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Indoor Air Pollution

Ch 17

Indoor air pollution

Indoor air contains higher concentrations of pollutants than outdoor air (up to 70x)
Synthetic materials not comprehensively tested To reduce heat loss & improve energy efficiency:
ventilation systems are sealed off & recirculate air windows do not open This traps pollutants inside.

Indoor air pollution usually is a greater threat to human health than outdoor air pollution.
Avg. U.S. citizen spends 90% of time indoors 6,000 people die per day from indoor air pollution

Pollution levels inside cars in traffic clogged urban areas can be up to 18 times higher.

Indoor Air Pollution--Developing World From burning wood, charcoal, dung, crop waste
With little to no ventilation Soot and carbon monoxide Causes pneumonia, bronchitis, allergies, cataracts, asthma, heart disease, cancer & death
~1.6 million deaths/year

Indoor Air Pollution--Developed World

According to the EPA, the 4 most dangerous indoor air pollutants in developed countries are:
Tobacco smoke Formaldehyde Radioactive radon-222 gas Very small fine & ultrafine particles

Other Important Indoor Air pollutants

Nitrogen dioxide Carbon monoxide Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) House dust mites (& other allergens from pets) Chlorinated organic compounds (ex. pesticides) Asbestos & manmade mineral fibers

Building materials Furnishings & fabrics Glues Cleaning products Combustion appliances (cooking & heating) Open fires Smoking Living organisms Outdoor air

Tobacco Smoke
The most dangerous indoor pollutants in the developed world
Secondhand smoke from cigarettes is especially dangerous
Containing over 4000 dangerous chemicals Causes eye, nose, and throat irritation Smoking has declined in developed nations

The most diverse group of indoor air pollutants

Released by everything from plastics and oils to perfumes and paints
Ex. formaldehyde, which leaks from pressed wood and insulation, irritates mucous membranes and induces skin allergies Ex. pesticides, which are found indoors more often than outdoors due to seepage

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

Most VOCs are released in very small amounts

Unclear health effects due to low concentrations

colorless, tasteless, odorless, radioactive gas from decay of U-238 found in some soils & rocks can seep into some houses
Most homes are now radon resistant

55% of our exposure to radiation comes from radon

May harm lungs from long term exposure.
increases the risk of lung cancer
Chance increase more if a smoker (synergistic effect)

causes 20,000 deaths a year in the U.S.

Reducing the risk

Sealing cracks in floors and walls Simple systems using pipes and fans

Sources & paths of entry for indoor radon-222 gas

Radon risk across the U.S.

Living organisms can pollute indoors

Dust mites
feed on human skin & dust
live in materials such as bedding & furniture fabrics

can cause asthma attacks & allergic reactions

Fungi, mold, mildew, airborne bacteria

cause severe allergies, asthma, & other respiratory ailments

Animal dander
worsen asthma

Major Indoor Pollutants

1, 1, 1Trichloroethane Asbestos

Aerosol sprays Pipe insulation, ceilings, floor tiles, oven mitts

Health Effects
Dizziness, breathing irregularities Lung Cancer and asbestosis

Benzo-a-pyrene Tobacco smoke, woodstoves

Carbon Monoxide Faulty furnaces, cigarette smoke

Lung Cancer
Headache, heartbeat irregularities, death, CO has 250x affinity for hemoglobin than O2


Pulp and paper mills, Cancer water and wastewater plants Paneling, particle board, furniture, carpeting, adhesives Nausea, dizziness, irritation of throat, eyes, and lungs


Methylene chloride
Nitrogen oxides

Paint strippers and thinner persistent

Nerve disorders, diabetes

Headaches, irritated lungs Cancer

Furnaces, stoves, fireplaces and vents ParaAir fresheners, dichlorobenzene mothballs

Radon 222

Styrene Tetrachlorethylene Tobacco Smoke

Soil and rock near house foundation, concrete Carpets, plastics, Dry-cleaning fluid

