Industrial Hygiene and Occupational Health

Industrial Hygiene

Industrial hygiene is the science of protecting and enhancing the health and safety of people at work and in their communities. Health and safety hazards cover a wide range of chemical, physical, biological, and ergonomic stressors. Those dedicated to anticipating, recognizing, evaluating and controlling these hazards are known as Industrial Hygienists (ABIH).
The EHS Department investigates and controls or mitigates those hazards, which also includes Mold, Asbestos, and Indoor Air Quality.

Occupational Health

Occupational Health is the multidisciplinary field of workplace healthcare concerned with enabling the individual to undertake their job, in a way that causes the least harm to their health.  Texas law and OSHA both implement measures that require some occupations to have physicals, vaccines, blood exposure monitoring, urine samples, hearing screening, and so on. EHS makes these arrangements through an Occupational Health Clinic. 

Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Evaluation Request Form

Most people are aware that outdoor air pollution can impact their health, but indoor air pollution can also have significant and harmful health effects.  EPA studies of human exposure to air pollutants indicate that indoor levels of pollutants may be higher than outdoor levels.  The levels of indoor air pollutants are of particular concern, because most people spend about 90 percent of their time indoors (EPA: Indoor Air Quality in Schools).

Texas Senate Bill 599 requires the State Office of Risk Management (SORM) "provide updated information on maintaining safe indoor air in state buildings." -SORM

If you have an Indoor Air Quality Concern on campus, please complete the  UHCL IAQ Questionnaire below, which is a fillable pdf form, and an EHS representative will investigate. Submit to or

IAQ Questionnaire Form


Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral composed of soft and flexible fibers that are resistant to heat, electricity, and corrosion. Because of its resilience, industries in the past used it to insulate steam engines, turbines, boilers, ovens, and electrical generators. Asbestos was also blended into flooring, glues, and other materials. There are six types of asbestos, all of which are composed of long and thin fibrous microscopic crystals, called "fibrils" that can be released easily into the environment. Due to the structure, mobility, and toxicity, (depending on the type) asbestos is considered a dangerous material, and is well recognized as a health hazard around the world. Asbestos can cause diseases, such as Asbestosis, Mesothelioma, and a variety of cancers. Today, asbestos is highly regulated by OSHA, EPA and the state of Texas. 

The University of Houston Clear-Lake (UHCL) has adopted an Asbestos Management Plan to oversee and eliminate any remaining asbestos. The main principle of our policy is to remove any possible asbestos before construction activities begin. 

Who needs training?

Legally and at a minimum--According to the EPA regulations in 40 CFR 763.92 that govern schools, custodial and maintenance workers who conduct any activities that may result in the disturbance of asbestos-containing building material (ACBM) must receive 2 hours of awareness training:

"...All members of its maintenance and custodial staff (custodians, electricians, heating/air conditioning engineers, plumbers, etc.) who may work in a building that contains ACBM receives asbestos awareness training of at least 2 hours..."

In addition, Asbestos Awareness Training is also part of the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard. Any employee that could disturb asbestos-containing material (ACM) or presumed asbestos-containing material needs to be aware of the potential workplace hazard.

It is also a best practice, and required as part of a Contractor Safety Program, to inform contractors of existing or potential asbestos on the property. 

Those that work directly with asbestos or manage asbestos have additional training requirements. In the state of Texas, you must have a license to handle asbestos and make decisions regarding how to manage a project involving any asbestos in the area.

Construction, Contractors, and Asbestos

Contractors, and the Project Manager of this campus must fill out the UHCL ACM Request Verification Form at least a month in advance to receive approval from EHS before the project can commence and a start date is provided.

Consequences for not notifying EHS may result in shutting down the construction activity until reviewed and approved. If abatement is necessary, this will delay the project as well as add abatement costs to the project. All Abatement activities on campus are managed through the EHS department. Additional documentation and training may be required after review of the project scope.

More Information

If you come across any materials that you suspect to be asbestos, or have questions or concerns about a renovation or asbestos remediation project on campus, please submit your inquiry to or

An ACM request verification form is used for construction projects.


Mold is a type of microorganism classified as a fungus. Molds are a natural part of the environment and can live virtually everywhere, indoors and outdoors. Depending on where you live, mold spores can reach high levels in the outdoor air. Hot and humid climate regions, such as the Houston area, have high mold levels in the summer and then lower in the winter as the temperature and humidity decreases.

The American Academy of Asthma Allergy and Immunology posts the National Allergy Bureau and Mold Report to monitor outdoor allergens, including mold spores. You can look at the daily report, which includes, grass, pollen, weeds and mold for the Houston area. This website can be found at the National Allergy Bureau.

Mold spores start to rise in the late spring and summer months. As the temperature increases, so do air quality complaints. Houston mold levels have been known to reach over 50,000 spores outside in the summer months. Currently, there is no regulatory level in the U.S. that establishes thresholds for molds.

