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The Inside Story: A Guide to Indoor Air Quality

CPSC Document #450

A Joint Publication of the

Consumer Product Safety Commission
Environmental Protection Agency


DISCLAIMER

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.

Introduction

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.


Table of Contents

INDOOR AIR QUALITY IN YOUR HOME
What Causes Indoor Air Problems?
- Pollutant Sources
- Amount of Ventilation
How Does Outdoor Air Enter a Home?
What if You Live in an Apartment?

IMPROVING THE AIR QUALITY IN YOUR HOME
Indoor Air and Your Health
Identifying Air Quality Problems
Measuring Pollutant Levels
Weatherizing Your Home
Three Basic Strategies
- Source Control
- Ventilation Improvements
- Air Cleaners

A LOOK AT SOURCE-SPECIFIC CONTROLS
(Includes a discussion of the health effects and ways to reduce exposure to each pollutant source)
Radon
Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS)
Biological Contaminants
Stoves, Heaters, Fireplaces, and Chimneys
Household Products
Formaldehyde
Pesticides
Asbestos
Lead
WHAT ABOUT CARPETS?
WHEN BUILDING A NEW HOME

DO YOU SUSPECT YOUR OFFICE HAS AN INDOOR AIR PROBLEM?
Health Effects
What Causes Problems?
- Sources of Office Air Pollution
-- Ventilation Systems
-- Use of the Building
What to Do If You Suspect A Problem

REFERENCE GUIDE TO MAJOR INDOOR AIR POLLUTANTS IN THE HOME
(Listed by Sources, Health Effects, Levels in Homes and Steps to Reduce Exposure for each Pollutant)
Radon
Environmental Tobacco Smoke
Biologicals
- Carbon Monoxide
- Nitrogen Dioxide
- Organic Gases
- Respirable Particles
Formaldehyde
Pesticides
Asbestos
Lead

WHERE TO GO FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
Federal Information Sources
- Environmental Protection Agency
- Consumer Product Safety Commission
- Department of Housing and Urban Development
- Department of Energy
- Public Health Service
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration
- Bonneville Power Administration
- General Services Administration
- Tennessee Valley Authority
State and Local Organizations
Other Organizations

GLOSSARY OF TERMS

To order a printed copy of this booklet, send your publication request to: publications@cpsc.gov.


Source: Consumer Product Safety Commission