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Air Pollution Sources in the Home
Indoor Air Quality in Your Home
What If You Live in an Apartment?
Improving the Air Quality in Your Home
A Look at Source-Specific Controls
Environmental Tobacco Smoke
Stoves, Heaters, Fireplaces, and Chimneys
Reference Guide to Major Indoor Air Pollutants
in the Home
When Building a New Home
Do You Suspect Your Office Has an Indoor
Where to Go for Additional Information
- AIR POLLUTION SOURCES IN THE HOME
- 1. Moisture
- 2. Pressed Wood Furniture
- 3. Humidifier
- 4. Moth Repellents
- 5. Dry-Cleaned Goods
- 6. House Dust Mites
- 7. Personal Care Products
- 8. Air Freshener
- 9. Stored Fuels
- 10. Car Exhaust
- 11. Paint Supplies
- 12. Paneling
- 13. Wood Stove
- 14. Tobacco Smoke
- 15. Carpets
- 16. Pressed Wood Sub flooring
- 17. Drapes
- 18. Fireplace
- 19. Household Chemicals
- 20. Asbestos Floor Tiles
- 21. Pressed Wood Cabinets
- 22. Unvented Gas Stove
- 23. Asbestos Pipe Wrap
- 24. Radon
- 25. Unvented Clothes Dryer
- 26. Pesticides
- 27. Stored Hobby Products
- 28. Lead-Based Paint
- INDOOR AIR QUALITY CONCERNS
- All of us face a variety of risks to our health as we go about our
- to day lives. Driving in cars, flying in planes, engaging in
- recreational activities, and being exposed to environmental pollutants
- all pose varying degrees of risk. Some risks are simply unavoidable.
- Some we choose to accept because to do otherwise would restrict our
- ability to lead our lives the way we want. And some are risks we
- decide to avoid if we had the opportunity to make informed choices.
- Indoor air pollution is one risk that you can do something about.
- In the last several years, a growing body of scientific evidence
- indicated that the air within homes and other buildings can be more
- seriously polluted than the outdoor air in even the largest and most
- industrialized cities. Other research indicates that people spend
- approximately 90 percent of their time indoors. Thus, for many people,
- the risks to health may be greater due to exposure to air pollution
- indoors than outdoors.
- In addition, people who may be exposed to indoor air pollutants for
- longest periods of time are often those most susceptible to the effects
- of indoor air pollution. Such groups include the young, the elderly,
- the chronically ill, especially those suffering from respiratory
- cardiovascular disease.
- WHY A BOOKLET ON INDOOR AIR?
- While pollutant levels from individual sources may not pose a
- significant health risk by themselves, most homes have more than
- source that contributes to indoor ar pollution. There can be a serious
- risk from the cumulative effects of these sources. Fortunately, there
- are steps that most people can take both to reduce the risk from
- existing sources and to prevent new problems from occurring. This
- booklet was prepared by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
- and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to help you
- decide whether to take actions that can reduce the level of indoor
- pollution in your own home.
- Because so many Americans spend a lot of time in offices with mechanical
- heating, cooling, and ventilation systems, there is also a short
- on the causes of poor air quality in offices and what you can do
- suspect that your office may have a problem. A glossary and a list
- organizations where you can get additional information are listed
- back of this booklet.
- WHAT CAUSES INDOOR AIR PROBLEMS?
- Indoor pollution sources that release gases or particles into the
- are the primary cause of indoor air quality problems in homes.
- Inadequate ventilation can increase indoor pollutant levels by not
- bringing in enough outdoor air to dilute emissions from indoor sources
- and by not carrying indoor air pollutants out of the home. High
- temperature and humidity levels can also increase concentrations
- Pollutant Sources
- There are many sources of indoor air pollution in any home. These
- include combustion sources such as oil, gas, kerosene, coal, wood,
- tobacco products; building materials and furnishings as diverse as
- deteriorated, asbestos containing insulation, wet or damp carpet,
- cabinetry or furniture made of certain pressed wood products; products
- for household cleaning and maintenance, personal care, or hobbies;
- central heating and cooling systems and humidification devices; and
- outdoor sources such as radon, pesticides, and outdoor air pollution.
- The relative importance of any single source depends on how much
- given pollutant it emits and how hazardous those emissions are. In
- cases, factors such as how old the source is and whether it is properly
- maintained are significant. For example, an improperly adjusted gas
- stove can emit significantly more carbon monoxide than one that is
- properly adjusted.
- Some sources, such as building materials, furnishings, and household
- products like air fresheners, release pollutants more or less
- continuously. Other sources, related to activities carried out in
- home, release pollutants intermittently. These include smoking, the
- of unvented or malfunctioning stoves, furnaces, or space heaters,
- use of solvents in cleaning and hobby activities, the use of paint
- strippers in redecorating activities, and the use of cleaning products
- and pesticides in housekeeping. High pollutant concentrations can
- in the air for long periods after some of these activities.
- Amount of Ventilation
- If too little outdoor air enters a home, pollutants can accumulate
- levels that can pose health and comfort problems. Unless they are
- with special mechanical means of ventilation, homes that are designed
- and constructed to minimize the amount of outdoor air that can leak
- and out of the home may have higher pollutant levels than other homes.
- However, because some weather conditions can drastically reduce the
- amount of outdoor air that enters a home, pollutants can build up
- in homes that are normally considered leaky.
- HOW DOES OUTDOOR AIR ENTER A HOUSE?
- Outdoor air enters and leaves a house by: infiltration, natural
- ventilation, and mechanical ventilation. In a process known as
- infiltration, outdoor air flows into the house through openings,
- and cracks in walls, floors, and ceilings, and around windows and
- In natural ventilation, air moves through opened windows and doors.
- movement associated with infiltration and natural ventilation is
- by air temperature differences between indoors and outdoors and by
- Finally, there are a number of mechanical ventilation devices, from
- outdoor vented fans that intermittently remove air from a single
- such as bathrooms and kitchen, to air handling systems that use fans
- duct work to continuously remove indoor air and distribute filtered
- conditioned outdoor air to strategic points throughout the house.
- rate at which outdoor air replaces indoor air is described as the
- exchange rate. When there is little infiltration, natural ventilation,
- or mechanical ventilation, the air exchange rate is low and pollutant
- levels can increase.
- WHAT IF YOU LIVE IN AN APARTMENT?
- Apartments can have the same indoor air problems as single family
- because many of the pollution sources, such as the interior building
- materials, furnishings, and household products, are similar. Indoor
- problems similar to those in offices are caused by such sources as
- contaminated ventilation systems, improperly placed outdoor air intakes,
- or maintenance activities.
- Solutions to air quality problems in apartments, as in homes and
- offices, involve such actions as: eliminating or controlling the
- of pollution, increasing ventilation, and installing air cleaning
- devices. Often a resident can take the appropriate action to improve
- indoor air quality by removing a source, altering an activity,
- unblocking an air supply vent, or opening a window to temporarily
- increase the ventilation; in other cases, however, only the building
- owner or manager is in a position to remedy the problem. (See the
- section What to Do If You Suspect a Problem on page 30.) You can
- encourage building management to follow guidance in EPA and NIOSH
- Building Air Quality: A Guide for Building Owners and Facility
- Managers. It is available for $24 from the Superintendent of Documents,
- P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 152507954; stock # 055000003904.
- INDOOR AIR AND YOUR HEALTH
- Health effects from indoor air pollutants may be experienced soon
- exposure or, possibly, years later.
- Immediate effects may show up after a single exposure or repeated
- exposures. These include irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat,
- headaches, dizziness, and fatigue. Such immediate effects are usually
- short term and treatable. Sometimes the treatment is simply eliminating
- the person s exposure to the source of the pollution, if it can be
- identified. Symptoms of some diseases, including asthma,
- hypersensitivity pneumonitis, and humidifier fever, may also show
- soon after exposure to some indoor air pollutants.
- The likelihood of immediate reactions to indoor air pollutants depends
- on several factors. Age and preexisting medical conditions are two
- important influences. In other cases, whether a person reacts to
- pollutant depends on individual sensitivity, which varies tremendously
- from person to person. Some people can become sensitized to biological
- pollutants after repeated exposures, and it appears that some people
- become sensitized to chemical pollutants as well.
- Certain immediate effects are similar to those from colds or other
- diseases, so it is often difficult to determine if the symptoms are
- result of exposure to indoor air pollution. For this reason, it is
- important to pay attention to the time and place the symptoms occur.
- the symptoms fade or go away when a person is away from the home
- return when the person returns, an effort should be made to identify
- indoor air sources that may be possible causes. Some effects may
- worse by an inadequate supply of outdoor air or from the heating,
- cooling, or humidity conditions prevalent in the home.
- Other health effects may show up either years after exposure has
- occurred or only after long or repeated periods of exposure. These
- effects, which include some respiratory diseases, heart disease,
- cancer, can be severely debilitating or fatal. It is prudent to try
- improve the indoor air quality in your home even if symptoms are
- noticeable. More information on potential health effects from
- particular indoor air pollutants is provided in the section, A Look
- Source Specific Controls.
