4 Common Contaminants That Affect Indoor Air Quality



Indoor air quality has the ability to affect the health, comfort, and performance of the occupants of a building. Particularly over an extended period of time, IAQ can have dramatic impacts on the overall wellness of human beings. Within commercial and industrial buildings, the number of chemical pollutants is rising.

Both ageing buildings, built with contaminated materials, and newer buildings, built with insufficient ventilation or excess chemicals, pose health threats. Shield Engineering works on dozens of projects every year that involve testing and remediating poor indoor air.

What are the health risks we see most often? Here are four common contaminants affecting indoor air quality today.

  1. Radon

    Radon and other soil gases are perhaps the most worrisome chemical contaminant found frequently in industrial spaces. These gases can be released through the soil and rock and, through dry drain traps. The effects are typically gradual but pronounced; exposure to radon dramatically increases the risk of developing lung cancer over time.

  2. VOCs

    Volatile organic compounds are incredibly common within the manufacturing sector. Found in paints, stains, polishes, lubricants, dyes, fuels, plastics, and many other materials, VOCs can cause skin irritation and depending on their chemical makeup, in some cases even lead to cancer. The concentration of VOCs are usually higher indoors than outdoors.

  3. Fine Particulates

    Particulates are usually the result of insufficient ventilation near an industrial process. They are found most readily within printing, construction, insulation production, and any process that results in combustion. Asbestos is an example of a particulate matter that has been phased out of use but still poses a risk in some facilities today when disturbed.

  4. Biological Matter

    Biological contaminants aren’t as dramatic as their chemical counterparts, but they can be just as harmful. Resulting from wet or damp materials, biological contaminants can be found where humidifiers, cooling towers, drain pans, or condensation occurs. Over time, they can lead to severe respiratory distress.

How can indoor air quality be improved? Proper ventilation is key to creating a healthy interior environment. Good industrial hygiene is also an important factor in the fight against contamination. In many cases, poor indoor air isn’t readily apparent. It is imperative for facility managers to perform adequate due diligence on the soils,and building materials of a site before allowing it to be occupied.

Shield Engineering works with clients all over the country on issues of Environmental Due Diligence. Our experts are fully trained in the best practices of industrial hygiene and can even work with your insurance company to process an environmental remediation claim.


Reach out to our team today to find out what we can do to make your workplace breathe easier.

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