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Indoor Air Quality

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Indoor Air Quality Overview

Environmental Health & Safety performs IAQ inspections upon request by university personnel who are experiencing adverse health effects during the course of the workday which may be related to indoor air quality. IAQ inspections include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Visual inspection of occupied spaces and air-handling systems serving the space;
  • Evaluation of building ventilation rates to ensure that occupants are receiving an adequate quantity of outside air and dilution ventilation;
  • Evaluation of building temperature and relative humidity to ensure occupant comfort and to prevent microbial growth and amplification;
  • Quantification of chemical contaminants that have been identified during the visual inspection;

Upon completion of the IAQ inspection, Environmental Health & Safety will work with facilities and all other parties involved to resolve those IAQ issues identified during the course of the inspection.

Additional IAQ services that Environmental Health & Safety may provide include:

  • Responding to occupant reports of chemical odors to assess employee exposure and recommend remedial activities.
  • Providing consultation for the selection and installation of new building materials and furnishings that will have a minimal impact on IAQ.
  • Working with departments to minimize the impact on IAQ during renovations and demolitions of occupied buildings.
  • Providing recommendations for air-cleaning equipment when deemed necessary.

Frequently Asked Questions

For problems with comfort such as too warm, too cold or stale air, please make sure that vents are not blocked by furniture/other equipment or closed for some reason. Report the problem to your supervisor who can then contact the building manager or the project manager assigned to the building to see if the environmental controls for the building need to be adjusted.

For problems related to moisture or visible mold the affected area needs to be cleaned up as quickly as possible. Staff can clean up small areas of condensation, spilled water, or small areas with visible mold. For guidance on mold see the information provided by Virgina Department of Health or documents on the EPA website.

For larger wet areas or active leaks and large infestations of mold (i.e larger than the area of a ceiling tile), call the Division of Campus Planning, Infrastructure, and Facilities at 540-231-4300 for assistance.

Anyone who experiences allergic or other symptoms at work should contact Sarah Owen at 540-231-4034 or to request an IAQ consultation.

If you are experiencing discomfort in your office, laboratory, or other workspace you may need assistance with IAQ in your area. Such discomfort can include being too warm, too cold, the air seems stale, you experience allergic or other symptoms while at work, you see visible moisture or mold in your work area. For more information on IAQ issues, please review the EPA’s An Office Building Occupant’s Guide to Indoor Air Quality.

Contact Sarah Owen at 540-231-4034 or for an IAQ consult in order try to determine what may be causing your symptoms and what, if any, changes can be made to your work space. You will also need to be working with your doctor to determine what allergens or other material you may be sensitive to.

Clean up visible moisture immediately to decrease the chance that it will encourage the growth of mold. If there is a large amount of moisture or an active leak, call the Division of Campus Planning, Infrastructure, and Facilities at 540-231-4300 for assistance. Water stained or wet ceiling tiles should be replaced as soon as they are found. Call the Division of Campus Planning, Infrastructure, and Facilities  to get the tiles replaced.

Any visible mold should be removed using soap and water as soon as it is found. Small areas (i.e. smaller than a ceiling tile) can be handled safely by staff. For guidance on cleaning up mold please consult the EPA fact sheet or the VDH fact sheet.

Contact the Division of Campus Planning, Infrastructure, and Facilities at 540-231-4300 to request assistance with cleaning up large areas of mold or to get wet or molded ceiling tiles replaced.

Contact Sarah Owen at 231-4034 or for an IAQ consult in all other instances.

If you are interested in filtering particles like dust, pollen, spores or bacteria/virus you must choose an air purifier with HEPA filter and air flow at the appropriate Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) for the size of the room. CADR indicates the volume of filtered air an air cleaner delivers, with separate scores for tobacco smoke, pollen and dust. The higher the CADR number for each pollutant, the faster the unit filters the air. Always look for the AHAM Verifide® mark when shopping for air cleaners, which is usually found on the side or back of an air cleaner’s packaging.

Follow the 2/3 Rule

As a rule of thumb, the CADR of your air cleaner should be equal to at least two-thirds of the room’s area. For example, a room with the dimensions of 10 feet by 12 feet has an area of 120 square feet. It would be best to have an air cleaner with a smoke CADR of at least 80.

Using an air cleaner with a higher CADR in that room will simply clean the air more often and faster. If your ceilings are higher than 8 feet, an air cleaner rated for a larger room will be necessary. The CADR rating is only for removing particles such as cigarette smoke, pollen, dust, mold spores from the air. If odors are a concern, choose an air purifier with activated charcoal filter. some models haev a dual filter with both HEPA and activated charcoal.

When deciding on a location for the air purifiers, try to place the equipment as centrally in the space as possible. Take care not to create a trip hazard with either the device or the cord.

If you are unsure whether you need to remove particles or odor causing vapors from your work space, contact Sarah Owen at 540-231-4034 or for an IAQ consult.

Each investigation will be tailored to the concerns presented to Environmental Health & Safety by staff who have requested an investigation. Typically, a visual inspection of the work space and surrounding areas will be conducted and temperature and relative humidity readings will be taken. Staff with work related symptoms will be interviewed and asked to fill out an IAQ questionnaire. Air sampling for the presence of certain chemical contaminants will be done if necessary.

Contact Information

Sarah Owen, Industrial Hygienist

Phone: 540-231-4034