The air we breathe naturally contains a huge number of gases and particles. The good news is that for the vast majority of the time the particles in the air do not have any affect whatsoever on our wellbeing. In some cases however, high concentrations of particles can cause health concerns, such as irritation to the eyes, skin, respiratory passages and other soft tissue.
High concentrations of airborne particles can be caused in a number of different ways. They can be generated by building materials, including fibreglass, fibres, cellulose fibres, asbestos fibres. Combustion devices such as gas appliances, gas hot water heaters and boilers also produce particles. Within the office there is photocopy dust and particles can also come in from outside. People are constantly shredding skin cells which also contaminate the air.
Monitoring the levels of airborne particles in indoor air is conducted by ‘gravimetric assessment’. This thorough assessment tests two categories of airborne particles: inspirable dust, the portion of airborne dust that is taken through the mouth and nose during breathing; and respirable dust, the invisible dust (measuring less than 10 microns in diameter) that causes ill effects to the lungs – specifically the lower bronchioles and alveolar region.
A snapshot of the particles in the air can be taken using a spore trap air sampler. Analysis of the sample may include skin cells, carpet fibers, carbon clisters (traffic pollution), mould spores, stachybotrys, construction dust, pollen grains & rust particles.
At the moment the OSH Workplace Exposure Standards provides levels for the amount of particles in the indoor environment – 10mg/m3 inspirable dust 3mg/m3 respirable dust. The most important particles to measure and test for are respirable ones, since they cause the most serious health issues. At Airlab we’ve developed our own stringent standards and levels that should be considered ‘normal’ for airborne particles. Our investigators use cutting edge testing equipment and offer a workplace and personnel sampling service – with professional advice regarding health and safety in the workplace. Remember though, if you feel there are issues with your indoor air quality you should always talk to the building maintenance contractors first.