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Indoor Air Quality 

Introduction

Indoor Air Quality, or IAQ, is an important issue in office buildings, schools, and homes because people spend at least 90% of their time indoors where pollutant levels are often higher than outdoors.

US EPA has consistently ranked indoor air pollution among the top five environmental risks to public health.

Children, the elderly, and those in poor health are most at risk for the effects of indoor air quality problems. These groups also spend most of their time indoors.

Below are some helpful links on Indoor Air:

Mold

Mold is a member of the Fungi kingdom. Unlike plants, fungi lack chlorophyll and must rely on the digestion of plants and other organic matter for nourishment. Fungi play an important role in the ecosystem by breaking down and consuming dead organic matter.

Mold is everywhere in the environment, indoors and outdoors. Outdoor mold concentrations are considered to be normal, background mold levels. Mold can be a problem when environmental conditions cause it to grow at a high rate indoors.

Mold growth requires: moisture, food, and oxygen.

Building materials including wood, paper, carpet, insulation, and drywall are food sources for mold.

Moisture control is the key to mold control. Introduce water and you have all of the right conditions for mold to grow indoors. If mold is a problem indoors, clean up the mold and get rid of the excess water or moisture. Fix leaky plumbing or other sources of water. Wash mold off hard surfaces with detergent and water, and dry completely. Absorbent materials (such as ceiling tiles & carpet) that become moldy may have to be replaced.

Radon

Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. Approximately 12% of lung cancer deaths in the U.S. per year are attributed to radon. Approximately 15,000 to 22,000 lung cancer cases per year are linked to radon. (National Academy of Sciences, 1998)

Lead

According to EPA, old lead-based paint is the most significant source of lead exposure in the U.S. today. Harmful exposures to lead dust can occur when lead-based paint is improperly removed from surfaces by dry scraping, sanding, or open-flame burning. Abrasion, friction, and impact of painted surfaces can also produce lead dust. Lead dust indoors can come from outdoor sources, including contaminated soil tracked inside, and from the use of lead in certain indoor activities such as soldering and stained-glass making. Some household items may also contain lead. More information is available at EPA's website: http://www.epa.gov/iaq/lead.html

In North Carolina, renovation activities that can lead to lead exposure are regulated by the Department of Health and Human Services (in lieu of US EPA) through the state's Lead Based Paint Hazard Management Program. For more information about lead and this program, visit http://epi.publichealth.nc.gov/lead.html.

The Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services coordinates clinical and environmental services aimed at eliminating childhood lead poisoning. http://ehs.ncpublichealth.com/hhccehb/cehu/index.htm#clppp

At the local level, lead inspections and assistance with identifying lead hazards are available through the Healthy Homes and Lead Safety Program. More information is available at: http://www.healthyhomesandleadsafety.org or by calling 828-683-8433.

Second Hand Smoke

Second hand smoke causes approximately 3,000 lung cancer deaths in non smokers each year in the U.S. (USEPA, 1992)

Scientific studies published in peer-reviewed journals on both animals and humans indicate that nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke have higher death rates from heart disease. More specifically, a 1997 British Medical Journal meta-analysis of 19 published studies found that exposure to secondhand smoke increases an individual's risk of ischemic heart disease by 25%. For more information about secondhand smoke and health, click here.

Developing children exposed to secondhand smoke are at risk of developing ear infections, bronchitis, pneumonia, and more severe asthma attacks. Take the smoke free home pledge today!

Adopting a smoke-free workplace will encourage employees to quit smoking, thereby not only greatly reducing their chances of suffering from a smoking-related illness in the future, but also reducing the chances their nonsmoking coworkers will suffer from illnesses related to secondhand smoke. Eliminating secondhand smoke from the workplace and decreasing smoking by employees can reduce health care costs and increase years of productive life. These two factors alone will positively affect your company's bottom line and help your employees’ live full and productive lives!

For more information, and an excellent website for helping North Carolina businesses achieve smoke free status, please see:

Carbon Monoxide

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, about 170 people in the United States die every year from CO produced by non-automotive consumer products.

Asthma

Asthma is the most common long-term childhood disease and the leading cause of school absenteeism due to chronic illness.

Healthy Buildings, Healthy People

EPA Report: Healthy Buildings, Healthy People, 2001: A vision for indoor environmental quality (IEQ) in the 21st Century.

The objective of this report is to “Realize major human health gains” over the next 50 years by improving indoor environmental quality.

Indoor Air Cleaners

Avoiding and removing sources of indoor air pollution is the most effective way to prevent poor indoor air quality. Air cleaners can help, but they can only do so much. Read more at:

References

National Academy of Sciences (NAS). 1998. Health Effects of Exposure to Radon (BEIR VI). Committee on the Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation (BEIR) of the National Research Council. Washington, DC, National Academy Press.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 1992. Respiratory Health Effects of Passive Smoking: Lung Cancer and Other Disorders. Washington, D.C. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. EPA/600/6-90/006F (NTIS PB 93-134419).

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). 1997. CPSC Urges Annual Fuel-Burning Appliance Inspection to Prevent Deaths, Fires. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Press Release #97-191. Washington D.C.