EPA 402/F-08/008 I September 2008 I www.epa.gov/iaq
   United States
   Environmental Protection
                  Care for Your Air:
                  A Guide to Indoor
                  Air Quality
                                        Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)

Understand indoor air in
homes, schools,  and  offices
Most of us spend much of our time indoors. The
air that we breathe in our homes, in schools, and
in offices can put us at risk for health problems.
Some pollutants can be chemicals, gases, and
living organisms like mold and pests.

Several sources of air pollution are in homes,
schools, and offices. Some pollutants cause health
problems such as sore eyes, burning in the nose
and throat, headaches, or fatigue. Other pollutants
cause or worsen allergies, respiratory illnesses
(such as asthma), heart disease, cancer,  and
other serious long-term conditions. Sometimes
individual pollutants at high concentrations, such
as carbon monoxide, cause death.
Some pollutants in the air are
especially harmful for children,
elderly  people, and those with
health problems.

Learn about  pollutants
Understanding and controlling some of the common
pollutants found in homes, schools, and offices may help
improve your indoor air and reduce your family's risk of
health concerns related to indoor air quality (IAQ).
Radon is a radioactive gas that is formed in the soil. It can
enter indoors through cracks and openings in floors and
walls that are in contact with the ground.
•  Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among
   nonsmokers, and the second leading cause of lung cancer
Secondhand smoke comes from burning tobacco products.
It can cause cancer and serious respiratory illnesses.
•  Children are especially vulnerable to secondhand smoke.
   It can cause or worsen asthma symptoms and is linked to
   increased risks of ear infections and Sudden Infant Death
   Syndrome (SIDS).
Combustion Pollutants are gases or particles that come
from burning materials. In homes, the major source of
combustion pollutants are improperly vented or unvented
fuel-burning appliances such as space heaters, woodstoves,
gas stoves, water heaters, dryers, and fireplaces. The types
and amounts of pollutants produced depends on the type of
appliance, how well the appliance is installed, maintained,
and vented, and the kind of fuel it uses. Common
combustion pollutants include:
•  Carbon monoxide (CO) which is a colorless, odorless
   gas that interferes with the delivery of oxygen
   throughout the body. Carbon monoxide causes
   headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, and even death.
•  Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) which is a colorless, odorless
   gas that causes eye, nose and throat irritation, shortness
   of breath, and an increased risk of respiratory infection.
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are chemicals found
in paints and lacquers, paint strippers, cleaning supplies,
varnishes and waxes, pesticides, building materials
and furnishings, office equipment, moth repellents, air
fresheners, and dry-cleaned
clothing. VOCs evaporate into
the air when these products are
used or sometimes even when
they are stored.
•  Volatile organic compounds
   irritate the eyes, nose and
   throat, and cause headaches,
   nausea, and damage to the
   liver, kidneys, and central
   nervous system. Some of them can cause cancer.
Asthma triggers are commonly found in homes, schools,
and offices and include mold, dust mites, secondhand
smoke, and pet dander. A home may have mold growing on
a shower curtain, dust mites in pillows, blankets or stuffed
animals, secondhand smoke in the air, and cat and dog
hairs on the carpet or floors. Other common asthma triggers
include some foods and pollutants in the air.
•  Asthma triggers cause symptoms including coughing,
   chest tightness, wheezing, and breathing problems. An
   asthma attack occurs when symptoms keep getting worse
   or are suddenly very severe. Asthma attacks can be life
   threatening. However, asthma is controllable with the
   right medicines and by reducing asthma triggers.
Molds are living things that produce spores. Molds produce
spores that float in the air, land on damp surfaces, and grow.
•  Inhaling or touching molds can cause hay fever-type
   symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, and
   skin rashes.  Molds can also trigger asthma attacks.

Improving your air
Take steps to help improve your air quality and reduce your
lAQ-related health risks at little or no cost by:

Controlling the sources of pollution: Usually the
most effective way to improve indoor air is to eliminate
individual sources or reduce their emissions.

Ventilating: Increasing the amount of fresh air brought
indoors helps reduce pollutants inside. When weather
permits, open windows and doors, or run an air conditioner
with the vent control open. Bathroom and kitchen fans that
Important tips that will help control indoor
•   Test for radon and fix if there is a problem.

•   Reduce asthma triggers such as mold and dust
   Do not let people smoke indoors.

   Keep all areas clean and dry. Clean up any mold and
   get rid of excess water or moisture.

   Always ventilate when using products that can
   release pollutants into the air; if products must be
   stored following use, make sure to close tightly.

   Inspect fuel-burning appliances regularly for leaks,
   and make repairs when necessary.
exhaust to the outdoors also increase ventilation and help
remove pollutants.

Always ventilate and follow manufacturers' instructions
when you use products or appliances that may release
pollutants into the indoor air.

Changing filters regularly: Central heaters and air
conditioners have filters to trap dust and other pollutants in
the air. Make sure to change or clean the filters regularly,
following the instructions on the package.

Adjusting humidity: The humidity inside can affect the
concentrations of some indoor air pollutants. For example,
high humidity keeps the air moist and increases the
likelihood of mold.

Keep indoor humidity between 30 and 50 percent. Use a
moisture or humidity gauge, available at most hardware
stores, to see if the humidity in your home is at a good
level. To increase humidity, use a vaporizer or humidifier.
To decrease humidity, open the windows if it is not humid
outdoors. If it is warm, turn on the air conditioner or adjust
the humidity setting on the humidifier.
   Consider installing a carbon monoxide alarm.

