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Indoor Air Quality FAQ

Frequently asked questions from our clients about indoor air quality

1. What is "indoor air quality"?

Indoor air quality (also called "indoor environmental quality") describes how inside air can affect a person's health, comfort, and ability to work. It can include temperature, humidity, lack of outside air (poor ventilation), mold from water damage, or exposure to other chemicals. Currently, OSHA has no indoor air quality (IAQ) standards but it does provide guidelines about the most common IAQ workplace complaints.


2. What is considered good Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)?

The qualities of good IAQ should include comfortable temperature and humidity, adequate supply of outdoor air, (Air exchange) and control of pollutants using proper filtration.


3. What are the most common causes of Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) problems?

The most common causes of IAQ problems in buildings are:

  • Not enough ventilation, lack of outdoor air, (Air exchange) or contaminated air being brought into the building and not enough adequate filtration
  • Poor upkeep of ventilation, heating and air-conditioning systems
  • Dampness, moisture issues due to water leaks or high humidity
  • Occupant activities, such as construction or remodeling
  • Poor housekeeping

Do you know what you are breathing? Why guess when it comes to your health? Check your indoor air quality for mold, radon, bacteria, lead, asbestos, etc. Better health, better performance!


4. How can I tell if there is an Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) problem in my workplace?

People working in buildings with poor IAQ may notice unpleasant or musty odors or may feel that the building is hot and stuffy. Some workers complain about symptoms that happen at work and go away when they leave work, like having headaches or feeling tired. Fever, cough, and shortness of breath can be symptoms of a more serious problem. Asthma and some causes of pneumonia (for example, Legionnaires’ disease and Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis) have been linked to IAQ problems. If you have symptoms that are not going away or are getting worse, talk to your doctor about them. But not all exposures cause symptoms, so there is no substitute for good building management.


5. Is there a test that can find an Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) problem?

There is no single test to find an IAQ problem. Your employer should check measurements of temperature, humidity and air flow. In addition, inspection and testing of the ventilation, heating and air conditioning systems (to make sure it is working according to specifications for building use and occupancy) should be performed. A building walk-through to check for odors and look for water damage, leaks, and dirt or pest droppings may be helpful. Leaks need to be eliminated. Standing water in humidifiers, air conditioning units, on roofs and in boiler pans can become contaminated with bacteria or fungi and need to be eliminated, also. In some circumstances, specific testing for radon or for asbestos may be required as part of building occupancy. For instance, in schools asbestos needs to be checked every three years and re-inspected every 6 months (under the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act-AHERA).


6. What should my employer be doing to prevent Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) problems?

Employers are required to follow the General Duty Clause of the OSHA act, which requires them to provide workers with a safe workplace that does not have any known hazards that cause or are likely to cause death or serious injury. The OSHA act also requires employers to obey occupational safety and health standards created under it. Employers should be reasonably aware of the possible sources of poor air quality, and they should have the resources necessary to recognize and control workplace hazards. It is also their responsibility to inform employees of the immediate dangers that are present. Specific state and local regulations may apply.


7. Is there any specific information that I should keep track of to identify Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) problems at work?

The following information may be helpful to your doctor or your employer to figure out if there is an IAQ problem at your workplace:

  • Do you have symptoms that just occur at work and go away when you get home? What are these symptoms?
  • Are these symptoms related to a certain time of day, a certain season or certain location at work?
  • Did the symptoms start when something new happened at work, such as renovation or construction projects?
  • Are there other people at work with similar complaints?
  • Did you already see a doctor for your symptoms, and if so, did the doctor diagnose an illness related to IAQ?

Any type of prolonged symptoms should be checked out by a medical doctor.


8. If I think there is an Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) problem at work or I think my office or building where I work is making me sick, what can I do?

If you are concerned about air quality at work, ask your employer to check the ventilation, heating and air conditioning systems and to make sure there is no water damage. If you think that you have symptoms that may be related to IAQ at your work, talk to your doctor about them to see if they could be caused by indoor air pollution. Under the OSHA act, you have the right to contact an OSHA Office (see a map of OSHA offices) or to contact OSHA’s toll-free number: 1-800-321-OSHA (6742) or TTY 1-877-889-5627. A worker can tell OSHA not to let their employer know who filed the complaint. It is against the Act for an employer to fire, demote, transfer or discriminate in any way against a worker for filing a complaint or using other OSHA rights. You may also request help from our board certified indoor environmental consultant to advise you in this matter. support@rxcleanair.com