How to find out whether you have an indoor air problem

Indoor air should be fresh and imperceptible. The smell of sewage, chemicals, mould or “the cellar” does not belong to a normal office environment, and the causes of such smells should be investigated and eliminated. Many factors that cause indoor air problems cannot be detected with the senses, however. Even a widespread mould problem will not necessarily cause smells or visual signs. In such cases, suspicions of indoor air problems can be aroused by symptoms, particularly when they are related to a specific building and subside elsewhere.

The symptoms caused by indoor air vary considerably between individuals. Some people do not get any symptoms in buildings in which the most sensitive individuals suffer symptoms and may even fall ill.

Questions to ask when investigating a potential indoor air problem:

  • Symptoms and exposure: the severity of and impairments caused by symptoms, respiratory and general symptoms, recurring infections and their healing rate, response to medications;
  • Previously diagnosed infections and history of atopy
  • Smoking
  • Triggering factors at work, day care, school, home and activities
  • The onset date of symptoms, temporal connection to the moisture damage and suspected building
  • Changes in symptoms during holidays and trips
  • Symptoms in other buildings with moisture damage and
  • Symptoms suffered by others in the same environment.

After investigation of symptoms, the building should be subjected to a structural examination and sampling.

Guidelines for indoor air issues should be drawn up for the building and an indoor air committee established to coordinate the investigations and facilitate the flow of information, all of which will expedite decision-making. An open and up-to-date flow of information between the owner and users of the property will increase trust between the parties.

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