United States Environmental Protection Agency and the
United States Consumer Product Safety Commission
Office of Radiation and Indoor Air (6604J)
EPA Document # 402-K-93-007, April 1995
Information provided in this booklet is based on
current scientific and technical understanding of the issues presented
and is reflective of the jurisdictional boundaries established by the
statutes governing the co-authoring agencies. Following the advice given
will not necessarily provide complete protection in all situations or
against all health hazards that may be caused by indoor air pollution.
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.
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 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. This booklet was prepared by the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety
Commission (CPSC) to help you decide whether to take actions that can
reduce the level of indoor air 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 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.
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
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
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
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
Apartments can have the same indoor air problems as single-family
homes because many of the pollution sources, such as the interior
building materials, furnishings, and household products, are similar.
Indoor air 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
sources of pollution, increasing ventilation, and installing air
cleaning devices. Often a resident can take the appropriate action to
improve the 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") You can encourage building management to follow guidance
in EPA and NIOSH's
Quality: A Guide for Building Owners and Facility Managers. To
obtain the loose leaf format version of the Building Air Quality,
complete with appendices, an index, and a full set of useful forms,
and the newly released,
Quality Action Plan, order GPO Stock # 055-000-00602-4, for $28,
contact the: Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing
Office (GPO), P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954, or call
(202) 512-1800, fax (202) 512-2250.
Indoor Air and Your Health
Health effects from indoor air pollutants may be experienced soon
after 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 up
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 a
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
can become sensitized to chemical pollutants as well.
Certain immediate effects are similar to those from colds or other
viral diseases, so it is often difficult to determine if the symptoms
are a result of exposure to indoor air pollution. For this reason, it
is important to pay attention to the time and place the symptoms
occur. If the symptoms fade or go away when a person is away from the
home and return when the person returns, an effort should be made to
identify indoor air sources that may be possible causes. Some effects
may be made 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, and
cancer, can be severely debilitating or fatal. It is prudent to try to
improve the indoor air quality in your home even if symptoms are not
noticeable. More information on potential health effects from
particular indoor air pollutants is provided in the section, "A
Look at Source-Specific Controls."
While pollutants commonly found in indoor air are responsible for
many 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 section "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 to
your home environment, discuss them with your doctor or your local
health department to see if they could be caused by indoor air
pollution. You 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
air problems is to identify potential sources of indoor air pollution.
Although the presence of such sources does not necessarily mean that
you have an indoor air quality problem, being aware of the type and
number of potential sources 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
quality is to look at your lifestyle and activities. Human activities
can be significant sources of indoor air pollution. Finally, look for
signs of problems with the ventilation in your home. Signs that can
indicate your home may not have enough ventilation include moisture
condensation on windows or walls, smelly or stuffy air, dirty central
heating and air 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
Measuring Pollutant Levels
The federal government recommends that you measure the level of
radon in your home. Without measurements there is no way to tell
whether radon is 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 and when the public should consider corrective
action. There are specific mitigation techniques that have proven
effective in reducing levels of radon in the home. (See "Radon"
for additional information about testing and controlling radon in
For pollutants other than radon, measurements are most appropriate
when 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
have experience in solving indoor air quality problems in
Weatherizing Your Home
The federal government recommends that homes be weatherized in
order to 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 Air 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 and 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 such
as installing storm windows, weather stripping, caulking, and blown-in
wall insulation can reduce the amount of outdoor air infiltrating into
a home. Consequently, after weatherization, concentrations of indoor
air pollutants from sources inside the home can increase.
Three Basic Strategies
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 cost-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 later in this section.
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 open increases the outdoor ventilation rate. Local
bathroom or kitchen fans that exhaust outdoors remove contaminants
directly from the room where the fan is located and also increase the
outdoor air ventilation rate.
It is particularly important to take as many of these steps as
possible while you are involved in short-term activities that can
generate high 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 choose to do some of these activities
outdoors, if you can and if weather permits.
Advanced designs of new homes are starting to feature mechanical
systems 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
and Referral Service (CAREIRS), PO Box 3048, Merrifield, VA 22116.
There are many types and sizes of air cleaners on the market,
ranging from relatively inexpensive table-top models to sophisticated
and expensive whole-house systems. Some air cleaners are highly
effective at particle removal, while others, including most table-top
models, are much less so. Air cleaners are generally not designed to
remove gaseous pollutants.
The effectiveness of an air cleaner depends on how well it collects
pollutants from indoor air (expressed as a percentage efficiency rate)
and how much air it draws through the cleaning or filtering element
(expressed in cubic feet per minute). A very efficient collector with
a low air-circulation rate will not be effective, nor will a cleaner
with 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. Table-top air
cleaners, in particular, may not remove satisfactory amounts of
pollutants from 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
that houseplants have been shown to reduce levels of some chemicals in
laboratory experiments. There is currently no evidence, however, that
a reasonable number of houseplants remove significant quantities of
pollutants in homes and offices. Indoor houseplants should not be
over-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 is uncertain because they only partially remove the radon
decay products and do not diminish the amount of radon entering the
home. EPA plans to do additional research on whether air cleaners are,
or could become, a reliable means of reducing the health risk from
radon. EPA's booklet,
Air-Cleaning Devices, provides further information on air-cleaning
devices to reduce indoor air pollutants.
For most indoor air quality problems in the home, source control is
the most effective solution. This section takes a source-by-source
look at the most common indoor air pollutants, their potential health
effects, and ways to reduce levels in the home. (For a summary of the
points made in this section, see the section entitled "Reference
Guide to Major Indoor Air Pollutants in the Home.") EPA has
Ozone Generators That Are Sold As Air Cleaners. The purpose of
this document (which is only available via this web site) is to
provide accurate information regarding the use of ozone-generating
devices in indoor occupied spaces. This information is based on the
most credible scientific evidence currently available.
