Indoor Air Quality
The quality of indoor air inside offices, schools, and other workplaces is important not only for workers' comfort but also for their health. Poor indoor air quality (IAQ) has been tied to symptoms like headaches, fatigue, trouble concentrating, and irritation of the eyes, nose, throat and lungs. Also, some specific diseases have been linked to specific air contaminants or indoor environments, like asthma with damp indoor environments. In addition, some exposures, such as asbestos and radon, do not cause immediate symptoms but can lead to cancer after many years.
Many factors affect IAQ. These factors include poor ventilation (lack of outside air), problems controlling temperature, high or low humidity, recent remodeling, and other activities in or near a building that can affect the fresh air coming into the building. Sometimes, specific contaminants like dust from construction or renovation, mold, cleaning supplies, pesticides, or other airborne chemicals (including small amounts of chemicals released as a gas over time) may cause poor IAQ.
There are twenty-eight OSHA-approved State Plans, operating state-wide occupational safety and health programs. State Plans are required to have standards and enforcement programs that are at least as effective as OSHA's and may have different or more stringent requirements.
The right ventilation and building care can prevent and fix IAQ problems. Although OSHA does not have IAQ standards, it does have standards about ventilation and standards on some of the air contaminants that can be involved in IAQ problems. OSHA responds to questions about standards with letters of interpretation. OSHA's letters of interpretation specifically addressing IAQ issues can be found in Other Resources. The General Duty Clause of the OSH Act (the law that created OSHA) requires employers to provide workers with a safe workplace that does not have any known hazards that cause or are likely to cause death or serious injury. The following States have Indoor Air regulations:
The purpose of this webpage is to give workers and employers useful, up-to-date information to identify, correct, and prevent IAQ problems. See the Contents sidebar for more detailed information, including Frequently Asked Questions, building operations and management, and a special section on Schools. Under Other Related Topics in the sidebar are links to a variety of specific topics.
How do I find out about employer responsibilities and workers' rights?
Workers have a right to a safe workplace. The law requires employers to provide their employees with safe and healthful workplaces. The OSHA law also prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for exercising their rights under the law (including the right to raise a health and safety concern or report an injury). For more information see www.whistleblowers.gov or Workers' rights under the OSH Act.
OSHA can help answer questions or concerns from employers and workers. To reach your regional or area OSHA office, go to the OSHA Offices by State webpage or call 1-800-321-OSHA (6742).
Small business employers may contact OSHA's free and confidential On-site Consultation program to help determine whether there are hazards at their worksites and work with OSHA on correcting any identified hazards. Consultants in this program from state agencies or universities work with employers to identify workplace hazards, provide advice on compliance with OSHA standards, and assist in establishing injury and illness prevention programs. On-site Consultation services are separate from enforcement activities and do not result in penalties or citations. To contact OSHA's free consultation service, go to OSHA's On-site Consultation web page or call 1-800-321-OSHA (6742) and press number 4.
Workers may file a complaint to have OSHA inspect their workplace if they believe that their employer is not following OSHA standards or that there are serious hazards. Workers can file a complaint with OSHA by calling 1-800-321-OSHA (6742), online via eComplaint Form, or by printing the complaint form and mailing or faxing it to the local OSHA area office. Complaints that are signed by a worker are more likely to result in an inspection.
If you think your job is unsafe or if you have questions, contact OSHA at 1-800-321-OSHA (6742). Your contact will be kept confidential. We can help. For other valuable worker protection information, such as Workers' Rights, Employer Responsibilities, and other services OSHA offers, visit OSHA's Workers' page.
- Indoor Air Quality in Commercial and Institutional Buildings. OSHA Publication 3430, (2011).
Other Related Topics
- Carbon Monoxide
- Diesel Exhaust
- Dust/Fine Particulates
- Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS) - Also known as Second Hand Smoke (SHS)
- Green Buildings/Jobs
- Legionnaires' Disease
- An Office Building Occupant's Guide to Indoor Air Quality
- Protect Yourself: Cleaning Chemicals and Your Health. OSHA Poster (Publication 3569), (February 2012).
- Protecting Workers Who Use Cleaning Chemicals. OSHA Publication 3512, (February 2012).
- Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)