Poor indoor air quality can be a serious health risk, and Americans should take the appropriate steps to protect themselves and their families, according to air quality and respiratory health experts. Most people spend as much as 90 percent of their time indoors; air quality conditions in homes, schools, and the workplace can greatly affect morale, productivity, and health.
Many factors that can play a part in determining the indoor air quality include pollutants that come in from outside the building, pollutants generated by materials or products used within the building, and the activities of building occupants. Sources of indoor air pollution include tobacco smoke and combustion sources such as oil, gas, kerosene, coal, wood, and candles. Building materials and furnishings as diverse as deteriorated asbestos-containing insulation, lead-based paint, wet or damp carpet, and cabinetry or furniture made of certain pressed wood products, also can produce indoor air contaminants.
Products used for household cleaning and maintenance, personal care, or hobbies; central heating and cooling systems and humidification devices; and outdoor sources, such as radon, pesticides, and other outdoor ambient air pollution also can adversely affect indoor air quality. Common household cleaning products and room deodorizers can contain harmful chemicals. Residues from household pesticides also can accumulate indoors, while new carpeting, wood paneling and furniture made with pressed wood can give off formaldehyde or other gases. Appliances that are not properly maintained can emit carbon monoxide and other pollutants.
Purchasing non-chemical replacements for many common household products and properly maintaining and venting furnaces and water heaters can reduce the risks of poor indoor air quality. All homes and workplaces should be properly vented. Newer, more energy efficient homes and buildings can unintentionally lead to a build up of indoor air pollution by reducing fresh air ventilation. By simply being mindful of the types of household products used and properly maintaining appliances, the risk can be minimized while retaining the benefits of an energy-efficient design.