EPA has recently published,
"Should You Have
the Air Ducts in Your Home Cleaned?" EPA-402-K-97-002, October
1997. This document is intended to help consumers answer this often
confusing question. The document explains what air duct cleaning is,
provides guidance to help consumers decide whether to have the service
performed in their home, and provides helpful information for choosing
a duct cleaner, determining if duct cleaning was done properly, and
how to prevent contamination of air ducts.
The most common source of
indoor radon is uranium in the soil or rock on which homes are
built. As uranium naturally breaks down, it releases radon gas which
is a colorless, odorless, radioactive gas. Radon gas enters homes
through dirt floors, cracks in concrete walls and floors, floor
drains, and sumps. When radon becomes trapped in buildings and
concentrations build up indoors, exposure to radon becomes a concern.
Any home may have a radon problem. This means new and old homes,
well-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
water with high radon levels may pose risks, too, although these are
believed to be much lower than those from breathing air containing
radon. Major 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 of preventable lung cancer deaths each year. EPA estimates
that radon causes about 14,000 deaths per year in the United
States--however, this 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
radon problem in your home. Testing is easy and should only take a
little of your time. There are many kinds of inexpensive,
do-it-yourself radon test kits you can get through the mail and in
hardware stores and other retail outlets. EPA recommends that
consumers use test kits that are state-certified or have met the
requirements of some national radon proficiency program. For more
information on EPA's former National Radon Proficiency Program (RPP),
Radon web site. If you prefer, or if you are buying or selling a
home, you can hire a trained contractor to do the testing for you.
EPA provided a list of companies and individual contractors on this
web site which was also available to state radon offices. Our
program closed on 9/30/98. You should call your
radon office to obtain a list of qualified contractors in your
area.You can also contact either the National Environmental Health
Association (NEHA) -
http://www.neha.org or the National Radon Safety Board (NRSB) -
for a list of proficient radon measurement and/or mitigation
Refer to the EPA guidelines on how to test and interpret your
You can learn more about radon through EPA's publications,
Citizen's Guide to Radon: The Guide to Protecting Yourself and Your
Family From Radon and
Buyer's and Seller's Guide to Radon, which are also
available from your
state radon office.
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.
You should use a contractor who is trained to fix radon problems.
A trained radon reduction contractor can study the problem in
your home and help you pick the correct treatment method. Check with
your state radon
office for names of qualified or state-certified radon-reduction
contractors in your area.
Stop smoking and discourage smoking in your home.
Scientific evidence indicates that smoking combined with radon is
an especially serious health risk. Stop smoking and lower your radon
level 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 the air in your home and found a radon problem, and you have
a well, contact a lab certified to measure radiation in water to
have your water tested. Radon problems in water can be readily
fixed. Call your
state radon office or the EPA Drinking Water Hotline
(800-426-4791) for more information.
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 many 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/600/6-90/006F). The report concludes
that exposure to ETS is responsible for approximately 3,000 lung
cancer deaths each year in nonsmoking adults and impairs the
respiratory health of hundreds of thousands of children.
Infants and young children whose parents smoke in their presence
are at 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
of age, resulting in between 7,500 and 15,000 hospitalizations each
year. These children may also have a build-up of fluid in the middle
ear, which can lead to ear infections. Older children who have been
exposed to 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 of symptoms in hundreds of thousands of asthmatic children,
and may cause thousands of non-asthmatic children to develop the
disease each year. EPA estimates that between 200,000 and 1,000,000
asthmatic children have their condition made worse by exposure to
secondhand smoke each year. Exposure to secondhand smoke causes eye,
nose, and throat irritation. It may affect the cardiovascular system
and some studies have linked exposure to secondhand smoke with the
onset of chest pain. For publications about ETS, go to
Smoke Free Homes web
IAQ Publications page, or contact EPA's Indoor Air Quality
Information Clearinghouse (IAQ INFO), 800-438-4318 or (703) 356-4020.
Reducing Exposure to Environmental Tobacco Smoke
Don't smoke at home or permit others to do so. Ask smokers to
The 1986 Surgeon General's report concluded that physical
separation of smokers and nonsmokers in a common air space, such as
different rooms within the same house, may reduce - but will not
eliminate - non-smokers' exposure to environmental tobacco smoke.
If smoking indoors cannot be avoided, increase ventilation in
the area 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 not
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
as 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
Do not smoke if children are present, particularly infants
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 about 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.
contaminants include bacteria,
viruses, animal dander and cat saliva, house dust mites, cockroaches,
and pollen. There are many sources of these pollutants. Pollens
originate from plants; viruses are transmitted by people and animals;
bacteria are carried by people, animals, and soil and plant debris;
and household pets are sources of saliva and animal dander. The
protein in urine from rats and mice is a potent allergen. When it
dries, it can become airborne. Contaminated central air handling
systems can become breeding grounds for
and other sources of biological contaminants and can then distribute
these contaminants through the home.
By controlling the relative humidity level in a home, the growth of
some sources of biologicals can be minimized. A relative humidity of
30-50 percent is generally recommended for homes. Standing water,
water-damaged materials, or wet surfaces also serve as a breeding
ground for molds,
mildews, bacteria, and insects. House dust mites, the source 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 breath, dizziness, lethargy, fever, and digestive
Allergic reactions occur only after repeated exposure to a specific
biological allergen. However, that reaction may occur immediately upon
re-exposure or after multiple exposures over time. As a result, people
who have noticed only mild allergic reactions, or no reactions at all,
may suddenly find themselves very sensitive to particular allergens.
Some diseases, like humidifier fever, are associated with exposure
to 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 lung 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 used in 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 in 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
Water-damaged carpets and building materials can harbor
bacteria. It is very difficult to completely rid such materials of
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 (130o
F) water, and avoid room furnishings that accumulate dust,
especially if they cannot be washed in hot water. Allergic
individuals should also leave the house while it is 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 a 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
in Your Home issued by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
and the American Lung Association. For contact information, see the
section, "Where to Go For Additional Information."
