Indoor Air Pollution

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indoor-air-pollutionSome states in the US have laws that regulate specific areas of the larger indoor air quality and indoor air pollution issue. Other states are considering laws that would effect citizens of their state. On a national level, Federal OSHA has looked into developing a specific standard on ” Exposure to Indoor Air Pollutants” but thus far, this effort has been unsuccessful. Worldwide, laws and regulations regarding indoor air pollution vary widely.

What is Indoor Air Pollution?

Indoor air pollution from a human perspective is generally defined as poor indoor air quality which has the potential to cause an acute or chronic illness or symptom of illness in a person as a direct result from exposure to a airborne pollutant.

What are some of the indicators of Indoor Air Pollution in my home?

The three most common complaints regarding Indoor Air Pollution are:
* Feeling better when leaving the home or worse when arriving
* A dusty environment where the furniture stays dusty even after cleaning
* Ongoing or unidentified odors

What are some of the health symptoms of Indoor Air Pollution?

Symptoms could include but not be limited to:
* headache
* eye, nose, or throat irritation
* dry cough
* dry or itchy skin
* dizziness and nausea
* difficulty in concentrating
* fatigue
* sensitivity to odors
* cough
* chest tightness
* fever and chills
* muscle aches
The symptoms can be clinically defined and have clearly identifiable causes. It is important to note that complaints may result from other causes. These may include an illness contracted outside the home, acute sensitivity (e.g., allergies), job related stress, and other psycho social factors. Nevertheless, studies show that many symptoms can be caused or exacerbated by indoor air quality problems.

Do chemicals create Indoor Air Pollution?

Most indoor air pollution comes from sources inside the home. Over 75,000 chemicals are used in common household cleaning products, only a fraction have been tested for human health concerns. Some of the most common chemicals found in household cleaners are also the most toxic. Recent studies have shown an alarming amount of chemicals accumulating in people’s fatty tissues, these are the same chemicals known to cause serious health concerns, from immediate and through long term exposure. Chemicals enter the body through skin absorption and inhalation of fumes or vapors. Once a chemical enters the body, your system usually has to process it. Many chemicals have a target organ which they migrate to. Some organs are made to process and filter; others are not.

Can mold and other living organisms cause health problems and allergies?

Yes, biological contaminants such as bacteria, molds, pollen, insect parts, dust mites and viruses are types of biological contaminants. Certain biological contaminants may breed in stagnant water that has accumulated in ducts, humidifiers, and drain pans, or where water has collected on ceiling tiles, carpeting, or insulation. Insects and dust mites are a common source of biological contaminants which can accumulate in bedding, furniture, and carpeting. Physical symptoms related to biological agent exposure include cough, chest tightness, fever, chills, muscle aches, and allergic responses such as mucous membrane irritation and upper respiratory congestion.

What should I do if I have a serious Indoor Air Pollution problem?

You may consider having a professional Indoor Air Quality Consultant perform a Phase 1 Environmental Assessment. It is common for a experienced consultant to find the source of your problem during a simple Phase 1 visit. In harder cases it is sometimes necessary to complete a Phase 2 Environmental Assessment which would involve detailed inspection of such areas as the attic, the crawl spaces, air handling equipment and so on. Some direct reading testing instruments and simple laboratory samples could also be taken during a Phase 2 Assessment. At any point, the consultant may have sufficient information to formulate a hypothesis, test the hypothesis, and see if the problem is solved. Recommendations are then prescribed to assist the homeowner or building owner with a plan of action to control the issue in the future.

Is air sampling the easiest way to identify indoor air pollutants?

Although air sampling for contaminants might seem to be the logical response to occupant complaints, it doesn’t always provide information about possible causes. While certain basic measurements, e.g., temperature, relative humidity, CO2, and air movement, can provide a useful “snapshot” of current house conditions, sampling for specific pollutant concentrations is often not required to solve the problem. Air sampling should not be undertaken until considerable information on the factors listed above has been collected, and any sampling strategy should be based on a comprehensive understanding of the house or building structure and the nature of the complaints. For example; When taking a laboratory or direct reading sample it may be more important to qualify (identify) certain pollutants than to quantify (count) the pollutant.

About the Author:
The Sick House Center is a resource and information center about indoor air pollution and it’s effect on allergies. Take the Indoor Air Pollutant quiz at the Sick House Center.

Indoor Air Pollution: The Silent Killer

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