- While pollutants commonly found in indoor air are responsible for
- harmful effects, there is considerable uncertainty about what
- concentrations or periods of exposure are necessary to produce specific
- health problems. People also react very differently to exposure to
- indoor air pollutants. Further research is needed to better understand
- which health effects occur after exposure to the average pollutant
- concentrations found in homes and which occur from the higher
- concentrations that occur for short periods of time.
- The health effects associated with some indoor air pollutants are
- summarized in the chart in the middle of this booklet titled Reference
- Guide to Major Indoor Air Pollutants in the Home.
- IDENTIFYING AIR QUALITY PROBLEMS
- Some health effects can be useful indicators of an indoor air quality
- problem, especially if they appear after a person moves to a new
- residence, remodels or refurnishes a home, or treats a home with
- pesticides. If you think that you have symptoms that may be related
- your home environment, discuss the with your doctor or your local
- department to see if they could be caused by indoor air pollution.
- may also want to consult a board certified allergist or an occupational
- medicine specialist for answers to your questions.
- Another way to judge whether your home has or could develop indoor
- problems is to identify potential sources of indoor air pollution.
- Although the presence of such sources (see illustration at the beginning
- of this booklet) does not necessarily mean that you have an indoor
- quality problem, being aware of the type and number of potential
- is an important step toward assessing the air quality in your home.
- A third way to decide whether your home may have poor indoor air
- is to look at your lifestyle and activities. Human activities can
- significant sources of indoor air pollution. Finally, look for signs
- problems with the ventilation in your home. Signs that can indicate
- home may not have enough ventilation include moisture condensation
- windows or walls, smelly or stuffy air, dirty central heating and
- cooling equipment, and areas where books, shoes, or other items become
- moldy. To detect odors in your home, step outside for a few minutes,
- and then upon reentering your home, note whether odors are noticeable.
- MEASURING POLLUTANT LEVELS
- The federal government recommends that you measure the level of radon
- your home. Without measurements there is no way to tell whether radon
- present because it is a colorless, odorless, radioactive gas.
- Inexpensive devices are available for measuring radon. EPA provides
- guidance as to risks associated with different levels of exposure
- when the public should consider corrective action. There are specific
- mitigation techniques that have proven effective in reducing levels
- radon in the home. (See Radon section on p. 11 of this booklet for
- additional information about testing and controlling radon in homes.)
- For pollutants other than radon, measurements are most appropriate
- there are either health symptoms or signs of poor ventilation and
- specific sources or pollutants have been identified as possible causes
- of indoor air quality problems. Testing for many pollutants can be
- expensive. Before monitoring your home for pollutants besides radon,
- consult your state or local health department or professionals who
- experience in solving indoor air quality problems in nonindustrial
- WEATHERIZING YOUR HOME
- The federal government recommends that homes be weatherized in order
- reduce the amount of energy needed for heating and cooling. While
- weatherization is underway, however, steps should also be taken to
- minimize pollution from sources inside the home. (See Improving the
- Quality in Your Home for recommended actions.) In addition, residents
- should be alert to the emergence of signs of inadequate ventilation,
- such as stuffy air, moisture condensation on cold surfaces, or mold
- mildew growth. Additional weatherization measures should not be
- undertaken until these problems have been corrected.
- Weatherization generally does not cause indoor air problems by adding
- new pollutants to the air. (There are a few exceptions, such as
- caulking, that can sometimes emit pollutants.) However, measures
- installing storm windows, weather stripping, caulking, and blown
- insulation can reduce the amount of outdoor air infiltrating into
- home. Consequently, after weatherization, concentrations of indoor
- pollutants from sources inside the home can increase.
- THREE BASIC STRATEGIES
- Source Control
- Usually the most effective way to improve indoor air quality is to
- eliminate individual sources of pollution or to reduce their emissions.
- Some sources, like those that contain asbestos, can be sealed or
- enclosed; others, like gas stoves, can be adjusted to decrease the
- amount of emissions. In many cases, source control is also a more
- efficient approach to protecting indoor air quality than increasing
- ventilation because increasing ventilation can increase energy costs.
- Specific sources of indoor air pollution in your home are listed
- in this section.
- Ventilation Improvements
- Another approach to lowering the concentrations of indoor air pollutants
- in your home is to increase the amount of outdoor air coming indoors.
- Most home heating and cooling systems, including forced air heating
- systems, do not mechanically bring fresh air into the house. Opening
- windows and doors, operating window or attic fans, when the weather
- permits, or running a window air conditioner with the vent control
- increases the outdoor ventilation rate. Local bathroom or kitchen
- that exhaust outdoors remove contaminants directly from the room
- the fan is located and also increase the outdoor air ventilation
- It is particularly important to take as many of these steps as possible
- while you are involved in short-term activities that can generate
- levels of pollutants for example, painting, paint stripping, heating
- with kerosene heaters, cooking, or engaging in maintenance and hobby
- activities such as welding, soldering, or sanding. You might also
- to do some of these activities outdoors, if you can and if weather
- Advanced designs of new homes are starting to feature mechanical
- that bring outdoor air into the home. Some of these designs include
- energy efficient heat recovery ventilators (also known as air-to-air
- heat exchangers). For more information about air-to-air heat
- exchangers, contact the Conservation and Renewable Energy Inquiry
- Referral Service (CAREIRS), PO Box 3048, Merrifield, VA 22116; (800)
- Air Cleaners
- There are many types and sizes of air cleaners on the market, ranging
- from relatively inexpensive tabletop models to sophisticated and
- expensive whole house systems. Some air cleaners are highly effective
- particle removal, while others, including most tabletop models, are
- less so. Air cleaners are generally not designed to remove gaseous
- The effectiveness of an air cleaner depends on how well it collects
- pollutants from indoor air (expressed as a percentage efficiency
- and how much air it draws through the cleaning or filtering element
- (expressed in cubic feet per minute). A very efficient collector
- low air circulation rate will not be effective, nor will a cleaner
- a high air circulation rate but a less efficient collector. The long
- term performance of any air cleaner depends on maintaining it according
- to the manufacturer s directions.
- Another important factor in determining the effectiveness of an air
- cleaner is the strength of the pollutant source. Tabletop air cleaners,
- in particular, may not remove satisfactory amounts of pollutants
- strong nearby sources. People with a sensitivity to particular sources
- may find that air cleaners are helpful only in conjunction with
- concerted efforts to remove the source.
- Over the past few years, there has been some publicity suggesting
- house plants have been shown to reduce levels of some chemicals in
- laboratory experiments. There is currently no evidence, however,
- reasonable number of houseplants remove significant quantities of
- pollutants in homes and offices. Indoor houseplants should not be
- watered because overly damp soil may promote the growth of
- microorganisms which can affect allergic individuals.
- At present, EPA does not recommend using air cleaners to reduce levels
- of radon and its decay products. The effectiveness of these devices
- uncertain because they only partially remove the radon decay products
- and do not diminish the amount of radon entering the home. EPA plans
- do additional research on whether air cleaners are, or could become,
- reliable means of reducing the health risk from radon. EPA s booklet,
- Residential Air Cleaning Devices, provides further information on
- cleaning devices to reduce indoor air pollutants
- For most indoor air quality problems in the home, source control
- most effective solution. This section takes a source by source look
- the most common indoor air pollutants, their potential health effects,
- and ways to reduce levels in the home. (For a summary of the points
- in this section, see the chart in the middle of this booklet titled
- Reference Guide to Major Indoor Air Pollutants in the Home. )
- The most common source of indoor radon is uranium in the soil or
- which homes are built. As uranium naturally breaks down, it releases
- radon gas which is a colorless, odorless, radioactive gas. Radon
- enters homes through dirt floors, cracks in concrete walls and floors,
- floor drains, and sumps. When radon become strapped in buildings
- concentrations build up indoors, exposure to radon becomes a concern.
- Any home may have a radon problem. This means new and old homes,
- sealed and drafty homes, and homes with or without basements.
- Sometimes radon enters the home through well water. In a small number
- of homes, the building materials can give off radon, too. However,
- building materials rarely cause radon problems by themselves.
- Health Effects of Radon
- The predominant health effect associated with exposure to elevated
- levels of radon is lung cancer. Research suggests that swallowing
- with high radon levels may pose risks, too, although these are believed
- to be much lower than those from breathing air containing radon.
- health organizations (like the Centers for Disease Control and
- Prevention, the American Lung Association (ALA), and the American
- Medical Association) agree with estimates that radon causes thousands
- preventable lung cancer deaths each year. EPA estimates that radon
- causes about 14,000 deaths per year in the United States however,
- number could range from 7,000 to 30,000 deaths per year. If you smoke
- and your home has high radon levels, your risk of lung cancer is
- especially high.
Reducing Exposure to Radon in Homes
- Measure levels of radon in your home.
