Air quality at office workplaces

Project No. BIA 3080


completed 03/2004


In the absence of satisfactory alternative assessment criteria, reference values for selected hazardous substances or hazardous substance groups typically occurring in indoor areas are generally employed for assessment of the air quality in the areas concerned. These values were based upon older, comprehensive measurements of hazardous substance concentrations in the atmosphere of indoor areas (environment survey), in particular in living areas. The emissions situation of hazardous substances (originating for example from construction materials) has changed considerably since this survey was performed, as have the associated measurement methods. More recent small-scale studies confirm this trend, although such studies are generally performed in contaminated living areas, often by means of different measurement methods. Consequently, comparable coordinated values for the air quality at indoor workplaces were not available, and a satisfactory basis for the evaluation of such values did not exist.


The objective of the project was to produce an office area survey for indoor workplaces in the form of reference values for selected hazardous substances. Suitable standard measurement methods were developed and employed for the studies in offices, which represent the majority of all indoor workplaces, with reference to VDI 4300 governing indoor-air pollution measurement/general aspects of measurement strategy and DIN ISO 16000 "Indoor air pollution". The standard procedure involved the measurement of volatile organic compounds (VOCs, SVOCs) on thermal desorption tubes (TENAX/TA) and aldehydes. In addition, the carbon dioxide concentrations were measured, in some cases together with a further major parameter in the form of the air exchange rate. The number of measurements was sufficiently large to permit statistical evaluation and definition of typical reference values for these indoor areas.


Between the beginning of 2001 and the end of 2003, a total of 2,107 room air measurements were conducted by the BGs and members of the Central Federation of Public Sector Accident Insurers (BUK) in the offices of 213 companies. Selected volatile organic compounds (VOCs), aldehydes and carbon dioxide were measured by means of a simplified standardized procedure based upon VDI 4300 (6). The results provide a representative picture of the room air concentrations currently prevailing at office workplaces in Germany. Based upon statistical evaluation of the measurement results, reference values are proposed which may serve as guideline and target values during assessments of room air quality at office workplaces.

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Financed by:
  • Hauptverband der gewerblichen Berufsgenossenschaften (HVBG)
Research institution(s):
  • Berufsgenossenschaftliches Institut für Arbeitsschutz - BIA
  • BG-übergreifend
  • Bundesverband der Unfallkassen (BUK)
  • Gemeinde-Unfallversicherungsverband (GUVV)
  • Berufsgenossenschaft der Banken
  • Versicherungen
  • Verwaltungen

-cross sectoral-

Type of hazard:

work-related health hazards


Arbeitsumwelt (Belastungen, Gefährdungen, Expositionen, Risiken), Gesundheitliche Beeinträchtigungen und Störungen, Exposition

Description, key words:

indoor workplaces, indoor air quality, hazardous substances, reference values, offices, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOCs)