How do I Choose the Best Indoor Air Quality Test?

Mary McMahon

There are a number of things which should be considered when selecting an indoor air quality test to assess air quality inside a structure. The first thing to think about is whether or not the test is necessary. If the test will be used to track down the source of a problem, document a problem, or to provide other meaningful information which can be interpreted, then it is a valuable tool and worth the time and expense. If the test is unlikely to provide additional information, people should consider other measures to address a suspected air quality problem.

An air filter that's used to improve indoor air quality.
An air filter that's used to improve indoor air quality.

The best indoor air quality test is one suited to the environment being tested which is also sensitized to the suspected contaminants. Sometimes, this may mean using more than one test or testing company. Tests for spaces of different types vary, and it's important to select a test or testing service which is suitable. A test for industrial air quality, for example, will be less helpful in a home, and a test for common household molds may not help on a factory floor.

Something else to consider is whether or not the test results need to be recognized by a person or agency. If they do, it is a good idea to use an indoor air quality test or service which is approved by the person the results will be presented to. A landlord, for example, may not accept test results from a test or testing company that the landlord is not familiar with. People should ask if there's a preferred test or testing company before testing. Public health departments also sometimes test for free or provide advice and they are a good resource to consult.

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When using a testing service to check indoor air quality, it's important to use an experienced service with fully qualified personnel. Employees should know how to use test equipment, how to process samples, and how to interpret results. A reputable company will happily provide information about how long it has been in business, what kind of testing it does, how its indoor air quality test results can be used, and where employees trained.

People should also think about the goals of an indoor air quality test and think about which testing format might need their needs. When studying air quality in an office, for example, continuous monitoring for several days might be valuable because it would provide information about air quality issues over time. When evaluating a structure for mold, on the other hand, a simple walk through with a testing sniffer may be the most effective testing method.

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