- You can t see radon, but it s not hard to find out if you have a
- problem in your home. Testing is easy and should only take a little
- your time.
- There are many kinds of inexpensive, do-it-yourself radon test kits
- can get through the mail and in hardware stores and other retail
- outlets. Make sure you buy a test kit that has passed EPA s testing
- program or is state certified. These kits will usually display the
- phrase Meets EPA Requirements. If you prefer, or if you are buying
- selling a home, you can hire a trained contractor to do the testing
- you. The EPA Radon Measurement Proficiency (RMP) Program evaluates
- testing contractors. A contractor who has met EPA s requirements
- carry a special RMP identification card. EPA provides a list of
- companies and individual contractors to state radon offices. You
- call your state radon office to obtain a list of qualified contractors
- in your area (call 800-SOS-RADON for a list of state radon offices).
- Refer to the EPA guidelines on how to test and interpret your test
- You can learn more about radon through EPA s publications, A Citizen
- Guide to Radon: The Guide to Protecting Yourself and Your Family
- Radon and Home Buyer s and Seller s Guide to Radon, which are available
- from state radon offices.
- Learn about radon reduction methods.
- Ways to reduce radon in your home are discussed in EPA s Consumer's
- Guide to Radon Reduction. You can get a copy from your state radon
- office. There are simple solutions to radon problems in homes.
- Thousands of homeowners have already fixed radon problems. Lowering
- high radon levels requires technical knowledge and special skills.
- should use a contractor who is trained to fix radon problems.
- The EPA Radon Contractor Proficiency (RCP) Program tests these
- contractors. EPA provides a list of RCP contractors to state radon
- offices. A contractor who is listed by EPA will carry a special RCP
- identification card. A trained RCP contractor can study the problem
- your home and help you pick the correct treatment method. Check with
- your state radon office for names of qualified or state certified
- reduction contractors in your area.
- Stop smoking and discourage smoking in your home.
- Scientific evidence indicates that smoking combined with radon is
- especially serious health risk. Stop smoking and lower your radon
- to reduce lung cancer risk.
- Treat radon contaminated well water.
- While radon in water is not a problem in homes served by most public
- water supplies, it has been found in well water. If you've tested
- air in your home and found a radon problem, and you have a well,
- a lab certified to measure radiation in water to have your water
- Radon problems in water can be readily fixed. Call your state radon
- office or the EPA Drinking Water Hotline (8004264791) for more
ENVIRONMENTAL TOBACCO SMOKE
- Environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) is the mixture of smoke that comes
- from the burning end of a cigarette, pipe, or cigar, and smoke exhaled
- by the smoker. It is a complex mixture of over 4,000 compounds, more
- than 40 of which are known to cause cancer in humans or animals and
- of which are strong irritants. ETS is often referred to as secondhand
- smoke and exposure to ETS is often called passive smoking.
- Health Effects of Environmental Tobacco Smoke
- In 1992, EPA completed a major assessment of the respiratory health
- risks of ETS (Respiratory Health Effects of Passive Smoking: Lung
- Cancer and Other Disorders EPA/600/690/006F). The report concludes
- exposure to ETS is responsible for approximately 3,000 lung cancer
- deaths each year in non-smoking adults and impairs the respiratory
- health of hundreds of thousands of children.
- Infants and young children whose parents smoke in their presence
- increased risk of lower respiratory tract infections (pneumonia and
- bronchitis) and are more likely to have symptoms of respiratory
- irritation like cough, excess phlegm, and wheeze. EPA estimates that
- passive smoking annually causes between 150,000 and 300,000 lower
- respiratory tract infections in infants and children under 18 months
- age, resulting in between 7,500 and 15,000 hospitalizations each
- These children may also have a buildup of fluid in the middle ear,
- can lead to ear infections. Older children who have been exposed
- secondhand smoke may have slightly reduced lung function.
- Asthmatic children are especially at risk. EPA estimates that exposure
- to secondhand smoke increases the number of episodes and severity
- symptoms in hundreds of thousands of asthmatic children, and may
- thousands of non-asthmatic children to develop the disease each year.
- EPA estimates that between 200,000 and 1,000,000 asthmatic children
- their condition made worse by exposure to secondhand smoke each year.
- Exposure to secondhand smoke causes eye, nose, and throat irritation.
- may affect the cardiovascular system and some studies have linked
- exposure to secondhand smoke with the onset of chest pain. For
- publications about ETS, contact EPA s Indoor Air Quality Information
- Clearinghouse (IAQ-INFO), 8004384318.
- Reducing Exposure to Environmental Tobacco Smoke
- Don t smoke at home or permit others to do so. Ask smokers to smoke
- The 1986 Surgeon General s report concluded that physical separation
- smokers and nonsmokers in a common air space, such as different rooms
- within the same house, may reduce but will not eliminate nonsmokers
- exposure to environmental tobacco smoke.
- If smoking indoors cannot be avoided, increase ventilation in the
- where smoking takes place.
- Open windows or use exhaust fans. Ventilation, a common method of
- reducing exposure to indoor air pollutants, also will reduce but
- eliminate exposure to environmental tobacco smoke. Because smoking
- produces such large amounts of pollutants, natural or mechanical
- ventilation techniques do not remove them from the air in your home
- quickly as they build up. In addition, the large increases in
- ventilation it takes to significantly reduce exposure to environmental
- tobacco smoke can also increase energy costs substantially.
- Consequently, the most effective way to reduce exposure to environmental
- tobacco smoke in the home is to eliminate smoking there.
- Do not smoke if children are present, particularly infants and toddlers.
- Children are particularly susceptible to the effects of passive smoking.
- Do not allow baby sitters or others who work in your home to smoke
- indoors. Discourage others from smoking around children. Find out
- the smoking policies of the day care center providers, schools, and
- other care givers for your children. The policy should protect children
- from exposure to ETS.
- BIOLOGICAL CONTAMINANTS
- Biological contaminants include bacteria, molds, mildew, viruses,
- dander and cat saliva, house dust mites, cockroaches, and pollen.
- are many sources of these pollutants. Pollens originate from plants;
- viruses are transmitted by people and animals; bacteria are carried
- people, animals, and soil and plant debris; and household pets are
- sources of saliva and animal dander. The protein in urine from rats
- mice is a potent allergen. When it dries, it can become airborne.
- Contaminated central air handling systems can become breeding grounds
- for mold, mildew, and other sources of biological contaminants and
- then distribute these contaminants through the home.
- By controlling the relative humidity level in a home, the growth
- sources of biologicals can be minimized. A relative humidity of 3050
- percent is generally recommended for homes. Standing water,
- water-damaged materials, or wet surfaces also serve as a breeding
- for molds, mildews, bacteria, and insects. House dust mites, the
- of one of the most powerful biological allergens, grow in damp, warm
- Health Effects From Biological Contaminants
- Some biological contaminants trigger allergic reactions, including
- hypersensitivity pneumonitis, allergic rhinitis, and some types of
- asthma. Infectious illnesses, such as influenza, measles, and chicken
- pox are transmitted through the air. Molds and mildews release disease
- causing toxins. Symptoms of health problems caused by biological
- pollutants include sneezing, watery eyes, coughing, shortness of
- dizziness, lethargy, fever, and digestive problems.
- Allergic reactions occur only after repeated exposure to a specific
- biological allergen. However, that reaction may occur immediately
- re-exposure or after multiple exposures over time. As a result, people
- who have noticed only mild allergic reactions, or no reactions at
- may suddenly find themselves very sensitive to particular allergens.
- Some diseases, like humidifier fever, are associated with exposure
- toxins from microorganisms that can grow in large building ventilation
- systems. However, these diseases can also be traced to microorganisms
- that grow in home heating and cooling systems and humidifiers. Children,
- elderly people, and people with breathing problems, allergies, and
- diseases are particularly susceptible to disease causing biological
- agents in the indoor air.
- Reducing Exposure to Biological Contaminants
- Install and use exhaust fans that are vented to the outdoors in kitchens
- and bathrooms and vent clothes dryers outdoors.
- These actions can eliminate much of the moisture that builds up from
- everyday activities. There are exhaust fans on the market that produce
- little noise, an important consideration for some people. Another
- benefit to using kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans is that they can
- reduce levels of organic pollutants that vaporize from hot water
- showers and dishwashers.
- Ventilate the attic and crawl spaces to prevent moisture
- Keeping humidity levels in these areas below 50 percent can prevent
- water condensation on building materials.
- If using cool mist or ultrasonic humidifiers, clean appliances according
- to manufacturer s instructions and refill with fresh water daily.
- Because these humidifiers can become breeding grounds for biological
- contaminants, they have the potential for causing diseases such as
- hypersensitivity pneumonitis and humidifier fever. Evaporation trays
- air conditioners, dehumidifiers, and refrigerators should also be
- cleaned frequently.
- Thoroughly clean and dry water-damaged carpets and building materials
- (within 24 hours if possible) or consider removal and replacement.
