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Oklahoma State University

Indoor Air Quality / Mold

Several factors can affect the indoor air quality (IAQ) in a building. Poor IAQ is caused by volatile organic compounds (VOCs) present in cleaning, maintenance, or personal products, from vehicle exhaust that becomes entrained in the air intake, or a lack of adequate air flow to the office space. Sometimes, indoor air quality is impacted by mold and fungal growth.  IAQ problems can be hard to track down due to the variety of potential sources and the variation associated with their occurrence on a day-to-day basis.

Common Sources of Air Quality Concerns:

  • Dry floor/sink drain traps
  • Spoiled food
  • Occupant activities or perfumes
  • Construction odors
  • Vehicle exhaust
  • Chemical vapors
  • Moisture/mold

To save yourself some time and perhaps some frustration, there are some things you can do to investigate poor IAQ conditions in your area.

  1. Plants can be a source of mold and fungi that may cause allergies. If there are plants in your work area, experiment with moving one or more types out at a time and see if the reaction is less over the next few days.
  2. Some perfumes, lotions, deodorants, etc. can cause reactions in people who have greater sensitivity. Be cognizant of the people in your area and their sensitivities.
  3. If you have a refrigerator near or in your office, check it for outdated goods.
  4. Peek in a few garbage cans in case someone just threw away one of the outdated goods from the refrigerator.
  5. If all else fails, an occupant air quality concern should be reported by entering a work order on Facilities Management Customer Portal*Please note a fee will be charged for indoor air quality sampling and evaluations.

How EHS Can Assist

Unfortunately, there is no single instrument (the mythical “Magic Sniffer”) that can conclusively identify all contaminants. Identifying the source of an IAQ problem requires knowledge of the potential sources of contaminants and a way to test for them.  We can facilitate an evaluation, collect samples if necessary and make recommendations. 


Useful Links:

OSHA: Indoor Air Quality in Commercial and Institutional Buildings

OSHA: Indoor Air Quality, Frequently Asked Questions

OSHA: A Brief Guide to Mold in the Workplace

EPA: An Office Building Occupants Guide to Indoor Air Quality

CDC: A guide for Building Owners and Facility Managers

CDC: 8 Tips to Clean up Mold

AIHA: Facts About Mold