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Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)

Indoor air quality (IAQ) refers to air quality in indoor office, classroom or laboratory environments, as opposed to industrial or outdoor settings. These areas have either natural ventilation from openable windows, or mechanical ventilation from a heating, ventilating and air-conditioning (HVAC) system. Common causes of air quality complaints include mechanical ventilation failures, inadequate outdoor air supply, odors from indoor or outdoor sources, and mold.

Industrial environments, as well as some laboratories and classrooms, contain sources of air contaminants: chemical, particulate, aerosol, or fumes. These contaminants should be controlled by localized exhaust hoods (e.g., fume hoods), or sometimes by increased general dilution ventilation.

UCLA employees, students and visitors should have a clean, healthy environment in which to work, study and perform various activities. If the air quality is poor it can affect a person’s comfort, health, and productivity. The purpose of the Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) program is to provide and maintain healthy and comfortable environments free of contaminants. A key part of the program is responding to and resolving concerns of building occupants about problems in their work environment.

Who to Contact?

IAQ concerns that pose an immediate threat to personal health or safety shall be reported by calling 911.
UCLA FM should be contacted initially to investigate concerns relating to:

•    Temperature or humidity problems
•    Air movement/drafts from diffusers
•    Stale air
•    Particulates or dirt coming from air handling systems
•    Areas of mold contamination, including contamination on any component of an air handing system.
•    Natural gas odors

Either call the 24/7 FM Trouble Call Desk at (310) 825-9236, submit a service request online or by using the UCLA 311 App.  FM, Department Supervisor, or Safety staff may contact EH&S for support as necessary.

EH&S should be contacted for potential health & safety-related factors by submitting an online IAQ service request, to investigate concerns such as:
•    Chemical, gas, exhaust or unusual odors,
•    Sickness associated with building occupancy which may include: headaches, nausea, dizziness, upper respiratory irritation, fever, chills and fatigue

An Industrial Hygienist (IH) will contact you within 24-48 business hours. Depending on the indoor air quality concern, EH&S may perform some of the following tasks:

•    Gather information from the person regarding any perceived health effects and other details regarding the concern
•    Collect baseline indoor air quality measurements
•    Inspect the area visually and record observations
•    Perform a limited mold and moisture assessment
•    Collect air samples
•    Collect bulk samples or tape-lift samples of materials
•    Measure air supply and exhaust and inspect HVAC equipment
•    Investigate the building surroundings and nearby interior spaces
•    Collect sound level measurements
•    Provide an occupant diary to track the concern

Often there is no clear cause and effect relationship found between indoor environmental conditions and a specific concern. Sometimes minor changes to the building or ventilation system are effective, other times significant capital improvements are indicated.

Certain individuals have increased sensitivity to particular chemicals, odors, dusts or allergens when compared to the general population. Sensitive individuals should seek medical attention as needed, and advise their supervisor if they have specific needs so they can be accommodated.

General Guidelines for Achieving Good Indoor Air Quality 

Indoor air quality should be free of odors and dust, not too stuffy, stagnant, or drafty, and at a comfortable temperature and humidity. 

Serious IAQ problems occur when contaminant concentrations become excessive. Dusty surfaces, stagnant water and damp materials provide an environment ripe for microbial growth. The best method to control indoor air contaminants depends on the source(s) causing the concerns. Source control is generally the most effective solution. Modification of the ventilation system may also be an effective method.

IAQ parameters effecting environmental comfort are compared to recommendations made by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Standards 62-2001: Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality and 55-2004: Thermal Environmental Conditions for Human Occupancy. With respect to comfort parameters, ASHRAE recommends (1) maintaining indoor temperatures between 68 - 76 degrees F in the winter and 72 - 80 degrees F in the summer (2) maintaining indoor relative humidity between 30% and 70% with the ideal between 40% and 60%, (3) a maximum indoor CO2 concentration of either 700 ppm above exterior control measurements or 1,000 ppm as an absolute concentration and (4) a maximum indoor CO concentration of 9 ppm. 

Cal-OSHA has established Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs) for CO and total nuisance dust as Particulates Not Otherwise Regulated (PNOR) as 8-hour Time Weighted Averages (TWAs). The Cal-OSHA PELs for these constituents are 25 ppm and 10 mg/m3, respectively.