- Water-damaged carpets and building materials can harbor mold and
- bacteria. It is very difficult to completely rid such materials of
- biological contaminants.
- Keep the house clean. House dust mites, pollens, animal dander, and
- other allergy causing agents can be reduced, although not eliminated,
- through regular cleaning.
- People who are allergic to these pollutants should use allergen proof
- mattress encasements, wash bedding in hot (130 F) water, and avoid
- furnishings that accumulate dust, especially if they cannot be washed
- hot water. Allergic individuals should also leave the house while
- being vacuumed because vacuuming can actually increase airborne levels
- of mite allergens and other biological contaminants. Using central
- vacuum systems that are vented to the outdoors or vacuums with high
- efficiency filters may also be of help.
- Take steps to minimize biological pollutants in basements.
- Clean and disinfect the basement floor drain regularly. Do not finish
- basement below ground level unless all water leaks are patched and
- outdoor ventilation and adequate heat to prevent condensation are
- provided. Operate a dehumidifier in the basement if needed to keep
- relative humidity levels between 30 50 percent.
- To learn more about biological pollutants, read Biological Pollutants
- Your Home issued by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and
- American Lung Association. For contact information, see the section,
- Where to Go For Additional Information.
STOVES, HEATERS, FIREPLACES, AND CHIMNEYS
- In addition to environmental tobacco smoke, other sources of combustion
- products are unvented kerosene and gas space heaters, wood stoves,
- fireplaces, and gas stoves. The major pollutants released are carbon
- monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and particles. Unvented kerosene heaters
- also generate acid aerosols.
- Combustion gases and particles also come from chimneys and flues
- are improperly installed or maintained and cracked furnace heat
- exchangers. Pollutants from fireplaces and wood stoves with no dedicated
- outdoor air supply can be back drafted from the chimney into the
- space, particularly in weatherized homes.
- Health Effects of Combustion Products
- Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that interferes with
- delivery of oxygen throughout the body. At high concentrations it
- cause unconsciousness and death. Lower concentrations can cause a
- of symptoms from headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, confusion,
- disorientation, to fatigue in healthy people and episodes of increased
- chest pain in people with chronic heart disease. The symptoms of
- monoxide poisoning are sometimes confused with the flu or food
- poisoning. Fetuses, infants, elderly people, and people with anemia
- with a history of heart or respiratory disease can be especially
- sensitive to carbon monoxide exposures.
- Nitrogen dioxide is a colorless, odorless gas that irritates the
- membranes in the eye, nose, and throat and causes shortness of breath
- after exposure to high concentrations. There is evidence that high
- concentrations or continued exposure to low levels of nitrogen dioxide
- increases the risk of respiratory infection; there is also evidence
- animal studies that repeated exposures to elevated nitrogen dioxide
- levels may lead, or contribute, to the development of lung disease
- as emphysema. People at particular risk from exposure to nitrogen
- dioxide include children and individuals with asthma and other
- respiratory diseases.
- Particles, released when fuels are incompletely burned, can lodge
- lungs and irritate or damage lung tissue. A number of pollutants,
- including radon and benzo(a)pyrene, both of which can cause cancer,
- attach to small particles that are inhaled and then carried deep
- the lung.
- Reducing Exposure to Combustion Products in Homes
- Take special precautions when operating fuel burning unvented space
- Consider potential effects of indoor air pollution if you use an
- unvented kerosene or gas space heater. Follow the manufacturer s
- directions, especially instructions on the proper fuel and keeping
- heater properly adjusted. A persistent yellow tipped flame is generally
- an indicator of maladjustment and increased pollutant emissions.
- space heater is in use, open a door from the room where the heater
- located to the rest of the house and open a window slightly.
- Install and use exhaust fans over gas cooking stoves and ranges and
- the burners properly adjusted.
- Using a stove hood with a fan vented to the outdoors greatly reduces
- exposure to pollutants during cooking. Improper adjustment, often
- indicated by a persistent yellow tipped flame, causes increased
- pollutant emissions. Ask your gas company to adjust the burner so
- the flame tip is blue. If you purchase a new gas stove or range,
- consider buying one with pilotless ignition because it does not have
- pilot light that burns continuously. Never use a gas stove to heat
- home. Always make certain the flue in your gas fireplace is open
- the fireplace is in use.
- Keep wood stove emissions to a minimum. Choose properly sized new
- that are certified as meeting EPA emission standards.
- Make certain that doors in old wood stoves are tight fitting. Use
- or cured (dried) wood only and follow the manufacturer s directions
- starting, stoking, and putting out the fire in wood stoves. Chemicals
- are used to pressure treat wood; such wood should never be burned
- indoors. (Because some old gaskets in wood stove doors contain asbestos,
- when replacing gaskets refer to the instructions in the CPSC, ALA,
- EPA booklet, Asbestos in Your Home, to avoid creating an asbestos
- problem. New gaskets are made of fiberglass.)
- Have central air handling systems, including furnaces, flues, and
- chimneys, inspected annually and promptly repair cracks or damaged
- Blocked, leaking, or damaged chimneys or flues release harmful
- combustion gases and particles and even fatal concentrations of carbon
- monoxide. Strictly follow all service and maintenance procedures
- recommended by the manufacturer, including those that tell you how
- frequently to change the filter. If manufacturer s instructions are
- readily available, change filters once every month or two during
- of use. Proper maintenance is important even for new furnaces because
- they can also corrode and leak combustion gases, including carbon
- monoxide. Read the booklet What You Should Know About Combustion
- Appliances and Indoor Air Pollution to learn more about combustion
- pollutants. The booklet is available by contacting CPSC, EPA s IAQ
- Clearinghouse, or your local ALA. (See Where to Go for Additional
- Information for contact information.)
- HOUSEHOLD PRODUCTS
- Organic chemicals are widely used as ingredients in household products.
- Paints, varnishes, and wax all contain organic solvents, as do many
- cleaning, disinfecting, cosmetic, decreasing, and hobby products.
- are made up of organic chemicals. All of these products can release
- organic compounds while you are using them, and, to some degree,
- they are stored.
- EPA s Total Exposure Assessment Methodology (TEAM) studies found
- of about a dozen common organic pollutants to be 2 to 5 times higher
- inside homes than outside, regardless of whether the homes were located
- in rural or highly industrial areas. Additional TEAM studies indicate
- that while people are using products containing organic chemicals,
- can expose themselves and others to very high pollutant levels, and
- elevated concentrations can persist in the air long after the activity
- is completed.
- Health Effects of Household Chemicals
- The ability of organic chemicals to cause health effects varies greatly
- from those that are highly toxic, to those with no known health effect.
- As with other pollutants, the extent and nature of the health effect
- will depend on many factors including level of exposure and length
- time exposed. Eye and respiratory tract irritation, headaches,
- dizziness, visual disorders, and memory impairment are among the
- immediate symptoms that some people have experienced soon after exposure
- to some organics. At present, not much is known about what health
- effects occur from the levels of organics usually found in homes.
- organic compounds are known to cause cancer in animals; some are
- suspected of causing, or are known to cause, cancer in humans.
Reducing Exposure to Household Chemicals
- Follow label instructions carefully.
- Potentially hazardous products often have warnings aimed at reducing
- exposure of the user. For example, if a label says to use the product
- a well ventilated area, go outdoors or in areas equipped with an
- fan to use it. Otherwise, open up windows to provide the maximum
- of outdoor air possible.
- Throw away partially full containers of old or unneeded chemicals
- Because gases can leak even from closed containers, this single step
- could help lower concentrations of organic chemicals in your home.
- sure that materials you decide to keep are stored not only in a well
- ventilated area but are also safely out of reach of children.) Do
- simply toss these unwanted products in the garbage can. Find out
- local government or any organization in your community sponsors special
- days for the collection of toxic household wastes. If such days are
- available, use them to dispose of the unwanted containers safely.
- such collection days are available, think about organizing one.
- Buy limited quantities.
- If you use products only occasionally or seasonally, such as paints,
- paint strippers, and kerosene for space heaters or gasoline for lawn
- mowers, buy only as much as you will use right away.
- Keep exposure to emissions from products containing methylene chloride
- to a minimum.
- Consumer products that contain methylene chloride include paint
- strippers, adhesive removers, and aerosol spray paints. Methylene
- chloride is known to cause cancer in animals. Also, methylene chloride
- is converted to carbon monoxide in the body and can cause symptoms
- associated with exposure to carbon monoxide. Carefully read the labels
- containing health hazard information and cautions on the proper use
- these products. Use products that contain methylene chloride outdoors
- when possible; use indoors only if the area is well ventilated.
- Keep exposure to benzene to a minimum.
- Benzene is a known human carcinogen. The main indoor sources of this
- chemical are environmental tobacco smoke, stored fuels and paint
- supplies, and automobile emissions in attached garages. Actions that
- will reduce benzene exposure include eliminating smoking within the
- home, providing for maximum ventilation during painting, and discarding
- paint supplies and special fuels that will not be used immediately.
