The purpose of this thesis is to examine the growing concern over indoor air quality (IAQ) and determine if such concern is warranted. The first questions that steer this effort include: Does scientific research substantiate a causal link between IAQ contaminants and human health? In addition, which indoor air contaminants appear to present the greatest health risks? These questions were answered primarily by reviewing exposure science based criteria that have been developed by federal and state agencies and then comparing these criteria to nominal concentrations that have been measured in the workplace. The second purpose of this thesis was to answer this secondary question: Collectively, through the development of suggested response protocols, and individually, through actual response methods, are IAQ professionals focusing on conditions that present the greatest health risks? This question was answered by reviewing the recommended protocols established by standard-setting organizations. In addition, IAQ professionals were questioned about their specific practices. The study concluded that there is a valid concern over IAQ for some substances. The highest levels of risk are generally associated with exposures to volatile organic compounds including formaldehyde and 1,4-dichlorobenzene. The research indicated a lack of exposure science for broad mixtures of indoor air contaminants, which are typical in the workplace. The risk associated with typical mixtures is unknown but may be additive and possibly synergistic. High levels of risk are also associated with radon exposure; however, this radioactive material is rarely the focus of IAQ sampling or improvement by IAQ professionals because of its latent, non-acute effects. The research indicated that much of the effort promoted by standard-setting organizations and implemented by IAQ professionals does result in overall risk reduction but often does not specifically target the highest risk elements of indoor air.
Department, Program, or Center
Civil Engineering Technology Environmental Management and Safety (CAST)
Schneider, Jennifer -- Chair
Kasper, Kenneth, "Does exposure science support the concern over indoor air quality?" (2006). Thesis. Rochester Institute of Technology. Accessed from
RIT – Main Campus