Maintaining acceptable indoor air quality is accomplished by:

•    Monitoring and maintaining the operation of HVAC equipment, and repairing and adjusting equipment as required to maintain proper air flow within occupied spaces.
•    Routine maintenance of equipment including scheduled filter changes to keep the equipment running and providing clean air. FM performs regularly scheduled maintenance of HVAC equipment.
•    Identification of external intake air contamination and relocation of equipment/source so that it will not impact the IAQ. For example, a hot asphalt roofing ‘kettle’ located near a building air intake.
•    Identification of internal sources of air contamination and elimination of the source or substitution of materials that do not generate problems. Contaminant sources such as copier effluents may build-up in office environments, if the exhaust flow is inadequate.
•    Good housekeeping in general will help maintain indoor air quality by controlling odors and dust within the occupied space.
•    Use of cleaning and maintenance materials that do not emit objectionable odors or vapor into the indoor environment.
•    Use of low emission building materials, carpeting and furniture will help maintain low levels of VOCs, supporting acceptable air quality.
•    Isolating areas during construction/ renovation activities, and providing enhanced ventilation to prevent dust and odors from impacting occupants within the building.

EH&S responds to requests to evaluate indoor air quality issues. In addition to notifying the Department Maintenance Supervisor, and/or Facility Coordinator and/or Safety Officer, indoor air quality concerns should be brought to the attention of EH&S when they arise. EH&S will monitor conditions and make recommendation if required to bring the occupied area(s) within recommended guidelines.

If you notice an odor, check with occupants in nearby rooms and floors to determine if the problem is throughout the building or specific to your workspace. Ask if they are conducting any activities or know of any activities that might create a similar odor.

Odorants may not be toxic, per se, but may cause anxiety or the perception of poor indoor air quality. They are a major cause for complaints in indoor environments. Odors may also indicate contaminated air being circulated either from outdoors or generated within the building and distributed throughout the building. Many building maintenance activities are potential sources of volatile organic compounds (VOC's). The emissions from sources such as waxed floors generally recede with time, but may continue for days after a single application. Consumer products may also contribute to indoor VOC concentrations and include potpourri, perfumes and air fresheners. If your activities produce an odor, take action to control them. Turn on the kitchen fan or exhaust ventilation, or use the product in a fume hood. Prohibit odors from traveling to nearby spaces by closing the door and opening a window. Inform others in the area about your activities.
Use only as recommended on the label. Be aware that some products, like heavy perfume or colognes, air fresheners, spray cleaners, oil-based paints, solvents, pesticides, strong smelling plant fertilizers, can cause allergies in some people. Whenever possible use them sparingly.
If you have an upcoming remodel of your space you can look for “green” or low emission (low VOC) paint, carpet, and furniture. See EPA’s Indoor airPLUS for more information.
Particulate Matter is also considered an air contaminant in the indoor environment, and may include: soils, dust, pollen, mold spores and bacteria. Dust from outdoor activity or internally generated can degrade the indoor environment. Dust levels considered appropriate for a shop environment typically are not acceptable for an office environment. Biological particulates including mold, bacteria and pollen are found at varying levels seasonally and even daily in the outdoor air. The levels of these biological particulates are typically lower inside buildings. Molds  and mold spores may be associated with sources ranging from indoor plants to flooding and water infiltration to buildings and soaked building materials. Uncontrolled mold growth in the indoor environment degrades indoor air quality and building materials, and should be controlled. Most minor mold growth in the indoor environment though is not associated with significant health effects; however, allergens associated with mold may cause allergenic or flu-like symptoms in sensitive individuals.

When products having volatile chemicals or strong odors are used, provide as much ventilation as feasible and schedule work when the building is minimally occupied.
Ventilation refers to the process of supplying and removing air by natural or mechanical means to and from any space. Such air may or may not be conditioned.

Natural ventilation is the movement of outdoor air into a space through provided openings, such as windows and doors, though non-powered ventilators or by natural infiltration into a building. A ventilation system is usually a powered system that moves air throughout the occupied space.

The system may include heating and cooling of the air. Supply air is air delivered to the space and used for ventilation. Exhaust air is air removed from a space and not reused. Where air contaminant or odor control is necessary, local exhaust ventilation is used to remove contaminants from the space.

Most building ventilation systems use a combination of re-circulated air and make-up air to provide ventilation within the occupied space. Re-circulated air is air removed from the space