- Keep exposure to perchloroethylene emissions from newly dry cleaned
- materials to a minimum.
- Perchloroethylene is the chemical most widely used in dry cleaning.
- laboratory studies, it has been shown to cause cancer in animals.
- studies indicate that people breathe low levels of this chemical
- homes where dry cleaned goods are stored and as they wear dry cleaned
- clothing. Dry cleaners recapture the perchloroethylene during the
- cleaning process so they can save money by re using it, and they
- remove more of the chemical during the pressing and finishing processes.
- Some dry cleaners, however, do not remove as much perchloroethylene
- possible all of the time. Taking steps to minimize your exposure
- chemical is prudent. If dry cleaned goods have a strong chemical
- when you pick them up, do not accept them until they have been properly
- dried. If goods with a chemical odor are returned to you on subsequent
- visits, try a different dry cleaner.
- Formaldehyde is an important chemical used widely by industry to
- manufacture building materials and numerous household products. It
- also a byproduct of combustion and certain other natural processes.
- Thus, it may be present in substantial concentrations both indoors
- Sources of formaldehyde in the home include building materials, smoking,
- household products, and the use of unvented, fuel burning appliances,
- like gas stoves or kerosene space heaters. Formaldehyde, by itself
- combination with other chemicals, serves a number of purposes in
- manufactured products. For example, it is used to add permanent press
- qualities to clothing and draperies, as a component of glues and
- adhesives, and as a preservative in some paints and coating products.
- In homes, the most significant sources of formaldehyde are likely
- pressed wood products made using adhesives that contain ureaformaldehyde
- resins. Pressed wood products made for indoor use include: particle
- board (used as sub flooring and shelving and in cabinetry and
- furniture); hardwood plywood paneling (used for decorative wall covering
- and used in cabinets and furniture); and medium density fiberboard
- for drawer fronts, cabinets, and furniture tops). Medium density
- fiberboard contains a higher resin to wood ratio than any other UF
- pressed wood product and is generally recognized as being the highest
- formaldehyde emitting pressed wood product.
- Other pressed wood products, such as softwood plywood and flake or
- oriented strand board, are produced for exterior construction use
- contain the dark, or red/black colored phenolformaldehyde (PF) resin.
- Although formaldehyde is present in both types of resins, pressed
- that contain PF resin generally emit formaldehyde at considerably
- rates than those containing UF resin.
- Since 1985, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
- permitted only the use of plywood and particle board that conform
- specified formaldehyde emission limits in the construction of
- prefabricated and mobile homes. In the past, some of these homes
- elevated levels of formaldehyde because of the large amount of high
- emitting pressed wood products used in their construction and because
- their relatively small interior space.
- The rate at which products like pressed wood or textiles release
- formaldehyde can change. Formaldehyde emissions will generally decrease
- as products age. When the products are new, high indoor temperatures
- humidity can cause increased release of formaldehyde from these
- During the 1970s, many homeowners had ureaformaldehyde foam insulation
- installed in the wall cavities of their homes as an energy conservation
- measure. However, many of these homes were found to have relatively
- indoor concentrations of formaldehyde soon after the UFFI installation.
- Few homes are now being insulated with this product. Studies show
- formaldehyde emissions from UFFI decline with time; therefore, homes
- which UFFI was installed many years ago are unlikely to have high
- of formaldehyde now.
- Health Effects of Formaldehyde
- Formaldehyde, a colorless, pungent smelling gas, can cause watery
- burning sensations in the eyes and throat, nausea, and difficulty
- breathing in some humans exposed at elevated levels (above 0.1 parts
- million). High concentrations may trigger attacks in people with
- There is evidence that some people can develop a sensitivity to
- formaldehyde. It has also been shown to cause cancer in animals and
- cause cancer in humans.
- Reducing Exposure to Formaldehyde in Homes
- Ask about the formaldehyde content of pressed wood products, including
- building materials, cabinetry, and furniture before you purchase
- If you experience adverse reactions to formaldehyde, you may want
- avoid the use of pressed wood products and other formaldehyde emitting
- goods. Even if you do not experience such reactions, you may wish
- reduce your exposure as much as possible by purchasing exterior grade
- products, which emit less formaldehyde. For further information on
- formaldehyde and consumer products, call the EPA Toxic Substance
- Act (TSCA) assistance line (2025541404).
- Some studies suggest that coating pressed wood products with
- polyurethane may reduce formaldehyde emissions for some period of
- To be effective, any such coating must cover all surfaces and edges
- remain intact. Increase the ventilation and carefully follow the
- manufacturer s instructions while applying these coatings. (If you
- sensitive to formaldehyde, check the label contents before purchasing
- coating products to avoid buying products that contain formaldehyde,
- they will emit the chemical for a short time after application.)
- Maintain moderate temperature and humidity levels and provide adequate
- The rate at which formaldehyde is released is accelerated by heat
- may also depend somewhat on the humidity level. Therefore, the use
- dehumidifiers and air conditioning to control humidity and to maintain
- moderate temperature can help reduce formaldehyde emissions. (Drain
- clean dehumidifier collection trays frequently so that they do not
- become a breeding ground for microorganisms.) Increasing the rate
- ventilation in your home will also help in reducing formaldehyde
- According to a recent survey, 75 percent of U.S. households used
- least one pesticide product indoors during the past year. Products
- most often are insecticides and disinfectants. Another study suggests
- that 80 90 percent of most people s exposure to pesticides occurs
- indoors and that measurable levels of up to a dozen pesticides have
- found in the air inside homes. The amount of pesticides found in
- appears to be greater than can be explained by recent pesticide use
- those households; other possible sources include contaminated soil
- dust that floats or is tracked in from outside, stored pesticide
- containers, and household surfaces that collect and then release
- pesticides. Pesticides used in and around the home include products
- control insects (insecticides), termites (termiticides), rodents
- (rodenticides), fungi (fungicides), and microbes (disinfectants).
- are sold as sprays, liquids, sticks, powders, crystals, balls, and
- In 1990, the American Association of Poison Control Centers reported
- that some 79,000 children were involved in common household pesticide
- poisonings or exposures. In households with children under five years
- old, almost one half stored at least one pesticide product within
- of children.
- EPA registers pesticides for use and requires manufacturers to put
- information on the label about when and how to use the pesticide.
to remember that the "cide" in pesticides means to kill.
- These products can be dangerous if not used properly.
- In addition to the active ingredient, pesticides are also made up
- ingredients that are used to carry the active agent. These carrier
are called "inerts" in
pesticides because they are not toxic to
- the targeted pest; nevertheless, some inerts are capable of causing
- health problems.
- Health Effects From Pesticides
- Both the active and inert ingredients in pesticides can be organic
- compounds; therefore, both could add to the levels of airborne organics
- inside homes. Both types of ingredients can case the effects discussed
- in this booklet under Household Products. However, as with other
- household products, there is insufficient understanding at present
- what pesticide concentrations are necessary to produce these effects.
- Exposure to high levels of cyclodiene pesticides, commonly associated
- with misapplication, has produced various symptoms, including headaches,
- dizziness, muscle twitching, weakness, tingling sensations, and nausea.
- In addition, EPA is concerned that cyclodienes might cause long term
- damage to the liver and the central nervous system, as well as an
- increased risk of cancer.
- There is no further sale or commercial use permitted for the following
- cyclodiene or related pesticides: chlordane, aldrin, dieldrin, and
- heptachlor. The only exception is the use of heptachlor by utility
- companies to control fire ants in underground cable boxes.
- Reducing Exposure to Pesticides in Homes
- Read the label and follow the directions. It is illegal to use any
- pesticide in any manner inconsistent with the directions on its label.
- Unless you have had special training and are certified, never use
- pesticide that is restricted to use by state certified pest control
- operators. Such pesticides are simply too dangerous for application
- non certified person. Use only the pesticides approved for use by
- general public and then only in recommended amounts; increasing the
- amount does not offer more protection against pests and can be harmful
- to you and your plants and pets.
- Ventilate the area well after pesticide use.
- Mix or dilute pesticides outdoors or in a well ventilated area and
- in the amounts that will be immediately needed. If possible, take
- and pets outside when applying pesticides to them.
- Use nonchemical methods of pest control when possible.
- Since pesticides can be found far from the site of their original
- application, it is prudent to reduce the use of chemical pesticides
- outdoors as well as indoors. Depending on the site and pest to be
- controlled, one or more of the following steps can be effective:
- biological pesticides, such as Bacillus thuringiensis, for the control
- of gypsy moths; selection of disease resistant plants; and frequent
- washing of indoor plants and pets. Termite damage can be reduced
- prevented by making certain that wooden building materials do not
- into direct contact with the soil and by storing firewood away from
- home. By appropriately fertilizing, watering, and aerating lawns,
- need for chemical pesticide treatments of lawns can be dramatically
- If you decide to use a pest control company, choose one carefully.
