Indoor Air Quality Assessments

Please contact EHS if you would like to have an indoor air quality assessment performed in your work space.

Boston University and Boston Medical Center believe their students, patients and employees deserve a healthful and comfortable work environment, and is dedicated to addressing problems that may be associated with poor indoor air quality on campus.

Some factors that may affect indoor air quality include the following:

Poor Ventilation

As we breathe, we use up available oxygen and replace it with carbon dioxide. A poorly ventilated room, especially a crowded one, sometimes lacks enough outdoor supply air to keep carbon dioxide concentrations at low levels. Although elevated carbon dioxide levels are generally not dangerous, this type of scenario may make workers uncomfortable or drowsy.

A poorly positioned air intake can draw outdoor pollutants into the building. Exhaust from buses and cars or a nearby building furnace can enter a building’s ventilation system.

Older duct systems can accumulate dust if they are not properly maintained. Sometimes this dust is drawn into interior spaces where it may affect persons with specific dust allergies.

Building Materials

The production of these materials sometimes involves the use of resins, adhesives or coatings that contain chemicals that may slowly evaporate into the air. Some of these chemicals, may cause allergic reactions.

Many other non-synthetic building materials are also treated with chemicals in order to provide them with water-proof coatings or insect control.

Water Damage and Excess Moisture

Water damage resulting from roof water leaks, leaking water supply pipes or condensation may cause mold (fungal) growth on porous materials.

Indoor Temperature and Relative Humidity

When indoor temperatures are either above or below recommended comfort zones, people sometimes feel that there is something wrong with the building’s indoor air quality.  However, this is not necessarily the case. Sometimes a simple temperature adjustment can increase occupant comfort.

During cold weather months, there is generally very little moisture in the outdoor air.  As the cold outdoor air is drawn into a building’s ventilation system and subsequently heated, the amount of moisture in the air is reduced further resulting in dry indoor conditions.

Although it is possible to humidify the indoor air in your office through the use of portable humidifiers, Environmental Health and Safety discourages this practice for the following reasons:

If indoor moisture levels (relative humidity) rise above a certain level, fungi and bacteria may begin to grow, causing very real indoor air quality problems. Often, humidifiers are not maintained in accordance with manufacturer’s specifications. The water reservoir in these humidifiers may then become an incubator for bacteria and fungi.

Other factors that may influence the perception of poor indoor air quality include, but are not limited to:

  • Improper workplace ergonomic design
  • Poor or inadequate lighting

FAQS

Resources

  • Environmental Health and Safety Ergonomics Page
  • AIHA’s Indoor Environmental Quality Information
  • NIOSH’s Selected Topics on Indoor Environmental Quality
  • ASHRAE’s Position Document regarding Indoor Air Quality
  • WHO Information on Health Effects of Air Pollution
  • EPA’s information on An Office Building Occupant’s Guide to Indoor Air Quality
  • EPA’s information on the Health Effects of Environmental Tobacco Smoke (a.k.a. Second Hand Smoke)