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Letter to the editor: Air quality

By Dr. Julia K. Gruber and Dr. Colleen Hays
On April 12, 2019

Dear Editor  --


This semester there have been air quality problems seriously affecting students and professors. We

believe these stem from the change in cleaning chemicals during the semester break. The procedure

for lodging an indoor air quality (IAQ) complaint says: “The agent responsible . . . may be

chemical,”* but does not include a cleaning agent on the list of causes.


We noticed that symptoms coincided with the use of these chemicals in and near the classroom

before or during class. Symptoms are: headaches, coughing, dry mouth, sinus problems, fatigue,

dizziness, chest tightness, itching, rashes, burning scalp, and eye, skin, respiratory and throat irritation.

The Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) says: “The person or persons who are affected by the

indoor air quality shall contact their supervisor/department head. . . [who] will notify Facilities

Services (372-3227).” (We were told to contact Facilities as well. From our experience, it was also

helpful to contact HR.)


Facilities then starts an investigation. But, if an IAQ complaint “is complex or the agent(s) is/are

unknown,” Facilities “will work with Environmental Health and Safety (EHS). The investigation shall

be . . . based on the perceived degree of hazard.”* Whose perception?

The SOP says that if a more rigorous investigation is needed, “the complainant will complete IAQ

forms** . . . . [which] will be sent to the supervisor/ department head . . . .” Do they just keep them?


Poor air quality can break down the immune system and can make one susceptible to more serious

illnesses. Chronic exposure may change one’s life by sensitizing the person.

If you have headaches or other symptoms that appear while you are in class and then subside,

report the problem to protect yourself and others. Good health is a precious right. We must work

together to protect the campus community’s health.


From Dr. Julia K. Gruber, Associate Professor of German and Dr. Colleen Hays, Associate Professor of French

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