Indoor environmental consultant : an up-and-coming profession

Canadians spend 90% of their time indoors. This number, which initially appears benign, provides food for thought considering that indoor air is the greatest cause of exposure to atmospheric pollutants. The importance of indoor air quality has led to the recent emergence of new organizations and occupations—such as indoor environmental consultant—whose role is to build awareness regarding this issue and to protect people at risk.

INVISIBLE BUT INSIDIOUS POLLUTANTS

Without being overly alarmist, special attention should be paid to the various pollutants in chemicals (heating and ventilation systems, cleaning products, cigarettes), fibres and biological substances such as dust mites, mould and yeast. Persons at risk such as infants, the elderly and people with breathing problems are the first to suffer the consequences including asthma, cardiovascular diseases, allergies, nausea, fetal malformations, SIDS and cancer.

IMPORTANCE OF CLEANLINESS TO HEALTH

Indoor environmental consultants intervene mainly with people who have health problems such as allergies or asthma; they work with doctors to help diagnose diseases and provide solutions. Their role involves seeking out allergens and pollutants at the home of someone with asthma, for example. To do this, they look for clues such as stains on the walls, unusual odours and the presence of water. They then take air and dust samples to quantify chemical and biological pollutants present in the indoor environment. Finally, they give advice and propose measures to resolve problems such as sealing cracks, maintaining certain equipment, repairing broken things, etc.

A NEW OPPORTUNITY FOR HEALTH PROFESSIONALS

People who become indoor environmental consultants generally come from the health care sector. With additional training, nurses, home economics technicians or advisors, lab technicians, pediatric nurses and medical representatives can reorient their careers towards a job as an indoor environmental consultant.

IMPORTANCE OF INTERPERSONAL SKILLS

As opposed to what one might think, the relational aspects of the work of indoor environmental consultants are of great importance. Their intervention will be even more valuable if they succeed in creating and developing a good relationship with patients and doctors, which is why interpersonal and communication skills are essential in reaching the desired results. These skills are even more relevant taking into account the fact that patients pay more attention to advice from indoor environmental consultants than from their doctors.

TECHNICAL SKILLS

Along with interpersonal skills, indoor environmental consultants must possess many technical skills. They should be familiar with the medical pathologies linked to pollutants found in the home. They should also possess varied technical skills relating to building technology, ventilation, and measuring and getting rid of various pollutants. They should also have a good grasp of indoor air quality regulations. Familiarity with the diverse institutional and technical partners and the various housing and health care players and an understanding of how they work may also be very useful. 

The indoor environmental consultant occupation is starting to become known and is showing very encouraging results. There are many opportunities: hospitals, city health departments, patient associations, and individuals could all benefit from this type of service. In a world where pollutants threaten us, the outlook for this profession is definitely sunny.

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