From: 8524828hau**At_Symbol_Here**COMCAST.NET
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] Air quality in academic chemistry buildings
Date: April 23, 2012 12:56:02 PM EDT
Reply-To: DCHAS-L <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**MED.CORNELL.EDU>
Message-ID: <8C1FF28BDDEB6048B3411BEA66988278C560BFCDE0**At_Symbol_Here**>

As for others, it is best to know who is complaining/concerned about air quality.

I provide below some topics that can be of concern to those who do not work directly in laboratories.

Dust/debris emanating from supply ducts in office/admin spaces.  Such debris can appear because of corrosion in damp ducts, but perceived as coming from laboratory chemicals.

Mold spores/biological allergens emanating from supply ducts -- which may of interest if there have been problems with high humidity that leads to condensation in work spaces

Air balancing to assure that (a) there is no recirculation of air from either lab to lab or from labs to non-lab spaces, and (b) that the pressure in the lab is always negative relative to corridors (easily measured qualitatively with a strip of Kimwipe; quantitatively measured by an industrial hygienist using differential pressure measuring device.  There are recognized guidelines for the degree of pressure differential when the lab door is closed -- my vague recollection is in the vicinity of 0.1 inches of water differential pressure (however consult an industrial hygienist). 

Sometimes goals with respect to energy conservation place an emphasis on recirculation of indoor air. This can lead to recirculation of slightly contaminated (below long-term exposure limits) lab air traveling to non-lab spaces -- where individual sensitivities MAY be a factor, but more often are the result of a concern about "strange odors" for chemicals that have a very low threshold for detection (e.g., mercaptans).

Inherent or unusual atmospheric conditions that cause lab exhaust air to be "ingested" by the building's fresh-air intake supply ducts. 

Fear factors causing concerns by non-lab personnel who work in a "CHEMISTRY" building.   This sometimes requires relocation of personnel who have such concerns, even though no reasonable IH air quality measurements indicate less than adequate air quality. 

The "traditional" measures of "air quality" which include air concentrations of particulates, water vapor (humidity), carbon dioxide, and oxygen.  These can have profound effects on personnel over prolonged periods.  In the interest of energy conservation, is too much air being recirculated in non-lab work areas?

FINALLY, the actual conditions in the lab work place for which OSHA standards (Subpart Z) provide detailed instructions. 29 CFR 1910.1200.  This requires an industrial hygienist to make measurements in the workers' breathing zone during actual performance of work.  Perhaps a hood is being used improperly so that vapor escapes.

Hope that this covers the broad topic of "air quality in chemistry buildings."

David Haugen, retired (who encountered each of the scenarios above).

From: "David C. Finster" <dfinster**At_Symbol_Here**WITTENBERG.EDU>
Sent: Monday, April 23, 2012 11:12:38 AM
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] Air quality in academic chemistry buildings

Kim, et al,


Here's the additional info:


The most pressing concern is related to chemical use in the building.
We also had some significant humidity issues, which seem to have been addressed, or at least I don't see new water spots on the ceiling tiles and condensation on the floors and windows.

Sounds like a PEL issue to me, then.





David C. Finster
Professor, Department of Chemistry
University Chemical Hygiene Officer
Wittenberg University


From: DCHAS-L Discussion List [mailto:dchas-l**At_Symbol_Here**MED.CORNELL.EDU] On Behalf Of kauletta**At_Symbol_Here**NOTES.CC.SUNYSB.EDU
Sent: Monday, April 23, 2012 11:41 AM
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] Air quality in academic chemistry buildings


Dave - can your colleague be more specific? Are they looking for air quality from the chemical use perspective (answer - below PELs) or temperature, humidity etc (answer - ASHRAE IAQ for general)

Kim Gates Auletta
Lab Safety Specialist
EH&S    Z=6200
Stony Brook University
FAX: 631-632-9683
EH&S Web site:

Remember to wash your hands!

From:        "David C. Finster" <dfinster**At_Symbol_Here**WITTENBERG.EDU>
To:        DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**MED.CORNELL.EDU
Date:        04/23/2012 11:37 AM
Subject:        [DCHAS-L] Air quality in academic chemistry buildings
Sent by:        DCHAS-L Discussion List <dchas-l**At_Symbol_Here**MED.CORNELL.EDU>

CHAS folks,
To get the best set of answers, I am forwarding below a request for information I recently received from a colleague.  
"Do you know if there are generally accepted air quality standards for chemistry buildings, and if there are where would I find them?
Also, do you know where I could find information about generally accepted practices with regards to testing air quality, especially in academic buildings such as ours?

I'm asking these questions in part due to a lack of knowledge, and in part based on some concerns about air quality in our chemistry building following some work on our air handling related to energy conservation."

Thanks for your help and advice..
David C. Finster
Professor, Department of Chemistry
University Chemical Hygiene Officer
Wittenberg University


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