New OSHA educational booklet discusses indoor air quality in commercial and institutional buildings

A new OSHA educational booklet addresses concerns about poor indoor air quality and the impact it has to the health of office workers and other building occupants. Indoor Air Quality in Commercial and Institutional Buildings provides building owners, managers, employers and workers with recommendations to prevent or minimize IAQ problems in commercial and institutional buildings. The Environmental Protection Agency identified IAQ as one of the top five top five most urgent environmental risks to public health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that the majority of Americans spend approximately 90 percent of their time indoors. On average, office workers spend approximately 40 hours a week in office buildings. These workers also study, eat, drink, and, in certain work settings, sleep in enclosed environments where make-up air (i.e., fresh air added to recirculated air) may be compromised. For this reason, some experts believe that more people may suffer from the effects of indoor air pollution than from outdoor air pollution. Good IAQ in buildings contributes to a favorable and productive environment for building occupants, giving them a sense of comfort, health, and well-being. Significant increases in worker productivity have also been demonstrated when the air quality was adequate. Symptoms related to poor IAQ are varied depending on the type of contaminant. They can easily be mistaken for symptoms of other illnesses, such as allergies, stress, colds, and influenza. The usual clue is that people feel ill while inside the building, and the symptoms go away shortly after leaving the building, or when away from the building for a period of time, such as on weekends or a vacation. The booklet contains a helpful health or symptom survey to ascertain the existence of IAQ problems. The booklet is available at http://www.osha.gov/Publications/3430indoor-air-quality-sm.pdf.

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