The case for 24/7 IAQ monitoring

People spend roughly 1/3 of their life in a facility environment and several studies have shown that poor IAQ results in increased health problems, more doctor visits, productivity loss [1], and reduced learning outcomes [2, 3]. Poor IAQ costs the U.S. economy over $30B a year in medical expenses alone [4]. Recently it has been shown that COVID-19 transmits easier in poorly ventilated environments as well [5]. There is an abundance of literature linking poor IAQ & thermal comfort to academic performance in the form of lower test scores and increased absence rates [6, 7, 8]; increased health complications among the elderly in the form of COPD related symptoms and upper respiratory effects [9, 10]; decreased mental health outcomes in the form of depression and anxiety [11, 12]; decreased worker productivity in the form of reduced output and distraction [13]; and and hypertension leading to an increased risk for cardiovascular disease [15, 16, 17]. Moreover, poor ventilation has also been linked to an increase in transmission of aerosolized viruses and pathogens [14]. By implementing predictive IAQ monitoring as part of a proactive IAQM strategy, much of these health impacts can be mitigated with early warnings. This type of monitoring also serves as a validation tool for currently implemented filtration and air cleaning technologies.

The need for real time data and better environmental management technologies has been hastened by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has put a global spotlight on IAQ and ventilation management. Existing building control system weaknesses raise the potential risk for transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and other viruses increase. “Ventilation is one of the most important means to control the cross infection by removing or diluting virus-laden aerosols exhaled by infected patients,” [14]. ASHRAE issued an Emerging Issues Brief in 2020 regarding the operation of heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning systems to reduce SARS-CoV-2 transmission. They underscore the critical role properly maintained indoor ventilation brings to society and the need for properly maintained HVAC systems. Implementing a proactive IAQ Management (IAQM) program can help identify conditions conducive to the transmission of viruses or other pathogens before occupants are at risk, as well as improve occupant health, student learning, and reduce the socio-economical cost of poor IAQ.

  1. Pratama, P., Jouvan, C. (2015). Effects of indoor air quality on the occupant’s health and productivity in an office building. Master’s thesis, Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia.
  2. Johnson, D., Lynch, R., Floyd, E., Wang, J., & Bartels, J. (2018). Indoor air quality in classrooms: Environmental measures and effective ventilation rate modeling in urban elementary schools. Building and Environment. 136.
  3. Lee, M.C., Mui, K.W., Wong, L.T., Chan, W.Y., Lee, E.W.M., & Cheung C.T. (2012). Student learning performance and indoor environmental quality (IEQ) in air-conditioned university teaching rooms. Building and Environment.
  4. Mudarri D. H. (2016). Valuing the Economic Costs of Allergic Rhinitis, Acute Bronchitis, and Asthma from Exposure to Indoor Dampness and Mold in the US. Journal of environmental and public health, 2016, 2386596.
  5. ASHRAE. (2020). AHSRAE Position Document on Infectious Aerosols.
  6. Angelon-Gaetz, K. A., Richardson, D. B., Marshall, S. W., & Hernandez, M. L. (2016). Exploration of the effects of classroom humidity levels on teachers’ respiratory symptoms. International archives of occupational and environmental health, 89(5).
  7. EPA. (2020). Evidence from Scientific Literature about Improved Academic Performance.
  8. Haverinen-Shaughnessy U, Shaughnessy RJ (2015) Effects of Classroom Ventilation Rate and Temperature on Students’ Test Scores.
  9. Almeida-Silva, M., Pegas, P.N., Nunes, T., Alves, C.A., Wolterbeek, H.T. (2015). Exposure and dose assessment to particle components among an elderly population. Atmospheric Environment, volume 102.
  10. Mendes, A., Bonassi, S., Aguiar, L., Pereira, C., Neves, P., Silva, S., Guimaraes, L., Moroni, R. (2015). Indoor air quality and thermal comfort in elderly care centers. Urban Climate, volume 14(3).
  11. Khan A, Plana-Ripoll O, Antonsen S, Brandt J, Geels C, Landecker H, Sullivan PF, Pedersen CB, Rzhetsky A. (2019). Environmental pollution is associated with increased risk of psychiatric disorders in the US and Denmark.
  12. Taylor, William. (2020). The connection between indoor air quality and mental health outcomes. Air Froce institute of Technology. Thesis.
  13. Wargocki, P., Wyon, D. (2017). Ten questions concerning thermal and indoor air quality effects on the performance of office work and schoolwork. Building and Environment 112.
  14. Qian, H., & Zheng, X. (2018). Ventilation control for airborne transmission of human exhaled bio-aerosols in buildings. Journal of thoracic disease. 10. S2295–S2304.
  15. Brook, R., Rajagopalan, S. (2009). Particulate matter, air pollution, and blood pressure. Journal of the American Society of Hypertension.
  16. Franco, O., Peeters, A., Bonneux, L., de Laet, C. (2005). Blood pressure in adulthood and life expectancy with cardiovascular disease in men and women. Hypertension.
  17. Prabhakaran, D., Mandal, S., Krishna, B, Magsumbol, M. (2020). Exposure to particulate matter is associated iwth elevated blood pressure and incident hypertension in urban India. Hypertension.

Tim Darrah
03 March 2021