In addition to environmental tobacco smoke, other sources of
combustion products are unvented kerosene and gas space heaters,
woodstoves, fireplaces, and gas stoves. The major pollutants released
are carbon monoxide,
nitrogen dioxide, and
particles. Unvented kerosene heaters may also generate acid aerosols.
Combustion gases and particles also come from chimneys and flues
that are improperly installed or maintained and cracked furnace heat
exchangers. Pollutants from fireplaces and woodstoves with no
dedicated outdoor air supply can be "back-drafted" from the chimney
into the living space, particularly in weatherized homes.
Health Effects of Combustion Products
(CO) is a colorless, odorless gas that interferes with the delivery of
oxygen throughout the body. At high concentrations it can cause
unconsciousness and death. Lower concentrations can cause a range of
symptoms from headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, confusion, and
disorientation, to fatigue in healthy people and episodes of increased
chest pain in people with chronic heart disease. The symptoms of
carbon monoxide poisoning are sometimes confused with the flu or food
poisoning. Fetuses, infants, elderly people, and people with anemia or
with a history of heart or respiratory disease can be especially
sensitive to carbon monoxide exposures.
(NO2) is a colorless, odorless gas that irritates the mucous 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
from animal studies that repeated exposures to elevated nitrogen
dioxide levels may lead, or contribute, to the development of lung
disease such 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 in the 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 into the lung.
Reducing Exposure to Combustion Products in Homes
Take special precautions when operating fuel-burning unvented
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
the heater properly adjusted. A persistent yellow-tipped flame is
generally an indicator of maladjustment and increased pollutant
emissions. While a space heater is in use, open a door from the room
where the heater is located to the rest of the house and open a
Install and use exhaust fans over gas cooking stoves and
ranges and keep 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 that 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 a pilot light that burns continuously. Never use a
gas stove to heat your home. Always make certain the flue in your
gas fireplace is open when the fireplace is in use.
Keep woodstove emissions to a minimum. Choose properly sized
new stoves that are certified as meeting EPA emission standards.
Make certain that doors in old woodstoves are tight-fitting. Use
aged or cured (dried) wood only and follow the manufacturer's
directions for starting, stoking, and putting out the fire in
woodstoves. Chemicals are used to pressure-treat wood; such wood
should never be burned indoors. (Because some old gaskets in
woodstove doors contain asbestos, when replacing gaskets refer to
the instructions in the CPSC, ALA, and 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 not readily available, change filters once every
month or two during periods 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 INFO
Clearinghouse, or your local ALA. (See "Where to Go
for Additional Information" for contact information.)
Organic chemicals are
widely used as ingredients in household products. Paints, varnishes,
and wax all contain organic solvents, as do many cleaning,
disinfecting, cosmetic, degreasing, and hobby products. Fuels are made
up of organic chemicals. All of these products can release organic
compounds while you are using them, and, to some degree, when they are
EPA's Total Exposure Assessment Methodology (TEAM) studies found
levels 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, they 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 of 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. Many organic compounds are known to cause cancer in animals;
some are suspected of causing, or are known to cause, cancer in
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 in a well-ventilated area, go outdoors or in areas
equipped with an exhaust fan to use it. Otherwise, open up windows
to provide the maximum amount of outdoor air possible.
Throw away partially full containers of old or unneeded
Because gases can leak even from closed containers, this single
step could help lower concentrations of organic chemicals in your
home. (Be 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 not simply toss these unwanted products in the garbage
can. Find out if your 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. If no 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 of 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. In laboratory studies, it has been shown to cause cancer
in animals. Recent studies indicate that people breathe low levels
of this chemical both in homes where dry-cleaned goods are stored
and as they wear dry-cleaned clothing. Dry cleaners recapture the
perchloroethylene during the dry-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 as possible all of the time.
Taking steps to minimize your exposure to this chemical is prudent.
If dry-cleaned goods have a strong chemical odor 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.
an important chemical used widely by industry to manufacture building
materials and numerous household products. It is also a by-product of
combustion and certain other natural processes. Thus, it may be
present in substantial concentrations both indoors and outdoors.
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 or in 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
In homes, the most significant sources of formaldehyde are likely
to be pressed wood products made using adhesives that contain
urea-formaldehyde (UF) resins. Pressed wood products made for indoor
use include: particleboard (used as subflooring 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 (used 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 strandboard, are produced for exterior construction use and
contain the dark, or red/black-colored phenol-formaldehyde (PF) resin.
Although formaldehyde is present in both types of resins, pressed
woods that contain PF resin generally emit formaldehyde at
considerably lower rates than those containing UF resin.
Since 1985, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
has permitted only the use of plywood and particleboard that conform
to specified formaldehyde emission limits in the construction of
prefabricated and mobile homes. In the past, some of these homes had
elevated levels of formaldehyde because of the large amount of
high-emitting pressed wood products used in their construction and
because of 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 or humidity can cause increased release of formaldehyde
from these products.
During the 1970s, many homeowners had urea-formaldehyde foam
insulation (UFFI) installed in the wall cavities of their homes as an
energy conservation measure. However, many of these homes were found
to have relatively high indoor concentrations of formaldehyde soon
after the UFFI installation. Few homes are now being insulated with
this product. Studies show that formaldehyde emissions from UFFI
decline with time; therefore, homes in which UFFI was installed many
years ago are unlikely to have high levels of formaldehyde now.
Health Effects of Formaldehyde
Formaldehyde, a colorless, pungent-smelling gas, can cause watery
eyes, burning sensations in the eyes and throat, nausea, and
difficulty in breathing in some humans exposed at elevated levels
(above 0.1 parts per million). High concentrations may trigger attacks
in people with asthma. There is evidence that some people can develop
a sensitivity to formaldehyde. It has also been shown to cause cancer
in animals and may 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
If you experience adverse reactions to formaldehyde, you may want
to avoid the use of pressed wood products and other
formaldehyde-emitting goods. Even if you do not experience such
reactions, you may wish to 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 Control Act (TSCA) assistance line
Some studies suggest that coating pressed wood products with
polyurethane may reduce formaldehyde emissions for some period of
time. To be effective, any such coating must cover all surfaces and
edges and remain intact. Increase the ventilation and carefully
follow the manufacturer instructions while applying these coatings.
