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PROBLEM: Indoor Air Pollution

It used to be that air quality from the outside was thought to be the most hazardous form of pollution to the human body. Who would have thought the indoor pollution found in your very own home could be even more dangerous?

Indoor pollutants fall into two major categories:

1. Particulate matter, which includes dust, smoke, pollen, and particles generated from combustion appliances, as well as biological particles associated with tiny organisms such as dust mites, bacteria, and molds.

2. Gaseous pollutants that also come from combustion processes, but are in gaseous rather than particle form, and also come from the use of products such as adhesives, paints, cleaning products, and pesticides.

The U.S. Government Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warns, “Most people are aware that outdoor air pollution can damage their health but may not know that indoor air pollution can also have significant effects. EPA studies of human exposure to air pollutants indicate that indoor air levels of many pollutants may be 2–5 times, and on occasion more than 100 times, higher than outdoor levels. These levels of indoor air pollutants are of particular concern because it is estimated that most people spend as much as 90 percent of their time indoors. In recent years, comparative risk studies performed by the EPA and its Science Advisory Board (SAB) have consistently ranked indoor air pollution among the top five environmental risks to public health.”1

Other pollutant sources found in the home include gas, kerosene, coal, wood, pesticides, and products for household cleaning and maintenance, personal care, or certain indoor hobbies. Even central heating and cooling systems and humidification devices can’t be ruled out when it comes to polluting the home.

The amount of outdoor air that enters the home plays a major role in the effect these contaminants have on human health. If too little of this air enters the home, these pollutants can pose health risks. Because some weather conditions can reduce the amount of outdoor air that enters a home, pollutants can build up even more.2