Why and how to test indoor air quality after insulation work?


The significant increase in energy consumption is a global problem.
Insulating a building allows for better regulation of the indoor temperature and is an essential element in reducing energy consumption related to heating or cooling.

However, insulating a home or office can degrade indoor air quality and it is therefore recommended to test indoor air pollution after insulation work.

What are the symptoms of an IAQ problem?

The first symptoms of an indoor air quality problem are respiratory tract irritations: dryness and irritation of the eyes, nose and throat.

Indeed, most chemical substances emitted into a building (solvents, glue, paint, etc.) are irritating.

Symptoms generally associated with sick buildings (sick building sydrom) are headaches, feelings of fatigue and dizziness, breathing difficulties (sinus and airway congestion, coughing and sneezing), allergies and hypersensitivity to chemicals.

Finally, degraded indoor air quality acts as an aggravating factor in asthma and lung problems (COPD, emphysema, etc.).

It is therefore essential to be vigilant about these symptoms characteristic of an indoor air quality problem.

Why does the insulation of a building have an impact on indoor air quality?

By definition, the objective of insulating a building is to limit heat exchange with the outside as much as possible.

This results in a significant increase in the airtightness of the building.

To preserve your health, it is essential to think about ventilation at the same time as the insulation project.

Construction and renovation materials, furniture, household products, heating, perfumes, cosmetics and human activities constantly release toxic substances into the indoor air.

The lack of air renewal in a well insulated building causes chemicals to accumulate in the air at levels that could pose a health risk.

Therefore, to limit indoor air pollution and its effects on the well-being of occupants, it is necessary to ventilate.

Assuming that outdoor air is less polluted than indoor air, the supply of outdoor air is necessary to allow the renewal of indoor air.

In addition, the increase in humidity levels related to human presence and activities in the building (laundry, cooking, hot water) combined with containment promotes the development of moulds that can be allergenic and toxic.

Is the ventilation of a building compatible with its energy performance?

We breathe 80% of the material absorbed by the body and the indoor air in buildings is too often degraded.

Since we spend half of our time in our housing and one-third of our time at work or in public places (schools, colleges, universities), the quality of the air we breathe there has a strong impact on the health of occupants.

A well isolated environment without sufficient ventilation deteriorates indoor air quality

From a thermal point of view, the supply of outside air affects the energy performance of a building.

On the other hand, the polluted indoor air must be evacuated and replaced with less polluted outdoor air.

Recent advances in ventilation have made it possible to develop devices to reduce energy losses such as double-flow ventilation systems.

Can insulation materials contain toxic substances?

The materials used in insulation work must be compatible with indoor air quality.

The choice must therefore be made for materials with low emissions in terms of indoor air pollutants.

In some countries such as France, there is information labelling on decorative and renovation materials that allows consumers to evaluate the emission of toxic substances into the indoor environment.

When this labelling is available, it is important to choose low-emission materials to preserve indoor air quality.

If it is not available, find out about the composition and avoid materials containing large quantities of solvents.

Does asbestos affect indoor air quality?

Asbestos is a high-performance insulation material and has been widely used in the building industry, but today the use of asbestos for insulation is prohibited in many countries.

Asbestos is therefore no longer used as a material in insulation work, but asbestos may have been used in previous work and its presence in the building may pose a risk to the health of occupants.

Professionals are qualified to search and identify building materials containing asbestos.
If you have any doubts about the presence of asbestos, do not hesitate to contact a professional in asbestos diagnosis.

Isolating materials and Indoor Air Quality

Rock wool, glass wool, cellulose or hemp can be good choices for insulation if fine particles and chemicals are not emitted.

Materials such as synthetic foams and polystyrene may contain gaseous toxic substances such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOCs), including flame retardants such as flame retardants.

Insulation work is usually accompanied by decorative work using plasters, paints, glues or wallpaper. All these materials also emit significant amounts of VOCs when they are installed.

Which indoor air quality test should be carried out first?

Due to the containment and risk of accumulation of indoor air pollutants, it is strongly recommended to conduct an indoor air quality assessment after insulation work to assess whether indoor air quality is compatible with the good health of occupants, especially pregnant women and young children.

Insulation creates a containment that favours the accumulation of volatile organic pollutants and the development of moulds.

A VOC analysis should be carried out as a priority because they are the first indoor air pollutants to accumulate following insulation and decoration work.

Insulation work can also lead to moisture problems that promote mould growth.

Occupants should be vigilant and watch for mould stains or musty odours.

Measuring ambient humidity with an electronic sensor is a good indicator of the risk of mould growth.


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