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October 01, 2003 10:36 PM
Indoor Environmental Quality: A Clear and Present Danger

 Almost seventy percent of the U.S. work force -- approximately 89 million persons -- work in non-industrial, non-agricultural, indoor work settings, referred to here as indoor environments. In the last 20 years diseases and health complaints related to these indoor environments have received increasing attention. "Indoor Environmental Quality" refers to the interactions among many factors in indoor environments, including the quality of the air (e.g., air flow, the presence of chemical or microbiological agents), physical conditions such as temperature and humidity, ergonomic factors, and stressors from social/psychological or work organizational factors. 

The most common health complaints attributed by building occupants to their indoor environments are generally of nonspecific symptoms, such as eye, nose, throat, and skin irritation, headache, and fatigue. Specific causal exposures or known diseases usually cannot be linked to these complaints. Available evidence relates these acute symptoms to multiple factors in the indoor environment. 

NIOSH investigators have found IEQ problems caused by ventilation system deficiencies, overcrowding, offgassing from materials in the office and mechanical equipment, tobacco smoke, excessive moisture, microbiological contamination (e.g., mold), and outside air pollutants. 

Maintaining a healthy and comfortable indoor environment in any building requires integrating many components of a complex system. Indoor environment problems are preventable and solvable and practical guidance on how to manage your building for good indoor environmental quality is available.


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