Indoor Air Quality - NIU - Environmental Health and Safety

Environmental Health and Safety

Indoor Air Quality

We are committed to providing faculty, staff, and students with a work environment free of recognized hazards. The Department of Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) provides technical support to students, staff and faculty on a variety of EH&S issues including indoor air quality (IAQ). Reports of poor indoor air quality are investigated by Environmental Health and Safety on a case-by-case basis. Due to variations in individual sensitivities and scientific limitations, the source of IAQ complaints and respective remediation measures may not always be identified when complaints are reported and thoroughly investigated. The Department of EH&S and Facilities Planning and Operations (FPO) work together to address IAQ concerns across campus.

Due to the lack of IAQ regulations, common and industry best practices rather than standards are used to recognize, evaluate, and control poor indoor air quality sources. The Department of EH&S refers to guidelines provided by Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH), American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA), and the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) during the investigative process.

Four factors that influence IAQ are occupants, Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems, possible pollutant pathways, and possible contaminant sources. Factors affecting IAQ may include but are not limited to: mold and water damaged building materials, temperature and humidity issues, dust and airborne particulates, Radon, Carbon monoxide, Carbon dioxide, volatile organic compounds (VOC), Formaldehyde, Hydrogen sulfide (sewer gas), Nitrogen dioxide, Ozone, and odors.

Initial IAQ inspections include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Visual inspections of occupied areas
    • Identify probable source of contaminants (chemical use and storage, work activitieshousekeeping, recent renovations, water intrusion, etc.)
  • Inspection of HVAC systems
    • Measure percentage of fresh air being supplied to the occupied area, location of outdoor airintakes, ventilation rates, and HVAC operation/maintenance
  • Temperature and relative humidity measurement
  • Carbon Monoxide, Carbon Dioxide, and Oxygen measurement

If poor IAQ is suspected or confirmed upon an initial investigation, EH&S may conduct more intensive investigation techniques, including chemical contaminant monitoring, bio-aerosol monitoring, HVAC evaluations, and specific IAQ contaminant monitoring. Unfortunately, there are limitations to conducting IAQ investigations. Individual sensitivities may cause occupants to experience discomfort at contaminant levels far below standards for occupational exposure. Also, mold sampling is limited due to a lack of regulatory standards (affected by individual sensitivities) and can be found in virtually all environments.

The Department of EH&S is continuing to develop and expand our Indoor Air Quality Program which will be used to address IAQ investigations, IAQ reports and remedial measures, and the prevention of IAQ problems.