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General Health & Safety

Indoor Air Quality

What exactly is Indoor Air Quality? There is no legal definition of acceptable indoor air quality but it’s generally considered to be air in which (1) there are no known contaminants at harmful concentrations and (2) a substantial majority (80% or more) of the building occupants do not express dissatisfaction.

Indoor air quality (IAQ) problems, for the most part, involve concerns with (1) temperature (too warm or too cold), (2) ventilation, i.e., air is stuffy, stale, or drafty, and (3) air pollutants, which may come from the outside or within the building. Outside air contaminants include pollen, dust, fungal spores, industrial pollutants, cigarette smoke and vehicle exhaust.

Pollutants, from within the building may include discarded food, emissions from cleaning materials or stored supplies, ordinary dust accumulated on surfaces or carpeting, and perfumes. More significantly, the source may be mold, typically as a result of water damaged material like dry wall or carpeting, or microbial growth within the Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system.

People, who express concern about their indoor environment, may have complaints of odors, feeling the air is stuffy, feeling the air is too warm or too cold, or having symptoms such as a headache, runny nose, or itchy eyes. The good news is that significant consequences to air contaminant exposures are rare, as the usual health affect is being uncomfortable. The not-so-good news is that it is often very difficult to identify and mitigate the cause of IAQ problems because of the number and variety of possible sources and the varying individual sensitivities.

It is not unusual where one or two individuals experience discomfort while co-workers in the same area have no complaints. In instances where only a small minority have complaints it probably is due more to that individual’s hypersensitivity rather that not having acceptable air quality. Some measures that management can take to mitigate IAQ problems include:

  • Enhance or increase the frequency of housekeeping.
  • Initiate steps to keep smokers away from the building air intake vents.
  • Avoid excessive use of perfumes.
  • Immediately clean and adequately dry areas where water spills occur.  This may mean moving furniture to allow carpets to dry.
  • Remove water damaged material such as cardboard.
  • Appropriately discard garbage.
  • Keep windows closed, where obvious outside pollutants, such as from nearby construction activity, may be present.
  • Notify Facilities Management HVAC personnel for concerns about temperatures and ventilation.

If you have a IAQ concern notify the EH&S Director, at 303-871-7501.