- Ask for an inspection of your home and get a written control program
- evaluation before you sign a contract. The control program should
- specific names of pests to be controlled and chemicals to be used;
- should also reflect any of your safety concerns. Insist on a proven
- record of competence and customer satisfaction.
- Dispose of unwanted pesticides safely.
- If you have unused or partially used pesticide containers you want
- get rid of, dispose of them according to the directions on the label
- on special household hazardous waste collection days. If there are
- such collection days in your community, work with others to organize
- Keep exposure to moth repellents to a minimum.
- One pesticide often found in the home is paradichlorobenzene, a commonly
- used active ingredient in moth repellents. This chemical is known
- cause cancer in animals, but substantial scientific uncertainty exists
- over the effects, if any, of long term human exposure to
- paradichlorobenzene. EPA requires that products containing
- paradichlorobenzene bear warnings such as avoid breathing vapors
- warn users of potential short term toxic effects. Where possible,
- paradichlorobenzene, and items to be protected against moths, should
- placed in trunks or other containers that can be stored in areas
- are separately ventilated from the home, such as attics and detached
- garages. Paradichlorobenzene is also the key active ingredient in
- air fresheners (in fact, some labels for moth repellents recommend
- these same products be used as air fresheners or deodorants). Proper
- ventilation and basic household cleanliness will go a long way toward
- preventing unpleasant odors.
- Call the National Pesticide Telecommunications Network (NPTN).
- EPA sponsors the NPTN (800-858-PEST) to answer your questions about
- pesticides and to provide selected EPA publications on pesticides.
- Asbestos is a mineral fiber that has been used commonly in a variety
- building construction materials for insulation and as a fire retardant.
- EPA and CPSC have banned several asbestos products. Manufacturers
- also voluntarily limited uses of asbestos. Today, asbestos is most
- commonly found in older homes, in pipe and furnace insulation materials,
- asbestos shingles, mill board, textured paints and other coating
- materials, and floor tiles.
- Elevated concentrations of airborne asbestos can occur after asbestos
- containing materials are disturbed by cutting, sanding or other
- remodeling activities. Improper attempts to remove these materials
- release asbestos fibers into the air in homes, increasing asbestos
- levels and endangering people living in those homes.
- Health Effects of Asbestos
- The most dangerous asbestos fibers are too small to be visible. After
- they are inhaled, they can remain and accumulate in the lungs. Asbestos
- can cause lung cancer, mesothelioma (a cancer of the chest and abdominal
- linings), and asbestosis (irreversible lung scarring that can be
- Symptoms of these diseases do not show up until many years after
- exposure began. Most people with asbestos related diseases were exposed
- to elevated concentrations on the job; some developed disease from
- exposure to clothing and equipment brought home from job sites.
- Reducing Exposure to Asbestos in Homes
- Learn how asbestos problems are created in homes. Read the booklet,
- Asbestos in Your Home, issued by CPSC, the ALA, and EPA.
- To contact these organizations, see the section, Where to Go For
- If you think your home may have asbestos, don t panic!
- Usually it is best to leave asbestos material that is in good condition
- alone. Generally, material in good condition will not release asbestos
- fiber. There is no danger unless fibers are released and inhaled
- the lungs.
- Do not cut, rip, or sand asbestos containing materials.
- Leave undamaged materials alone and, to the extent possible, prevent
- them from being damaged, disturbed, or touched. Periodically inspect
- damage or deterioration. Discard damaged or worn asbestos gloves,
- stove top pads, or ironing board covers. Check with local health,
- environmental, or other appropriate officials to find out about proper
- handling and disposal procedures.
- If asbestos material is more than slightly damaged, or if you are
- to make changes in your home that might disturb it, repair or removal
- a professional is needed. Before you have your house remodeled, find
- out whether asbestos materials are present.
- When you need to remove or clean up asbestos, use a professionally
- trained contractor.
- Select a contractor only after careful discussion of the problems
- your home and the steps the contractor will take to clean up or remove
- them. Consider the option of sealing off the materials instead of
- removing them.
- Call EPA s TSCA assistance line (2025541404) to find out whether
- state has a training and certification program for asbestos removal
- contractors and for information on EPA s asbestos programs.
- Lead has long been recognized as a harmful environmental pollutant.
- late 1991, the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services
- called lead the number one environmental threat to the health of
- children in the United States. There are many ways in which humans
- exposed to lead: through air, drinking water, food, contaminated
- deteriorating paint, and dust. Airborne lead enters the body when
- individual breathes or swallows lead particles or dust once it has
- settled. Before it was known how harmful lead could be, it was used
- paint, gasoline, water pipes, and many other products.
- Old lead based paint is the most significant source of lead exposure
- the U.S. today. Harmful exposures to lead can be created when lead
- paint is improperly removed from surfaces by dry scraping, sanding,
- open flame burning. High concentrations of airborne lead particles
- homes can also result from lead dust from outdoor sources, including
- contaminated soil tracked inside, and use of lead in certain indoor
- activities such as soldering and stained glass making.
- Health Effects of Exposure to Lead
- Lead affects practically all systems within the body. At high levels
- can cause convulsions, coma, and even death. Lower levels of lead
- adversely affect the brain, central nervous system, blood cells,
- The effects of lead exposure on fetuses and young children can be
- severe. They include delays in physical and mental development, lower
- levels, shortened attention spans, and increased behavioral problems.
- Fetuses, infants, and children are more vulnerable to lead exposure
- adults since lead is more easily absorbed into growing bodies, and
- tissues of small children are more sensitive to the damaging effects
- lead. Children may have higher exposures since they are more likely
- get lead dust on their hands and then put their fingers or other
- contaminated objects into their mouths.
- Get your child tested for lead exposure. To find out where to do
- call your doctor or local health clinic. For more information on
- effects, get a copy of the Centers for Disease Control s, Preventing
- Lead Poisoning in Young Children (October 1991).
- Ways to Reduce Exposure to Lead
- Keep areas where children play as dust free and clean as possible.
- Mop floors and wipe window ledges and chewable surfaces such as cribs
- with a solution of powdered automatic dishwasher detergent in warm
- water. (Dishwasher detergents are recommended because of their high
- content of phosphate.) Most multipurpose cleaners will not remove
- in ordinary dust. Wash toys and stuffed animals regularly. Make sure
- that children wash their hands before meals, nap time, and bedtime.
- Reduce the risk from lead based paint.
- Most homes built before 1960 contain heavily leaded paint. Some homes
- built as recently as 1978 may also contain lead paint. This paint
- be on window frames, walls, the outside of homes, or other surfaces.
- not burn painted wood since it may contain lead.
- Leave lead based paint undisturbed if it is in good condition do
- sand or burn off paint that may contain lead.
- Lead paint in good condition is usually not a problem except in places
- where painted surfaces rub against each other and create dust (for
- example, opening a window).
- Do not remove lead paint yourself.
- Individuals have been poisoned by scraping or sanding lead paint
- because these activities generate large amounts of lead dust. Consult
- your state health or housing department for suggestions on which
- laboratories or public agencies may be able to help test your home
- lead in paint. Home test kits cannot detect small amounts of lead
- some conditions. Hire a person with special training for correcting
- lead paint problems to remove lead based paint. Occupants, especially
- children and pregnant women, should leave the building until all
- finished and cleanup is done.
- For additional information dealing with lead based paint abatement
- contact the Department of Housing and Urban Development for the
- following two documents: Comprehensive and Workable Plan for the
- Abatement of Lead Based Paint in Privately Owned Housing: Report
- Congress (December 7, 1990) and Lead Based Paint: Interim Guidelines
- Hazard Identification and Abatement in Public and Indian Housing
- (September 1990).
- Do not bring lead dust into the home.
- If you work in construction, demolition, painting, with batteries,
- radiator repair shop or lead factory, or your hobby involves lead,
- may unknowingly bring lead into your home on your hands or clothes.
- may also be tracking in lead from soil around your home. Soil very
- close to homes may be contaminated from lead paint on the outside
- building. Soil by roads and highways may be contaminated from years
- exhaust fumes from cars and trucks that used leaded gas. Use door
- to wipe your feet before entering the home. If you work with lead
- your job or a hobby, change your clothes before you go home and wash
- these clothes separately. Encourage your children to play in sand
- grassy areas instead of dirt which sticks to fingers and toys. Try
- keep your children from eating dirt, and make sure they wash their
- when they come inside.
- Find out about lead in drinking water.
- Most well and city water does not usually contain lead. Water usually
- picks up lead inside the home from household plumbing that is made
- lead materials. The only way to know if there is lead in drinking
- is to have it tested. Contact the local health department or the
- supplier to find out how to get the water tested. Send for the EPA
- pamphlet, Lead and Your Drinking Water, for more information about
- you can do if you have lead in your drinking water. Call EPA s Safe
- Drinking Water Hotline (8004264791) for more information.
- Eat right.
- A child who gets enough iron and calcium will absorb less lead. Foods
- rich in iron include eggs, red meats, and beans. Dairy products are
- high in calcium. Do not store food or liquid in lead crystal glassware
- or imported or old pottery. If you reuse old plastic bags to store
- carry food, keep the printing on the outside of the bag.
