Indoor Air Quality

Indoor Air Quality

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.

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. More information and EPA guidance is available at: http://www.epa.gov/mold.

Landlord Tenant Problems Related to Indoor Air Quality and Mold

Landlords are required to maintain rental property in good and safe working order, in compliance with local building codes.

Most mold problems are due to water intrusion or high humidity resulting from inadequate ventilation. Mold itself may not be a code violation, but many causes of water damage that lead to mold may be code violations. Tenants are encouraged to send the landlord a letter regarding problems with their living conditions. If you have water coming into your house (even if the wall is just wet and the water is not actually pouring in), that may be a violation of city and county building codes. If you are a tenant and you live in the city, you can call the Asheville Building Safety Division at office at 259-5764 and request what is called a minimum housing code inspection. More information from City of Asheville is available here.

If you live in Buncombe County, outside of the City of Asheville, you can call the County Fire Marshal’s office at 250-6620 and request a minimum housing code inspection.

Other Resources

NC State Attorney General’s Office — Consumer Protection Division. Tenants and landlords have rights and responsibilities. More information is on their website at:

Pisgah Legal Services provides free legal aid to those that qualify for services based on income levels. They may be able to help tenants if they have a health and safety concern that is not being addressed.

"People With Asthma: Appropriate Rental Housing Accommodations," this document includes a discussion of the "implied warranty of habitability" and suggests certain steps tenants can take when they have problems (moisture, mold, insects, etc. )

Helpful HUD link for renter's issues and rights in federal housing; Specifically on that page is a link and 800# to report "bad landlords"

Emergency Home Repair for People that Own their Home and Qualify for Assistance Based on Income: Mountain Housing Opportunities

Asthma

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

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.

Indoor Air Cleaning

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.

Should you have the air ducts in your home cleaned?

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/lead

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/oee/a_z/lead.html and http://epi.publichealth.nc.gov/lead/lhmp.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/

At the local level, Buncombe County Department of Health has programs to reduce the risk of lead poisoning in children under the age of six. http://www.buncombecounty.org/Governing/Depts/Health/environmentalhealth.aspx

Radon

Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. The EPA recommends that all homes be tested for radon. There are simple easy to use test kits available at local hardware stores and on the internet. If you decide to do the test yourself, make sure the kit you buy states “meets EPA requirements.”

Second Hand Smoke

According to EPA, secondhand smoke causes approximately 3,000 lung cancer deaths in non smokers each year in the U.S. Exposure to secondhand smoke has also been found to increase the risk of heart disease. Developing children exposed to secondhand smoke are at risk of developing ear infections, bronchitis, pneumonia, and more severe asthma attacks.

The North Carolina Tobacco Prevention and Control Branch works to improve the health of North Carolina residents by promoting smoke-free environments and tobacco-free lifestyles.

January 2, 2015 marked the fifth anniversary of North Carolina's Smoke-Free Restaurants and Bars Law! Check out the NC Smoke Free Site at http://tobaccopreventionandcontrol.ncdhhs.gov/smokefreenc.