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The Healthy Air Alliance - Keeping People Healthy by Ensuring Good Indoor Air Quality"

The Healthy Air Alliance


Nowadays, most people spend the vast majority of their time indoors. Most of these indoor environments (buildings) have climates within a building envelope controlled by HVAC (heating, ventilating, and air conditioning) equipment. What happens if this human made environment begins to malfunction and becomes out of balance? People begin to suffer Sick Building Syndrome from poor Indoor Air Quality (IAQ). People most susceptible to indoor air pollution include the Young, the Old, the Pregnant, and the Immuno-suppressed.

Do you exhibit allergic reactions only when inside a certain building or particular room of a building? Do you require to be medicated to combat such reactions? Do you feel dizzy, lightheaded, or sleepy when inside a certain building or particular room of a building? If you exhibit any of these symptoms, you may be a victim of poor indoor air quality.

How can you tell if the air you breathe is of poor quality? You can't tell by looking at the air. Clean indoor air looks the same as polluted indoor air.

There are several causes of indoor air pollution:

1 -

Water leaking/entering indoor living space... this is always bad. Water entering the building envelope causes excessive humidity (above 60%) and mold growth. Water must be controlled at the source and not allowed to enter the living space.

2 -

Humidity above 60%... this is always bad. In the absence of water intrusion, if the HVAC equipment in the building is not capable of properly regulating the humidity level, mold will grow out of control. Click HERE for an article by ASHRAE members describing humidity and ventilation problems in School buildings.

3 -

Ventilation rates below 15 cu ft per minute per person... this is always bad. If the ventilation rates are too low, not enough polluted indoor air will be removed and not enough fresh outdoor air will be added. Building occupants will be breathing unhealthy, polluted air.

4 -

Improper air handler/coil sanitation... this is always bad. High efficiency air filters (changed at proper intervals) in the air handlers are needed to trap tiny particles, such as mold spores, floating in the air and to keep them from being breathed by occupants and from being deposited on the coils. Click HERE for a Technical Bulletin from the Maryland Department of Education attesting to the benefits of high efficiency air filters. A proper coil cleaning maintenance program must be in place. This involves either utilizing properly installed UV coil lights that have the ability to keep coils clean indefinitely, or bi annual coil cleanings using biocides. If coils are not kept clean, mold will grow out of control on the coils (coils are in a totally dark environment and are covered with water whenever the AC is running) and the mold will be efficiently distributed throughout the building via the HVAC system. Click HERE for Steve Welty's (CIE, CAFS of Green Organic Air explaination of this process. Click HERE for visual information related to Steve's explaination. Click HERE to see why traditional coil cleaning procedures are rarely effective in preventing these problems.

How do you know if these causes of indoor air pollution are present in a particular building and what can be done to eliminate them?

1 -

If you see water leaking into the living space, the source must be found and controlled. In addition, crawlspaces and basements must be regularly monitored for moisture intrusion. If moisture/water is found in such areas, effective remediation systems must be installed (sub surface drainage systems/sump pumps/dehumidifiers).

2 -

Humidistats (humidity sensors) are needed to properly determine humidity levels. In the absence of water intrusion, if humidity sensors detect levels that regularly exceed 60%, HVAC equipment modifications are needed. Reengineering of the HVAC will be necessary. This reengineering will require installation of equipment with built in dehumidification capabilities. HVAC equipment that incorporates humidity sensors that allow self-regulation of humidity levels to keep levels below 60% will also be required. The only way to know if an area is not too humid is with the use of continuous humidity monitoring. A continuous data stream will provide either evidence of compliance or evidence of a need to dehumidify to keep levels below 60%. The monitoring can be used in a feedback loop to control integrated dehumidifiers. In this way dehumidifiers will be used automatically (and only when necessary) until humidity levels are brought under control. This will also put the minds of building occupnats ease, knowing that humidity levels are not high enough to cause mold to grow out of control. “Installation of HVAC equipment that can self-regulate the humidity and CO2 concentrations would be a major benefit IF a proper O&M process is strictly adhered to” Brian Klenk CIH

3 -

CO2 monitors (sensors) are needed to determine if adequate ventilation rates exist. If CO2 sensors detect ventilation rates that are too low, reengineering of the HVAC system will be necessary. HVAC equipment that incorporates CO2 sensors that allow self-regulation of ventilation rates will be required. The only way to know if an area is properly ventilated is with the use of continuous CO2 monitoring. A continuous data stream will provide either evidence of compliance or evidence of a needed increase in ventilation. “I do see CO2 monitoring during normal occupied hours as having a benefit in two ways. (1) The monitoring can be used in a feedback loop to control the mixing of outside air through the control of outside air intake plenums more finely than a humidity-sensing loop alone. (2) As an indicator of adequate ventilation in the building, CO2 monitoring during peak loads can help put the minds of the students, staff, and parents at ease, knowing the intake and exhaust are adequately balanced.” Brian Klenk CIH

4 -

Ask your building maintenance personnel for the MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) ratings of the air filters, and records of recent air filter changing. Ask your building maintenance personnel for the building coil cleanliness policy, and records of recent coil cleanings and/or UV bulb changing. Insist on a "best filter policy" for the building where the highest MERV rated air filters (higher number is better, but should be at least MERV 11 - Click HERE for a MERV chart) compatible with the HVAC equipment, are used. Insist on UV lights for coil cleanliness. If UV lights are used, be certain that UV bulbs are replaced on an annual basis. If UV lights are not used on coils, insist on an iron clad alternate plan that will be as effective as UV and achieve the same goals. Click HERE to view the GSA standard requiring the use of UV light emitters on coils. Click HERE to view a California study describing UV coil lights and their benefits when used in School buildings. Three more articles describing the benefits of UV lights on coils can be found here: 1, 2, 3.

As you can see, Poor Indoor Air Quality and resulting Sick Building Syndrome are completely preventable. Utilizing the proper technology and maintenance will keep human made indoor environments in balance and ensure healthy air for all occupants.

Do you need help with a local Indoor Air Quality situation? Please contact us for free assistance: or 240-205-0417

Recent progress to correct IAQ issues at Poolesville High School:

Click HERE for the MCPS Indoor Air Quality Complaint Form 230-23.

Click HERE for the HAA Power Point Presentation from an IAQ meeting at PHS on March 10th, 2006.

Dr. Philip Witorsch (MD, FACP, FCCP of Georgetown University Medical Center has reviewed the results from the March 2007 HAA Health Questionnaire (click HERE to view the Questionnaire). He mentions that the results document that people have complaints associated with the Poolesville High School environment. The small sample suggests that things have to be looked into, since the results indicate that there may be a problem with the school environment.

Click HERE for our May 28th, 2007 Press Release.

Click HERE for our May 29th, 2007 IAQ solutions request for Poolesville High School to Jim Bailey of Building Dynamics (contractor for MCPS).

May 24th, 2007 meeting - IAQ issues in Poolesville High School

Traci Stevens, Mike Young & Lynne Rolls from The Healthy Air Alliance
Delegate Craig Rice
Senator Rob Garagiola
Delegate Kathleen Dumais
Lisa Trope & Stephanie Kasprzak (Holly Defnet not pictured) from Students for Healthy Air -

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