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Arkansas State University

Air Quality Considerations for Safety and Health

Many think that air quality risk factors are only faced outside, but indoor air can also be affected. The air quality inside homes, offices, schools and other public areas is vital to everyone’s health. Several diseases — such as asthma, Legionnaire’s disease, humidifier fever and hypersensitivity pneumonitis — have been directly linked to air pollution within buildings. While most of these diseases can be treated successfully, some can pose significant health risks and require considerable recovery times. Major reasons for poor indoor air quality include inadequately maintained ventilation systems, indoor pollution sources and building space used for unapproved or unanticipated reasons.

The online Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Occupational and Environmental Safety and Health program from Arkansas State University (A-State) prepares graduates to implement strategies to help organizations comply with industry regulations regarding indoor air quality standards, safety, health and environmental regulations. This online program can provide the background to become a problem-solving and detail-oriented leader who can protect people from accidents, work-related hazards and harm. In addition, this degree program prepares graduates to complete the industry certification exams and obtain OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) designations necessary for professional advancement.

Important Factors That Determine Indoor Air Quality

According to OSHA, poor indoor air quality (IAQ) has been associated with physical symptoms such as trouble concentrating, fatigue, headaches and irritation of the throat, nose, eyes and lungs. Specific irritants and contaminants can lead to asthma, and exposure to radon gas and asbestos can cause cancer after prolonged contact. The factors that determine indoor air quality include excessive or inadequate humidity levels, poor ventilation, lack of fresh outdoor air, remodeling, uncontrolled indoor temperature and individual contaminants such as mold, mildew, airborne chemicals, dust, pesticides and cleaning supplies. OSHA does not have specific standards for indoor air quality but does have standards regarding air contaminants involved with indoor air quality issues and proper ventilation.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Americans spend approximately 90% of their time indoors. With all that time spent inside, Americans are at a greater health risk indoors rather than outdoors. If too little outdoor air is allowed into an enclosed indoor space, pollutants can rise to extreme levels that can cause serious health problems. Signs that an indoor space has inadequate ventilation include smelly air, moldy items, moisture condensation on walls or windows and a dirty central heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) unit. Since many heating and cooling systems do not bring fresh air inside, opening doors and windows and operating window and exhaust fans can help increase outdoor air ventilation.

In the workplace, some common causes of poor indoor air quality include asbestos from fire-retardant building supplies and insulation, cleaning materials, restroom air fresheners, environmental tobacco smoke, pesticides, carpeting and other office furnishings, formaldehyde from pressed wood items, copying machines, water-damaged carpets or walls, building materials, paints and more. Ventilation systems in large buildings not only circulate indoor air but also bring in fresh outdoor air. A poorly maintained ventilation system or blocked supply and return vents can bring in contaminated air, spreading biological contaminants and reducing indoor air quality.

How A-State’s Online Program Can Propel Your Career

The online B.S. in Occupational and Environmental Safety and Health program includes courses such as Toxicology, Occupational Illnesses, OSHA Standards and Practices, Environmental Health and Safety Management, Air Pollution and Issues in Industrial Hygiene. This coursework provides knowledge and experience that graduates can use in the workplace to lead health and safety efforts.

Students in this online program will gain a strong understanding of the toxicological effects of certain substances, gain industry-relevant skills and learn to recognize and prevent occupational illnesses. Additionally, the program prepares graduates “to complete the industry certification exams and obtain OSHA designations necessary for professional advancement.” Graduates can pursue the required certifications and training for jobs such as environmental health office, health and safety advisor, occupational health and safety office, industrial hygienist and injury prevention specialist.

Learn more about Arkansas State University’s online B.S. in Occupational and Environmental Safety and Health program.

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