Indoor Air Quality
One of the roles of the Office of Environmental Health & Safety is to ensure a safe and healthy working environment by identifying and mitigating conditions that negatively impact indoor air quality.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines indoor air quality (IAQ) as the air quality within and around buildings and structures, especially as it relates to the health and comfort of building occupants.
Indoor air quality problems generally fall into three categories:
- Heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning (HVAC) operations
- Indoor microbial growth
- Indoor/outdoor sources of respiratory irritants/vapors/gases/particulates
- Rotten eggs
- Sewer smell
- Musty/stagnant air
Contact EH&S (940-898-4001, option 3) for strong or unusual odors associated with the following:
- Spills or accidental releases of hazardous materials
NOTE: All incidental releases of chemicals should be handled as indicated by the associated Safety Data Sheet (SDS) and lab or work area standard procedures. SDS for research labs, art studios, and facilities areas can be found on TWU’s BioRAFT chemical database.
Faculty, staff, or students who have health-related concerns that they believe may be related to their work or on-campus living environment should notify their supervisor or resident advisor and submit the Indoor Air Quality Questionnaire. EH&S will contact the requestor to schedule an investigation of the area; departmental administration should provide reasonable accommodations to the affected employee, as needed.
Natural Gas Odors
If you smell a gas odor, or if a gas monitor alarm sounds:
- Call TWU Department of Public Safety (Denton: 940-898-2911; Dallas: 214-689-6666; Houston: 713-794-2222)
- Provide DPS with your name, the location of the leak, and where you will meet emergency responders
- Warn others in the immediate vicinity
- Evacuate the immediate area
- Notify your supervisor, principal investigator, or resident advisor, as appropriate
- Prevent the use of or remove sources of ignition (cigarettes, electrical equipment, etc.) in the area
- Meet with an assist emergency response personnel
- Do not re-enter the area until cleared by authorized personnel
Mold is a naturally occurring fungus that is found in the environment. It grows on plants, food, and even walls. While some molds (such as the ones responsible for producing cheese, beer, and penicillin) are beneficial, others may be a serious health threat.
Molds produce microscopic cells called spores. Mold spores are present everywhere, both indoors and outdoors, and spread easily through the air. Mold is present in all buildings. It is only when mold levels exceed those outside that we say there is a “mold problem”. The most common “problem” mold in indoor environments is mold that grows in buildings when the right conditions are met.
Mold needs a food source, measurable moisture, and mild to warm temperatures to survive. The food source can be any organic materials such as dust, books, papers, animal dander, soap scum, wood, particleboard, paint, wallpaper, carpet, and upholstery. When such materials become and stay damp, especially in dark areas with poor air circulation, mold may grow. Average humidity levels above 60% or greater and average temperatures of 75℉ or greater can provide the right conditions for mold growth.
Flooding, pipe leaks, leaky roofs, moisture in walls, high indoor humidity, and poor heating/air-conditioning system design and operation can create a damp environment that mold needs to grow. If you smell a musty odor or see mold, you may have a mold problem. If you suspect you have a mold problem, you should contact EH&S for more information.
EH&S has highly trained professionals who can come out and assess your area to determine if any mold is present. Mold assessments involve an inspection of the building area to evaluate whether mold growth is present and to what extent. They may also include air monitoring of the space to assess the average levels of humidity, temperature, and other factors (such as carbon dioxide and dust).
If mold growth is present, mold remediation may be necessary. Mold remediation is the cleanup and removal of mold growth from surfaces and/or contents in a building. It also refers to actions taken to prevent mold from growing. You can help inhibit the growth of mold in buildings and improve indoor air quality for all occupants by keeping humidity below 60%, reporting water leaks immediately, ensuring that your trash is put out regularly, and that food is stored in appropriate locations. We can all do our part to ensure the health of TWU’s buildings for everyone!
For more information regarding mold assessment and remediation, please call EH&S at 940-898-4001, option 3.
Roof work is a necessary part of building preservation on campus. Frequently, odors are generated during these projects when hot asphalt or coal tar is used as water-proofing material. Though you may be able to smell roofing odors, the sulfur compounds in roofing asphalt or coal tar have very low odor thresholds (in the parts per billion range); simply smelling the roofing odors does not indicate overexposure to harmful fumes.
To reduce odors during roofing projects, you can do the following:
- Keep windows closed when hot asphalt or coal tar roofing is being applied in the vicinity.
- Contact Central Plant to see if it is feasible to adjust the building’s ventilation system to circulate more air within the building and minimize the amount of air drawn from outdoors. This can reduce the odor indoors.
- Report roofing contractors who place asphalt kettles near building air intakes for building HVAC systems to Central Plant, the FMC project manager, and/or EH&S.
If you feel that you are being overexposed to roofing fumes and are experiencing symptoms such as watering eyes, headache, and nausea, you should take a break in fresh air to alleviate these short-term symptoms. If symptoms return, communicate your concerns to your supervisor and temporarily relocate your work, if possible. Supervisors should contact EHS to report their concerns about roofing odors; follow up with a healthcare provider to get additional advice if desired.
The Office of Environmental Health & Safety is dedicated to:
- Prevent illness and adverse health symptoms associated with poor indoor air quality
- Respond to indoor air quality complaints effectively and make recommendations for improvement;
- Maintain indoor air quality within acceptable levels according to regulatory & consensus guidelines.
All employees and students who have a concern about the quality of their indoor environment, or who wish to have indoor air quality monitoring performed should complete the Indoor Air Quality Questionnaire.
Page last updated 11:39 AM, June 9, 2022