Office Building Indoor Air Quality
Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) relates to the air quality within a building or structure, particularly important for the health and safety of the occupants. Understanding common contaminants indoors can help mitigate the risk of any associated adverse health effects for building occupants. Adverse health effects related to indoor air contamination can occur soon after exposure or, in some cases, many years later.
If an insufficient amount of outside air enters a building, pollutant levels inside the building may increase, creating comfort and health issues. In this scenario, measures must be taken to either filter out or remove indoor contaminants and bring more fresh air into the building. A well-maintained and properly fitted ventilation/air handling system can often prevent IAQ problems within a building.
Some of the typical causes of IAQ problems in buildings include:
- Lack of fresh air, poor ventilation, or polluted air in the building.
- Improper maintenance of heating, air-conditioning and ventilation (HVAC) systems.
- Moisture damage and dampness from water intrusion or elevated humidity.
- Occupant activities, like cleaning, remodeling, or construction.
- Airborne contaminants brought in from an outside source.
Signs of Poor Air Quality at Work
It’s important for building occupants to be aware of signs of poor indoor air quality. Below are a few examples of symptoms people may experience if exposed to contaminants or pollutants within a building:
- Coughing: Pollutants in the air can reduce the amount of oxygen, which might cause excessive coughing.
- Sneezing and allergies: Airborne particulate and germs can cause allergic reactions like throat and nose irritation, sneezing and watery eyes.
- Headaches: Mild headaches can result when emissions from cleaning products or pesticides dominate an improperly ventilated building.
- Skin irritation: When germs or bacteria from the air contact skin, the result is often dryness or a rash.
- Excessive dust: The presence of dust buildup around vents and electronic devices is a sign of poor indoor air quality.
- Unpleasant odors: Noticing an unusual odor typically means improper ventilation. Presence of mold or pollen are common causes of foul odor.
- Hot and cold spots: If one room of a building is typically warmer or colder than another, it’s usually a sign of poor air circulation.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has no firm air quality regulations set for the workplace, but it provides guidelines for common IAQ complaints.
Measure Air Quality in Your Office
According to OSHA, there is no definitive test for identifying an IAQ problem. Monitoring indoor air quality parameters such as temperature, relative humidity, and carbon dioxide (CO2) levels can assist in prevention of IAQ-related issues. Additionally, it is important for building maintenance personnel to regularly inspect and maintain the building’s HVAC systems.
A cursory building walk-through to check for odors, damage from moisture intrusion, and dirt, dust and debris buildup in various areas can assist with problematic IAQ identification.
How Can RHP Risk Management Help Your Office Building?
RHP Risk Management’s public health scientists and Certified Industrial Hygienists (CIH) have extensive expertise and knowledge to assist clients in navigating basic or complex IAQ projects. Contact us today to find out how we can assist you with assuring you are providing a safe and healthy indoor environment for you and your employees.