Environmental Health

Indoor air quality (IAQ) is an important component of environmental health, since inhalation is a major route of exposure to many volatile organic compounds (VOCs). According to Health Canada survey, 28% of Canadians consider poor air quality as the most important environmental problem, which is more than any other environmental issue.3

Indoor emissions of VOCs occur from building materials, consumer products, and occupant activities. Building materials and furnishings (particleboard, insulation, paints, plastic laminates, ceiling tiles, flooring materials and wood furniture) emit VOCs when they are new and after aging due to humidity and other factors. Pressed wood products, such as particleboard, plywood, and fiberboard are commonly used in furniture and can release formaldehyde into the air. Formaldehyde is a pungent-smelling gas that causes eye irritation, nausea, difficulty breathing, and a burning throat sensation at elevated concentrations in air.

Environmental Health FactsConsumer products, such as cleaning and personal care products, air fresheners, polishes, books/magazines and adhesives all contribute to chemical exposure in indoor environments. A survey of scented consumer products conducted in the United States revealed that some products emitted over 100 VOCs, including chemicals that are classified as toxic or hazardous.1,2 Exposure to some VOCs can cause allergic reactions, chemical sensitivity, and aggravate other conditions, such as asthma.

Occupant activities can affect indoor air quality and contribute to odours. The use of office equipment such as photocopiers, printers and computers increases the level of indoor air contamination. Fuel-burning devices, like fireplaces, woodstoves, or wood stoves produce a variety of VOCs, including formaldehyde. In addition, smoking, cooking, and cleaning cause elevated levels of VOCs that can affect health, especially for individuals with asthma or certain allergies.

High indoor air temperatures and humidity and renovations typically exacerbate air quality problems.

Sources of Indoor Air Pollution Health Effects of Air Pollution
  • Tobacco Smoke
  • Construction Materials
  • Furnishings
  • Mold
  • Cleaning Products
  • Cooking
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Irritation to respiratory tract
  • Headaches
  • Aggravation of asthma and/or allergies

CASSEN Testing Labs Services

CASSEN Testing Labs has extensive expertise in solving air quality problems in many different environments, including residential homes, offices, schools, museums, hospitals, offices in industrial settings. Our technique using thermal Desorption-Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry is a powerful tool for trace level detection of VOCs. It usually detects up to 300 compounds in an indoor sample and include a wide range of compounds encompassing polar, non-polar, low molecular weight compounds up to many semi-volatile organics.

CASSEN Testing Labs Analytical Packages

  • Odour Characterization – Open Characterization with or without Interpretation
  • An extensive range of target compounds
  • Vapour intrusion
  • Fragrance Analysis
  • Microbial Volatile Organic Compounds (MVOC)
  • Print Compounds
  • Total Volatile Organic Compounds (TVOC)
  • Sulphur Compounds


  1.  Steinemann A.C., et al. (2011). Fragranced consumer products: chemicals emitted, ingredients unlisted. Environ. Impact. Assess. Rev. Vol. 31, Iss.3.
  2.  Potera, C. (2011). Ptera, C. (2011). Environ INDOOR AIR QUALITY: Scented Products Emit a Bouquet of VOCs. Environ Health Perspect. 2011 January; 119(1): A16.
  3.  Health Canada (2002). Air Pollution – Information Needs and the Knowledge, Attitudes and Behaviour of Canadians – Final Reporthttp://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ewh-semt/pubs/air/pollution/concern-inquietude-eng.php