Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Hazards

People spend a significant amount of their time indoors. Indoor air quality (IAQ) deals with the contaminants of interior air that could affect the health and comfort of building occupants.

Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Hazards

What are indoor air contaminants?

Thee are three main types of indoor air contaminants.

Contaminant type Examples
Biological pollutant Mould and fungi, bacteria, dust mites, pollen
Chemical pollutant Carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, asbestos, ozone, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), dust, particulate matter
Radiological pollutant Radon

If any of these contaminants build up to a high enough concentration, they can lead to poor IAQ

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What can cause poor IAQ?

The most common root cause of poor IAQ is inadequate ventilation. Allowing fresh air to circulate is often the best way to remove contaminants and improve air quality.

In general indoor air quality issues are a result of one of the following causes:

Causes of Poor IAQ Sources
Microbial Contamination Water leaks and infiltration, elevated indoor humidity, humidifiers and/or contaminated ductwork
Inside Contamination Copy machines, office products and chemicals
Outside Contamination Automobile exhaust, nearby construction, and smoking
Humidity & Temperature Temperature and relative humidity outside the normal comfort range
New Building Materials Carpets, drapery, furniture, paints, etc.
Personal Factors Perfumes, deodorants, laundry detergents, etc.

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What health symptoms are associated with poor IAQ?

Health symptoms from poor Indoor Air Quality range depending on personal susceptibility. Common symptoms experienced by individuals include:

  • Headaches
  • Sinus congestion
  • Itchy throats
  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sneezing
  • Watery eyes
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue

Poor IAQ can also exacerbate existing allergy or asthma symptoms.

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What are the steps for an IAQ assessment?

If you are concerned about poor Indoor Air Quality at your workstation, please go through the following steps:

  • Step 1 – Identify the source, if possible
  • Step 2 – Determine if the source is building related (e.g. temperature, relative humidity or lighting issues)
  • Step 3a – If the source is building related, please contact your Facility Manager.
  • Step 3b – If the cause is not building related please fill-out the following IAQ Referral Form (PDF) and forward the completed form to the Occupational Hygiene Advisor.
  • Step 4 – The appropriate site visits and follow-up will take place

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What are some tips for good IAQ?

The following points will help ensure good indoor air quality in your space:

  • Open windows and doors to allow for air circulation
  • Use low-VOC markers
  • Clean and dust workplace regularly
  • Prevent mould growth by cleaning up any pooled water
  • Eat in designated areas

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