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Indoor Air Quality

When the Indoor Air Gets Polluted

The air inside your home plays a huge role in the way you and the rest of your family feel on a day-to-day basis.

Most of us worry about the air quality outside. We have smog advisories, air quality alerts, and it seems like every day I see something in the news about pollution or gas emissions.

But you want to know the hard facts? The air inside your home can be two to five times more polluted than the air outside. In some cases, it’s 100 times worse!

We are constantly exposed to pollution, toxins, pesticides, gases — even radon. Most of the time, these things get diluted into the air. But they can also find their way into homes through cracks in foundation walls and floors, through unfinished floors, windows, sumps, vents or gaps around pipes and drains. The problem is that when these pollutants get into our homes and can’t escape, they start to accumulate. In high concentrations, radon and other toxins can be big health risks.

Professor to Study Effects of Energy-Efficiency Measures on Indoor Air Quality

BOONE—Weatherization improves a building’s energy efficiency by keeping cold air out in the winter and hot humid air out in the summer. But do these measures affect indoor air quality?

That’s what a team from Appalachian State University plans to find out.

Dr. Susan C. Doll, an assistant professor in building science program in the Department of Technology and Environmental Design, has received a three-year $696,810 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to compare air quality measurements in homes in North Carolina mountain and coastal communities to see if weatherization affects the level of indoor air contaminants.

“One approach for improving energy efficiency is to seal up the buildings so you are not losing conditioned air, but we can’t forget about the people living in these buildings,” Doll said.

Poor Quality of Indoor Air Could be Behind Your Health Problems

One of the top five public health risks facing the United States is the air we breathe indoors -- in our homes, schools and businesses.

It's where Americans spend about 90 percent of their time, and where levels of pollution could be two to five times higher than outdoor levels, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Indoor air pollutants -- such as dust mites, volatile organic compounds (known as VOCs), fibrous particulates, radon, mold and other contaminants -- can trigger short- and long-term health problems ranging from asthma to allergies.

A strong indicator of poor indoor air quality is a person's symptoms dissipating when away from the structure and increasing when one returns to it. The EPA recently announced it would spend $2.4 million on a cooperative to help increase awareness and improve indoor air quality nationwide.

Radon Presentation at EPA's Indoor Air Quality Tools for Symposium

Radon Presentation at EPA's Indoor Air Quality Tools for Symposium

On Friday, December 5, 2008 CRCPD E-25 Chair Bill Bell and EPA's Susie Shimek held a session titled Radon and Schools at the 9th Annual Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools Symposium. The slides can be downloaded below in PDF format.

Slides from other sessions are available on the Symposium website.