Air quality is usually measured with the Air Quality Index, also known as the AQI. The AQI works in much the same way as a thermometer that measures temperature. The AQI is an effective way of measuring changes in the amount of dust and other pollutants that are present in the air.
Monitoring air quality is extremely important, as poor air quality can lead to serious health – and environmental – issues. Conditions related to polluted air include accelerated aging of the lungs, decreased lung capacity and function, and even the development of diseases such as bronchitis, asthma, and possibly cancer.
Background of general pollutants
Asbestos is a naturally-occurring mineral that was once mined throughout the world including here in Australia and widely used for the construction of homes, buildings, and insulation. It was once used in more than 3,000 building material products in Australia alone. Asbestos containing material (ACM) poses a risk to human health when its bonded fibres are released into the air. This can occur when it is not treated or removed in a properly-managed manner as described in the legislative code of Practice. When inhaled via the breathing of released fibres, it can cause respiratory-related diseases such as Asbestosis, Lung cancer and Mesothelioma.
Due to the fact that the ban on Asbestos did not come into effect in Australia until 31 December 2003. This means that many homes and buildings may still contain ACM. Many homes built in the pre-1990s era may still contain the material in the form of cement sheeting or dust today, and disturbance of this ACM can result in loose fibres being present in air, which can be measured with air monitoring.
Carbon Monoxide and Carbon Dioxide
Carbon Monoxide (C0) and Carbon Dioxide (CO2) are colourless, odourless, toxic air pollutants. Carbon monoxide is also tasteless and is produced in the incomplete combustion of carbon containing fuels. Breathing air with high CO concentration reduces the amount of available oxygen that can be transported through your blood stream to critical organs like the heart and brain. At very high levels, often indoors or in enclosed environments, it can cause dizziness, confusion, unconsciousness and even death.
Carbon Dioxide has a slightly acidic taste, and high concentrations in the air can result in health effects such as headaches, dizziness, restlessness, tingling or pins and needles, difficulty breathing, sweating, tiredness, increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, coma, asphyxia and convulsions.
Levels of CO and CO2 in the air can be measured with air quality monitoring to ensure you aren’t being exposed to harmful levels of the gases.
Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) is a respiratory irritant gas smelling of burnt matches and emitted primarily from fossil fuel consumption at industrial facilities and mobile sources such as locomotives, ships and equipment. It irritates the skin and mucous membranes of the eyes, nose, throat and lungs and high concentrations can cause inflammation of the respiratory system and worsen asthma attacks. Air quality monitoring can identify and measure high levels of Sulfurous gases that may be harmful to your health.
Lead is a metal which was used in a number of forms but is most commonly found presenting a health risk in the form of lead containing paint and dust. Lead can post a risk to human health through being inhaled via dust, fumes or swallowed through eating contaminated food or with lead dust contaminated fingers. Untreated lead poisoning can affect all systems in the body and can be fatal. Symptoms of lead poisoning can include loss of appetite, constipation, diarrhoea, loss of weight, abdominal pains, weakness, limb paralysis, headaches, tiredness, and can cause long term complications such as anaemia, kidney, nerve and brain damage. Lead air monitoring can measure the concentration, if any, of lead in the air to ensure it is safe for occupation.
Many different types of mould exist, each have the potential to cause health problems and structural issues within a building. It is when mould is able to gather and build up due to a variety of reasons that human and animal health can be seriously impacted. Rapid mould growth will occur generally following the intrusion of water into a building or continued dampness of a surface, combined with a warm, humid environment with inadequate ventilation and the inability of a surface to be dried provides the perfect conditions for rapid mould growth to take hold.
A running or blocked nose, irritation of the eyes or skin, suffering from respiratory issues such as continued wheezing or coughing or increased amount of asthma attacks can all be health impacts resulting from the presence of mould. Health issues that can arise from exposure to mould spores include liver and lung cancer, immune deficiencies, hypersensitivity, lung infection, cardiovascular disease and permanent respiratory problems.