Indoor Environmental Quality

Construction and Renovation

Construction and renovation projects in office settings can affect workers and building occupants by releasing particulates, biological exposures, and gases in the air.

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Employers and building contractors should always plan and implement exposure prevention strategies when needed. These include:

  • Engineering controls
  • Decontamination methods
  • Exposure containment in occupied spaces

Proper planning can remove or minimize risks to construction workers and building occupants. Certified and licensed contractors should conduct construction and renovation activity.


Particulates include dusts and fibers, which are often produced from materials during construction and renovation activities.

Dusts are irritants and can cause lung conditions including asthma and severe lung disease to worsen. Toxic dusts containing crystalline silicaasbestos, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) or lead can cause serious long-term health effects.

Fibers are included in construction materials such as fiberglass and composite materials or insulation. Fibers can irritate the skin, eyes, and respiratory tract when disbursed in the air or inhaled.

Other particulate sources include:

  • Drywall
  • Plaster
  • Concrete
  • Soil
  • Wood
  • Masonry
  • Flooring
  • Roofing
  • Ductwork

Biological Exposures

Biological exposures include chronic dampness. Water incursion can cause bacteria, mold, and other exposures in a building. Bird and rodent droppings are also examples of biological exposures. Disturbing droppings can spread allergenic or infectious dust into occupied building spaces.


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Some building materials release gases called volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Occupants with VOC exposures often report:

  • Unpleasant odors
  • Asthma symptoms getting worse
  • Eyes, nose, and throat becoming irritated
  • Headaches
  • Drowsiness

Common VOC sources include:

  • Caulks, sealants, and coatings
  • Adhesives
  • Paints, varnishes and/or stains
  • Wall coverings
  • Cleaning agents
  • Fuels and combustion products
  • Carpeting
  • Vinyl flooring
  • Fabric materials and furnishings

Using low VOC emitting products can help to minimize health symptoms associated with these exposures.