Category Archives: Toxic, Dangerous & Hazardous Gases

Dallas Indoor Air Quality Testing 214.912.4691 – Radon, IAQ, Mold Inspection and Testing & Rapid Onsite Results

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Dallas Indoor Air Quality Testing

P100 Respirator with 2091 Filters by 3M

214.912.4691 – Through years of performing environmental testing in the Dallas / Fort Worth – DFW Metroplex area, ScanTech has evaluated numerous risk factors that impact human health from the perspectives of both short term (acute effects) and long term (chronic health issues) impacts in the occupational health realm.

ScanTech can check for the following key indoor air quality level indicators (many with time-based datalogging available) and have a report for you at the time of the onsite visit:

  • Formaldehyde (HCHO)
  • VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds)
  • Carbon Dioxide (CO2) – measurement of fresh air dilution that tracks with VOCs
  • Carbon Monoxide (CO) – a dangerous from combustion byproducts
  • Respirable Dust Particles in PM2.5 (fine) and PM10 (coarse) size regimes
  • Oxygen Levels
  • HEPA Filtration and other central air purifier efficiency (MERV Rating)
  • Pressure differentials between inside and outside (affects contamination potential)
  • Relative ventilation levels – critical to know in newer homes that are tightly built

Optional Testing

  • Mold Testing & Inspection including air samples, tape lifts and visual inspection
  • Bacterial, Microorganism, Parasite & Bio-Film issues
  • Radon Rn-222 Levels (alpha emitter lung carcinogen found in Texas including Dallas)
  • Ozone levels testing – ozone is a oxidizing respiratory irritant
  • Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S) – toxic sewer gas that has a foul odor
  • City of Dallas Green Ordinance Post Construction IAQ Clearance Sampling for 804.2

along with atmospheric factors such as:

  • Temperature
  • Relative Humidity
  • Absolute Humidity
  • Mixing Ratio, Vapor Pressure, Dew Point
  • Barometric Pressure (to judge whether the structure is under positive or negative pressure with respect to the outside air)

Many residents of the Dallas / Fort Worth area suffer from the following symptoms, ailments, and diseases – much of which can be traced either directly to air quality and composition or is exacerbated by poor air quality:

  • Allergies & Sinus Infections – (high particulate counts and VOCs, formaldehyde)
  • Chronic Allergic Rhinitis – (bio-aerosols)
  • Eye irritation – (formaldehyde, hydrogen sulfide, VOCs)
  • Congestion – (high particulate counts and VOCs, formaldehyde)
  • Inflammation – (formaldehyde, VOCs)
  • Fatigue – (carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide)
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches – (carbon monoxide)
  • Dizziness – (carbon monoxide)
  • Cognitive issues including difficulty focusing
  • Nausea
  • Coughing – (high particulate counts, mold, MVOCs)
  • Asthma & other breathing difficulties – (MVOCs, high particulate counts, ozone)
  • Bronchitis – (irritation of the lung bronchi)

These issues can contribute to and/or be symptomatic of more serious ailments such as:

  • COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)
  • Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis
  • Carbon Monoxide / Carbon Dioxide Poisoning
  • Autoimmune Disease
  • Cardiovascular Disease
  • Stroke
  • Lung Cancer
  • Leukemia
  • Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
  • Neurological issues due to chemical exposure and/or oxygen deprivation

In many cases, a simple series of air quality tests that detect and report important metrics such as respirable particle levels, VOCs, formaldehyde levels, radon gas, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, oxygen levels, etc. can narrow down the issue(s) responsible. Very often, mitigation is relatively inexpensive and well worth the modest investment.

While ScanTech can make suggestions on how to clean up your air, we are not an equipment vendor or installer, so there is no conflict of interest in selling you products that you don’t need. (or that may make things worse)

ScanTech Residential Service Area Map Dallas and Fort Worth

ScanTech Residential Service Area Map Dallas and Fort Worth

Cities for radon / indoor air quality inspection services include: Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Austin, San Antonio, Plano, Highland Park, University Park, Park Cities, Arlington, Grapevine, Frisco, Denton, McKinney, Allen, Lewisville, Irving, Mesquite, Bedford, Euless, Richardson, Coppell, Grand Prairie, Garland, Addison, Farmers Branch, Rockwall, Carrollton, Parker, Rowlett, Lucas, Fairview, Park Cities, Keller, Roanoke, The Colony, Highland Village, Lake Dallas, Corinth, Prosper, Duncanville, Lancaster, Rowlett, Royse City, Trophy Club, Southlake and Hurst. Counties served include Dallas, Collin, Denton, Tarrant and Rockwall County.

Biological Contaminants in Indoor Air Quality: Allergens, Bacteria, Mites, Viruses

Bioaerosol Organic Dust from Mold Bacteria Pollen in Indoor Air Quality

Organic Dust in Indoor Air Quality

There is growing evidence that a large proportion of environmentally related or contributed illness is correlated with particulate phase (solid) and (to a lesser extent) gas phase exposures to contaminants produced by biological organisms such as mold, bacteria, dust mites, etc. And it is not just live organisms which are at issue, but even the RESIDUAL BIOLOGICAL MATERIAL of dead or non-viable fungus, molds, viruses, bacterial species and pets which can trigger symptoms and contribute or cause certain diseases.

