The Real Dangers
of Indoor Air Pollution
Summary of The Problem
"Indoor Air Pollution is American's most
serious environmental health problem
United States Environmental Protection Agency
"Indoor Air is up to 100 times worse than Outdoor."
"50% of all illness is caused by indoor air pollution".
American College of Allergists
Indoor Air Pollution is wide spread. You are more likely to get sick from pollution in your
home and office than from pollution in the air
"Americans spend approximately 90% of their time indoors. Now the leading chronic illness among children, asthma affects one in ten children".
The American Lung Association
"It’s hard to come up with another problem that affects more people than indoor air pollution". Brian Leaderer, Professor of Environmental Health Sciences, Yale School of Medicine
"Lost productivity associated with indoor air pollution costs businesses an estimated $60 billion per year". Saturday Reader
"Indoor air pollution is one of our biggest environmental health threats - bigger than toxic waste sites, the destruction of the ozone layer and a slew of other problems". Environmental Protection Agency
"Indoor air purification is among the top ten hottest growth industries for the twenty-first century". Wall Street Journal
Your home, for instance, has house dust. "Harmless enough," you say. "Let's just vacuum it out. Just because you can't see it or smell it does not mean it is not dangerous to your health!" - The Silent Killers, Pete Billac
Indoor Air Quality Health Effects
MAJOR INDOOR POLLUTANTS
* 500 deaths per year, US residential
* 3,000,000 mild elevated levels
* 250,000 serious elevated levels
* Account for 1/3 of 14 million doctor visits per year
* Allergens, toxic particles, VOC's
* strong irritant
* Allergens, toxic particles, VOC's
* Irritants, possible or known carcinogens
Toxic Air Pollutants - Unhealthy Indoor Air
The air that most people breathe in their homes and places of work is full of toxic air pollutants. This is a major concern since most people spend up to 90 % of their lives indoors. The air quality in a typically home has been tested to be as much as five times more polluted than outdoor air. It can even be worse in newly constructed homes. The use of all the latest non-green technologies and the way homes are constructed are the leading cause of indoor air toxicity.
In the past few years the latest trend is to have the home as air tight as possible, making them more energy efficient. This results is the lack of the home being able to breathe and the accumulation of toxic air pollutants. Homes need to breathe just like you do, except they need to breathe to exchange toxic air for clean air.
Due to this energy efficiency wave much more toxic air is now trapped inside the home and includes, cigarette smoke, fumes from gas ovens and stoves, wood burning fire places and stoves and other particles. Other toxic air causing items in the home are cleaning agents, aerosols, air fresheners, and disinfectants. These last ones are there because we are more efficient in keeping our homes clean and disinfected to control germs, plus we want our homes to smell better which may not be the best thing for our lungs. One of the things you can do to lessen the effects of toxic air is to place an air purifier in your home or apartment.
The types of toxic air pollutants that are contained in home cleaners include cellosolve, an irritant, neurotoxic substances that may cause liver and kidney disease; carcinogenic chemicals that cause cancer; crystalline silica which is an eye and lung irritant, along with being carcinogenic; and paradichlorobenzine which is toxic to kidneys and liver, along with being a cancer causing carcinogenic.
Other toxic air pollutants that are contained in the indoor air that you breathe include volatile organic compounds. These compounds are contained in many everyday products that are used in the construction materials in your home or you bring in your home everyday. These products include paint, paint thinners, paint strippers, cleaning supplies, pesticides, glues, adhesives, and permanent markers. Additional products that contain organic compounds include cosmetics, degreasing compounds, hobby products, disinfectants, and any fuels that you may use for heating foods.
Even though asbestos is not allowed to be used in building products today, many older homes still have asbestos in them. Because of the cost of removing asbestos, most of the time it is left in place. As long it is left undisturbed it is safe. So if you have asbestos in your home do not try to remove it or disturb it.
Humans themselves also emit a toxic air pollutant. We emit Carbon Dioxide (CO2), which is transmitted into the air every time you exhale. High levels CO2 are indicative of everyone in the home having frequent headaches and being drowsy frequently.
"The Inside Story: A Guide to Indoor Air Quality"
Indoor Air Quality Concerns
All of us face a variety of risks to our health as we go about our day-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 might 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 has 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 the longest periods of time are often those most susceptible to the effects of indoor air pollution. Such groups include the young, the elderly, and the chronically ill, especially those suffering from respiratory or cardiovascular disease.
While pollutant levels from individual sources may not pose a significant health risk by themselves, most homes have more than one source that contributes to indoor air 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.
Because so many Americans spend a lot of time in offices with mechanical heating, cooling, and ventilation systems, there is also a short section on the causes of poor air quality in offices and what you can do if you suspect that your office may have a problem. A glossary and a list of organizations where you can get additional information are available in this document.
Indoor Air Quality in Your Home
What Causes Indoor Air Problems?
Indoor pollution sources that release gases or particles into the air 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 of some pollutants.
There are many sources of indoor air pollution in any home. These include combustion sources such as oil, gas, kerosene, coal, wood, and tobacco products; building materials and furnishings as diverse as deteriorated, asbestos-containing insulation, wet or damp carpet, and 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 of a given pollutant it emits and how hazardous those emissions are. In some 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 the home, release pollutants intermittently. These include smoking, the use of unvented or malfunctioning stoves, furnaces, or space heaters, the 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 remain 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 to levels that can pose health and comfort problems. Unless they are built with special mechanical means of ventilation, homes that are designed and constructed to minimize the amount of outdoor air that can "leak" into 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 even 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, joints, and cracks in walls, floors, and ceilings, and around windows and doors. In natural ventilation, air moves through opened windows and doors. Air movement associated with infiltration and natural ventilation is caused by air temperature differences between indoors and outdoors and by wind. Finally, there are a number of mechanical ventilation devices, from outdoor-vented fans that intermittently remove air from a single room, such as bathrooms and kitchen, to air handling systems that use fans and duct work to continuously remove indoor air and distribute filtered and conditioned outdoor air to strategic points throughout the house. The rate at which outdoor air replaces indoor air is described as the air exchange rate. When there is little infiltration, natural ventilation, or mechanical ventilation, the air exchange rate is low and pollutant levels can increase.