(If you are sensitive to formaldehyde, check the label contents
before purchasing coating products to avoid buying products that
contain formaldehyde, as they will emit the chemical for a short
time after application.) Maintain moderate temperature and humidity
levels and provide adequate ventilation. The rate at which
formaldehyde is released is accelerated by heat and may also depend
somewhat on the humidity level. Therefore, the use of dehumidifiers
and air conditioning to control humidity and to maintain a moderate
temperature can help reduce formaldehyde emissions. (Drain and clean
dehumidifier collection trays frequently so that they do not become
a breeding ground for microorganisms.) Increasing the rate of
ventilation in your home will also help in reducing formaldehyde
According to a recent survey, 75 percent of U.S. households used at
least one pesticide
product indoors during the past year. Products used most often are
insecticides and disinfectants. Another study suggests that 80 percent
of most people's exposure to pesticides occurs indoors and that
measurable levels of up to a dozen pesticides have been found in the
air inside homes. The amount of pesticides found in homes appears to
be greater than can be explained by recent pesticide use in those
households; other possible sources include contaminated soil or dust
that floats or is tracked in from outside, stored pesticide
containers, and household surfaces that collect and then release the
pesticides. Pesticides used in and around the home include products to
control insects (insecticides), termites (termiticides), rodents (rodenticides),
fungi (fungicides), and microbes (disinfectants). They are sold as
sprays, liquids, sticks, powders, crystals, balls, and foggers.
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 reach of children.
EPA registers pesticides for use and requires manufacturers to put
information on the label about when and how to use the pesticide. It
is important 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
of ingredients that are used to carry the active agent. These carrier
agents are called "inerts" in pesticides because they are not toxic to
the targeted pest; nevertheless, some inerts are capable of causing
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 cause the effects
discussed in this document under "Household Products," however, as
with other household products, there is insufficient understanding at
present about what pesticide concentrations are necessary to produce
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
Unless you have had special training and are certified, never use
a pesticide that is restricted to use by state-certified pest
control operators. Such pesticides are simply too dangerous for
application by a non-certified person. Use only the pesticides
approved for use by the 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 only in the amounts that will be immediately needed. If
possible, take plants and pets outside when applying pesticides to
Use non-chemical 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: use
of 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 or prevented by making certain that wooden building
materials do not come into direct contact with the soil and by
storing firewood away from the home. By appropriately fertilizing,
watering, and aerating lawns, the need for chemical pesticide
treatments of lawns can be dramatically reduced.
If you decide to use a pest control company, choose one
Ask for an inspection of your home and get a written control
program for evaluation before you sign a contract. The control
program should list specific names of pests to be controlled and
chemicals to be used; it should also reflect any of your safety
concerns. Insist on a proven record of competence and customer
Dispose of unwanted pesticides safely.
If you have unused or partially used pesticide containers you
want to get rid of, dispose of them according to the directions on
the label or on special household hazardous waste collection days.
If there are no such collection days in your community, work with
others to organize them.
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 to 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" to warn users of potential short-term toxic
effects. Where possible, paradichlorobenzene, and items to be
protected against moths, should be placed in trunks or other
containers that can be stored in areas that are separately
ventilated from the home, such as attics and detached garages.
Paradichlorobenzene is also the key active ingredient in many air
fresheners (in fact, some labels for moth repellents recommend that
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
Asbestos is a
mineral fiber that has been used commonly in a variety of building
construction materials for insulation and as a fire-retardant. EPA and
CPSC have banned several asbestos products. Manufacturers have also
voluntarily limited uses of asbestos. Today, asbestos is most commonly
found in older homes, in pipe and furnace insulation materials,
asbestos shingles, millboard, 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 can release asbestos fibers into the air in homes,
increasing asbestos levels and endangering people living in those
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 fatal). 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 into 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 for 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
going to make changes in your home that might disturb it, repair or
removal by 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
in 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 at (202) 554-1404 to find out
whether your state has a training and certification program for
asbestos removal contractors and for information on EPA's asbestos
Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Hotline - Sponsored by the
Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics, the TSCA Hotline provides
technical assistance and information about asbestos programs
implemented under TSCA, which include; the Asbestos School Hazard
Abatement Act (ASHAA), the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA),
and the Asbestos School Hazard Abatement Reauthorization Act (ASHARA).
The Hotline provides copies of TSCA information, such as Federal
Register notices and support documents, to requesters through its
Hours of Service: 8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. (EST) M - F
Telephone: (202) 554-1404
TDD: (202) 554-0551
Fax: (202) 554-5603 (Fax available 24 hours a day)
Lead has long been
recognized as a harmful environmental pollutant. In 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 are
exposed to lead: through air, drinking water, food, contaminated soil,
deteriorating paint, and dust. Airborne lead enters the body when an
individual breathes or swallows lead particles or dust once it has
settled. Before it was known how harmful lead could be, it was used in
paint, gasoline, water pipes, and many other products.
Old lead-based paint is the most significant source of lead
exposure in the U.S. today. Harmful exposures to lead can be created
when lead-based paint is improperly removed from surfaces by dry
scraping, sanding, or open-flame burning. High concentrations of
airborne lead particles in 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
Health Effects of Exposure to Lead
Lead affects practically all systems within the body. At high
levels it can cause convulsions, coma, and even death. Lower levels of
lead can adversely affect the brain, central nervous system, blood
cells, and kidneys.
The effects of lead exposure on fetuses and young children can be
severe. They include delays in physical and mental development, lower
IQ levels, shortened attention spans, and increased behavioral
problems. Fetuses, infants, and children are more vulnerable to lead
exposure than adults since lead is more easily absorbed into growing
bodies, and the tissues of small children are more sensitive to the
damaging effects of lead. Children may have higher exposures since
they are more likely to get lead dust on their hands and then put
their fingers or other lead-contaminated objects into their mouths.
