Risk Management Services

A Unit of the Business Affairs Division

Indoor Environmental Quality

Background

Indoor environmental quality (IEQ) refers to the quality of a building’s environment in relation to the health and wellbeing of those who occupy space within it.  IEQ is determined by many factors, including lighting, air quality, and moisture conditions.   Building occupant IEQ complaints can be categorized as either acute or chronic in nature.  Acute complaints include odor-related illness/complaints or "out-of-place odors."  Chronic complaints include building-related illnesses (BRIs) and non-specific building-related symptoms (BRS). 

Odor-Related Illness/Complaints or "Out-of-place odors"

Odor-related illness/complaints or "out-of-place odors" and can occur with or without symptoms (e.g., irritation, aggravated asthma, headache, nausea) and are caused by exposure to air pollutants (gases, vapors, dusts) generated inside the building or transported into the building.  The majority of these complaints at the UA are caused by: contractor, maintenance and laboratory and other occupant activities, mechanical system design deficiencies, and dry sewer traps.

Building-related illnesses (BRIs)

Building-related illnesses (BRIs) are diagnosable illnesses with a known cause.  Sometimes they can be serious and occasionally life-threatening.  Examples include Legionnaire's disease, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, asthma, and carbon monoxide poisoning.  They can be caused by exposure in buildings to: infectious organisms, allergic or toxic biologic materials and toxic chemicals.  BRI can occur because of deficiencies in: design, operation or maintenance of heating, ventilating and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems, structural defects, and interior surface problems.  

Building-Related Symptoms (BRS):

Building-related symptoms (BRS) are usually less well-defined, non-diagnosable health conditions or symptoms and include irritation (eyes, nose, throat), dry mucous membranes and skin, headache and fatigue, hoarseness of voice and wheezing, nausea and dizziness and/or respiratory infections and cough.  Occupants with BRS are often concerned that they have symptoms or health conditions from exposures to contaminants in their buildings.  One reason for this concern is that their symptoms often get better when they are not in the building.  BRS complaints usually have an unknown cause (thought to be physical, chemical and/or biological agents), appear to have a number of consistently associated, significant environmental risk factors (most problem buildings have multiple risk factors present), and in many cases, reported symptoms improve when risk factors are eliminated.  The most significant risk factors appear to be: facility disrepair and water-infiltration, lack of maintenance of HVAC systems, poor design and mismanaged operation of HVAC systems, indoor pollutant sources, and poor housekeeping.

I Suspect I Have an Indoor Environmental Quality Problem.  Where Do I Start?

For acute conditions like out-of-place odors, call Risk Management Services (RMS) at 621-1790. For all other IEQ complaints, contact RMS also, either by phone or through e-mail at risk@email.arizona.edu.