University Facilities

Facts About Indoor Air Quality

General IAQ Facts

Household Dust Mite
Household dust mite.
  • The average human being breathes 3,400 gallons of air each day.
  • Common indoor air pollutants - particularly in the home - include human skin cells, dust, dust mites, pollen, mold spores, radon, carbon monoxide, excessive carbon dioxide, and chemical fumes.
  • There are no OSHA or EPA regulations covering IAQ. (However, there are regulations for some specific contaminants, like lead and mercury).
  • Most indoor air fresheners release Volatile Organic Carbons (VOCs), and contribute to poor IAQ.
  • Ionizing "air cleaners" may remove dust, but emit ozone - a Priority Hazardous Air Pollutant according to the EPA.

Facts About Mold

Aspergillus
Aspergillus

"Mold" is the common term for multicellular fungi that grow as a mat of intertwined microscopic filaments (hyphae). Many species of fungi live as organisms in or on the surface of the human body.

Exposure to molds and other fungi and their spores is unavoidable except when the most stringent of air filtration, isolation, and environmental sanitation measures are observed, e.g., in organ transplant isolation units." (American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine press, February 24, 2011. http://www.acoem.org/AdverseHumanHealthEffects_Molds.aspx)

Penicillium roqueforti - the mold that produces Roquefort cheese.
Penicillium roqueforti - the mold that produces Roquefort cheese.
  • Mold spores are literally everywhere: at home, your car, as well as at work.
  • Mold can grow on virtually any surface - even glass.
  • All mold needs to grow is enough moisture and a food source such as dust, paper, drywall, etc.
  • Since mold can eat almost anything, the factor that most controls mold growth is moisture.
  • Mold is not usually a problem indoors, unless mold spores land on a wet or damp spot and begin growing.
  • Generally mold's (actually mold spores) contribution to poor IAQ is its effect on people who are allergic to mold.
  • The EPA has retracted its warnings about the so-called "toxic mold" stachybotris; it is no more harmful than any other mold.

What can you do to improve IAQ in your home or office?

Stachybotrys chartarum
Stachybotrys chartarum
  • When it's humid, don't crank your A/C down too low, especially in your office. Cold air causes humidity to condense out of the air and dampen surfaces.
  • Do not open windows while heating or cooling units are operating; this allows moisture into the space.
  • Don't keep live plants in your office; the moist soil harbors many, many molds, and releases large numbers of mold spores.
  • Do not place wet items (shoes, umbrellas, etc.) in your office - leave them out in the hallway (or other place) to dry.