Remodeling  old  homes and  building new  homes
While remodeling or improving the energy efficiency of
your home, steps should be taken to minimize pollution
from sources inside the home, either from new materials or
from disturbing materials already in the home. In addition,
residents should be alert to signs of inadequate ventilation,
such as stuffy air, moisture condensation on cold surfaces,
or mold and mildew growth.

When building new homes, homebuyers today are
increasingly concerned about the IAQ of their homes.
Pollutants like mold, radon, carbon monoxide, and toxic
chemicals have received greater attention than ever as
poor IAQ has been linked to a host of health problems.
To address these concerns, builders can employ a variety
of construction practices and technologies to decrease the
risk of poor IAQ in their new homes using the criteria from
EPA's Indoor airPLUS as a guide.
To help ensure that you will have good IAQ in your new or
remodeled home:
•  Ask about including radon-reducing features.
•  Provide proper drainage and seal foundations in new
•  Consider installing a mechanical ventilation system.
   Mechanical ventilation systems introduce fresh air using
   ducts and fans, instead of relying on holes or cracks in
   the walls and windows.
•  When installing new appliances (like furnaces) make
   sure they are installed properly with a good vent or flue.

With nearly 56 million people, or 20 percent of the U. S. population, spending their days inside elementary and secondary
schools, IAQ problems can be a significant concern. All types of schools—whether new or old, big or small, elementary
or high school—can experience IAQ problems. School districts are increasingly
experiencing budget shortfalls and many are in poor condition, leading to a host of
IAQ problems.
•  EPA's voluntary Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools Program provides district-
   based guidance to schools about best practices, industry guidelines, and practical
   management actions to help school personnel identify, solve, and prevent IAQ
•  Children may be more sensitive to pollution, and children with asthma are
   especially sensitive. Asthma is responsible for millions of missed school days each
   year. Parents' and caregivers' involvement helps daycare facilities become aware
   of asthma triggers and the need to reduce them.
Office  Buildings
. ?. \   iL
                                                Many office buildings have poor IAQ because of pollution sources
                                                and poorly designed, maintained, or operated ventilation systems.
                                                •  Office workers help to improve the indoor air in their buildings
                                                   by paying attention to environmental conditions including
                                                   ventilation, temperature, and the presence of odors. Report any
                                                   problems to facility managers immediately.
                                                •  To improve IAQ, be careful not to block air vents or grilles,
                                                   keep your space clean and dry, and do not bring in products that
                                                   may pollute the indoor air.
Untold this brochure to find a poster that tells you how to improve the air you breathe in your home.

Take  Action   to   Improve   Air   Quality    in    Every   Room
  Asthma is a serious, sometimes life-threatening
  respiratory disease that affects the quality of life for
  millions of Americans.

  Environmental asthma triggers: are found around the home and
  can be eliminated with simple steps.
  • Don't allow smoking in your home or car.
  • Dust and clean your home regularly.
  • Clean up mold and fix water leaks.
  • Wash sheets and blankets weekly in hot water.
  • Use allergen-proof mattress and pillow covers.
  • Keep pets out of the bedroom and off soft furniture.
  • Control pests—close up cracks and crevices and seal leaks;
    don't leave food out.
  Children are especially sensitive to secondhand
  smoke, which can trigger asthma and other
  respiratory illnesses.
  Secondhand smoke: smoke comes from burning tobacco
  products such as cigarettes, pipes, and cigars.
  • To help protect children from secondhand smoke, do not
    smoke or allow others to smoke inside your home or car.
  Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer.

  Radon gas: enters your home through cracks and openings in
  floors and walls in contact with the ground.
  • Test your home with a do-it-yourself radon kit. If the test
    result indicates you should fix, call a qualified radon mitigation
  • Ask your builder about including radon-reducing features in
    your new home at the time of construction.

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                                                                               Mold can lead to allergic reactions, asthma, and other
                                                                               respiratory ailments.

                                                                               Mold: can grow anywhere there is moisture in a house.
                                                                               • The key to mold control is moisture control.
                                                                               • If mold is a problem in your home, you should clean up the mold
                                                                                promptly and fix the water problem.
                                                                               • It is important to dry water-damaged areas and items within 24-48
                                                                                hours to prevent mold growth.
VOCs cause eye, nose, and throat irritation, headaches,
nausea, and can damage the liver, kidney, and central
nervous system.

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs): are chemicals that evaporate
at room temperature. VOCs are emitted by a wide array of products
used in homes including paints and lacquers, paint strippers,
varnishes, cleaning supplies, air fresheners, pesticides, building
materials, and furnishings. VOCs are released from products into the
home both during use and while stored.
• Read and follow all directions and warnings on common
  household products.
• Make sure there is plenty of fresh air and ventilation (e.g., opening
  windows and using extra fans) when painting, remodeling, or
  using other products that may release VOCs.
• Never mix products, such as household cleaners, unless directed to
  do so on the label.
• Store household products that contain chemicals according to
  manufacturers' instructions.
• Keep all products away from children!
                                                                               Carbon monoxide causes headaches, dizziness,
                                                                               disorientation, nausea and fatigue, and high levels can
                                                                               be fatal.
                                                                               Nitrogen dioxide causes eyes, nose, and throat
                                                                               irritation, impairs lung function, and increases
                                                                               respiratory infections.
                                                                               Sources include: indoor use of furnaces, gas stoves, unvented
                                                                               kerosene and gas space heaters, leaking chimneys, and tobacco
                                                                               • Ventilate rooms where fuel-burning appliances are used.
                                                                               • Use appliances that vent to the outside whenever possible.
                                                                               • Ensure that all fuel-burning appliances are properly installed, used,
                                                                                adjusted, and maintained.