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Environmental Health & Safety

Indoor Air Quality Policy

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PDF Version of Indoor Air Quality Policy

  1. Purpose:

    The University recognizes the impact that indoor air quality may have in the workplace. In an effort to provide the University Community with acceptable indoor air quality, Environmental Health & Safety has developed this Indoor Air Quality Program.

    Symptoms arising from poor indoor air quality may mimic symptoms commonly associated with a cold, flu or allergies. These symptoms may include upper respiratory irritation, congestion, headaches, nausea, fatigue and itchy or watery eyes. Using occupant interviews, building inspection and air quality testing, Occupational Safety Unit personnel may be able to determine the cause of indoor air quality problems and provide recommendations for remedial actions.

    This program establishes procedures for evaluating indoor air quality (IAQ) and provides information to the University Community concerning IAQ.

    The objectives of this program include:

    • Prevention of illness and adverse health symptoms associated with poor indoor air quality
    • Effectively responding to indoor quality complaints and making recommendations for improvement
    • Maintaining indoor air quality within acceptable levels established by consensus guidelines
  2. Scope:
  3. University wide

  4. Definitions
    • Building Material Contamination: Building components treated with a variety of chemicals and preservatives are common sources of indoor air quality problems. Glues and adhesives from new carpet and formaldehyde from new particleboard and upholstery may off-gas and become sources of contamination.
    • Carbon Dioxide: Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a major product of human respiration and is used as an indicator to evaluate the performance of ventilation systems. Outdoor ambient air in urban areas normally contain about 350 to 500 parts per million (ppm) CO2. ASHRAE standard 62-1989 (Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality) recommends that CO2 levels be maintained below 1,000 ppm.
    • Carbon Monoxide: A colorless, odorless, tasteless poisonous compound that most frequently results from combustion processes.
    • Contamination From Inside the Building:  Contaminants commonly found inside the building include:
      • Ozone from copiers
      • Cleaning agents
      • Formaldehyde from new furniture and carpets
      • Sewer gas from dry traps
      • Carbon monoxide from improperly maintained or malfunctioning combustion appliances
      • Pesticides
      • Cosmetics
      • Microbial agents from leaks, "water events", or improperly maintained humidification devices
    • Contamination From Outside the Building:  Contamination commonly found outside of buildings include:
      • Exhaust from motor vehicles
      • Fumes from construction or renovation activities
    • HVAC: Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning (System). This is the equipment that maintains and adjusts temperature and humidity, and supplies fresh air (ventilation) from outside the building to indoor spaces
    • Inadequate Ventilation: Inadequate ventilation occurs when an insufficient amount of fresh outside air is supplied to the interior environment.
    • Microbial Contamination: Microbial Contamination occurs in buildings that are susceptible to water leaks and other sources of moisture. Contaminants can also be introduced into buildings from stagnant water in HVAC air distribution systems and cooling towers. In general, prevention of microbiological contamination is accomplished by eliminating standing water and other sources of moisture (Mold and Water-Damaged Building Materials Management Policy).
    • Relative Humidity: Relative humidity levels can affect the release rate of many indoor contaminants, their concentrations in the air, and the potential growth of microbial organisms. Humidity can also have a direct effect on worker comfort. In ASHRAE 55-1981, a "comfort chart" shows an acceptable range of humidity to be from 20 to 60%.
    • Temperature: Temperature ranges of 73o F to 79o F during the winter months, and 69 to 75 during the summer months are recommended by ASHRAE. These guidelines are intended to achieve thermal conditions in a given environment that at least 80% of persons who occupy that environment will find it acceptable or "comfortable".
    • Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs): Chemical compounds emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids. Some VOCs have short and long term adverse health effects. Concentrations of many VOCs are consistently higher indoors (up to ten times) than outdoors. VOCs are emitted by a wide array of products including paints and lacquers, cleaning supplies, pesticides, building materials and furnishings, office equipment, correction fluids, glues and adhesives, permanent markers, and photgraphic solutions.
  5. Responsibilities:
    • Environmental Health & Safety investigates indoor air quality complaints and distributes written final reports with recommendations to affected parties.
    • University Facilities repairs building structures, HVAC and other building systmes and performs regular preventative maintenance to ensure systems are functioning correctly. UR Facilities also makes adjustments, repairs, and modifications to systems to correct improper function.
  6. Procedures:  
      IAQ Investigation
    • Phase I Assessment
    • The first step in a typical IAQ investigation is a Phase I or preliminary assessment. Phase I assessments include interviewing occupants and performing a walk-through inspection of the building or area of complaint. The interview(s) can include using an employee questionnaire and occupant diary (see appendix I and II). The questionnaire is used to obtain information about the nature of the employee complaints and symptoms and also to determine the magnitude of the problem.

      During the walk-through, building ventilation systems are evaluated and potential sources of contamination are identified. If the immediate cause or source cannot be found, a Phase II assessment is required.

    • Phase II Assessment
    • During a Phase II assessment, common indoor air quality parameters including temperature, relative humidity, TVOC, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide levels are measured. Frequently a data-logging study of basic indoor air quality paramets is performed.

      The most commonly cited quantitative measurements of indoor air quality are provided by ASHRAE, American Society of Heating and Air Conditioning Engineers, as presented in standard 62-1989.

    • Phase III Assessment
    • A Phase III Assessment may be performed when a definitive cause for the symptoms cannot be determined during the Phase II Assessment of the investigation.

      Phase III Assessments consist of extensive and more specific monitoring and sampling for chemical and/or microbial contaminants.  Environmental Health & Safety may contract Phase III Assessments to Professional Indoor Air Consultants. In our final report for a Phase III investigation, our office will typically recommend that the occupant seek the services of an occupational health physician.

  7. References:
    • ASHRAE (American Society of Heating and Air Conditioning Engineers) Standard 62-1989
    • General Duty Clause of the OSHA Act of 1970, section 5
    • University of Rochester Mold and Water-Damaged Building Materials Management Policy
  8. Appendices/Forms

Program last updated July 2017

Contact EH&S at (585) 275-3241 or e-mail EH&S Questions.

This page last updated 7/3/2019. Disclaimer.