INDOOR AIR QUALITY
Air Quality Databases
UL's searchable databases have been compiled for more than 20 years, providing unmatched depth of information and empowering data mining, analytics and predictive modeling.
There are more than 80,000 chemicals used in commerce today, and only three percent of those have been fully evaluated for adverse human health effects.1
Indoor air pollutants pose a serious environmental threat to people, especially because most people spend approximately 90 percent of their time indoors — where air is typically two to 10 times more polluted than it is outdoors.2 Poor indoor air quality in commercial buildings can lower worker productivity.3
In addition, studies have shown that poor IAQ can adversely impact learning in school children and worsen allergy and asthma symptoms. The EPA cites IAQ as one of the top environmental health risks and indoor air pollution as one of the greatest overall risks to human health.4
WHAT DID UL DO?
UL applies advanced data mining, analytics and predictive modeling capabilities to our three proprietary air quality databases to assist manufacturers and built environment professionals in the development and use of safe products. Our searchable databases have been compiled over a period of 20 years, providing an unmatched depth of information and building on our unique ability to categorize chemicals for environmental or health impact. Our databases cover three areas:
- Product Chemical Emissions Database
- Building Air Database
- Microbial VOC Database
Our Product Chemical Emissions Database is based on more than 70,000 different product tests for chemical emissions. It is unmatched both in terms of size — with more than 13,000 unique VOCs identified in the emissions of the products tested — and in the selectivity of the data, which categorizes results by specific product types. Further, we constantly expand the database, each month identifying 40-60 new chemicals that we’ve never encountered before.
Our Product Chemical Database includes regulatory chemical lists and a proprietary database of odor and irritation thresholds for common indoor pollutants. UL also has an analogous Building Air Database, based on tests of indoor air conducted in more than 10,000 buildings over two decades, and a Microbial VOC Database, which specifically identifies VOCs released by molds that grow on building materials. Our MVOC Database is the only one of its kind and empowers a more cost-effective and less destructive approach to identifying molds in building structures and their potential sources.5
UL’s databases are unique not only in their breadth and depth but also in their ability to empower data mining, analytics and predictive modeling. The information and insights embedded give UL an unmatched ability to interpret test results and evaluate them against health and government agency standards. UL can also provide interpretive reports that explain the significance of the data our tests produce. Specifically, when indoor air is tested, its composition will be characterized as typical or representative of a problem building. If it is the latter, our analytics capability allows us to identify the likely products and product uses that have contributed to the air quality problems.
With our predictive modeling capability, UL scientists conduct product risk assessments in order to identify problematic chemicals that a manufacturer might not have been aware of, based on product interactions or the manufacturing processes utilized. This allows manufacturers to readily get feedback on the potentially hazardous chemical emissions associated with their products along with their sources, so they can more effectively regulate or modify their products.
UL also conducts analyses of indoor air using our MVOC Database in order to help building owners and developers detect mold without having to tear down walls or wait for visual evidence.
We also leverage our extensive knowledge to play a consultative role in rapidly urbanizing nations, such as China, where we recommend the optimal products to create safe indoor air environments.
WHY IT MATTERS
With the global sourcing of chemicals that go into products, the proliferation of new products and materials, the increasingly complex indoor environments and the amount of time people spend indoors at home and at work, there are significant potential health risks, including asthma and allergies; headaches; respiratory disease; eye, nose and throat irritation; reproductive and developmental defects (potential) and some forms of cancer (potential).
The UL air quality databases are invaluable resources that we use to help manufacturers and built-environment professionals understand the potential harmful effects of their products on human health and the environment (both internal and external). UL’s data mining, analytics and predictive modeling capabilities also provide our customers with the answers they need quickly and affordably to ensure safer products and environments. As the world becomes increasingly urbanized and indoor air quality issues proliferate, the intelligence embedded in our air quality databases will become increasingly critical.