Our company tackles air quality projects in a wide range of properties. Think of a random type of building and we have probably conducted an air quality survey or industrial hygiene monitoring in a building like it. We work in small studio apartments all the way up to an airport. As you can imagine, the concerns in your home can be totally different than the industrial hygiene concerns in a setting like a chemical plant.
Some aspects of a workplace exposure are more concerning, and some aspects of a residential exposure are more concerning.
Contaminants are Different
Often we will receive calls from people asking us to test for “everything”. When these calls come in, sometimes it is hard not to chuckle because asking an industrial hygienist to test for everything is like going to the doctor and asking them to test you for every possible disease. We are able to test for thousands of different contaminants, so one of the most important steps for us is figuring out what the concerns are for a specific project. Some common concerns for indoor air quality (IAQ) in homes include things such as building materials and surface coatings (paints, floor varnish, etc), household cleaning products, and personal care products. Industrial hygiene concerns can be much more varied; we conduct industrial hygiene testing in environments ranging from a simple office space to an oil refinery and beyond. While your home most likely wouldn’t have a need for testing contaminants like welding fumes, hexavalent chromium, silica, or industrial solvents these are a few key industrial hygiene contaminants we monitor in a manufacturing facility.
Exposures are Different
Not only is it important to measure the amount of a contaminant someone is exposed to, the duration of exposure is also important. Exposure durations can vary greatly between the home and workplace. For the typical work week, there are 40 hours of potential exposure on the job. On the other side, typically someone will spend more time at home so the duration of exposure can be much greater. Another factor is that a home may have the most sensitive populations; the very young, the very old, and people who are ill. These sensitive individuals will typically spend a much longer time in the home, so their exposure to household contaminants can have a very long duration, with little recovery time.
Industrial Hygiene Monitoring is Different
For OSHA compliance, our industrial hygienists usually monitor for an 8-hour time-weighted average (TWA). This is done to represent the amount of exposure someone is subject to during a full work shift. At home, measurements can be varied and can range from a single “point” reading to long-term monitoring of 24 hours or longer, depending on the goals of the IAQ survey. For example, a long-term radon test in a home could be in place for a whole year.