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How to Assess and Improve Air Quality Inside a Laboratory

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Laboratories are among the most important facilities, especially in the modern-day world. Whether it is a chemical, medical, biological, or physical lab, one thing is for sure. There’s a high likelihood that the work done there involves the use of potentially harmful chemicals or dangerous substances. In some cases, lab work involves handling dangerous, toxic, or hazardous material as specimens, reagents, or test subjects.

Well, to keep everyone safe in (and out of) the experimenting room, one of the things lab operators need to pay keen attention to is air circulation. In any laboratory, it is essential to ensure that potentially risky fumes and other air pollutants are well contained while ensuring proper ventilation. Air quality assessments are often a procedural requirement in many labs. In this piece, we shall cover a few tips on how to assess and improve air quality inside a laboratory.

Air Quality Assessment 

Indoor air quality assessment in a lab is necessary to ensure safety and protect the health of laboratory personnel. The quality of air circulating in the lab can be assessed in various ways. Some of these may include the following:

HVAC inspection and evaluation – involves measuring temperature, CO2, CO, and relative humidity of the air

Contaminant survey – involves assessing various indoor air contaminants like VOCs, dust mold, and so forth  

Critical observation – physically inspecting the facility to detect mold growth, corrosion, personnel illnesses

Improving Lab Air Quality 

To improve the quality of air inside a laboratory, a few things can be done. These will largely depend on the results achieved from quality assessment and include the following:

1. Ensure Improved Ventilation

Efficient ventilation is a great approach to improving the Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) of a laboratory. With a great ventilation system, there is plenty of fresh air circulation, hence lowering the concentration of the laboratory’s airborne indoor pollutants. So, consider opening windows and doors, or running a window air conditioner while the vent control is open if the weather allows it. That way, the rate of outdoor air ventilation is increased and there is plenty of fresh air circulation.

2. Source Control

Source control is another excellent way of improving the air quality inside a laboratory. It involves the elimination of individual sources of air pollution or reducing their rate of emissions. For instance, lab pollutant sources such as those containing asbestos can be sealed or enclosed while others such as gas stoves can be adjusted tightly to stop the emissions.

Potentially hazardous fumes should be appropriately contained and safely eliminated to prevent source air pollution. As highlighted at, this means investing in safety equipment like fume hoods and safety cabinets. These will help keep dangerous emissions from lab work at bay, thus boosting the overall quality of air inside the room or facility.

3. Air Cleansers

There are many types of air cleaners in the market that can be used to cleanse laboratory air circulation. Some of them work perfectly at particle removal while others are less efficient. Nonetheless, most air cleaners are not designed to remove pollutants in their gaseous form. Also, the effectiveness of an air purifier is based on how well it performs in collecting indoor pollutants before drawing the air through the cleansing and filtration element.

Moreover, air cleansers tend to work better when there is a collaborative effort of eliminating the source or contaminant causing air pollution in the laboratory. Lastly, air cleansers should be maintained according to the manufacturer’s guidelines for them to perform well and last long.

4. Proper Air Monitoring and Testing 

Laboratory indoor air quality can be hazardous due to biological, chemical, and physical pollutants produced by laboratory elements or samples used. That’s why air quality monitoring is crucial for efficient IAQ investigations and testing. Laboratory indoor air monitoring and testing should be carried out regularly to identify all the potential air contaminants harmful to the air we breathe while in the lab. According to ISO 17025, here are some of the tests that should be performed when monitoring IAQ (Indoor Air Quality):

Chemical test

Microbiological tests

Climate condition tests

Physical tests

Also, some samples should be tested outside the lab in a general environment.

5. By Conforming to the National Consensus Standards

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recognizes the national consensus standards for improved Indoor Air Quality (IAQ). The standard provides IAQ guidelines addressing IAQ factors such as:

Ventilation for acceptable indoor air quality

Thermal environmental conditions for human occupancy

Standard guide for stewardship for cleaning both institutional and commercial buildings

Guidance for indoor air quality investigations, and so on.

Air quality is crucial in the lab. It is important for the health and safety of the people working in laboratories as well as the general population. The above are just a few tips that provide insights into how air quality inside a lab can be assessed and improved.

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