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A Network of Experts in Children’s Environmental Health

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Indoor Health


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 occasionally 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, including children, spend as much as 90% of their time indoors.


Over the past several decades, our exposure to indoor air pollutants is believed to have increased due to a variety of factors, including the construction of more tightly sealed buildings, reduced ventilation rates to save energy, the use of synthetic building materials and furnishings, and the use of chemically formulated personal care products, pesticides, and household cleaners.

In recent years, comparative risk studies have consistently ranked indoor air pollution among the top five environmental risks to public health.

 Please expand the subtopics below to learn more.



 Indoor Health--School Indoor Air Quality  

Schools have four times as many people per unit area than the typical office building. Schools also support a variety of activities (from art to gym classes) and often have tight budgets and deferred maintenance. These factors make it difficult for schools to ensure good indoor air quality.

All states have schools with unsatisfactory environmental conditions. In a June 1996 General Accounting Office report to Congress on School Facilities about 69 percent of schools nationwide reported at least one unsatisfactory environmental condition. Of these, 19 percent are attributed to unsatisfactory indoor air quality, 19 percent to unsatisfactory heating, and 27 percent to unsatisfactory ventilation. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is especially concerned with Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) in schools because children spend a majority of their day there. EPA assists schools across the Region in addressing indoor air quality problems using low-or no-cost techniques and existing school resources. The IAQ Tools for Schools program, for example, promotes the use of the Tools for Schools Action Kit. This kit serves as a model IAQ management plan for schools to use for increasing awareness and developing communication strategies. It is designed to help prevent indoor air quality problems from occurring and to guide schools through the quick and efficient resolution of problems if and when they do occur.



 Indoor Health--Carbon Monoxide  


Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas produced from the incomplete burning of virtually any combustible product. It may accumulate indoors as a result of tobacco smoking, poorly ventilated appliances, and attached garages. Carbon monoxide enters the blood from the lungs and combines with hemoglobin, blocking the blood's ability to carry oxygen to body cells. Symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure may mimic influenza and include fatigue, headache, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, mental confusion, and rapid heart rate. Depending on the level of exposure, carbon monoxide can be immediately fatal. Long-term, low-level exposure to carbon monoxide by pregnant women have the potential to injure the developing fetus.


 Indoor Health--Cigarette Smoking  

Exposure to secondhand smoke can increase the risk of allergic complications such as sinusitis and bronchitis. Common symptoms of smoke irritation are burning or watery eyes, nasal congestion, coughing, hoarseness and shortness of breath presenting as a wheeze. It is best not to smoke around children.


 Indoor Health--Radon Gas  

Radon is a cancer-causing, radioactive gas. You cannot see, smell, or taste radon. But it may be a problem in your home. When you breathe air that contains radon, lung cancer can develop. In fact, the Surgeon General has warned that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States today.

Only smoking causes more lung cancer deaths. If you smoke and your home has high radon levels, your risk of lung cancer is especially high. For more information on radon, click-on the following link:



 Indoor Health--Household Chemicals  

Cleaning supplies, cosmetics, personal care products, house plants and medications are all things around your home that can effect the health of your child. Especially with children under 6 years, these items should be kept out of reach and locked up to prevent accidental ingestion and exposure.


If you believe your child has tasted or eaten any of these household products, call your local poison center immediately at 1-800-222-1222.



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