UVA combines the characteristics of a small industrial city with those of a multidisciplinary research facility. In this complex and diverse environment, Environmental Health & Safety is UVA’s primary resource for providing expertise and advisory services for assessing the daily hazards encountered in the work place and the research laboratory.

These hazards may include physical hazards such as heat, noise and non-ionizing radiation in the form of lasers or chemical hazards encountered during laboratory research, maintenance or production activities. Dust and fume generating activities, such as sanding and cutting wood, welding, and masonry work may also create hazardous levels of inhalable particulates.

If you are planning to initiate any work process or research project that may generate or create such hazards, consult with the UVA‘s Air & Noise Monitoring Staff.

UVA Policies

ID: SEC-027 - Confined Space

ID: SEC-021 - Controlling Hazardous Air Contaminants and Respiratory Protection

ID: SEC-011 - Laser Safety

ID: SEC-023 - Mold Management

ID: SEC-028 - No Smoking

UVA Procedures

Procedures for Atmospheric Testing in Confined Spaces


Air Monitoring (Industrial Hygiene) is the science/art of recognizing, evaluating, and controlling environmental factors or stresses at the work place which may cause illness, lack of well being, or discomfort among workers or among the community as a whole. As industrial hygienists, we assist in developing procedures and controls (engineering controls and personal protective equipment such as respirators) that minimize the adverse impact of working with hazardous substances.

If you work with chemicals in a research laboratory, or question your exposure to hazardous substances while conducting maintenance, please do not hesitate to contact us for a work site assessment. We will assist in determining the nature and amount of exposure and compare this information to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulatory limits and more stringent recommended standards from other recognized organizations. If exposures approach or exceed published limits, we will then recommend ameliorative actions to reduce exposures by way of engineering controls, changes in work procedures, or (as a last resort) personal protective equipment. Exposure assessments can also be conducted on physical stressors, such as noise and heat.

Local exhaust ventilation is the primary method used to control inhalation exposures to hazardous substances. The exhaust system consists of a hood, the associated duct work, and a fan. Types of local exhaust ventilation system include fume hoods, vented enclosures for storing large equipment or highly toxic chemicals, and flexible ducts or drops for capturing contaminants near the point of release.

The chemical fume hood is the most common local exhaust ventilation system at UVA. When properly operated and correctly used, a chemical fume hood can control gases, dusts, mists, and vapors released by volatile liquids.

Indoor air quality (IAQ) refers to the air quality within and around buildings and structures, especially as it relates to the health and comfort of building occupants. Indoor air quality problems can arise when there is an inadequate amount of clean, filtered outdoor air to dilute the amount air contaminants present in that space. Sources of air contaminants are most often biological (e.g., mold, dust mites and other allergens) or chemical (e.g., formaldehyde, carbon monoxide) in nature and can originate either inside or outside a building. Physical factors such as temperature and relative humidity also contribute to perceptions of air quality.

If you have questions or concerns related to indoor air quality: Notify your supervisor and report concerns to UVA Facilities Management (FM) 434-924-1777 (Academic) or 434-924-2267 (Health System). If FM personnel are unable to address the identified concern(s), they will recommend that you contact EHS to initiate an indoor air quality (IAQ) investigation. EHS staff will conduct a walk-through survey of the area, interview occupants, and consult with FM as needed regarding the status of the HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) system. Air sampling is rarely necessary, as adjustments to the HVAC system and/or modifications to housekeeping practices usually serve to resolve reported air quality concerns.

In the event of an unexpectedly strong and/or unusual odor: the source of the odor should be identified as soon as possible. If you believe that the smell or event that you are experiencing may be related to a gas leak or fire in the building (you smell gas or see smoke) call 911 and immediately activate the building fire alarm.

Otherwise, inquire with other room or building occupants about potential activities or equipment that could be the source of the odor. "Sewer-like" odors are often the result of dry sink traps (sink drains where the u-shaped traps to hold water have gone dry) and can be prevented/resolved by occasionally running water down the drain. "Diesel-like" odors are often the result of an idling vehicle stationed near a building air intake location or may result from activation of a nearby diesel-powered generator.

Contact EHS for assistance in determining the source of unusual building odors. You may be instructed to record your experiences using a Workplace IAQ Log for review by EHS industrial hygiene staff.

