Revised on
01/26/17 02:24pm
SafetyNet #

Indoor Air Quality

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Indoor air quality (IAQ) is the subject of much attention these days. There is more and more evidence that the quality of the indoor environment can have an effect on the health of building occupants. Although serious health problems related to IAQ are rare, the perception of endangered health is increasingly common among building occupants. It is important to know that the causes and consequences of poor IAQ are a long way from being completely understood.

This SafetyNet provides a general summary of information on IAQ to assist you in evaluating the present conditions of your work area. On a daily basis, EH&S has staff specifically available (on-call) to answer or personally respond to any concerns you have about your work area. In some situations, EH&S will initiate further investigation including inspection of the building and monitoring for airborne contaminants.

Most people will agree that indoor air quality is good when it is free of odors and dust, not too stuffy, stagnant, or drafty, and at a comfortable temperature and humidity. General guidelines for achieving good indoor air quality are as follows:

  • Report poor indoor air quality conditions (i.e., stuffy air, heat or cooling problem, annoying odors, etc.) to Facilities, Operations and Maintenance at 530-752-1655.
  • Do not use heavy perfume or colognes, air fresheners, oil-based paints, solvents, pesticides, strong smelling plant fertilizers, etc.
  • Do not smoke in campus buildings, near entrances, or near air intakes.
  • Limit use of equipment that generates excessive heat or produces odors to specifically designed rooms.
  • Do not install carpeting in offices or work areas. If you have carpeting in your work area, have it vacuumed weekly and deep, steam extraction cleaned annually.
  • Minimize generation of dust or aerosols in the work area. Avoid the use of spray cleaners or air fresheners.
  • Add water to floor and other drains not used frequently to prevent odors from the sewer.
  • Maintain good housekeeping in the work area and break areas. Throw away garbage and “old” lunches and clean up any spills immediately.
  • Keep refrigerator drip pans clean.
  • Periodically inspect electrical and/or electronic equipment to prevent overheating.
  • Periodically inspect any plants in the workplace for evidence of smells or mold.

Airborne chemicals, bacteria, fungi, pollen, dust, and vehicle exhaust can all contribute to air quality problems, as well as non-air quality factors such as temperature, humidity, lighting, noise, personal and work related stress, and pre-existing health conditions. 

Potential sources of contaminants in campus buildings include dust, cleaning supplies, pesticides, building materials, furnishings, occupant respiration and perspiration, and cosmetics. Serious IAQ problems occur when contaminant concentrations become excessive. Dusty surfaces, stagnant water and damp materials provide an environment ripe for microbial growth. The best method to control indoor air contaminants depends on the source or sources causing the concerns. Source control is generally the most effective solution to the problem. Modification of the ventilation system may also be an effective method.