Get your child tested for lead exposure. To find out where to do
this, call your doctor or local health clinic. For more information on
health 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
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 multi-purpose cleaners will not
remove lead 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 could be on window frames, walls, the outside of homes, or
other surfaces. Do not burn painted wood since it may contain lead.
Leave lead-based paint undisturbed if it is in good condition
- do not 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 private laboratories or public agencies may be able to help
test your home for lead in paint. Home test kits cannot detect small
amounts of lead under 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 work is finished and clean-up 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
to Congress (December 7, 1990) and Lead-Based Paint: Interim
Guidelines for 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, in a radiator repair shop or lead factory, or your hobby
involves lead, you may unknowingly bring lead into your home on your
hands or clothes. You 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 of the building. Soil by roads and highways may
be contaminated from years of exhaust fumes from cars and trucks
that used leaded gas. Use door mats to wipe your feet before
entering the home. If you work with lead in your job or a hobby,
change your clothes before you go home and wash these clothes
separately. Encourage your children to play in sand and grassy areas
instead of dirt which sticks to fingers and toys. Try to keep your
children from eating dirt, and make sure they wash their hands 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 with lead materials. The only way to know if there is lead
in drinking water is to have it tested. Contact the local health
department or the water supplier to find out how to get the water
tested. Send for the EPA pamphlet, Lead and Your Drinking Water, for
more information about what you can do if you have lead in your
drinking water. Call EPA's Safe Drinking Water Hotline
(800-426-4791) for more information.
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 or 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, 800-LEAD-FYI.
In recent years, a number of consumers have associated a variety of
symptoms with the installation of new carpet. Scientists have not been
able to determine whether the chemicals emitted by new carpets are
responsible. If you are installing new carpet, you may wish to take the
- Talk to your carpet retailer. Ask for information on emissions
- Ask the retailer to unroll and air out the carpet in a
well-ventilated area before installation.
- Ask for low-emitting adhesives if adhesives are needed.
- Consider leaving the premises during and immediately after carpet
installation. You may wish to schedule the installation when most
family members or office workers are out.
- Be sure the retailer requires the installer to follow the Carpet
and Rug Institute's installation guidelines.
- Open doors and windows. Increasing the amount of fresh air in the
home will reduce exposure to most chemicals released from carpet.
During and after installation, use window fans, room air conditioners,
or other mechanical ventilation equipment you may have installed in
your house, to exhaust fumes to the outdoors. Keep them running for 48
to 72 hours after the new carpet is installed.
- Contact your carpet retailer if objectionable odors persist.
- Follow the manufacturer's instructions for proper carpet
Building a new home provides the opportunity for preventing indoor
air problems. However, it can result in exposure to higher levels of
indoor 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 or
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 (ASHRAE) recommends a ventilation rate of 0.35 ach (air
changes per 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 build-up of indoor air pollutants to high levels.
Here are a few important actions that can make a difference:
There are many actions a homeowner can take to select products that
will prevent indoor air problems from occurring - a couple of them are
mentioned here. First, use exterior-grade pressed wood products made
with phenol-formaldehyde resin in floors, cabinetry, and wall surfaces.
Or, as an alternative, consider using solid wood products. Secondly, if
you plan to install wall-to-wall carpet on concrete in contact with the
ground, especially concrete in basements, make sure that an effective
moisture barrier is installed prior to installing the carpet. Do not
permanently adhere carpet to concrete with adhesives so that the carpet
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
- Advanced designs of new homes are starting to feature mechanical
systems 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).
- Ensure that combustion appliances, including furnaces, fireplaces,
woodstoves, and heaters, are properly vented and receive enough supply
- Combustion gases, including carbon monoxide, and particles can be
back-drafted from the chimney or flue into the living space if the
combustion appliance is not properly vented or does not receive enough
supply air. Back-drafting can be a particular problem in weatherized
or tightly constructed homes. Installing a dedicated outdoor air
supply for the combustion appliance can help prevent backdrafting.
Indoor air quality problems are not limited to homes. In fact, many
have significant air pollution sources. Some of these 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 over the indoor environment
in their offices than they do in their homes. As a result, there has
been an increase in the incidence of reported health problems.
A number of well-identified illnesses, such as Legionnaires'
disease, asthma, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, and humidifier fever,
have been 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
not fit the pattern of any particular illness and are difficult to
trace to 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 and forgetfulness. Poor lighting,
noise, vibration, thermal discomfort, and psychological stress may
also cause, or contribute to, these symptoms.
There is no single manner in which these health problems appear. In
some cases, problems begin as workers enter their offices and diminish
as workers leave; other times, symptoms continue until the illness is
treated. Sometimes there are outbreaks of illness among many workers
in a single building; in other cases, health symptoms show up only in
In the opinion of some World Health Organization experts, up to 30
percent of new or remodeled commercial buildings may have unusually
high 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
are 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, restroom air fresheners, paints,
adhesives, copying machines, and photography and print shops;
biological contaminants from dirty ventilation systems or
water-damaged walls, ceilings, and carpets; and pesticides from pest
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
air 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
outdoor 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, fumes from dumpsters, or air vented from
restrooms. Finally, ventilation systems can be a source of in door
pollution themselves by spreading biological contaminants that have
multiplied in cooling towers, humidifiers, dehumidifiers, air
conditioners, or the inside surfaces of 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, and dry-cleaning stores, into offices in the same building.
Carbon monoxide and other components of automobile exhaust can be
drawn from underground parking garages through stairwells and
elevator shafts into office spaces.
In addition, buildings originally designed for one purpose may
end up being converted to use as office space. If not properly
modified during building renovations, the room partitions and
ventilation system can contribute to indoor air quality problems by
restricting air recirculation or by providing an inadequate supply
of outdoor air.
