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Indoor air quality monitoring is a process in which air inside a structure is regularly tested to gather information about its quality. Test results are used to manage a climate control system and to take other steps which may be necessary to protect health, including actions such as evacuating a room or building until a serious air quality problem can be addressed. There are a range of environments in which air quality may be monitored.
One goal of indoor air quality monitoring is to ensure that the air inside a structure is safe to breathe. This can be an issue in facilities where people work with toxins or dangerous substances. For example, in a biological research facility, release of a bacterium or virus into the air could be a health threat. Likewise, in a chemical plant, a release of chemicals could be dangerous.
Indoor air quality monitoring is especially important when gases are present. Some gases can cause suffocation by forcing oxygen out of a room, and often people are not aware that they are not getting enough oxygen until it is too late. In other cases, a gas may be hazardous because it is toxic. In facilities where people work with gases, use gases in fire suppression systems, or produce gases, indoor air quality monitoring is very important for safety.
In facilities where threats to human health could occur, an indoor air quality monitoring system may be required by law as part of the safety systems in the facility. The system may also need to link with an alarm system which can sound and light up when an air quality problem occurs. Indoor air quality monitoring systems may also do things like automatically turning on ventilation fans and closing doors to sequester a health danger. Often there are multiple systems in place to protect air quality, such as fume hoods and ventilation systems which are designed to prevent the release of harmful substances into the air people breathe, or self-contained breathing systems worn by people while working in a lab so that they do not breathe the same air they are working in.
People may also be concerned with more general issues, like bad smells which could make the air unpleasant, or stale air which results when air circulation is poor. In these cases, indoor air quality monitoring is used to monitor the quality, rather than the safety, of the air. Someone cooking onions, for example, is not posing a threat to human health, but other people might find the smell unpleasant, and steps could be taken to ventilate the smell before it becomes a problem.