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Contamination Index – What Does It Mean?

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Contamination Index – What Does It Mean?

After testing your indoor air using Enthalpy’s standard Home Air Check testing kit you may be wondering, what’s next? After sending your sample back to the lab for analysis you will soon receive a report back with the results. The Home Air Check analysis includes a Contamination Index section in the report. The contamination index tool highlights the types of air-contaminating products and materials present in the tested space. Each CI category shows the approximate severity, shows how the space compares to thousands of others, and provides some suggestions for where these products and materials might be found.


Things to Keep in Mind While Reviewing the Contamination Index

The Contamination Index severity classifications begin at normal and progress through moderate, elevated, high, and severe. These severity classifications are determined using a combination of statistical data gathered from thousands of samples and health information specific to each contamination index category. They are NOT related to safety.

Each CI category has its own severity scale values; no two categories have the same scale. Categories such as PVC cement and methylene chloride rise to higher severity rating at a lower concentration level than categories such as odorants and fragrances or coatings. This is based on what is seen in a typical indoor space.

It is possible for a category listed in one source group (Lifestyle, Building, Mixed) to belong to another source group. For example, the coatings category is in the building source group because the largest contribution is typically paint on the walls. But paint cans stored in the basement or garage could be considered part of the lifestyle sources group. Always consider all possible sources for a particular contamination index category.

Since there are many sources of VOCs, spaces can often become re-contaminated (experience excess VOCs) after the initial sources have been removed. Remodeling improvements and new products are regularly affecting the space. Occupants should take note of this fact, and view IAQ as a continuous improvement process.


Three Main Source Groups in the Contamination Index


Each contamination index is comprised of three main source groups: Lifestyle Sources, Building- Related Sources, and Mixed Building and Lifestyle Sources. Lifestyle Sources are those that the occupants bring in or use during activities in the space, these can usually be readily identified and remedied.

Building Related Sources are typically part of the structure of the building, these are often related to recent renovations or construction in the home. It is common that these will decrease substantially in the month following the application of these products, ventilating the area and bringing in fresh air will help to dissipate these VOCs. Mixed Building and Lifestyle sources could belong to either category, investigation may be necessary to determine which category is most likely.

Now that we have identified the different source groups in the contamination index, Which types of products are included in each source group?


Lifestyle Sources

Lifestyle Sources commonly consist of personal care products, alcohol products, odorants and fragrances, cleaning solvents, and medicinals. Personal care products can include soap, deodorant, lotions, perfumes, hair coloring supplies, nail care supplies, oral hygiene products, as well as many other personal care items.

Alcohol products can include household cleaning products, antiseptic wipes, hand sanitizers, some solvents, reed diffusers, consumable alcohol, and some pharmaceuticals. For odorants and fragrances, VOCs in this category can be found in scented candles, air fresheners, scented cleaning products, scented personal care products, and essential oils. More concentrated cleaning solvents used in dry-cleaning methods employ the use of carcinogenic chemicals. This can also include some upholstery and carpet cleaning products and services. The medicinals category includes ointments and creams, topical first aid and pain relivers.


Building Related Sources

The Building-Related sources category consists of coatings, PVC Cement and freons. The coatings category includes interior and exterior paints (including low or no VOC paints), varnishes, lacquers, some sealants, and other products that can be classified as a coating over a surface. There is some overlap between chemical compounds associated with coatings and those found in the fuel oil, diesel fuel, kerosene category.

PVC cement is used to join pieces of PVC pipe together, usually for plumbing HFCs and CFCs, (or Freons) are most often used as refrigerants for air conditioners and refrigerators and freezers and propellants for blown-in insulation, cushions, aerosol cans, etc.


Mixed Building and Lifestyle Sources

Mixed building and lifestyle sources consist of Building materials-toluene based; gasoline; fuel oil, diesel fuel, kerosene; moth balls; moth crystals; light hydrocarbons; light solvents and methylene chloride.

The building materials-toluene based category can include, adhesives and glues used in construction and maintenance, arts and crafts; adhesive removers; contact cement; coatings (paint, polyurethane, lacquer, thinners); automotive products, including parts cleaners. Additional sources include gasoline and other fuels. VOCs from gasoline are typically a result of off-gassing from gas containers and gas-powered equipment such as lawnmowers, snow blowers and minibikes that are stored in attached garages or basements. This category does not include exhaust emissions. Additionally, gasoline VOCs can linger on clothing after refueling at a gas station.

The gasoline category includes chemical compounds that are also included in the light solvents category like fuel oil, diesel fuel, kerosene. These are often found in garages and basements. These fuels are less volatile, they can linger for a long time and produce a strong, unpleasant odor. This category does not include exhaust emissions. There is some overlap between chemical compounds associated with fuel oil, diesel fuel and kerosene and those found in coatings. The moth balls category includes naphthalene-based moth balls. The moth crystals category includes p-dichlorobenzene-based moth crystals that may be present with naphthalene-based moth crystals.

The light hydrocarbons category can include building materials; aerosol cans; fuel for cooking/camping lighters; refrigerants; natural gas; propellants; and blowing agents. The light solvents category can include Stoddard solvents; mineral spirits; some coatings like paints, varnishes, and enamels; wax remover; adhesives; automotive products; and light oils.   Methylene chloride can be found in automotive products; degreasing solvents; paint strippers; adhesive removers; aerosol propellants and insecticides.


If you have any questions regarding the Contamination Index, please reach out via phone or email.

Office: 877-243-5247


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