Ed Light – CIH Building Dynamics LLC – EnLightening New AIHA White Paper on VOC Criteria for New Construction

Air Date: 5-5-2017|Episode 458

Mr. Light holds degrees in Environmental Science from the University of Massachusetts (B.S.) and Marshall University (M.S.), is a Senior Fellow of the American Industrial Hygiene Association, has authored over 40 scientific publications on assessment and control of the indoor environment and has chaired several national scientific committees.


Full Description:

Mr. Light holds degrees in Environmental Science from the University of Massachusetts (B.S.) and Marshall University (M.S.), is a Senior Fellow of the American Industrial Hygiene Association, has authored over 40 scientific publications on assessment and control of the indoor environment and has chaired several national scientific committees.  In the 1980’s, Ed established the West Virginia Department of Health IAQ Program, pioneering efforts to resolve exposure issues related to formaldehyde, asbestos, and termiticides.  In the 1990’s, he  developed widely used protocols for addressing IEQ complaints (published by EPA, NIOSH and ISIAQ) and managing air quality in occupied buildings under construction (for SMACNA, promulgated by ANSI).  As a consultant, Ed has directed more than 1000 multi-disciplinary IEQ investigations, ranging from the White House to the South Pole Station.  He has been admitted in numerous proceedings as a litigation expert in industrial hygiene.

Z-Man’s Blog:

EdLightening New White Paper on VOCs in New Construction

Ed has specialized in the indoor environmental sciences since 1982, when he founded a pioneering IAQ Program for the West Virginia Department of Health. A Senior Fellow of the American Industrial Hygiene Association, he has published extensively. As a consultant with Building Dynamics, he has conducted over 1000 IAQ investigations, including assessments of the White House, South Pole Station and Sing Sing Prison. In addition to his vast knowledge and experience in IAQ, Ed is an accomplished musician who created and performed original music for today’s show intro,“I’ve got those green building blues”.

Ed Light is smart, practical, enlightening and entertaining.

Here’s some nuggets mined from today’s broadcast:

  • Ed generally assesses IAQ without sampling for VOCs, mold or other contaminants. Critical steps for understanding IAQ and its effect on occupants are a detailed inspectionnoting sources and indicators (i.e., odor and cleanliness), review of systems, interviews with operators and occupants and evaluation of moisture.Mechanical engineering expertise is essential to resolving most IAQ problems. Ed also partners with medical professionals, where needed to resolve health issues. An industrial hygienist with experience in building science and public health is well suited to coordinate a multi-disciplinary IAQ investigation.
  • Other practitioners are conducting VOC sampling new and renovated buildings forgreen building classification despite the lack of supporting science. Complying facilities are often assumed to be healthy. AIHA examined assumptions that VOC sampling assesses IAQ and reviewed alternative approaches to pre-occupancy assessment.Development of the White Paper has been controversial, with opposition from industrial hygienists supporting VOC sampling for new construction.
  • Levels of VOCs have been significantly reduced due to manufacturers’ progress reducing formaldehyde and other materials emissions.
  • VOC sampling doesn’t evaluate the overall IAQ of buildings. The most common cause of IAQ complaints and building failure is moisture and it is not addressed in a meaningful way by LEED. Ed assisted with the development of the ASHRAE/ICC National Green Building Standard for homes, which does regulate moisture. Ed is also a member ofASHRAE Committee TC 1.12, which is in the process of defining building dampness and developing a moisture assessment protocol.
  • VOC criteria for new construction were developed from listings of industrial chemicals of concern in the workplace, drinking water, and outdoor air, and many of these chemicals are not relevant to IAQ assessment.Although an important objective of VOC sampling for new construction is to assess off-gassing from building materials, many VOCs in indoor air prior to occupancy originate from non-construction sources.
  • VOC testing of new constructions provides only a snapshot of conditions, and is not representative of long-term occupant exposure. Data do not reflect long-term averages and peak levels, which are necessary for assessing occupant risk. Measurements at the end of construction are higher than after occupancy.
  • While most IAQ practitioners accept concentration limits for VOCs prescribed by IAQ guidelines as gospel, the AIHA White Paper subjected these to a critical review. Criteria for new construction were derived from California’s Chronic Reference Exposure Levels (CRELs). AIHA notes that CRELs are intended to prevent all health effects in sensitive individuals, which may not be appropriate for use as IAQ standards. These values were calculated based on very conservative assumptions, which are questioned by other toxicologists.
  • TVOC criteria for green buildings are based on outdated research, which is now discounted because it can’t be associated with health effects and was developed based on noncomparable sampling and analytical methods.
  • Ed has documented LEED Gold buildingswith significant IAQ problems. Preoccupancy VOC sampling has not been shown to provide additional benefit in terms of improved IAQ. More effective IAQ assessment strategies for new construction include a general inspection and performance evaluation. The labor and laboratory costs of LEED sampling are significant, and alternative approaches may be less costly, while providing more useful information.

Other issues addressed by Ed:

  • The EPA Moisture Control Guide is a very valuable document, focusing on dampness evaluation, not mold sampling, as the basis for solutions to IAQ problems. While humidity monitoring is useful as a screening tool, understanding of complex moisture issues may require additional measurement of dew point. Available at- https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/moisture-control-guidance-building-design-construction-and-maintenance-0
  • Mystery odors can be resolved by systematic odor evaluation, while VOC testing is generally inconclusive.
  • Fragrance odors can be an important contributor to IAQ complaints, with perfumes and deodorizing sprays often problematic. Control of this issue requires the cooperation of occupants.
  • Photoionization detectors are often misused as a tool for IAQ assessment. Readings are not predictive of occupant risk. On the other hand,using PID as a VOC “Geiger counter” can beuseful in tracking odor sources, such as sewer gas.

Ed’s consulting group, Building Dynamics, consists of five mechanical engineers and two industrial hygienists. Current environmental projects include misapplied spray foam insulation (ASTM will soon be publishing Ed’s pioneering review of this emerging IAQ issue).and construction management for mold prevention and occupant protection (see this month’s ASHRAE Journal for Ed’s paper on Occupied School Construction).

Take a look at the new AIHA White Paper on VOCs at:  https://www.aiha.org/government-affairs/PositionStatements/VOC%20White%20Paper.pdf

Z-Man signing off