Occupants in a commercial high-rise building in a major New England city complained about minor eye irritation and hay fever like symptoms. Soon after initial complaints were voiced, we were asked to find the cause, and recommend corrective action.
Air samples were collected and analyzed by optical and scanning electron microscopy. This analysis found fiberglass particulate in the air, that was associated with black polyester material. Typically, this indicates that fiberglass lined ductwork or equipment is shedding. We inspected the ductwork and interior of air handling equipment and found that duct liner inside ductwork showed no signs of air erosion, but liner inside fan coil units was deteriorating. We collected samples of the liner and examined it in the field, including examination with an optical microscope. The material was found to be too soft for service inside an air handling unit and was beginning to disintegrate, causing the irritation experienced by occupants.
Correction of the problem was simple. The liner inside the air handling units was removed and replaced with a material designed to handle the air velocities and turbulence that exists inside the equipment. Timely intervention, made possible by use of IAQ particulate air sampling, averted a major indoor air quality problem in the building.