- You can get a brochure, Lead Poisoning and Your Children, and more
- information by calling the National Lead Information Center,
- Building a new home provides the opportunity for preventing indoor
- problems. However, it can result in exposure to higher levels of
- air contaminants if careful attention is not given to potential
- pollution sources and the air exchange rate.
- Express your concerns about indoor air quality to your architect
- builder and enlist his or her cooperation in taking measures to provide
- good indoor air quality. Talk both about purchasing building materials
- and furnishings that are low emitting and about providing an adequate
- amount of ventilation.
- The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning
- Engineers recommends a ventilation rate of 0.35 ach (air changes
- hour) for new homes, and some new homes are built to even tighter
- specifications. Particular care should be given in such homes to
- preventing the buildup of indoor air pollutants to high levels.
- Here are a few important actions that can make a difference:
- Use radon resistant construction techniques.
- Obtain a copy of the EPA booklet, Radon Resistant Construction
- Techniques for Residential Construction, from your state radon office
- health agency, your state homebuilders association, or your EPA
- regional office.
- Choose building materials and furnishings that will keep indoor air
- pollution to a minimum.
- There are many actions a homeowner can take to select products that
- prevent indoor air problems from occurring a couple of them are
- mentioned here. First, use exterior grade pressed wood products made
- with phenolformaldehyde resin in floors, cabinetry, and wall surfaces.
- Or, as an alternative, consider using solid wood products. Secondly,
- you plan to install wall to wall carpet on concrete in contact with
- ground, especially concrete in basements, make sure that an effective
- moisture barrier is installed prior to installing the carpet. Do
- permanently adhere carpet to concrete with adhesives so that the
- can be removed if it becomes wet.
- Provide proper drainage and seal foundations in new construction.
- Air that enters the home through the foundation can contain more
- moisture than is generated from all occupant activities.
- Become familiar with mechanical ventilation systems and consider
- installing one.
- Advanced designs of new homes are starting to feature mechanical
- that bring outdoor air into the home. Some of these designs include
- energy efficient heat recovery ventilators (also known as air to
- heat exchangers).
- Ensure that combustion appliances, including furnaces, fireplaces,
- stoves, and heaters, are properly vented and receive enough supply
- Combustion gases, including carbon monoxide, and particles can be
- drafted from the chimney or flue into the living space if the combustion
- appliance is not properly vented or does not receive enough supply
- Back drafting can be a particular problem in weatherized or tightly
- constructed homes. Installing a dedicated outdoor air supply for
- combustion appliance can help prevent back drafting.
- Indoor air quality problems are not limited to homes. In fact, many
- office buildings have significant air pollution sources. Some of
- buildings may be inadequately ventilated. For example, mechanical
- ventilation systems may not be designed or operated to provide adequate
- amounts of outdoor air. Finally, people generally have less control
- the indoor environment in their offices than they do in their homes.
- a result, there has been an increase in the incidence of reported
- A number of well identified illnesses, such as Legionnaire s disease,
- asthma, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, and humidifier fever, have
- directly traced to specific building problems. These are called building
- related illnesses. Most of these diseases can be treated nevertheless,
- some pose serious risks.
- Sometimes, however, building occupants experience symptoms that do
- fit the pattern of any particular illness and are difficult to trace
- any specific source. This phenomenon has been labeled sick building
- syndrome. People may complain of one or more of the following symptoms:
- dry or burning mucous membranes in the nose, eyes, and throat; sneezing;
- stuffy or runny nose; fatigue or lethargy; headache; dizziness; nausea;
- irritability an forgetfulness. Poor lighting, noise, vibration, thermal
- discomfort, and psychological stress may also cause, or contribute
- these symptoms.
- There is no single manner in which these health problems appear.
- cases, problems begin as workers enter their offices and diminish
- workers leave; other times, symptoms continue until the illness is
- treated. Sometimes there are outbreaks of illness among many workers
- a single building; in other cases, health symptoms show up only in
- individual workers.
- In the opinion of some World Health Organization experts, up to 30
- percent of new or remodeled commercial buildings may have unusually
- rates of health and comfort complaints from occupants that may
- potentially be related to indoor air quality.
WHAT CAUSES PROBLEMS?
- Three major reasons for poor indoor air quality in office buildings
- the presence of indoor air pollution sources; poorly designed,
- maintained, or operated ventilation systems; and uses of the building
- that were unanticipated or poorly planned for when the building was
- designed or renovated.
- Sources of Office Air Pollution
- As with homes, the most important factor influencing indoor air quality
- is the presence of pollutant sources. Commonly found office pollutants
- and their sources include environmental tobacco smoke; asbestos from
- insulating and fire retardant building supplies; formaldehyde from
- pressed wood products; other organics from building materials, carpet,
- and other office furnishings, cleaning materials and activities,
- room air fresheners, paints, adhesives, copying machines, and
- photography and print shops; biological contaminants from dirty
- ventilation systems or water damaged walls, ceilings, and carpets;
- pesticides from pest management practices.
- Ventilation Systems
- Mechanical ventilation systems in large buildings are designed and
- operated not only to heat and cool the air, but also to draw in and
- circulate outdoor air. If they are poorly designed, operated, or
- maintained, however, ventilation systems can contribute to indoor
- problems in several ways.
- For example, problems arise when, in an effort to save energy,
- ventilation systems are not used to bring in adequate amounts of
- air. Inadequate ventilation also occurs if the air supply and return
- vents within each room are blocked or placed in such a way that outdoor
- air does not actually reach the breathing zone of building occupants.
- Improperly located outdoor air intake vents can also bring in air
- contaminated with automobile and truck exhaust, boiler emissions,
- from dumpsters, or air vented from rest rooms. Finally, ventilation
- systems can be a source of indoor pollution themselves by spreading
- biological contaminants that have multiplied in cooling towers,
- humidifiers, dehumidifiers, air conditioners, or the inside surfaces
- ventilation duct work.
- Use of the Building
- Indoor air pollutants can be circulated from portions of the building
- used for specialized purposes, such as restaurants, print shops,
- cleaning stores, into offices in the same building. Carbon monoxide
- other components of automobile exhaust can be drawn from underground
- parking garages through stairwells and elevator shafts into office
- In addition, buildings originally designed for one purpose may end
- being converted to use as office space. If not properly modified
- building renovations, the room partitions and ventilation system
- contribute to indoor air quality problems by restricting air
- recirculation or by providing an inadequate supply of outdoor air.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU SUSPECT A PROBLEM
- If you or others at your office are experiencing health or comfort
- problems that you suspect may be caused by indoor air pollution,
- do the following:
- Talk with other workers, your supervisor, and union representatives
- see if the problems are being experienced by others and urge that
- record of reported health complaints be kept by management, if one
- not already been established.
- Talk with your own physician and report your problems to the company
- physician, nurse, or health and safety officer.
- Call your state or local health department or air pollution control
- agency to talk over the symptoms and possible causes.
- Encourage building management to obtain a copy of Building Air Quality:
- A Guide for Building Owners and Facility Managers. Building Air Quality
- (BAQ) is simply written, yet provides comprehensive information for
- identifying, correcting, and preventing indoor air quality problems.
- also provides supporting information such as when and how to select
- outside technical assistance, how to communicate with others regarding
- indoor air issues, and where to find additional sources of information.
- BAQ is available for $24 from U.S. GPO, Superintendent of Documents,
- P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 152507954; stock #055000003904.
- Frequently, indoor air quality problems in large commercial buildings
- cannot be effectively identified or remedied without a comprehensive
- building investigation. These investigations may start with written
- questionnaires and telephone consultations in which building
- investigators assess the history of occupant symptoms and building
- operation procedures. In some cases, these inquiries may quickly
- the problem and on site visits are unnecessary.
- More often, however, investigators will need to come to the building
- conduct personal interviews with occupants, to look for possible
- of the problems, and to inspect the design and operation of the
- ventilation system and other building features. Because taking
- measurements of pollutants at the very low levels often found in
- buildings is expensive and may not yield information readily useful
- identifying problem sources, investigators may not take many
- measurements. The process of solving indoor air quality problems
- result in health and comfort complaints can be a slow one, involving
- several trial solutions before successful remedial actions are
- If a professional company is hired to conduct a building
- investigation, select a company on the basis of its experience in
- identifying and solving indoor air quality problems in nonindustrial
- Work with others to establish a smoking policy that eliminates
- involuntary nonsmoker exposure to environmental tobacco smoke.
- Call the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
- for information on obtaining a health hazard evaluation of your office
- (800-35-N-EACH), or contact the Occupational Safety and Health
- Administration, (202) 2198151.
