Indoor Air Pollution: An Evaluation of Three Agents

Introduction

Environmental Tobacco Smoke

Formaldehyde

Combustion Gases

Indoor air quality is a topic that covers many different types of environments and many different agents. Almost any chemical, particle, or biological element that can circulate in an indoor environment and cause irritation or health effect can be categorized as indoor air pollution. Most of the sources of these agents are anthropogenic but some are also naturally occurring. It is difficult to provide a comprehensive list that would be applicable to all indoor environments. Similarly, a discussion of all of the characteristics and attributes of each individual agent would be variable and inconsistent.

In order to develop a more meaningful evaluation of indoor air pollutants, the following summaries choose three of the numerous agents that can pollute indoor air and affect indoor air quality; environmental tobacco smoke, formaldehyde, and combustion gases. These three pollutants can overlap in the indoor environment because they may contain some of the same constituents or because one agent may be a product of the other. They are also ubiquitous in many indoor environments and may produce very strong environmental health effects.

Environmental Tobacco Smoke

Environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) is the ambient tobacco smoke that non-smokers are exposed to. It is also referred to as “second-hand smoke” or “passive smoking.” ETS is found in homes, workplaces, and certain public places such as restaurants. In spite of recent legislation restricting smoking in many public places, there is evidence that exposure to ETS is still a public health threat. Approximately 3,000 lung cancer deaths each year are attributed to ETA and some studies indicate that it may contribute to 35,000 per year due to heart disease (1).


www.rivcoph.org/healthed/ shs.htm <http://www.rivcoph.org/healthed/shs.htm>

For more information on ETS, click on the environmental tobacco smoke link on the left side of this page.

References
(1) http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/sgr/sgr_1986/SGR1986-Chapter3.pdf

Formaldehyde

Formaldehyde contamination is the most common cause of residential health complaints. Its prevalence as a problem is related to the widespread use of wood products bonded with urea-formaldehyde resins used in the construction of single-family dwellings apartments, and cabinetry and furniture. Building surveys have shown that formaldehyde occur in indoor air when large quantities of these products are installed in buildings and that correlation with childhood asthma can be demonstrated. Its complain status is also related to the fact that the illness syndrome associated with it, unlike allergies and asthma, is not generally diagnosed and treated in traditional medical practice.

Combustion Gases

Indoor air pollution associated with combustion has a long history one that goes back to the first human dwelling and use of fire. Combustion pollutants are a common contaminant of indoor environments as well as outdoor environments.
Combustion pollutants are gases or particles such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, particles, and sulfur dioxide, aldehydes and so on.

People spend a lot of time indoors and then the quality of the air indoors can affect their health. In particular Infants, young children and the elderly are a group shown to be more susceptible to pollutants. People with chronic respiratory or cardiovascular diseases are also more susceptible than others to pollutants. Depending on the type and amount of pollutants, the health effects of combustion pollutants range from headaches and breathing difficulties to death. Therefore, we should be concerned about these pollutants and manage the combustion pollutants.