Indoor Air Quality FAQs
How do I open the sample tube (encapsulation)?
How long is sample collection?
Where should I place the testing equipment for sample collection?
For general testing, place the sampling equipment in a central location approximately 3-5 feet above the floor. Keep the building conditions in normal operating mode.
For problem specific testing, place the sampling equipment in the center of the problem area and isolate the area by closing doors as much as possible. Increase the temperature above normal to maximize the VOCs in the air.
What is the pump flow rate required?
The pump flow rate is 0.2 L/min or 200 ml/min.
What location preparation should be done before collecting air samples?
•Close outside doors and windows - preferably for one entire day before sampling.
•Leave all interior doors (including closets) open to allow the air to flow freely.
•Refrain from frying or cooking with oils the day before and during the test toprevent artificially high VOC results. Also, please do not cook at all during the test.
•Do not clean or dust during the test or within 12 hours of beginning the test.For homes greater than 2,000 square feet or with several levels, you may want to consider performing more than one test in order to collect air samples representative of the entire home. Some possible sampling locations in larger homes are: the center area of each floor; one side of the house on one floor and the other side of the house on another floor; two sides of a single-story home; or any room(s) in the house where the occupants spend the most time, like a family room, basement, bedroom, etc.
•To the extent possible, keep the area closed and operating in a normal manner.
•Do not clean or dust during the test or within 12 hours of beginning the test.
Some industrial locations may have high concentrations, especially in production or manufacturing areas. If high concentrations are suspected or unusual sampling conditions exist, contact Prism to discuss sampling modifications (e.g., decrease in sample collection time).
•Do not clean or dust during the test or within 12 hours of beginning the test.
What do I do if the sample tube breaks?
If the sample tube breaks, record the sample tube ID if possible and discard as with any broken glass. The material inside the tube is non-toxic. Notify us as soon as possible for a replacement sample tube.
What is in the sample tubes?
Our VOC (A2) tubes contain tenax, graphitized carbon, and carbon molecular sieve.
Is an outdoor compairson sample required?
Is Prism an accredited lab?
Yes, Prism is accredited by the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) in Industrial Hygiene for thermal desorption GC-MS (TD GC-MS). http://apps.aiha.org/qms_aiha/certificate/166272_certificate.pdf
How long will it take to get my results?
Each analysis has its own turn around time (TAT), either 2, 5, or 10 business days. Refer to your Price List (Bulletin 905), Air Survey Matrix (Bulletin 933), or contact us for the analysis specific TAT.
What is the hold time once the TDT sample has been collected?
The hold time following sample collection for a thermal desorption tube (TDT) is 30 days. As the TDT sits it will pick up small amounts of VOCs from the surrounding air which eventually may cause slightly higher results. This process is continuous so although the TDT will adsorb VOCs in the first 30 days the amount is expected to be minimal.
How often should I get my pump calibrated?
We recommend that you return your pump to Prism annually for recertification and calibration.
What are Prism's operating hours?
Our office is open for phone calls and shipment delivery Monday - Friday from 8:30 AM - 5:30 PM Eastern Time.
How can I get more tubes?
To purchase additional thermal desorption tubes (TDT), submit an equipment request here or you can contact us by phone or email.
Where should I send the samples?
What are the rush analysis charges?
Availability of expedited service is dependent on sample load and instrument availability. Contact the lab (989.772.5088) to ensure expedited service is available before submitting samples.
What are the rush shipping charges?
Rush shipping is available. Contact us (989-772-5088) for specific estimates.
What analyitcal methods are available from Prism?
Methods may be different depending on the analysis, but generally speaking the following apply. Many methods are modified to suit the specific application or equipment.
What chemicals can Prism detect?
Using thermal desorption technology and analysis via Gas Chromotagraphy Mass Spectroscopy, Prism has developed an expansive chemical library for 500+ VOCs. You can view our chemical compound list here.
Can Prism provide Electronic Data Deliverables (EDDs)?
Yes we can provide EDD's in nearly any format you request.
Is consulting available to understand the analytical reports?
Yes, providing outstanding customer service and accessibility to knowledgeable staff for any of your indoor air quality questions is our goal. Feel free to call us to disucss your latest project at 989-772-5088.
What are VOCs?
Organic compounds (those containing carbon) that are readily volatile, or evaporated, at "room" temperature. Some organizations define this by the boiling point range of the compounds, approximately 50 to 250 degrees C.
How will VOCs affect my clients' air quality?
VOCs are in everyone's air from the building, activities, and contents. The combination of all VOCs, i.e., total VOC, and the specific composition of the VOCs can affect air quality. Higher levels of VOCs typically lead to a variety of health issues. Certain chemical compounds can cause severe reactions or unpleasant odors, even at low concentrations.
What health effects can VOCs cause?
Respiratory discomfort including wheezing, burning sensation in throat, scratchy throat, shortness of breath
Skin reactions including rash, burning sensation
Organ and tissue damage (minor to cancer)
What factors affect VOCs?
Temperature, humidity, air flow/ventilation, chemical reactions with other compounds.
What are MVOCs?
MVOCs are Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) that molds produce during their digestive process. They are primary metabolites and are therefore an indication of active mold growth.
How are MVOCs different from spores?
Spores are the primary means of reproduction by molds. They are released at certain points in the mold life cycle or in response to a threat. Spores are spread by air currents and can settle and be carried on materials, people, and animals. Spores can remain viable for a long time until they can find a suitable environment to grow to form new colonies. *Note that Prism's Mold analyses do not include mold spore or mycotoxin determination.
How are MVOCs different from mycotoxins?