- Federal Information Services
- Federal agencies with indoor air quality information may be contacted
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
- Public Information Center
- 401 M St., SW
- Washington, DC 20460
- (202) 260-7751
- Indoor Air Quality Information Clearinghouse (IAQ INFO)
- P.O. Box 37133
- Washington, DC 200137133
- (800) 438-4318
- (301) 585-9020
- Operates Monday to Friday from 9 to 5 Eastern Standard Time (EST).
- Distributes EPA publications, answers questions on the phone, and
- referrals to other nonprofit and governmental organizations.
- National Radon Hotline
- (800) SOS-RADON
- Information recording operates 24 hours a day.
- National Lead Information Center
- (800) LEAD-FYI
- Operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Callers may order an
- information package. To speak to an information specialist, call
- (800)4245323. Operates Monday to Friday from 8:30 to 5 EST.
- National Pesticides Telecommunications Network
- National toll free number: (800) 858-PEST
- In Texas: (806) 7433091
- Operates Monday to Friday from 8 to 6 Central Standard Time. Provides
- information about pesticides to the general public and the medical,
- veterinary, and professional communities.
- RCRA/Super fund Hotline
- National toll free number: (800) 4249346
- In Washington, DC area: (703) 4129810
- Operates Monday to Friday from 8:30 to 7:30 EST. Provides information
- regulations under both the Resources Conservation and Recovery Act
- (including solid and hazardous waste issues) and the Superfund law.
- Safe Drinking Water Hotline
- (800) 4264791
- Operates Monday to Friday from 8:30 to 5 EST. Provides information
- regulations under the Safe Drinking Water Act, lead and radon in
- drinking water, filter information, and a list of state drinking
- TSCA Assistance Information Service
- (202) 5541404
- Operates Monday to Friday from 8:30 to 5 EST. Provides information
- regulations under the Toxic Substances Control Act and on EPA's asbestos
- U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)
- Washington, DC 202070001
- Product Safety Hotline: (800) 638-CPSC
- Teletypewriter for the hearing impaired (outside Maryland): (800)
- 638-8270; Maryland only: (800) 492-8104. Recorded information is
- available 24 hours a day when calling from a touch tone phone. Operators
- are on duty Monday to Friday from 10:30 to 4 EST to take complaints
- about unsafe consumer products.
- U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
- Office of Energy and the Environment
- Washington, DC 20410
- HUD USER National toll free number: (800) 245-2691
- In Washington, DC area: (301) 251-5154.
- U.S. Department of Energy
- Office of Conservation and Renewable Energy
- 1000 Independence Ave., SW
- Washington, DC 20585
- Conservation and Renewable Energy Inquiry and Referral Service
- PO Box 3048, Merrifield, VA 22116; (800) 523-2929.
- Operates Monday to Friday from 9 to 5 EST. Provides consumer information
- on conservation and renewable energy in residences.
- U.S. Public Health Service
- Division of Federal Occupational Health
- Office of Environmental Hygiene, Region III, Room 1310
- 3535 Market St., Philadelphia, PA 19104
- (215) 596-1888; fax: 215-596-5024
- Provides indoor air quality consultative services to federal agency
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Lead Poisoning Prevention Branch
- 4770 Buford Highway, NE (F42), Atlanta, GA 30341-3724
- (800) 488-7330
- Office on Smoking and Health
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
- 4770 Buford Highway, NE (K50), Atlanta, GA 30341-3724
- (404) 488-5701
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration
- Office of Information and Consumer Affairs
- Room N-3647
- 200 Constitution Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20210
- (202) 219-8151
- Bonneville Power Administration
- Portland, OR 97208
- General Services Administration
- 18th and F Streets, NW, Washington, DC 20405
- Tennesee Valley Authority
- Industrial Hygiene Branch
- Multipurpose Building (1B), Muscle Shoals, AL 35660
- State and Local Organizations
- Your questions or concerns about indoor air problems can frequently
- answered by the government agencies in your state or local government.
- Responsibilities or indoor air quality issues are usually divided
- many different agencies. Calling or writing the agencies responsible
- health or air quality control is the best way to start getting
- information from your state or local government. To obtain state
- contacts, write or call EPA s IAQ Information Clearinghouse, (800)
- CPSC REGIONAL OFFICES
- Eastern Regional Center
- 6 World Trade Center
- Vesey Street, 3rd Floor Room 350
- New York, NY 10048-0950
- (212) 466-1612
- Central Regional Center
- 230 South Dearborn Street Room 2944
- Chicago, IL 60604-1601
- (312) 353-8260
- Western Regional Center
- 600 Harrison Street Room 245
- San Francisco, CA 94107
- (415) 744-2966
- States in Region
- Connecticut, District of Columbia, Delaware, Florida,
- Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, North Carolina, New Hampshire,
- New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Rhode Island, Virginia,
- Vermont, West Virginia
- Alabama, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky,
- Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, North Dakota,
- Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee, Wisconsin
- Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho,
- Louisiana, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas,
- Utah, Washington, Wyoming
- EPA REGIONAL OFFICES
- Address inquiries to the Indoor Air Coordinators in the EPA
- regional offices at the following addresses:
- Region 1
- John F. Kennedy Federal Building
- Boston, MA 02203
- Region 2
- EPA (2AWM-RAD)
- 26 Federal Plaza
- New York, NY 10278
- Region 3
- 841 Chestnut Building
- Philadelphia, PA 19107
- 215-597-4084 (radon)
- Region 4
- 345 Courtland Street NE
- Atlanta, GA 30365
- Region 5
- EPA AT-18L
- 77 W. Jackson Blvd.
- Chicago, IL 60604
- Region 6
- First Interstate Bank Tower
- 1445 Ross Avenue
- Dallas, TX 75202
- Region 7
- EPA ARTX / ARBR-RAID
- 726 Minnesota Avenue
- Kansas City, KS 66101
- Region 8
- EPA 999 18th Street, Suite 500
- Denver, CO 80202-2466
- The following organizations have information discussed in this booklet.
- EPA s IAQ Information Clearinghouse, (800)438-4318, can provide the
- names of a variety of organizations that have information on all
- issues discussed in this publication.
- American Association of Poison Control Centers
- 3800 Reservoir Rd., NW
- Washington, DC 20007
- American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning
- 1791 Tullie Circle NE
- Atlanta, GA 30329
- World Health Organization
- Publications Center
- 49 Sheridan Avenue
- Albany, NY 12210
- Your local American Lung Association (ALA)
- 1740 Broadway
- New York, NY 10019
- (800) LUNG-USA
- Acid aerosol
- Acidic liquid or solid particles that are small enough to become
- airborne. High concentrations of acid aerosols can be irritating
- lungs and have been associated with some respiratory diseases, such
- Animal dander
- Tiny scales of animal skin.
- A substance capable of causing an allergic reaction because of an
- individual s sensitivity to that substance.
- Allergic rhinitis
- Inflammation of the mucous membranes in the nose that is caused by
- allergic reaction.
- Building-related illness
- A discrete, identifiable disease or illness that can be traced to
- specific pollutant or source within a building. (Contrast with Sick
- building syndrome ).
- Chemical sensitization
- Evidence suggests that some people may develop health problems
- characterized by effects such as dizziness, eye and throat irritation,
- chest tightness, and nasal congestion that appear whenever they are
- exposed to certain chemicals. People may react to even trace amounts
- chemicals to which they have become sensitized.
- Environmental tobacco smoke
- Mixture of smoke from the burning end of a cigarette, pipe, or cigar
- smoke exhaled by the smoker (also secondhand smoke or passive smoking).
- Any of a group of parasitic lower plants that lack chlorophyll,
- including molds and mildews.
- Humidifier fever
- A respiratory illness caused by exposure to toxins from microorganisms
- found in wet or moist areas in humidifiers and air conditioners.
- called air conditioner or ventilation fever.
- Hypersensitivity pneumonitis
- A group of respiratory diseases that cause inflammation of the lung
- (specifically granulomatous cells). Most forms of hypersensitivity
- pneumon-itis are caused by the inhalation of organic dusts, including
- Organic compounds
- Chemicals that contain carbon. Volatile organic compounds vaporize
- room temperature and pressure. They are found in many indoor sources,
- including many common household products and building materials.
- A unit for measuring radioactivity, often expressed as picocuries
- liter of air.
- Pressed wood products
- A group of materials used in building and furniture construction
- are made from wood veneers, particles, or fibers bonded together
- adhesive under heat and pressure.
- Radon and radon decay products
- Radon is a radioactive gas formed in the decay of uranium. The radon
- decay products (also called radon daughters or progeny) can be breathed
- into the lung where they continue to release radiation as they further
- Sick building syndrome
- Term that refers to a set of symptoms that affect some number of
- building occupants during the time they spend in the building and
- diminish or go away during periods when they leave the building.
- be traced to specific pollutants or sources within the building.
- (Contrast with Building related illness ).
- Ventilation rate
- The rate at which indoor air enters and leaves a building. Expressed
- one of two ways: the number of changes of outdoor air per unit of
- (air changes per hour, or ach ) or the rate at which a volume of
- outdoor air enters per unit of time (cubic feet per minute, or cfm