If you or others at your office are experiencing health or comfort
problems that you suspect may be caused by indoor air pollution, you can
do the following:
- Talk with other workers, your supervisor, and union
representatives to see if the problems are being experienced by others
and urge that a record of reported health complaints be kept by
management, if one has 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
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. BAQ 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. To obtain the loose leaf fomat
version of the Building Air Quality, complete with appendices, an
index, and a full set of useful forms, and the newly released,
Quality Action Plan, order GPO Stock # 055-000-00602-4, for $28,
contact the: Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing
Office (GPO), P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954, or call
(202) 512-1800, fax (202) 512-2250.
- Obtain a copy of
"An Office Building
Occupant's Guide to Indoor Air Quality," EPA-402-K-97-003, October
1997 from IAQ INFO at 1-800-438-4318.
- 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 uncover the problem and on-site visits are unnecessary.
- More often, however, investigators will need to come to the
building to conduct personal interviews with occupants, to look for
possible sources 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 office buildings is expensive and may not yield information
readily useful in identifying problem sources, investigators may not
take many measurements. The process of solving indoor air quality
problems that result in health and comfort complaints can be a slow
one, involving several trial solutions before successful remedial
actions are identified.
- 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 non-industrial
- 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
(800-35NIOSH), or contact the Occupational Safety and Health
Administration, (202) 219-8151.
The pollutants listed in this guide have been shown to cause the
health effects mentioned. However, it is not necessarily true that the
effects noted occur at the pollutant concentration levels typically
found in the home. In many cases, our understanding of the pollutants
and their health effects is too limited to determine the levels at which
the listed effects could occur.
Sources: Earth and rock beneath home; well water; building
Health Effects: No immediate symptoms. Estimated to
contribute to between 7,000 and 30,000 lung cancer deaths each year.
Smokers are at higher risk of developing radon-induced lung cancer.
Levels in Homes: Based on a national residential radon
survey completed in 1991, the average indoor radon level is 1.3
picocuries per liter (pCi/L). The average outdoor level is about 0.4
Steps to Reduce Exposure:
- Test your home for radon_it's easy and inexpensive.
- Fix your home if your radon level is 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L)
- Radon levels less than 4 pCi/L still pose a risk, and in many
cases may be reduced.
- If you want more information on radon, contact your state radon
office, or call 800-SOS-RADON.
Source: Cigarette, pipe, and cigar smoking.
Health Effects: Eye, nose, and throat irritation; headaches;
lung cancer; may contribute to heart disease. Specifically for
children, increased risk of lower respiratory tract infections, such
as bronchitis and pneumonia, and ear infections; build-up of fluid in
the middle ear; increased severity and frequency of asthma episodes;
decreased lung function.
Levels in Homes: Particle levels in homes without smokers or
other strong particle sources are the same as, or lower than, those
outdoors. Homes with one or more smokers may have particle levels
several times higher than outdoor levels.
Steps to Reduce Exposure:
- Do not smoke in your home or permit others to do so.
- Do not smoke if children are present, particularly infants and
- If smoking indoors cannot be avoided, increase ventilation in
the area where smoking takes place. Open windows or use exhaust
Sources: Wet or moist walls, ceilings, carpets, and
furniture; poorly maintained humidifiers, dehumidifiers, and air
conditioners; bedding; household pets.
Health Effects: Eye, nose, and throat irritation; shortness
of breath; dizziness; lethargy; fever; digestive problems. Can cause
asthma; humidifier fever; influenza and other infectious diseases.
Levels in Homes: Indoor levels of pollen and fungi are lower
than outdoor levels (except where indoor sources of fungi are
present). Indoor levels of dust mites are higher than outdoor levels.
Steps to Reduce Exposure:
- Install and use fans vented to outdoors in kitchens and
- Vent clothes dryers to outdoors.
- Clean cool mist and ultrasonic humidifiers in accordance with
manufacturer's instructions and refill with clean water daily.
- Empty water trays in air conditioners, dehumidifiers, and
- Clean and dry or remove water-damaged carpets.
- Use basements as living areas only if they are leak-proof and
have adequate ventilation. Use dehumidifiers, if necessary, to
maintain humidity between 30-50 percent.
Sources: Unvented kerosene and gas space heaters; leaking
chimneys and furnaces; back-drafting from furnaces, gas water heaters,
woodstoves, and fireplaces; gas stoves. Automobile exhaust from
attached garages. Environmental Tobacco Smoke.
Health Effects: At low concentrations, fatigue in healthy
people and chest pain in people with heart disease. At higher
concentrations, impaired vision and coordination; headaches;
dizziness; confusion; nausea. Can cause flu-like symptoms that clear
up after leaving home. Fatal at very high concentrations.
Levels in Homes: Average levels in homes without gas stoves
vary from 0.5 to 5 parts per million (ppm). Levels near properly
adjusted gas stoves are often 5 to 15 ppm and those near poorly
adjusted stoves may be 30 ppm or higher.
Steps to Reduce Exposure:
- Keep gas appliances properly adjusted.
- Consider purchasing a vented space heater when replacing an
- Use proper fuel in kerosene space heaters.
- Install and use an exhaust fan vented to outdoors over gas
- Open flues when fireplaces are in use.
- Choose properly sized woodstoves that are certified to meet EPA
emission standards. Make certain that doors on all woodstoves fit
- Have a trained professional inspect, clean, and tune-up central
heating system (furnaces, flues, and chimneys) annually. Repair any
- Do not idle the car inside garage.
Sources: Kerosene heaters, unvented gas stoves and heaters.
Environmental tobacco smoke. Health Effects: Eye, nose, and throat
irritation. May cause impaired lung function and increased respiratory
infections in young children.
Levels in Homes: Average level in homes without combustion
appliances is about half that of outdoors. In homes with gas stoves,
kerosene heaters, or unvented gas space heaters, indoor levels often
exceed outdoor levels.