Mycotoxins are chemicals that are produced during certain parts of the mold life cycle and can evoke a toxic response (e.g., severe allergic reactions and respiratory irritation and exacerbation of asthma symptoms or other respiratory ailments) in humans and animals. Mycotoxins have low volatility, meaning they have relatively low concentrations in air, so contact or ingestion rather than inhalation is often the main route of exposure for these chemicals. *Note that Prism's Mold analyses do not include mold spore or mycotoxin determination.
How are MVOCs different from other VOCs?
MVOCs are not different from other VOCs except that the source is from actively growing mold. MVOCs are subject to the same factors that affect other VOCs, primarily temperature and humidity.
What does the TMVOC number mean?
TMVOC stands for Total Mold VOC and it is the sum of the 21 VOCs that are used to indicate active mold growth.
Is it useful to get the listing of the individual MVOCs?
Since MVOCs do not indicate the genus/species, the individual MVOCs are most useful when sampling in a large building where molds in different areas may provide a different MVOC fingerprint, indicating that they are different even though the specific genus species cannot be identified or in situations where long term monitoring is occurring and changes in the individual MVOC proportions may indicate changes in the mold population or growing conditions.
Are there any conditions/situations that could affect my MVOC result?
Low temperature and/or humidity may slow down mold growth and reduce the concentrations of MVOCs. High ventilation rates or air filtering may dilute the MVOCs.
What is Formaldehyde?
Formaldehyde is a colorless, strong-smelling gas. It is produced naturally by humans, plants (especially woods), and animals. Many man made materials also contain formaldehyde, including engineered wood products (e.g., particle board, plywood, OSB, MDF, flooring, etc.), some preservatives, personal care and cleaning products, cosmetics, permanent press fabrics, glues, air fresheners, paints and coatings. Formaldehyde is also a byproduct of combustion, which includes some vehicle exhaust, fuel-burning appliances (gas stoves, kerosene space heaters, etc.), fireplaces, wildfires, structural fires, tobacco smoke, and trash fires.
Why is formaldehyde of concern?
Formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen (cancer-causing agent), it can also cause nasal and eye irritation, increased risk of asthma and allergies, and neurological effects. At concentrations over 500 ppb it can also cause eczema and changes in lung function. Animal studies also showed decreased body weight, gastrointestinal ulcers, and liver and kidney damage at high doses.
Is there a medical test for formaldehyde?
Formaldehyde cannot be reliably measured in blood, urine, or body tissues following exposure. Formaldehyde is produced in the body and would be present as a normal constituent in body tissues.
Is formaldehyde present in outdoor air?
Since formaldehyde has several natural sources (photo chemical oxidation, especially of terpenes; combustion; plants, primarily wood, and animals; decomposition of plant and animal material), outdoor levels typically range from a few ppb in rural areas to ~20 ppb in more urban areas.
What are normal levels of formaldehyde in indoor air?
Indoor air usually has more formaldehyde than outdoor air, ranging from ~20 ppb to several hundred ppb depending on the situation. Concentrations are typically higher in the summer because of the higher temperature and humidity.
What are the possible health effects of formaldehyde?
Health effects vary depending on the individual. Common symptoms of acute exposure include irritation of the throat, nose, eyes, and skin; this irritation can potentially exacerbate asthma symptoms and other respiratory illnesses. Long term, or chronic, exposure may also cause chronic runny nose, chronic bronchitis, and obstructive lung disease. In 2004, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) reclassified formaldehyde from "probably carcinogenic to humans" to "carcinogenic to humans" related to nasopharyngeal cancer. Since many factors are involved in the development of cancer, no definitive "safe level" of exposure has been established. The best way to reduce the risk of cancer is to limit exposure.
What are the sources of formaldehyde?
· Products that contain urea-formaldehyde (UF) resins
What is Tobacco Smoke?
Tobacco smoke is a mixture of thousands of chemicals produced from the burning of tobacco products. These products include finely cut pieces of the tobacco plant as well as a number of additives that serve as flavorings and preservatives.
Does this test include marijuana?
No, marijuana produces different VOCs than tobacco.
Does this test include electronic cigarettes?
This test is not designed to cover e-cigarettes, but nicotine will be present in emissions from e-cigarettes, so this test may not be applicable to e-cigarettes other than in the immediate vicinity of vaping (vaping is the term used to describe the vaporization process used with e-cigarettes, it is equivalent to smoking when using a tobacco product).
What is the 'safe' level for tobacco smoke?
There is no safe level for tobacco smoke. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. National Toxicology Program, the U.S. Surgeon General, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer have all classified tobacco smoke as a known human carcinogen (a cancer causing agent).
Does this test show tobacco smoke from a neighboring space (apartment, condo, office, etc.)?
Tobacco smoke can spread from neighboring spaces. A number of factors influence how much tobacco smoke travels from adjacent spaces and determines whether the tobacco smoke is detected with this test. These factors include:
amount, duration, and location of smoking
how long the smoking has been occurring (e.g., weeks, months, years)
type of material and construction of the wall/floor/ceiling
building envelope (i.e., how tight is the building)
air exchange rates
temperature and humidity
amount of porous materials (e.g., carpet, draperies, furniture, etc.)
location of the sample collection equipment
Why does this test only use 3 marker compounds?
Tobacco smoke contains over 4,000 chemical compounds, many of these chemicals can also be emitted by other sources. In addition, many are at such low levels that they can’t be monitored, or are not volatile enough to stay in the air for very long. Thus, the ability to predict that tobacco smoke is present in the air, especially after smoking activity has ceased, becomes a much more difficult task. However, by utilizing sophisticated sample collection and analysis methodologies with detection limits in the 0.1 ng/L range, our tobacco smoke test is able to isolate specific chemical markers that have been determined by recent leading edge research to be present when tobacco is or has been burned. The compounds specifically analyzed for are Nicotine, 3-Ethenylpyridine, and 2,5-Dimethylfuran.