- Indoor Air Quality
of our time is spent indoors where there
are many types of air pollution: consumer
products, appliances, building materials,
cigarette smoke, and furniture can all
contribute to the problem.
The Environmental Protection Agency
ranked indoor air pollution fourth in
cancer risk among 13 top environmental
problems analyzed. Indoor radon gas
was at the top of this list. A lot relates
to the problem of indoor air quality
Because many pollutants are found indoors
we all inhale them everyday. Secondly,
indoor air pollution is often higher
than those outdoors. The EPA has said
indoor levels of pollutants, such as
formaldehyde, chloroform, and styrene,
range from 2 to 5 times higher than
outdoor levels. Exposure to pollutants
such as cigarette smoke is usually indoors.
Indoor air pollution consists of toxic
gases or particles that can harm your
health. These pollutants can build up
rapidly indoors to levels much higher
than those usually found outdoors. This
is especially true if large amounts
of a pollutant are released indoors.
Additionally, the better construction
in newer homes can prevent pollutants
from escaping to the outdoors.
Sources and Potential Health Effects
of Indoor Air Pollutants
Major Indoor Sources
Potential Health Effects*
|Environmental Tobacco Smoke
||Cigarettes, cigars, and pipes
||Respiratory irritation, bronchitis
and pneumonia in children, emphysema,
lung cancer, and heart disease
||Unvented or malfunctioning
gas appliances, wood stoves,
and tobacco smoke
|Headache; nausea; angina; impaired
vision and mental functioning;
fatal at high concentrations
||Unvented or malfunctioning
|Eye, nose, and throat irritation;
increased respiratory infections
||Aerosol sprays, solvents, glues,
cleaning agents, pesticides,
paints, moth repellents, air
fresheners, drycleaned clothing,
and treated water
||Eye, nose, and throat irritation;
headaches; loss of coordination;
damage to liver, kidney and
brain; various types of cancer
||Pressed wood products such as
plywood and particleboard; furnishings;
wallpaper; durable press fabrics
||Eye, nose, and throat irritation;
headache; allergic reactions;
||Cigarettes, wood stoves, fireplaces,
aerosol sprays, and house dust
||Eye, nose and throat irritation;
increased susceptibility to
respiratory infections and bronchitis;
|Biological Agents (Bacteria, Viruses,
Fungi, Animal Dander, Mites)
||House dust; pets; bedding; poorly
maintained air conditioners,
humidifiers and dehumidifiers;
wet or moist structures; furnishings
||Allergic reactions; asthma; eye,
nose, and throat irritation;
humidifier fever, influenza,
and other infectious diseases
||Damaged or deteriorating insulation,
fireproofing, and acoustical
||Asbestosis, lung cancer, mesothelioma,
and other cancers
||Sanding or open-flame burning
of lead paint; house dust
||Nerve and brain damage, particularly
in children; anemia; kidney
damage; growth retardation
||Soil under buildings, some earth-derived
construction materials, and
||Depends on factors such
as the amount of pollutant
inhaled, the duration
of exposure and susceptibility
of the individual exposed.
The effects of indoor
air pollutants vary. Exposure to high
levels of some pollutants, such as carbon
monoxide, can even result in immediate
death. Some indoor pollutants can magnify
the effects of other indoor pollutants.
Based on cancer risk alone, scientists
have ranked indoor air pollution as
one of the most important environmental
problems in America.
Many of us are susceptible to the health
effects of indoor pollutants. These
include infants and the elderly, those
with heart and lung diseases, people
with asthma, and individuals who have
developed extreme sensitivity to chemicals.
The economic impact of indoor pollution
- including health care costs, lost
productivity, legal costs, and human
welfare impacts - have been estimated
at billions of dollars each year.
What Can You Do About Indoor Air Pollution?
The most effective way
to protect your family and yourself
from indoor air pollution is to prevent
or minimize the release of pollutants
indoors in the first place.
Products such as cleaning
agents, paints, and glues should be
used outdoors whenever possible. Directions
on the label should be followed carefully.
If the product must be used indoors,
lots of ventilation should be provided.
Also, it may be possible to use safer
consumer products, such as baking soda
instead of harsher cleaners, or products
in solid or liquid form rather than
smoking to outdoor areas is especially
important because cigarette smoke contains
many toxic pollutants. It is harmful
to both smokers and nonsmokers.
Use gas appliances, wood
stoves, and fireplaces only as intended.
Gas stoves should never be used to heat
the house since high pollutant levels
can result. Wood stoves and fireplaces
should only be used to burn properly
sized and aged wood, since other types
of fuel may emit toxic compounds.
These combustion devices pollute less
when properly maintained. Annual inspections
and cleaning by your gas company's service
personnel or by other qualified individuals
will help reduce pollution and save
Building Materials and Furniture Carefully
Many products, including
some types of plywood and particleboard,
emit significant amounts of formaldehyde
or other gaseous pollutants. Try to
avoid those products if possible.
You might request that new carpets or
furniture be aired out by the manufacturer
or distributor prior to delivery. Otherwise,
you may want to air them in your garage
or yard before bringing them inside.
Proper storage of solvents
and frequent housecleaning to remove
dust and molds are necessary steps in
maintaining good indoor air quality.
Provide Adequate Ventilation
Adequate ventilation is another easy
and effective way to maintain good
air quality, although it may not completely
remove all pollutants. Increase ventilation
by opening windows and doors when the
weather permits. This is particularly
important when using products or engaging
in activities that may generate pollutants.
Kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans that
are properly vented to the outdoors
are very effective at removing pollutants
generated during cooking and showering.
For effective ventilation while conserving
energy during extreme weather, consider
installing a heat recovery ventilator.
When the home is closed up use CaluTech
in the ventilation system to remove
living organisms from the air, and
a photocatalytic oxidation system,
to remove volatile organic compounds.