police station was a modern three storey building situated in an industrial area up north. The building was attached to a call centre and service 24 hours a day. Ventilation on the floor was managed with a floor wide air management system. The air intake for the air management system was situated on the central part of the roof above. Of the industrial units in proximity to the site, one produces rubber and plastic based gaskets and seals which produce exhaust fumes into the surrounding area (The source of the burning smell).
Indoor Air Quality
With regards to chemical contaminants, volatile organic compounds, formaldehyde gas and acetaldehyde gas were all detected on the second floor in minor quantities. With regards to fungal contaminants, spore trap samples collected in the habitable areas of the property were dominated by basidiospores, Cladosporium spores, ascospores and undifferentiated spores.
Air Quality Surveys Conclusions
After conducting an in depth investigation complete with a mould survey we detected volatile organic compounds and aldehydes on the second floor at a low concentration. These chemical compounds were unlikely to be the source of the reported odours mentioned by staff. In the process of conducting our investigation, we also identified that the buildings air intake system is not equipped with carbon filters for odour management. It is likely that odours emitted by the nearby manufacturing plant are carried towards the buildings air intake system. In order to eliminate the odour we recommended the installation of carbon filters into the air management system. Overall, based on the results of our damp inspection, visual observation and microbiological and chemical sampling, we believe that the most likely reason for adverse health systoms experienced by staff was the low humidity.