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Indoor Air Quality

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Indoor Air Quality

The quality of the air inside a building is affected by a variety of comfort, physical, chemical and biological factors. Factors influencing the indoor air quality of a room or building include:

  • Comfort issues (temperature, humidity, "stuffiness")
  • Supply of fresh air to the building
  • Accumulation of particulate, biological or chemical contaminants originating from within or outside the building

Comfort Factors

While the University aims to provide safe work areas free from hazards, this goal is balanced against the physical and engineering constraints of the work areas. It is not possible to provide complete comfort to 100% of the population of every workspace due to individual sensitivities and preferences.

Mold or Other Biological Contaminants

Mold and other biological contaminants can be found naturally in both the indoor and outdoor environment. Spores enter buildings from open windows, the opening of doors, penetrations of the exterior, and even on the bottom of your shoes. The concern is not whether mold or spores are present, but rather an elevated level when compared to levels outside and in a similar building become a problem until you provide an opportunity for growth. Water or moisture in porous surfaces are the ideal environment for mold growth. When water leaks into a building and is not handled in a timely manner, the probability of mold growth is increased. Under such circumstances, mold can grow in sufficient quantities to cause some allergic response.

When wet conditions develop, it is important to address the water intrusion or source of moisture as soon as possible and treat or remove damaged materials. Report such problems to the Facilities as soon as possible for consultation and corrective action. As appropriate, Facilities will contact Environmental Health & Safety for advice or inspection.

More information on Mold and water's effect on the indoor environment, please visit the Water Leaks and Mold Remediation page.

Odors or Suspected Chemical Pollutants

In the event of an unexpected and/or unusual odor in a work area, the source of the odor should be identified as soon as possible. Begin by asking other building occupants about work or activities may be going on that could be the cause. If the source cannot be identified, or if the odors are extreme or are causing acute reactions to building occupants, contact EHS at ext. 7722.

Common odor sources


Dry Drain Trap(s)

This is a common odor source. The smell comes and goes and may, at times, be very strong. It is often a rotten egg smell, but is sometimes described as a chemical odor. Sink and floor drains are equipped with a trap, with liquid in the bend to form a seal, preventing sewer gases from escaping out. If the trap is dry, any odor in the sewer can be pulled into the room. Dry traps are often found in cup sinks (those little sinks in the back of lab benches & hoods), floor drains, sinks covered by equipment, and open condensate drains.

What to do?

• Run water in all sinks and drains, at least once each semester, or more often if necessary.

• For infrequently used drains, pour in a small amount of mineral oil to prevent the water from evaporating.


Forgotten or Lost Food

Tend to be localized in a room and remain fairly constant over the course of a day (as opposed to dry traps which can vary greatly in intensity over short periods of time). Search your area by looking in drawers and behind furniture. If your nose doesn't lead you to the source, the ants will. Dispose of the rotten food in an outdoor trash container.

Natural Gas leaks

Smells like Natural Gas.

 What to do?  Call Campus Security or 911.

Fluorescent Light Ballast

A smell of burning plastic confined to a single area may be a failing light ballast. Check to make sure there is nothing else burning (computer monitors, as well as other equipment, may fail and smoke).

What to do?

Turn off power to any equipment that is failing. Call maintenance staff for ballast evaluation and replacement (x6439).

Odors entering building air intakes

 Air intakes are distributed via the air conditioning system. The smell will be apparent in many rooms or an entire floor or wing of a building. Common odors include exhaust from a vehicle idling nearby, or from work being performed on or near the building's air intakes or inside the air handler rooms.

  • It is Clarkson University Policy that all engines be off when vehicles are parked in loading docks. Ask drivers parked near your building's fresh air intake to turn off their engines. Notify the maintenance crew supervisor if you suspect work near a building air intake or air handling room is fouling the air inside. The crew may be able to eliminate or minimize odors their work is causing.

For More Information

For concerns related to comfort issues or water intrusion or damage, contact the Facilities.

For concerns related to unresolved water damage, suspected mold conditions, unresolved odors or other indoor air quality concerns, contact EHS.

For Resources about Indoor Air Quality and Mold:

Environmental Protection Agency- Indoor Air quality

Occupational Safety and Health Administration- Indoor Air Quality

Center for Disease Control and Prevention- Mold information

National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health



Contact Information:
Erica Arnold
Environmental Health & Safety Manager
107 Graham Hall

Clarkson University
8 Clarkson Avenue
Box 5542
Potsdam, NY  13699

Desk: 315-268-6640
Cell: 315-212-3006
Fax: 315-268-4437

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