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June 2008 Archives

Mechanisms by which outdoor air becomes part of the indoor air environment

In a process known as infiltration, outdoor air flows into the building through openings, joints, cracks in walls, floors, ceilings, and around windows and doors. In natural ventilation, air moves through opened windows and doors. Air movement associated with infiltration and natural ventilation is caused by air temperature differences between indoors and outdoors and by wind. The rate at which outdoor air replaces indoor air is known as the air exchange rate. When there is little infiltration, natural ventilation, or mechanical ventilation, the air exchange rate is low and indoor pollutant levels can accumulate to levels that can pose health and comfort problems. 

Outdoor sources of Indoor Air Contaminants

Pollen, dust, fungi, industrial pollutants, and general vehicle exhaust are common outdoor sources of indoor air pollution. Other sources include exhaust from vehicles on nearby roads or in parking lots or garages, loading docks, odors from dumpsters, unsanitary debris near outdoor air intakes, and cigarette smoke from office workers now required in most cities to take their cigarette breaks outside of building entrances. Another source is exhaust from the building itself or from neighboring buildings that is re-entrained, or drawn back into the building.

Redecorating, remodeling, and repairing as sources of indoor air contamination.

Significant among office building activities are the frequent redecorating, remodeling and repair activities undertaken by new commercial tenants that often have very different spatial and other business needs from those of the prior tenant. These activities and objects lead to emissions from new furnishings; dust and fibers from demolition, including lead and asbestos; odors and volatile organic and inorganic compounds from paint, caulk, adhesives, and microbiological agents released from demolition or remodeling activities. 

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