Below are common questions and information regarding mold.

1. Is mold a health concern?

Some people do not have adverse reactions to mold. While others can be sensitized to molds and exhibit symptoms such as asthma, rhinitis, skin and throat sensitivities, conjunctivitis, etc. The American Industrial Hygiene Associations (AIHA) states:

"Small amounts of mold growth in workplaces or homes (such as mildew on a shower curtain) are not a major health concern. Large quantities of mold growth, however, are an important public health concern."

"People who may be affected more severely and quickly than others include:

  • Infants and children
  • Elderly people
  • Pregnant women
  • Individuals with respiratory conditions or allergies and asthma
  • Persons with weakened immune systems

Those with special health concerns should consult their doctor if they are concerned about mold exposure. Symptoms that may seem to occur from mold exposure may be due to other causes, such as bacterial or viral infections or other allergies."-AIHA.

2. Is mold harmful?

There are thousands of species of mold. Some species are toxic and can produce mycotoxins. While others can cause a variety of symptoms and infections, especially to sensitive individuals. Visual mold should not be allowed to grow into larger quantities to create a public health concern. Mold, no matter what the species, should be removed immediately when identified in indoors to prevent any adverse health reactions. In addition, the reason for the mold growth needs to be fixed to prevent reoccurrence.  

The most common mold genus' (categories of species) found inside are:

  • Cladosporium
  • Penicillium
  • Alternaria
  • Aspergillus

 3. Do specific molds grow when there is a leak or condensation issues?

Yes, certain molds are indicator species. Aspergillus is the most common, and is typical found where there is condensation issues. Stachybotrys chartarum on the other hand, is a strong indicator species for water leaks in a building. Stachybotrys chartarum is a fungus commonly named "black mold" that releases a mycotoxin. Many molds are black, and it is important to note that testing is the only way to confirm the genus and species found.

4. Is Mold a concern inside a business or home?

"Most typical indoor air exposures to mold do not present a risk of adverse health effects." (A Brief Guide to Mold in the Workplace. OSHA: Safety and Health Information Bulletin. 1/14/2019. )

To avoid Indoor Air Quality concerns and to correct any damage to your workplace or home, mold should be immediately removed when found. One or two species typically dominate and grow high concentrations when uncontrolled. As the mold spreads, it becomes a public health concern. In Texas, Mold beyond 25 sq. feet must be removed by a Licensed Mold Remediator and must be reported to the state.  

To investigate and remediate mold in Texas, an individual must be licensed in the state of Texas to perform this task. This law can be found under the Texas Administrative Code (TAC) Title 16. Part 4. Texas Department of Licenses. Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR). Chapter 78. Mold Assessors and Remediators (Effective September 1, 2018).

There are currently no federal regulations focused on mold; however, there are nationally accepted testing methods and best practices created by EPA, CDC, NIH, AIHA, and OSHA.

Q: What do you do if you see mold at work?

Contact EHS. EHS will determine if mold is present by visually inspecting the area. EHS will then determine if mold sampling necessary. The need for sampling is determined by the EHS department and is dependent upon the situation. Small quantities of mold are not typically hazardous, but identifying them can help us prevent additional growth, find hidden mold, locate humidity or temperature issues, housekeeping problems, or a leaks in the area. Report all mold concerns to EHS for investigation.  

Q: What happens when mold is confirmed?

EHS will determine if the mold can be cleaned internally or by a contracting firm. Visual mold beyond 25 sq. requires notification to the state, two weeks in advance of proposed project start. A Remediation Plan must be written by a Licensed Mold Consultant and then a Licensed Remediation Contractor removes the mold. Once the Remediation Contractor determines that the mold has been removed, a separate Mold Consultant performs clearance sampling to assure it is clean. Clearance sampling is typically done by comparing the samples taken before and after the remediation with the natural levels identified outside. If the amount of mold is less than outside, it is considered cleared.

Q: What happens if mold is identified in air samples?

As mentioned above, mold is present naturally all over the Houston area. The work place is only responsible for maintaining mold levels below outside levels in airborne samples. If airborne samples determine mold levels are elevated inside compared to outdoor samples, or there is significant difference between the outside and inside flora- the workplace must continue to investigate.

Q: How does mold grow in a building?

Mold must have a food source, water, and comfortable temperatures for continuous growth. Mold spores can enter a building through entrance doors, open windows, indoor plants, ventilation system, your shoes, etc.  Mold can grow on any organic surface, such as wood, paper, carpet, foods, insulation material, etc.

Q: What do I do when I see a water leak?

Call FMC and EHS as soon as possible. Water must be removed within 24-48 hours to prevent mold growth. Wet Vacuums can be used to remove water out of carpet and dehumidifiers can be used to remove moisture from the air.

For more information on mold, please refer to the resources below: