June 29, 2023

Guide to Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Monitoring at Workplace

With the average person spending approximately 90,000 hours at work over their lifetime, the environment they are exposed to plays a pivotal role in their overall well-being. The new generation of employers is tasked with maintaining healthy work environments that prioritize the safety, comfort, and productivity of all employees.

Why is indoor air quality monitoring important at the workplace?

With the average person spending approximately 90,000 hours at work over their lifetime, the environment they are exposed to plays a pivotal role in their overall well-being. The new generation of employers is tasked with maintaining healthy work environments that prioritize the safety, comfort, and productivity of all employees.

The health impact of poor indoor air quality cannot be overstated. Prolonged exposure to indoor air contaminants can result in health problems. Popularly articulated with research pertaining to the “Sick Building Syndrome” wherein health and comfort of employees is negatively impacted by the poor indoor air conditions in a building or workspace. 

Indoor air quality monitor (measures PM2.5, PM10, VOC, CO2, Temperature, Humidity)
Data accessible via Modbus/Dashboard


Modern IAQ solutions are suited for continuous air quality monitoring in a workplace, and rely on the latest in sensing technology. 

The sensing technology used in the instrument will be able to quantify the presence of indoor air pollutants and environment conditions at a given point in time. Coupled with the power of continuous communication, whether to Building Management Systems (via RS485), or to web-based dashboards - users are in control of their environment more than ever before.

The data empowers all users not only to know air quality at a given point in time, but also to monitor trends over a time period. This enables informed decision making and timely implementation of corrective action to create healthy workforce environments.

Managing Indoor Air Quality with Smart Sensor Technology

At the heart of the technology of indoor air quality is smart sensor technology. The latest in sensing technology integrates high precision and long term reliability, reducing the lifetime expense of maintaining a comprehensive indoor air quality monitoring program. 

Smart sensors in the Ace Instruments indoor air quality monitor are equipped to measure a suite of parameters, including: temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide (CO2), particulate matter (PM) and volatile organic compounds (VOC) with optional AQI measurement.

The data collected through smart sensing provides valuable insights into the quality of indoor air. This technology enables proactive measures to improve IAQ by identifying potential issues, optimizing ventilation systems, and ensuring a healthier and safer environment for occupants. 

How is Air Quality Measured?

Using smart sensors, data is aggregated to provide AQIs and individual parameter alerts. Air quality, often expressed as an index called the Air Quality Index takes into account a myriad of data sources to determine the quality of an indoor air environment.

Most global green building (LEED, WELL) and indoor air quality (RESET) standards require the measurement of the following parameters to determine air quality:

1. Temperature: Temperature monitoring enables maintenance of thermal comfort in indoor spaces. Extreme temperatures can adversely affect productivity, and contribute to occupant discomfort. Reliable measurement of temperature levels ensures a pleasant and conducive working environment.

2. Humidity: Humidity levels impact both comfort & health. High humidity is a contributor to the growth of mold & mildew, leading to respiratory issues & allergies. Low humidity can cause dryness of the skin and discomfort, specifically of the respiratory kind. Monitoring humidity levels and implementing corrective action creates a balanced, comfortable indoor environment.

3. Particulate Matter (PM2.5, PM10): Particulate matter refers to tiny particles suspended in the air. PM2.5 and PM10 are frequently highlighted as specific concern due to their inconspicuous size and ability to penetrate deep into the respiratory system. Particulate matter monitoring and corrective action can prevent  respiratory problems, allergies, and adverse long-term health effects.

4. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs): VOCs emitted from various sources such as cleaning products, paints, and furnishings.High concentration of VOCs are contributors to headaches, respiratory irritation, & other health issues. 

5. Carbon Dioxide: Carbon dioxide monitoring is crucial to ensure adequate ventilation in a given indoor environment. High levels of CO2 can indicate inadequate ventilation, leading to stuffiness, drowsiness, and impaired cognitive function. Continuous monitoring allows building managers to  ensure proper airflow & fresh air exchange. 

Common Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Pollutants

A high concentration of the above parameters, including CO, VOC and PM contribute significantly to indoor air pollution. They act as indoor air pollutants and negatively impact workspace and building occupants who are subject to these environments for extended periods of time

Particulate matter (PM), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), formaldehyde, and mold spores are just a few examples of the many elements that make up common indoor air pollutants.

To maintain indoor air quality, building managers must understand what each parameter denotes and the acceptable limits and sources. An effective IAQ strategy will maintain the above mentioned pollutants, discussed in further details within acceptable limits. 

What is Particulate Matter?

The term "particulate matter" (PM) refers to minute airborne particles, capable of entering the respiratory system by inhalation. It consists of a variety of particles, produced via multiple processes, with PM2.5 denoting particles smaller than 2.5 micrometers and PM10 denoting particles smaller than 10 micrometers. 

Sources of Particulate Matter

Combustion processes, dust and pollen, cigarette smoke, cooking and heating activities, and environmental variables like building sites can all produce particulate matter (PM).

These sources disperse minute particles into the atmosphere, which can harm both human health and air quality. To ensure optimal indoor air quality, there are defined particulate matter levels 

Acceptable IAQ Particulate Matter Levels

The World Health Organisation (WHO) and local regulatory authorities establish criteria and recommendations for what constitutes acceptable particulate matter levels in an indoor environment.

Depending on the particle size and the particular environment, different amounts are permissible. The WHO recommends an annual average of 10 ug/m3 for PM2.5 and 20 ug/m3 for PM10 emissions.

Regulations vary depending on the local governing body, and the WHO regulations are referenced to as a general international guideline. To guarantee compliance, monitoring of particulate matter levels and cohesive corrective action plans should be followed. 

Particulate Matter (PM) Health Effects

Particulate matter (PM) inhalation can have harmful health impacts, especially for susceptible people. PM may enter the respiratory system deeply, causing troubles with the lungs, worsened asthma, cardiovascular problems, and even early mortality. The size, composition, length, and intensity of exposure all have an impact on the health consequences.

What are Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)?

Another common source of indoor air pollution are volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Different solids or liquids produce volatile organic compounds (VOCs) as gases. These substances include a variety of chemicals, some of which may negatively impact health in short and long term.

VOC concentrations within buildings might be up to five times greater, when compared to outdoor environments.

Common Sources of VOCs

Paints, varnishes and lacquers, cleaning supplies, adhesives and glues, solvents, building materials like carpets, plywood and particleboard, office supplies like printers and copiers and personal care items like perfumes, deodorants and hair sprays are all common sources of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). 

VOC concentrations can go unchecked if not monitored with a sensor. To control VOC levels, various international environmental and occupational authorities have issued guidelines for acceptable VOC levels. 

Acceptable VOC Levels

Common reference for VOC level regulations are those placed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Depending on the particular VOC chemical and the environment's intended usage, different quantities may be considered acceptable. 

In some instances, a VOC level that is acceptable may be specified as being below a particular concentration, such as 500 parts per million (ppm). To ascertain the appropriate VOC levels for your individual circumstance, it is crucial to study the pertinent legislation and norms pertinent to your area and business. 

Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) Health Effects

Depending on the kind and concentration of VOCs as well as the length & frequency of exposure, different health effects might be experienced. Eye, nose, and throat irritation, headaches, lightheadedness, and nausea are illustrations of common short-term side effects. 

Some VOCs have the potential to cause cancer and are categorized as carcinogens. Keeping appropriate ventilation and limiting exposure to VOCs are crucial for lowering the health hazards connected to these substances.

Industries that Benefit from Air Quality Monitoring

Several businesses use air quality monitoring to make sure their workers are safe, healthy, and compliant with laws. Indoor air quality must be carefully monitored in a variety of sectors, including manufacturing, construction, healthcare, labs, and hospitality.

These industries may provide a healthier working environment, increase employee productivity, and show their dedication to health and safety standards. Modern industries are utilizing integrated IAQ monitoring systems, as described below to ensure that workspaces are healthy and comfortable for all occupants. 

Moving Towards an Integrated IAQ Monitoring System

To ensure compliant and healthy workspaces, it is essential to include an Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) monitoring system. An integrated IAQ monitoring system enables proactive identification of pollutants, prompt interventions, and continuous optimisation of indoor air quality parameters for improved occupant well-being and productivity by fusing smart sensor technology, real-time data analysis, and automated control systems.

Ensure a Healthy Environment With IAQ Detectors By Ace Instruments

Ensure a healthy and safe environment for your workplace with IAQ detectors by Ace Instruments. Our state-of-the-art devices leverage the latest in sensing technology to monitor indoor air quality. Our range is suited to measure the parameters of VOCs, PM2.5, PM10, CO2 along with temperature & humidity in a single solution, the AI-IAQ6-PH. We feature standalone sensors to additionally monitor oxygen, carbon monoxide, and LEL. Our range is the ideal partner to comprehensively address indoor air quality in your workplace. Customize your indoor air quality solution with us today, and take charge of occupant wellness and enhance productivity.

Frequently Asked Questions 

  1. What is the difference between VOC and TVOC?

    VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) and TVOC (Total Volatile Organic Compounds) differ in their measurement scope. VOCs are individual organic chemicals that easily evaporate, emitted from various sources. Examples include formaldehyde and benzene. TVOC, represents the total concentration of all VOCs present in the air, providing an overall indication of VOC pollution. TVOC measurements offer a comprehensive view of the collective VOC load in indoor spaces, aiding in assessing indoor air quality and identifying potential sources of pollution.

  1. What is the difference between PM2.5 and PM10?

    PM2.5 and PM10 represent different sizes of airborne particulate matter. PM2.5 refers to particles 2.5 micrometers or smaller in diameter, which can penetrate deep into the respiratory system. PM10 represents particles 10 micrometers or smaller, including both coarse and fine particles. Both sizes are generated by various sources such as combustion and dust, PM2.5 particles are finer and considered to be a greater health hazard due to their ability to enter the lungs. PM10 particles are larger and generally considered less harmful. Monitoring both sizes is important for assessing air quality and potential health effects.

  1. What are some ways to improve indoor air quality at the workplace?

    To improve indoor air quality at the workplace, facility managers can take proactive measures, some of which include: 
  • Ensure proper ventilation: with IAQ systems alerting users when the air quality is poor, HVAC systems can be used to introduce fresh air into office spaces. In smaller spaces without HVAC systems, allowing fresh air in through opening windows, using air purifiers in offices can be used to achieve the same effect.  
  • Clean regularly to minimize dust and contaminants while choosing low VOC products
  • Control moisture to prevent mold growth
  • Minimize indoor pollutants like smoking and strong fragrances

    These measures will help create a healthier and more productive work environment by reducing the presence of pollutants and enhancing the overall air quality.
  1. What are the worker health benefits of indoor air quality monitoring? 

    Indoor air quality (IAQ) monitoring in the workplace offers numerous health benefits for workers. It helps identify and mitigate pollutants that can cause respiratory issues, such as asthma and allergies, leading to improved respiratory health. Monitoring also ensures optimal cognitive function by addressing factors that can impair concentration and decision-making. By reducing the spread of airborne viruses and allergens, IAQ monitoring helps minimize sick leave, contributing to improved productivity. Additionally, it demonstrates a commitment to worker well-being, fostering a positive work environment and enhancing overall job satisfaction.
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