Indoor Air Pollutants

Louisville Indoor Air Quality Service

The following is adapted from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Consumer Product Safety Commission.

By-products of Combustion (such as CO, CO2, NOX)

Source: Unvented kerosene and gas heaters, gas appliances, wood and gas-burning fireplaces, leaking chimneys and furnaces, tobacco smoke, automobile exhaust in attached garages

Health Effect: Eye, nose, and throat irritation, impaired lung function and respiratory function in children, bronchitis, lung cancer, flu-like symptoms.

What to do
:

  1. Avoid use of unvented gas or kerosene space heaters
  2. Keep gas appliances and furnaces properly adjusted
  3. Install and use exhaust fans
  4. Change filters on heating/cooling systems and air cleaners
  5. Increase of supply of outside air
  6. Proper location of air intakes to avoid exhaust from vehicles

Environmental tobacco smoke

Source: Cigarettes, cigars, pipes
Health Effect: Eye, nose, and throat irritation, headaches, pneumonia. Increased risk of respiratory and ear infections in children. Lung cancer and increased risk of heart disease.

What to do:

  1. Stop smoking
  2. Discourage others from smoking
  3. Isolate smokers outdoors

Formaldehyde

Source: Pressed wood products (hardwood, plywood wall paneling, particleboard, fiberboard) used in buildings and furniture, urea-formaldehyde foam insulation, permanent press textiles, glue, ETS, vehicle exhaust, stoves, fireplaces
Health Effect: Eye, nose, and throat irritation, coughing, fatigue, rashes, and allergic reactions. Causes cancer in animals. Death at very high concentration.

What to do
:

  1. Use products with lower emission rates of formaldehyde
  2. Keep humidity low in house
  3. Increase ventilation
  4. Aging or baking of products

Other volatile organic compounds

Source: Paints, solvents, wood preservatives, aerosol sprays, cleaners and disinfectants, moth repellents, air fresheners, hobby supplies, and dry cleaned clothes
Health Effect: Eye, nose, and throat irritation, headaches, loss of coordination, nausea, damage to kidney and central nervous system. Some cause cancer in animals. Some may cause cancer in humans.

What to do:

  1. Buy only what you need
  2. Read labels and follow instructions
  3. Use in well-ventilated areas or outdoors
  4. Hang dry cleaned clothes in an open area for about 6 hours

Radon

Source: Local geology, soil, water
Health Effect: Lung cancer, possibility of stomach cancer

What to do
:

  1. Seal cracks and openings in the basement
  2. Ventilate crawl space
  3. Subslab suction
  4. Increase ventilation

Pesticides

Source: Garden and lawn chemicals, poisons for pest control
Health Effect: Eye, nose, and throat irritation, damage to central nervous system and kidney, cancer
What to do:

  1. Use non-chemicals if possible
  2. Avoid storage in the house
  3. Follow manufacturer’s instructions

Asbestos

Source: Deteriorating or damaged insulation, fireproofing, or acoustical materials

Health Effect: Cancer and lung diseases (smokers at higher risk)

What to do
:

  1. Test the suspected material
  2. Remove asbestos by a trained contractor or develop a maintenance plan
  3. Encapsulation of material containing asbestos

Heavy Metals

Source: Paints, automobiles, tobacco smoke, soil, and dust
Health Effect: Headaches, irritation in mouth, rash, excessive perspiration, kidney damage
What to do:

  1. Vacuum regularly
  2. Removal of lead based paint

Bioaerosols

Source: Humans, pets, moist surfaces, humidifiers, ventilation systems, drip pans, cooling coils in air handling units, plants, outside air
Health Effect: Legionnaires’ disease, humidifier fever, influenza

What to do:

  1. Remove the source
  2. Maintenance of equipment
  3. Humidity control to 40% to 60%
  4. Use of filters in ventilation
  5. Air cleaning by the use of disinfectants

Consider an air purifier, UV lamp, and whole-house duct cleaning to improve your indoor air quality.

Got a question about heating, cooling, air quality,
plumbing, drains, sewers, or water treatment?

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