Indoor Air Quality
Several factors can affect the indoor air quality (IAQ) in a building. Most often, poor IAQ is caused by volatile organic compounds (VOCs) present in cleaning, maintenance, or personal products, from vehicle exhaust that becomes entrained in the air intake, or a lack of adequate air flow to the office space. Sometimes, indoor air quality is impacted by mold and fungal growth, but this is uncommon at UAF. IAQ problems are hard to track down due to the variety of potential sources and the variation associated with their occurrence on a day-to-day basis.
How EHSRM can help
We have several instruments to monitor IAQ. Our instruments can measure or sample for:
- Carbon monoxide (CO)
- Mold and Fungi
- Carbon dioxide (CO2)
- Airborne particles
- Volatile Organic Compounds
Unfortunately, there is no single instrument (the mythical “Magic Sniffer”) that can test the air and conclusively identify all contaminants. Identifying the source of an IAQ problem requires knowledge of the potential sources of contaminants and a way to test for them.
If you are experiencing discomfort from the air quality in your building contact EHSRM at 474-5413 and we'll conduct an evaluation, collect samples if necessary, and make recommendations based on the results.
Before you call…
To save yourself some time and perhaps some frustration, there are some things you can do to investigate poor IAQ conditions in your office.
- Plants can be a source of mold and fungi that may cause allergies. If there plants in your work area, experiment with moving one or more types out at a time and see if the reaction is less over the next few days.
- Some perfumes, lotions, deodorants, etc. can cause reactions in people who have greater sensitivity. Be cognizant of the people in your area and their sensitivities.
- If you have a refrigerator near or in your office, check it for outdated goods.
- Peek in a few garbage cans in case someone just threw away one of the outdated goods from the refrigerator.
- If all else fails, give us a call at 474-5413.
Winters are synonymous with dry, uncomfortable conditions, and Fairbanks is no exception. Actually, Fairbanks is at a greater disadvantage due to its geographical location. Located in a “bowl”, strong inversions occur in the winter which creates a lid effect over Fairbanks that traps carbon monoxide (CO) and other toxins.
Vehicle exhaust problems, such as exhaust entering the fresh air intake, are directly related to these inversions. Some simple things you can do to reduce your building’s fresh air intake from being contaminated are:
- Plug in vehicles when temperatures are at 20 F or colder. Studies have shown that starting a vehicle when the engine is warm greatly reduces CO emissions.
- Limit your idling time if parked near your building’s fresh air intake.
- Encourage vendors not to park near the fresh air intake or ask them not to idle their vehicles.
These tips will help improve the IAQ but it will not solve the problem completely. Stuffy or stale air can still be expected especially during times when several vehicles are arriving / departing at the same time such as lunch and at the end of the day. If you are not sure where the fresh air intake(s) is (are) located for your building, call EHSRM at 474-5413.
Relative humidity is the term given to the ability of air to hold water vapor (gas). The ability of air to hold water decreases as the temperature is lowered, hence outside air has less humidity in the winter than it does in the summer. Because of this, some people like to bring humidifiers into their work spaces. This practice, however, is discouraged. The negatives of humidification are worse than the trade off for comfort. Excess moisture can cause the growth of biological organisms, including dust mites and fungi. Dust mites are microscopic animals that cause allergic reactions. The fungi can produce allergic reactions or may be toxic. Adding moisture to the air only makes it a better environment for fungi, bacteria, and dust mites.
Indoor Air Quality Links