Lung cancer

Kidney & liver damage Nerve disorders, damage to liver and kidneys, cancer Lung cancer and heart disease Allergies, coughs, sneezing, eye irritation, sore throats, difficulty breathing

Cigarettes and other smoking sources

Organic Dust mites, fungal and Material (Living algal spores, dust Organisms) (human skin), animal dander, hair, carpet fibers, fur

Sick Building Syndrome

A sickness produced by indoor pollution w/ general & nonspecific symptoms
Ex. dizziness, headaches, coughing, sneezing, nausea, burning eyes, chronic fatigue, irritability, eye/nose/throat irritation, dry skin, nasal congestion, difficulty breathing, nose bleeds, flu-like symptoms
persistent set of symptoms in >20% population complaints/Symptoms relieved after exiting building causes(s) not known or recognizable

New buildings are more commonly sick than old ones because of reduced air exchange.
Can be solved with low-toxicity building materials & good ventilation

Building Related Illness

Also due to exposure to indoor air pollutants Recognizable Causes Clinically Recognized Disease
Pontiac Fever Legionella spp. Legionnaire's Disease Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis Humidifier Fever Asthma Allergy Respiratory Disease
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Reducing Indoor Air Pollution

Little effort has been devoted to reducing indoor air pollution even though it is more harmful to human health than outdoor air pollution

Environmental & health scientists call for us to focus on preventing air pollution (especially indoor) in developing countries.

Indoor Air Pollution
Prevention Cleanup or Dilution

Cover ceiling tiles & lining of AC ducts to prevent release of mineral fibers Ban smoking or limit it to well ventilated areas Set stricter formaldehyde emissions standards for carpet, furniture, and building materials Prevent radon infiltration Use office machines in well ventilated areas Use less polluting substitutes for harmful cleaning agents, paints, and other products

Use adjustable fresh air vents for work spaces Increase intake of outside air

Change air more frequently

Circulate a buildings air through rooftop green houses Use exhaust hoods for stoves and appliances burning natural gas Install efficient chimneys for wood-burning stoves
Fig. 19-20, p. 461

We can reduce indoor air pollution

In developed countries:
Use low-toxicity material Monitor air quality Keep rooms clean Limit exposure to chemicals Allow for better mixing of indoor & outdoor air

In developing countries:
Dry wood before burning Cook outside Use less-polluting fuels (natural gas)

We can reduce indoor air pollution

The amount of air available (for mixing of indoor & outdoor air) to dilute pollutants is an important indicator of the likely contaminant concentration
Indoor air can mix with outside air by 3 mechanisms
infiltration natural ventilation forced ventilation

Mixing of Indoor & Outdoor Air

natural air exchange that occurs between a building & its environment when doors & windows are closed
leakage through holes or openings in the building
Influenced by: pressure differentials inside & outside the building temperature differentials inside & outside of bldg ~in winter, warm air inside wants to rise exits through cracks in ceiling & draws in outside air how fast wind is blowing

Mixing of Indoor & Outdoor Air

Natural ventilation
air exchange that occurs when windows or doors are opened to increase air circulation

Forced ventilation
mechanical air handling systems used to induce air exchange using fans & blowers

What Can You Do? Indoor Air Pollution Test for radon and formaldehyde inside your home and take corrective measures as needed. Do not buy furniture and other products containing formaldehyde.

Remove your shoes before entering your house to reduce inputs of dust, lead, and pesticides. Test your house or workplace for asbestos fiber levels and for any crumbling asbestos materials if it was built before 1980. Don't live in a pre-1980 house without having its indoor air tested for asbestos and lead. Do not store gasoline, solvents, or other volatile hazardous chemicals inside a home or attached garage. If you smoke, do it outside or in a closed room vented to the outside.
Make sure that wood-burning stoves, fireplaces, and keroseneand gas-burning heaters are properly installed, vented, and maintained.

Install carbon monoxide detectors in all sleeping areas.

Fig. 19-21, p. 461