Additional IAQ Resources:



Virginia DEQ

Noise, or unwanted sound, can be present in a variety of work locations around the university in academic departments, the hospital, intramural sports, parking & transportation garages and other areas. It is generated as a by-product of research activities, construction projects, maintenance work and the operation of support activities such as industrial dishwashing. It is most often generated by a piece of equipment or tools. Exposure to high levels of noise can cause hearing loss. The extent of damage depends primarily on the intensity of the noise and the duration of the exposure.

Environmental Health & Safety (EHS) has designed a Hearing Conservation Program (HCP) to protect the hearing of UVA staff and faculty with significant occupational noise exposures. Elements of this program include: exposure monitoring, audiometric testing, engineering and administrative controls, hearing protection devices (ear muffs, ear plugs), training, recordkeeping, and program evaluation.


Molds are usually not a problem indoors, unless mold spores land on a wet or damp spot and begin growing. Mold growth on indoor building materials or in ventilation systems can produce allergens and irritants. Inhaling or touching mold may cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals and irritate the eyes, skin, nose, throat and lungs of both mold-allergic and non-allergic people. Molds can also cause asthma attacks in people with asthma who are allergic to mold. Symptoms other than the allergic and irritant types are not commonly reported as a result of inhaling mold.

When mold-related concerns are reported within buildings occupied by UVA employees or students, EHS can provide an assessment based on a thorough visual inspection in collaboration with Facilities Management personnel. The inspection will include occupied spaces of concern as well as any related building systems. Air sampling for mold growth is rarely conducted, as it is typically unnecessary and is not considered an industry best practice.

The key to avoiding indoor mold growth is preventing environmental conditions that are conducive to mold growth indoors. Indoor mold can result from uncontrolled moisture or excessive, sustained high humidity. If buildings are well maintained (e.g., ventilation systems, building envelope, plumbing) and flooding and leaks are addressed promptly and sufficiently, problems with mold are very unlikely.

In the event of an indoor flood or water leak, contact the maintenance organization for your facility (e.g., Facilities Management, Housing Maintenance, Health System Physical Plant, etc.) and the Office of Property and Liability Risk Management. An effort will be made to dry wet porous materials (e.g., ceiling tiles, installed carpeting, upholstered furnishings, and wallboard) as soon as possible with the goal of drying materials within 48 hours to avoid subsequent mold growth.

Contact EHS for any health concerns related to mold or indoor air quality.

  1. Does EHS conduct air sampling for mold?
    • Answer: Air sampling for mold is rarely recommended. This is because the source of musty, moldy odors in a space can usually be determined by a thorough visual inspection of the building and associated ventilation systems. Usually, mold contamination can be identified and then eliminated.
  2. Is it important to know what type of mold is growing indoors?
    • Answer: Not usually. Sampling for mold and its subsequent identification can be expensive, and standards for judging what is and what is not an acceptable quantity of mold have not been set. The best practice is to remove the mold and work to prevent future growth.
  3. Should I hire a mold inspector if I think I have mold in my workplace?
    • Answer: If you are tempted to call a third-party vendor that provides mold inspection services, please call the appropriate service desk and/or EHS first. Costs incurred by such vendors will not be covered by the University.
Additional Resources

EPA - A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture and Your Home

CDC - Basic Facts about Mold and Dampness

AIHA - Mold Resource Center

Services requiring Independent Laboratory Analysis

EHS provides a wide range of industrial hygiene expertise, air monitoring, occupational, and environmental exposure assessment services to the UVA community, free of charge. Several portable, direct-reading instruments are maintained by EHS to quickly respond to the University’s air monitoring (e.g., volatile organic compounds, carbon monoxide) and exposure assessment (e.g., noise) needs. However, many environmental sampling scenarios (e.g., formaldehyde, isoflurane, surface contaminants, etc.) require specialized media that must be commercially acquired and analyzed by an independent laboratory.

When purchase of commercial sampling media and/or independent analytical services are necessary to complete an environmental assessment, the requesting department is expected to plan to cover those costs prior to initiation of the project. EHS will provide specific material/service ordering information to be executed by the requesting department.

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Kristy A. Davis
Senior Industrial Hygienist
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Matthew Macdowell
Environmental Health and Safety Technician
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