Steps to Reduce Exposure: See steps under
Sources: Household products including: paints, paint
strippers, and other solvents; wood preservatives; aerosol sprays;
cleansers and disinfectants; moth repellents and air fresheners;
stored fuels and automotive products; hobby supplies; dry-cleaned
Health Effects: Eye, nose, and throat irritation; headaches,
loss of coordination, nausea; damage to liver, kidney, and central
nervous system. Some organics can cause cancer in animals; some are
suspected or known to cause cancer in humans.
Levels in Homes: Studies have found that levels of several
organics average 2 to 5 times higher indoors than outdoors. During and
for several hours immediately after certain activities, such as paint
stripping, levels may be 1,000 times background outdoor levels.
Steps to Reduce Exposure:
- Use household products according to manufacturer's directions.
- Make sure you provide plenty of fresh air when using these
- Throw away unused or little-used containers safely; buy in
quantities that you will use soon.
- Keep out of reach of children and pets.
- Never mix household care products unless directed on the label.
Sources: Fireplaces, woodstoves, and kerosene heaters.
Environmental tobacco smoke.
Health Effects: Eye, nose, and throat irritation;
respiratory infections and bronchitis; lung cancer. (Effects
attributable to environmental tobacco smoke are listed elsewhere.)
Levels in Homes: Particle levels in homes without smoking or
other strong particle sources are the same as, or lower than, outdoor
Steps to Reduce Exposure:
- Vent all furnaces to outdoors; keep doors to rest of house open
when using unvented space heaters.
- Choose properly sized woodstoves, certified to meet EPA emission
standards; make certain that doors on all woodstoves fit tightly.
- Have a trained professional inspect, clean, and tune-up central
heating system (furnace, flues, and chimneys) annually. Repair any
- Change filters on central heating and cooling systems and air
cleaners according to manufacturer's directions.
Sources: Pressed wood products (hardwood plywood wall
paneling, particleboard, fiberboard) and furniture made with these
pressed wood products. Urea-formaldehyde foam insulation (UFFI).
Combustion sources and environmental tobacco smoke. Durable press
drapes, other textiles, and glues.
Health Effects: Eye, nose, and throat irritation; wheezing
and coughing; fatigue; skin rash; severe allergic reactions. May cause
cancer. May also cause other effects listed under "organic gases."
Levels in Homes: Average concentrations in older homes
without UFFI are generally well below 0.1 (ppm). In homes with
significant amounts of new pressed wood products, levels can be
greater than 0.3 ppm.
Steps to Reduce Exposure:
- Use "exterior-grade" pressed wood products (lower-emitting
because they contain phenol resins, not urea resins).
- Use air conditioning and dehumidifiers to maintain moderate
temperature and reduce humidity levels.
- Increase ventilation, particularly after bringing new sources of
formaldehyde into the home.
Sources: Products used to kill household pests
(insecticides, termiticides, and disinfectants). Also, products used
on lawns and gardens that drift or are tracked inside the house.
Health Effects: Irritation to eye, nose, and throat; damage
to central nervous system and kidney; increased risk of cancer.
Levels in Homes: Preliminary research shows widespread
presence of pesticide residues in homes.
Steps to Reduce Exposure:
- Use strictly according to manufacturer's directions.
- Mix or dilute outdoors.
- Apply only in recommended quantities.
- Increase ventilation when using indoors. Take plants or pets
outdoors when applying pesticides to them.
- Use non-chemical methods of pest control where possible.
- If you use a pest control company, select it carefully.
- Do not store unneeded pesticides inside home; dispose of
unwanted containers safely.
- Store clothes with moth repellents in separately ventilated
areas, if possible.
- Keep indoor spaces clean, dry, and well ventilated to avoid pest
and odor problems.
Sources: Deteriorating, damaged, or disturbed insulation,
fireproofing, acoustical materials, and floor tiles.
Health Effects: No immediate symptoms, but long-term risk of
chest and abdominal cancers and lung diseases. Smokers are at higher
risk of developing asbestos-induced lung cancer.
Levels in Homes: Elevated levels can occur in homes where
asbestos-containing materials are damaged or disturbed.
Steps to Reduce Exposure:
- It is best to leave undamaged asbestos material alone if it is
not likely to be disturbed.
- Use trained and qualified contractors for control measures that
may disturb asbestos and for cleanup.
- Follow proper procedures in replacing woodstove door gaskets
that may contain asbestos.
Sources: Lead-based paint, contaminated soil, dust, and
Health Effects: Lead affects practically all systems within
the body. Lead at high levels (lead levels at or above 80 micrograms
per deciliter (80 ug/dl) of blood) can cause convulsions, coma, and
even death. Lower levels of lead can cause adverse health effects on
the central nervous system, kidney, and blood cells. Blood lead levels
as low as 10 ug/dl can impair mental and physical development.
Steps to Reduce Exposure:
- Keep areas where children play as dust-free and clean as
- Leave lead-based paint undisturbed if it is in good condition;
do not sand or burn off paint that may contain lead.
- Do not remove lead paint yourself.
- Do not bring lead dust into the home.
- If your work or hobby involves lead, change clothes and use
doormats before entering your home.
- Eat a balanced diet, rich in calcium and iron.
DISCLAIMER: Links to other Federal Agencies on this page
(designated with )
are pointers to other hosts and locations in the Internet. The
information on this is provided here as a service. The U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency does not endorse, approve or otherwise
support these other Federal sites.
Federal agencies with indoor air quality information may be contacted
QUALITY - Information Clearinghouse (IAQ INFO)
P.O. Box 37133
Washington, DC 20013-7133
(800) 438-4318; (703) 356-4020
(fax) 703-356-5386 or e-mail:
Operates Monday to Friday from 9a.m. to 5p.m. Eastern Standard Time
(EST). Distributes EPA publications, answers questions on the phone,
and makes referrals to other nonprofit and governmental organizations.
Information recording operates 24 hours a day.