VOCs Particulates Dust Bioaerosols Chart Indoor Air Quality

Indoor Air Quality Contaminant Composition by %  – VOCs Particulates Bioaerosols Chart

These contaminants from both live and dead biological organisms include antigens, endotoxins, glucans, mycotoxins, microbial volatile organic compounds, (MVOCs) and immunologically active particles produced by insects, arachnids, (mites / spiders) and common pets such as cats and dogs.

These contaminants are known as “bioaerosols” or “organic dust” and vary in size from less than 1 micron to over 100 microns in diameter. Note that the smaller the particle, the more likely it is to remain suspended in the air (for days or longer) and penetrate the epithelial cells of the respiratory tract to enter the bloodstream directly.

Bioaerosol Size Ranges

Bioaerosol Size Ranges

Live species of microbiological origin may cause infectious disease by airborne transmission which again stresses the importance of indoor air quality. With a heavy enough load, infection through contact and / or ingestion of heavily contaminated surfaces (not necessarily inhaled) could result. Exposures to mold spores / fragments and allergens produced by insects, pet danders may cause immunological reactions such as chronic allergic rhinitis and asthma which has a high prevalence rate in developed countries and resembles symptoms of gas phase irritants. Exposures to HIGH concentrations of small fungal spores and the spores of higher bacteria may cause hypersensitivity pneumonitis.

Exposures to fungal glycans, bacterial endotoxins (such as found in Gram negative bacteria) or MVOCs may also cause inflammatory responses in the respiratory system. Mycotoxin exposure may directly poison the human organ systems.

Different Size, Shape and Arrangement of Bacterial Cells

 

New Homes and Carbon Dioxide Levels: The Overlooked Indoor Air Quality Health Hazard

One of the “mythologies” that I have heard from clients and real estate agents is something along the lines of “But the house is too new to have any air quality issues, isn’t it?” Actually, it is usually the opposite. Besides the fallacy that newer is necessarily better (how long do appliances last now compared to 30 years ago?) there are several reasons why air quality in a new home may be severely impaired compared to an older one.

  • The construction materials and potentially new furniture, carpet, linens, etc. are still outgassing (releasing chemical fumes) for weeks and months after the initial build.
  • All of the dust from construction has not necessarily been removed from the general air circulation with the finer, more dangerous fine and ultra-fine particulate matter known to stay suspended for weeks.
  • Unpacking of boxes and materials from the move can release contaminants that have now been imported into your home.
  • Houses in general are built more “tightly” than in the past with the aim of increased energy efficiency. As with any engineering design, there is almost always a trade-off or a compromise somewhere. In this case, you potentially cut down on the amount of fresh air and oxygen in exchange for saving money on your utility bill. This means increased CO2 (carbon dioxide levels) which is potentially hazardous to your health. Please note that I am not talking about carbon monoxide which is an entirely different gas.
  • There tends to be a synergistic relationship between CO2 levels and VOC (Volatile Organic Chemical) levels in a structure. Elevated carbon dioxide levels means that ventilation is inadequate, not just for human occupants but ALSO for proper outgassing of the chemical fumes discussed above. This is why levels of CO2 which exceed 1000 ppm (or 1%) is associated with Sick Building Syndrome. Normal outdoor atmospheric levels are 400 ppm.
  • Furthermore, chemoreceptors in the human body located in the aorta, carotid arteries and in the brain respond to increased CO2 levels by INCREASING the breathing rate. This means that consequently more chemicals and dust enter the lungs and bloodstream.
  • Excess levels of CO2 can rapidly build up, particularly in an enclosed space such as a smaller room with the door shut and no air circulation. This can begin manifesting as physical symptoms as described in the illustration below.
Carbon Dioxide Toxicity impact on Indoor Air Quality

Symptoms of Carbon Dioxide Toxicity

TRUE STORY – I investigated a very new home (less than a year old) in which I was called out because the 23 year old healthy son passed out unconscious and non-responsive. When checked out at the hospital, they could find nothing wrong. When I arrived and began testing, I found something very wrong as my carbon dioxide meter began alarming immediately and climbed to very high levels even inside of an open hallway on the second floor. The family had been complaining of fatigue and headaches within a week of moving in.

The official medical terminology for carbon dioxide toxicity / poisoning is known as “hypercampnia”. Please note that this is an entirely different issue from CARBON MONOXIDE poisoning which is discussed in a blog post here:

Carbon Monoxide Safety Levels and Indoor Air Quality

Indoor Air Quality Testing: Oxygen Levels and Oxygen Deprivation Effects

One metric that is commonly overlooked in air quality studies is the oxygen percentage in the indoor environment with respect to normal atmospheric composition and how sensitive the human body is to this level. The oxygen levels on present day 21st Century Earth are nominally 20.9 % IF the relative humidity is 0%. (only found in extremely arid regions or dehumidified rooms such as an attic in summer) At one time in the distant past (the days of the dinosaurs) the oxygen levels on Earth were as high as 35 %.

