SEPA

What You Should Know About

United States	Vapor Intrusion

Environmental Protection 		

Agency

EPA has developed this fact sheet to answer some of the most commonly asked questions about an important
health issue called vapor intrusion. Vapors and gases from contaminated groundwater and soil have the
potential to seep into indoor spaces and cause health problems.

What is vapor intrusion?

When chemicals or petroleum products are spilled on the
ground or leak from underground storage tanks, they can
give off gases, or vapors that can get inside buildings.
Common products that can cause vapor intrusion are
gasoline or diesel fuel, dry cleaning solvents and
industrial de-greasers. The vapors move through the soil
and seep through cracks in basements, foundations, sewer
lines and other openings. Vapor intrusion is a concern
because vapors can build up to a point where the health of
residents or workers in those buildings could be at risk.
Some vapors such as those associated with petroleum
products have a gasoline odor, others are odor-free.

VAPOR INTRUSION CONCEPTUAL SITE MODEL

WIND EFFECT

STACK EFFECT

I

SOIL CONTAMINATED WITH VOCs

GROUNDWATER PLUME OF VOCs

Can vapors in my home come from household sources?

Common household products can be a source of indoor air problems. Vapors and gases can come from:
paints; paint strippers or thinners; moth balls; new carpeting and furniture; stored fuel; air fresheners;
cleaning products; dry cleaned clothing and even cigarette smoke.

What are the health concerns related to vapor intrusion?

When vapor intrusion does occur, the health risk will vary based on the type of chemicals, the levels of
the chemical found, the length of exposure and the health of exposed individuals. Some people may
experience eye and respiratory irritation, headaches and/or nausea. These symptoms are temporary and
should go away when the vapors are addressed. Low-level chemical exposures over many years may
raise the lifetime risk of cancer or chronic disease.

How is vapor intrusion discovered?

Samples of gas in the soil or groundwater are first collected near a contaminated site. If no
contamination is found near a site, then vapor intrusion should not be a problem. If contamination is
found, depending on the type, the search may be widened to include samples closer to or on individual
properties. The next step is to take vapor samples from the soil under the home's foundation; these are
called slab, or sub-slab samples. EPA does not generally recommend indoor air sampling before slab or
sub-slab sampling, because indoor air quality varies widely day to day. Also, household products may
interfere with sampling results.

What happens if a problem is found?

The most common solution is to install systems often used to reduce naturally occurring radon that seeps
into homes in some geographic areas. These systems, called radon mitigation systems, remove soil
vapors from below basements or foundations before they enter homes. Vapors are vented outside of the
homes where they become dispersed and harmless. These systems use minimal electricity and do not
affect heating and cooling efficiency. They also prevent radon from entering homes - an added health
benefit especially in radon prone areas. Once the source of the vapors is eliminated, the systems should
no longer be needed.


-------
Vapor Intrusion: Tightly seal common household products after
use and seal them in an area that is well ventilated to avoid the
release of vapors

What can I do to improve indoor air quality?

	Don't buy more chemicals than you need.

	Store unused chemicals in appropriate tightly-sealed containers.

	Don't make your home too air tight. Fresh air helps prevent chemical build-up and mold growth.

	Fix all leaks promptly, as well as other moisture problems that encourage mold.

	Check all appliances and fireplaces annually.

	Test your home for radon. Test kits are available at hardware and home improvement stores or you
can call the Radon Hotline at 800-458-1158 in New York State, or 800-648-0394 in New Jersey.

	Install carbon monoxide detectors in your home. They are available at hardware and home
improvement stores.

Sub-slab mitigation system: This system draws
radon and other vapors out of the soil and vents them
outside

For more information:

	For health related questions regarding vapor intrusion, contact your local health department or the
federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry at:

1-888-422-8737 or visit their Web site at www.atdsr.cdc.gov

	For more detailed information on EPAs vapor intrusion sampling, visit the EPA's Web site at:

www.epa.gov/vaporintrusion

	For more information on indoor air quality, visit EPA's Web site at:
www.epa.gov/leam-issues/learn-about-air


-------