Auburn University students, faculty, and staff should have a comfortable space to work, teach, and learn. The University is committed to providing a positive and conductive working environment. Part of this commitment is ensuring that students, faculty, and staff work in environments with healthy air quality.
Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) includes the air quality of office buildings, classrooms, labs, and other indoor spaces. This does not include buildings like outdoor work-sites, barns, unfinished construction projects, and other outdoor and industrial areas. Unlike outdoor spaces, indoor areas receive ventilation from windows or HVAC systems.
IAQ complaints normally center around issues with odor, mold, stagnant air, or uncomfortable temperatures. Labs and classrooms have their own unique IAQ issues and normally involve some sort of air contaminate (chemicals, fumes, particulates, etc). Many labs on campus are equipped with exhaust hoods (sometimes called fume hoods) that can control and regulate these contaminates.
Improving IAQ in your space
There are many steps that you can take to improve IAQ conditions on your own:
Micro-organisms such as fungi or molds need an environment to grow and spread. Water can be a be a perfect and hospitable environment for such growth. Clean up any spills immediately and refrain from letting them sit for prolonged periods. If you discover a leak in your area, please alert Auburn University Facilities Management and submit a facilities request. If you are an Auburn student and discover a leak in you residence hall then please contact Property Management
Dust, pollen, and pollutants need areas to accumulate. Clutter proves an excellent surface for these irritants to collect. Once they settle and become unnoticed or ignored, they can become an issue. Keep work and living spaces free of clutter or keep clutter to minimum. Additionally, depending on the location, a cluttered area can block airflow or circulation.
Blocking air vents and air-conditioners can lead to host of problems. Such as: increased humidity, decreased performance of the unit, temperature disparities, and the possible development of mold and mildew. Give vents at least 10 feet of space where ever possible.
Property Management has created a helpful guide to display the best room configurations that both encourage airflow and reduce the development of mold and mildew.
According to a study: "A single fragrance in a product can contain a mixture of hundreds of chemicals, some of which (e.g., limonene, a citrus scent) react with ozone in ambient air to form dangerous secondary pollutants, including formaldehyde."
Some co-workers may be more adversely affected than others. Be mindful when using colognes or perfumes in indoor office settings and when working in close proximity of others.
From the EPA: Ventilation, either natural or mechanical, is the second most effective approach to providing acceptable indoor air. In the past, most buildings had windows that opened; airing out a stuffy room was common practice. In addition, indoor-outdoor air pressure differences provided ventilation by movement of air through leaks in the building shell. Today however, most newer office buildings are constructed without operable windows, and mechanical ventilation systems are used to exchange indoor air with a supply of relatively cleaner outdoor air.
Over-watering plants can lead to standing water and moisture at the base of the plant. This standing water can become stagnant and lead to mold, mildew, and other spores entering the air supply.
The EPA gives these recommendations to reduce exposure to odors that may cause problems:
- Talk to others sharing your environment when planning to use a product or material with a strong odor.
- Be sensitive to the health and other sensitivities of those who will be exposed.
- Whenever possible, avoid or limit the use of products, materials or practices with strong fragrances or odors, especially if someone is sensitive to them.
- Minimize the use of powdered or spray products with odors that can disperse throughout an area. If using a spray, consider spraying the product on a cloth or sponge instead of a surface or into the air. Always spray in a direction away from people.
- Avoid using products or materials with strong odors in or near air intakes of a shared ventilation system.
If drains and drain traps dry out, they can begin to emit gasses and odors that can spread throughout the building. Flush drains every two weeks to prevent this from happening. This is especially important with floor drains in closets and labs.
Storing wet or damp items is an invitation to mold and mildew. Only store items (such as clothes, shoes, umbrellas, etc) when they are completely dry. Be mindful of keeping damp clothes (such as gym clothes or rain-soaked clothes) in bags or laundry hampers for extended periods of time.
According to the EPA:
Molds can be found almost anywhere; they can grow on virtually any organic substance, as long as moisture and oxygen are present. There are molds that can grow on wood, paper, carpet, foods, and insulation. When excessive moisture accumulates in buildings or on building materials, mold growth will often occur, particularly if the moisture problem remains undiscovered or unaddressed. It is impossible to eliminate all mold and mold spores in the indoor environment. However, mold growth can be controlled indoors by controlling moisture indoors.
Molds reproduce by making spores that usually cannot be seen without magnification. Mold spores waft through the indoor and outdoor air continually. When mold spores land on a damp spot indoors, they may begin growing and digesting whatever they are growing on in order to survive. Molds gradually destroy the things they grow on.
Many types of molds exist. Few molds have the potential to cause health effects. Molds can produce allergens that can trigger allergic reactions or even asthma attacks in people allergic to mold. Others are known to produce potent toxins and/or irritants. Potential health concerns are an important reason to prevent mold growth and to remediate/clean up any existing indoor mold growth.
For More Information on Indoor Air Quality, Please Visit the EPA Website.