Indoor Air Pollution

Toxic Solvents commonly found in the home:

Aliphatic hydrocarbons- hexane

Halogenated aliphatic hydrocarbons- chloroform

Aliphatic alcohols-methanol & ethanol

Glycols and glycol ethers- used in antifreeze

Aromatic hydrocarbons- benzene & toluene

from A Textbook of Modern Toxicology. Ernest Hodgson. 1997

Interdisciplinary Unit

Indoor Air Pollutants


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Effects on Humans


dizziness, headache, vomiting, drowsiness and unconciousness

Chronic exposure: (if contact with the eyes: neuritis, atrophy, visual impairment, edema, and cataracts),CNS depression, done marrow depression, leukemogen headaches, anoexia, nervousness, weariness, anemia, pallor, reduced clotting, marrow damage and leukemia.


chronic exposure: liver, kidney, nervous system disorder and heart damage,carcinogen and alteration of genetic material, fertility problems, fetotoxicity,developmental problems: craniofacial, musculoskeletal and gastrointestinal


Sick house syndrome is a serious air quality problem in homes and work places. An area can be described as "sick" mainly because people develop symptoms of illness such as headaches, watery eyes, nausea, skin disorders and fatigue when spending considerable time where there is a buildup of air pollutants from household products, building materials, formaldehyde and/or respirable particles. Signs of a sick house include a musty, stuffy smell and other lingering odors. Moisture buildup plays a large part since high humidity increases the emissions of odors and chemicals such as formaldehyde, and it promotes the spread of mildew which can aggravate or cause allergies.

The oil crises in 1973-74 and 1980-81 spawned the development of super-tight houses in an effort to make homes more energy efficient. There have been outcries from consumer advocates who believe super-tight homes do not provide adequate outside ventilation, and therefore allow molds and airborne pollutants to accumulate in the home. Research sponsored by the Florida Department of Community Affairs suggests there is no correlation between tight houses and health problems; occupants of tight homes are no more likely to have health problems than those in leaky homes.

Even so, some tightly built, well-insulated and vapor-sealed houses can develop signs of a sick house during winter months in moderate and cold climates. The cure is ventilation, because cool air holds less moisture and replaces air with moisture and contaminants. In warm, humid climates sick house problems can occur during summer months when outside air is very moist. Infiltration and ventilation, which bring in humid outside air, may increase mildew and other moisture related problems when air conditioning does not provide sufficient dehumidification. In most cases, the ideal relative humidity range is between 37 and 55 percent.

Three articles on Multiple Chemical Sensitivity

Beyond the MCS debate

AUTHOR: Sandier, Howard M; Blume, Richard S

PUBLICATION: Occupational Hazards I vS9n2 I pS5-56 I Feb 1997

ABSTRACT: A great deal of-mystery surrounds Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, an illness believed caused by low-level chemical exposures sensitizing certain individuals. Information about the illness and whether or not it actually exists is presented.

Allergic to life

AUTHOR: Kodis, Michelle R

PUBLICATION: E: The Environmental Magazine I v6nl I p4647 I Jan 1995

ABSTRACT: Thousands of people suffer from environmental illness or multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), which causes allergic reactions to perfumes, car exhaust, pesticides, cleaners and other chemicals. Many believe that MCS is a symptom of psychosis and not a medical disorder.

Measuring chemical sensitivity prevalence: A questionnaire for population studies

AUTHOR: Kipen, Howard M; Hallman, William; Kelly-McNeil, Kathie; Fiedler, Nancy

PUBLICATION: American Journal of Public Health I v85n4 I pS74-577 1 Apr 1995

ABSTRACT: A questionnaire for use in population studies was developed and tested to assess the presence or absence of chemical sensitivity. Patients with multiple chemical sensitivities and asthma had average scores that were significantly different from each other and from those of each of the other diagnostic categories.

Other Articles on Indoor Air Pollution

Danger: bad-air rinks

Source: Connelly, K.,. Maclean's, 109,1996, 58.

This article discusses the impact of pollutants in community public ice arena's in Canadian Provinces and what has been done to alleviate the conflicts with the indoor air pollution dilemma. Initially, ice participants complained about sleepless nights, fatigue, and breathlessness. Upon testing the rink, levels of nitrogen dioxide were five times higher than the province guidelines. The indoor pollution was a combination of cigarette smoke, ammonia, exhaust from the zamboni machine, and deep-fryer fumes. Research conducted concluded that the levels of Nitrogen dioxide emmisions were over guidelines in forty percent of the Canadian rinks. Also, young athletes could develop asthma because the sport uses a great supply of energy during respiration, the airways are susceptible to pollutants.This problem also occured in Minnesota and since then, mandatory weekly air quality indoor test are required. In contrast, certain Canadaian rinks have just begun to institute mandatory tests and supplying information to the public, but still no national guidelines exist as of 1996. Rink employees are taking advantage of technology and are using natural gas in the ice cleaning machines and are installing catalytic converters to reduce NO2 and CO emmisions. Until national guidelines exist, the emphasis is being placed on the players, coaches , and parents to spread the news and require safety.


Stuck in thin air

Source: Gunther, J.,A.. Popular Science, 247, 1995,27.

This indoor pollution article analyzes the ventilation of pollutants in a room and test ways to release the pollutants. Ideally to release pollutants (spores, gases, and cigarette smoke) one would increase the ventilation in a room. However, this has conflicting views. Some air entering a room rushes through, but other air forms stagnant pockets of cells which traps pollutants. Researchers from Duke and SMU used a supercomputer from Cornell's Theory Center to test the movement of pollutants in rooms by changing air pattern simulations. The conclusions verified air stagnants, but if the air supply was positioned diagonally, more pollutants were removed. The researchers recommend rooms with slow steady cool moving air called laminar flow. This flow causes less of a draft.


EPA reports air quality is improving

The healthiness of US air-as measured by levels of respirable particulates, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone and lead-generally improved between 1978 and 1987, according to an EPA analysis of air quality trends, issued last week. Despite these improvements, the study finds almost 41 percent of US residents still live in areas exceeding acceptable levels of at least one of these six pollutants-the only ones for which EPA has set health based ambient-air standards. Lead levels dropped 88 percent over the 10 years, 19 percent in the last year alone. EPA attributes these dramatic decreases to the phasing out of lead in gasoline. Carbon monoxide fell 32 percent over the decade, 6 percent in the last year. Tom Curran in EPA's Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards credits much of the improvement to the federal motor-vehicle control program-which required carbon-monoxide-emissions-control devices on new cars-and improved traffic flow patterns in large cities. By the end of the 10-year period, he notes, cars-which produce about two-thirds of the nation's carbon monoxide-emitted 38 percent less carbon monoxide while driving 24 percent more miles. Smog ozone remains the most intractable problem. While ambient levels fell 16 percent over the decade, more than one-third of all people in the United States live in areas where ozone regularly exceeds acceptable levels.


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