Indoor Air Quality Program

Wellesley College recognizes the impact that indoor air quality (IAQ) has in the workplace. The Environmental Health and Safety Office has developed an indoor air quality program with the following objectives:

  • Prevent illness and adverse health symptoms associated with poor indoor air quality;
  • Respond to indoor quality complaints effectively and to make recommendations for improvement;
  • Maintain indoor air quality within acceptable levels according to consensus guidelines.



The Office of Health and Human Services with the MA Department of Public Health states that indoor air quality problems generally fall into three categories:

  • Heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning (HVAC) operations
  • Indoor microbial growth indoors
  • Indoor/outdoor sources of respiratory irritants/vapors/gases/particulates

Specific regulations have not been developed for IAQ in the workplace, but EHS considers recommendations from the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists, the American Industrial Hygiene Association and the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers. We also use OSHA and EPA regulations and guidelines.

Symptoms that can be associated with poor indoor air quality include irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat; headaches; dizziness; and rashes. Additionally, according to OSHA, poor indoor air can be linked to muscle pain and fatigue, asthma, hypersensitivity, and pneumonitis.


IAQ Investigation

Early identification is important for addressing indoor air quality problems. Occupants with IAQ concerns should notify their supervisor and email details of the situation to ehs-staff@wellesley.edu. Each case is different, but a typical investigation may follow a Phase I-III Assessment approach:

Phase I Assessment
The first step in a typical IAQ investigation is a Phase I or preliminary assessment. Phase I assessments include interviewing occupants and performing a walkthrough inspection of the building or area of complaint. A questionnaire may be used to obtain information about the nature of the employee complaints and symptoms and to determine the magnitude of the problem. During the walkthrough, building ventilation systems are evaluated and potential sources of contamination are identified. If the immediate cause or source cannot be found, a Phase II assessment may be required.

Phase II Assessment
During a Phase II assessment, common indoor air quality parameters are measured. These parameters may include temperature, relative humidity, and carbon dioxide.

Phase III Assessment
A Phase III Assessment is performed when a definitive cause for the symptoms cannot be determined during the Phase II Assessment of the investigation. Phase III Assessments consists of extensive and more specific monitoring and sampling for chemical and/or microbial contaminants. Phase III Assessments are typically contracted to Professional Indoor Air Consultants.



Many IAQ issues can be avoided. Timely maintenance, building repair, and rapid response to water intrusion into a building can prevent an issue from occurring. Occupants also have a responsibility to report situations and to use buildings as designed. Other ways to maintain a healthy environment include:

  • No smoking in campus buildings or in close proximity to building ventilation systems (e.g., an air intake);
  • Prohibition of hazardous chemical use without proper training, authorization, and equipment.

The EHS Office is available to work with building occupants, maintenance staff, and project managers to control and or eliminate contaminants, sources, and hazards that may impact IAQ.

For more information contact the EHS Office at ehs-staff@wellesley.edu.