NATIONAL LEAD INFORMATION CENTER
Operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Callers may order an
information package. To speak to an information specialist, call (800)
424-5323. Operates Monday to Friday from 8:30a.m. to 5p.m. EST.
NATIONAL PESTICIDES TELECOMMUNICATIONS NETWORK
National toll-free number: (800) 858-PEST
[In Oregon - (800) 858-7378]
Operates Monday to Friday from 6:30a.m. to 4:30p.m. Pacific Time.
Provides information about pesticides to the general public and the
medical, veterinary, and professional communities. Medical and
government personnel may call 800-858-7377.
National toll-free number: (800) 424-9346
In Washington, DC area: (703) 412-9810
Operates Monday to Friday from 8:30a.m. to 7:30p.m. EST. Provides
information on regulations under both the Resources Conservation and
Recovery Act (including solid and hazardous waste issues) and the
SAFE DRINKING WATER HOTLINE
Operates Monday to Friday from 8:30a.m. to 5p.m. EST. Provides
information on regulations under the Safe Drinking Water Act, lead and
radon in drinking water, filter information, and a list of state
drinking water offices.
TSCA ASSISTANCE INFORMATION SERVICE
Operates Monday to Friday from 8:30a.m. to 5p.m. EST. Provides
information on regulations under the Toxic Substances Control Act and
on EPA's asbestos program.
U.S. Consumer Product Safety
Commission (CPSC) [http://www.cpsc.gov/]
Washington, DC 20207-0001
Product Safety Hotline: (800) 638-CPSC
Teletypewriter for the hearing impaired (outside Maryland): (800)
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 (CAREIRS)
PO Box 3048, Merrifield, VA 22116
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
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
4770 Buford Highway, NE (F-42)
Atlanta, GA 30341-3724
Office on Smoking and Health
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
4770 Buford Highway, NE (K-50)
Atlanta, GA 30341-3724
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
Office of Information and Consumer Affairs
Room N-3647, 200 Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20210
Your questions or concerns about indoor air problems can frequently
be answered by the government agencies in your state or local
government. Responsibilities for indoor air quality issues are usually
divided among many different agencies. Calling or writing the agencies
responsible for health or air quality control is the best way to start
getting information from your state or local government. To obtain
state agency contacts,
write or call EPA's IAQ
Information Clearinghouse, (800) 438-4318, (703) 356-4020 in the
Washington, D.C. area.
The following organizations have information specifically discussed
in this booklet. Call the
Clearinghouse at (800) 438-4318 for the names of a variety of
organizations that have more information on specific and general
indoor air quality issues.
American Association of Poison
Control Centers (AAPCC)
3800 Reservoir Road, NW
Washington, DC 20007
Association of Home Appliance
1111 19th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20036
AHAM also provides information on air cleaners on their AHAM-certified
Clean Air Delivery Rate site at
American Society of Heating,
Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning (ASHRAE)
1791 Tullie Circle NE
Atlanta, GA 30329
World Health Organization (WHO)
49 Sheridan Avenue
Albany, NY 12210
Your Local American Lung Association (ALA)
National ALA Headquarters
New York, NY 10019
ACID AEROSOL: Acidic liquid or solid particles that are
small enough to become airborne. High concentrations of acid aerosols
can be irritating to the lungs and have been associated with some
respiratory diseases, such as asthma.
ANIMAL DANDER: Tiny scales of animal skin.
ALLERGEN: 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 an allergic reaction.
BUILDING-RELATED ILLNESS: A discrete, identifiable disease
or illness that can be traced to a 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 of chemicals to which they have
ENVIRONMENTAL TOBACCO SMOKE (ETS): Mixture of smoke from the
burning end of a cigarette, pipe, or cigar and smoke exhaled by the
smoker (also secondhand smoke or passive smoking).
FUNGI: Any of a group of parasitic lower plants that lack
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. Also called air conditioner or
HYPERSENSITIVITY PNEUMONITIS: A group of respiratory
diseases that cause inflammation of the lung (specifically
granulomatous cells). Most forms of hypersensitivity pneumonitis are
caused by the inhalation of organic dusts, including
ORGANIC COMPOUNDS: Chemicals that contain carbon. Volatile
organic compounds vaporize at room temperature and pressure. They are
found in many indoor sources, including many common household products
and building materials.
PICOCURIE (pCi): A unit for measuring radioactivity, often
expressed as picocuries per liter (pCi/L) of air.
PRESSED WOOD PRODUCTS: A group of materials used in building
and furniture construction that are made from wood veneers, particles,
or fibers bonded together with an adhesive under heat and pressure.
RADON (Rn) 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 decay.
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. Cannot be traced to specific pollutants or
sources within the building. (Contrast with "Building related
VENTILATION RATE: The rate at which indoor air enters and
leaves a building. Expressed in one of two ways: the number of changes
of outdoor air per unit of time (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").
This document is in the public domain. It may be reproduced in part
or in whole by an individual or organization without permission.
Single copies of this booklet are available from:
EPA's IAQ Information Clearinghouse (IAQINFO)
(800) 438-4318; (703) 356-4020
P.O. Box 37133,
Washington, DC, 20013-7133
or, you can order these publications directly via EPA's National
Service Center for Environmental Publications (NSCEP) (http://www.epa.gov/ncepihom/).
web site. Your publication requests can also be mailed, called or
faxed directly to:
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
National Center for Environmental Publications (NSCEP)
P.O. Box 42419
Cincinnati, OH 42419
1-800-490-9198/(513) 489-8695 (fax)
Please use the EPA Document Number (# 402-K-93-007, April 1995), when
ordering from NSCEP or from IAQ INFO.
Multiple copies may be purchased from the Government Printing
Office. Call (202) 783-3238 or send check or money order for $44.00
(25 per package) to: Superintendent of Documents, P.O. Box 371954,
Pittsburgh, PA, 15250-7954. Include the stock number 055-000-00441-2.