The water vapor in the air displaces oxygen to some extent, so the more humid the air, the lower the % of oxygen. Here is a chart for reference:

Oxygen Level by Relative Humidity - Indoor Air Quality Factor

Oxygen Level by Relative Humidity

The body (particularly the brain) requires oxygen to function because it is a critical component in the cellular respiration process. (also known as the Krebs or Citric Acid Cycle) There are 42 steps in this cycle, and oxygen comes in at the last stage to combine with the H+ hydrogen proton gradient built up in the mitochondria (the “power plant” which is the main producer of ATP – also known as adenosine triphosphate which is the “energy currency” of biological organisms) of cells. Oxygen combined with hydrogen forms water which is the desired byproduct. Without it, the hydrogen atoms would drive the pH balance to a dangerously acidic level and denature proteins and kill all cellular functions.

Hypoxia - Indoor Air Oxygen Levels Deprivation Effects Toxicity Table

Hypoxia – Oxygen Levels Deprivation Effects Toxicity Table

Notice that the safe range of oxygen is from 19.5 – 23.5 % which is only a 4 point percentage window. This illustrates how narrow the levels are between too much and too little oxygen. Too much oxygen (oxygen toxicity) can slow breathing levels to a rate that does not displace enough carbon dioxide (CO2) – a condition known as carbon dioxide narcosis. This typically only occurs when too much oxygen from a supplemental system such as tanks used in scuba diving or medical breathing equipment that is not adjusted correctly. This is virtually never an indoor air quality issue, but it is mentioned here to illustrate that even chemicals typically considered harmless or helpful can have dangerous effects at high enough levels.

So why would oxygen deprivation be an issue – aren’t oxygen levels homogeneous everywhere?

Not necessarily.

Areas with more forestation and foliage typically have higher levels of oxygen than outlying scrub prairies, but more to the point, deep urban environments often suffer from a shortage of oxygen for several reasons:

  • Lack of oxygen emitting plants and trees
  • High consumption of oxygen by dense populations such as found in heavily urbanized cites like Houston, Austin, the Dallas / Fort Worth region, etc. vehicles and other combustion motors
  • Oxidation / formation of chemicals that bind up oxygen molecules such as sulfur dioxides and nitrogen oxides
  • Displacement of oxygen by other gases and vapors such as water vapor, carbon dioxide, etc.

This is why particularly in downtown environments or near other heavily trafficked / polluted areas it is a good idea to know how much oxygen is being received as the chart above demonstrates that even a drop of 1 % or so (say 20.1% to 19.1%) can induce the subtle but deleterious effects of hypoxia.

To quote the early physician / alchemist Paracelsus: ” Poison is in everything, and no thing is without poison. The dosage makes it either a poison or a remedy.”

Radon Gas in Homes Causes Up to 7 X More Deaths than Asbestos

Certified Radon Tester for HUD Fannie Mae Freddie Mac GSA

An often overlooked aspect of air quality testing, particularly in Texas cities such as Dallas / Fort Worth, Houston and Austin is checking for the presence of radon gas which is a proven carcinogen. Part of the issue is either a complete lack of knowledge of this hazard or mythologies that are circulated as wishful thinking.

Examples I have heard include:

1. Texas doesn’t have radon gas.

FALSE – all areas of the world have some radon gas in the atmosphere as it is part of the natural U-235 decay chain in soil / bedrock.

2. New homes don’t have a radon problem.

FALSE – Any home can potentially have radon gas issues and newer homes that have tighter building envelopes actually tend to have more issues as the ventilation exchange is often poorer and leads to an accumulation of this hazardous, radioactive carcinogen.

3. I’m not a smoker – why should I worry about lung cancer?

FALSE – While smoking is synergistic with radon and amplifies the risk, radon is the number one cause of lung cancer among non-smokers.

4. Dallas / Fort Worth homes do not have indoor air quality problems with radon.

FALSE – I have found numerous homes in the Dallas / Tarrant County area, particularly in North Dallas, Richardson, Arlington, the Park Cities and Lake Highlands INCLUDING my own home which exceeded the EPA action limit of 4 picoCuries / liter. If you look at the WHO (World Health Organization) the guidelines they recommend is even lower at 2.7 picoCuries / liter.

While there is no safe level of radon and you cannot get radon levels to zero, you can mitigate issues with building ventilation and reduce your risk considerably. But first, you have to be informed.

5. Testing for radon isn’t required in Texas.

FALSE – Radon testing is a requirement for HUD, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and government buildings which fall under the province of GSA (Government Services Administration) radon policy.  Also many mortgage companies are making it a requirement in order to avoid potential litigation.

Moreover, you typically need a certified radon professional (such as those qualified under AARST-NRPP) to conduct valid testing. ScanTech is certified and experienced in multi-family buildings / commercial buildings / residential homes.

www.radontestingdallas.com 

Radon Gas Testing and Radiation Survey FAQ – Inspections in Dallas – Fort Worth – DFW Texas

Radon Dangers and Statistics - Home Indoor Air Quality Safety

Radon Gas Dangers and Statistics – A Serious Indoor Air Quality Issue