A routine Indoor Air Quality testing plan can identify and quantify asthma triggers to aide facilities in remediation.

Many children are affected by asthma each year. Certain triggers in the indoor environment can cause asthma attacks that are sever enough to affect school attendance and cognitive performance. Unfortunately, a cure does not exist for asthma. However, there are medical treatments for the symptoms, as well as recommendations to identify and reduce asthma triggers.

A 2015 study on the association of cognitive function scores and the indoor environment published by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that building occupants exposed better indoor air quality had increased cognitive function performance.

“We have been ignoring the 90%. We spend 90% of our time indoors and 90% of the cost of a building are the occupants, yet indoor environmental quality and its impact on health and productivity are often an afterthought,” said Joseph Allen, assistant professor of exposure assessment science, director of the Healthy Buildings Program at the Harvard Center for Health and the Global Environment, and lead author of the study. “These results suggest that even modest improvements to indoor environmental quality may have a profound impact on the decision-making performance of workers.”

If true for adult office workers, then it might also be true for children who are often times more sensitive to these triggers than adults.

Student absenteeism costs the state of Florida $228,557,676 per year. This breaks down to least $1020 per chronically absent student. Absence related to asthma certainly contributes to these numbers.

Developing a strategic IAQ plan to test and identify asthma triggers

Both the CDC’s National Asthma Control Program (NACP) and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) recommend a having a plan for improved asthma/allergen trigger reduction and IAQ in general. The first step to implement such a plan is to identify and quantify the asthma triggers that are present in a school’s campus. It is also important to know that asthma sufferers might react to just one asthma trigger or sometimes multiple triggers. So testing for multiple sources is key.

Common Asthma Triggers Found in Schools
• Molds and Pollens
• Dust and Dust Mites
• Volatile Organic Compounds

An IAQ testing plan should be initiated to find and quantify any of the specific asthma triggers that are in the facility. There are a a few different sample collection methods/tests that can be done to understand the baseline and overall condition of the indoor environment. Culture (Bioaerosol), Non-Culture (spore trap analysis), and Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) are often used for quantifying the allergens/triggers that are found. Enzyme Immunoassay (ELISA) of air or dust samples can also be used, but it can be time consuming and costly. Do it yourself testing, such as the IAQ Screencheck Kits, can be a quick and cost effective way to get started too!

Most of the common asthma triggers are well known and can also cause allergic reactions, but VOCs deserve a more in-depth look at their connection. Very basically, VOCs are just organic chemicals. They can be varied and are found almost everywhere. VOCs can be both natural and manufactured compounds. These indoor pollutants can include (but are not limited to) tobacco smoke, emissions from products used in the building such as: office equipment, wall coverings/paint, floor coverings and cleaning products.

Once the building and HVAC system has been tested, the reported data can be used to recommend certain methods to tactically remove/reduce any asthma triggers that were identified. This can include Hygienic HVAC System/Duct Cleaning, Mold Remediation, and products such as permanent, on-site, Professional Air Purifiers.

Finally, repetition of these two steps, testing and remediation, on a regular basis is what really creates a proactive Indoor Air Quality management plan. The result is healthier and higher performing students, staff and buildings.

Visit Building Health Check at the upcoming FAPPO Conference in Orlando, FL and BOMA Expo in Nashville, TN!

For more information on our IAQ Testing Solutions, IAQ Equipment and Professional Air Purifiers please call 1-800-422-7873.

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