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Environmental Protection

How to Prevent Air Pollution Inside

Photo: Courtesy of Milada Vigerova

Bruce White

Indoor Air Quality Association

What are some of the first things that come to mind when you think about indoor air quality issues in the home or in the workplace?

Indoor air quality issues are a combination of a variety of things. The three primary components of indoor air quality are particulate matter, vapors and gases. From the particulate level, we worry about particles that are smaller than 10 microns because you can inhale them deep into your lungs. So, when we think about things that can poorly affect air quality, it’s typically what you probably can’t see or smell. For example, say you’ve been in a meeting with a large number of cohorts and all of the sudden everyone in the room starts to get a little sleepy, it’s likely because carbon dioxide levels are rising.

What about pollution issues such as asbestos?

The EPA outlawed asbestos in 1989, so there are many different materials that contain levels for asbestos, from soil to roof coverings that were banned from production. Unfortunately, there are buildings that exist today that utilized those materials and were grandfathered in post-outlaw. Another reason why this issue is still present today is because we import building materials from countries that do not have standards and regulations that we do in regard to asbestos.

What impact do environmental disasters have on indoor air quality? What are some of the first steps you should take if you have suffered a catastrophe and are concerned about your indoor air quality?

The first thing they should do is go to one of the government websites and look at some of the resources available. Both the federal and state agencies have information that can be readily retrieved online. If you’re looking at something like a wildfire, for example, smoke is a fine particulate that causes allergic and asthmatic reactions in certain people. A wildfire can also produce serious toxins when chemical building materials are consumed and released through smoke and char. After last year with the number of hurricanes and floods that affected Americans, all the water entering those houses is extremely toxic. It’s a huge mix of stuff from organic oils that have been in the ground to man-made chemical materials and it is hugely important that people who are affected by a water damage in this sense to take a high degree of precaution.

Any final remarks you would like people to know about indoor air quality?

The human population spends 80% of their time in a building, so it is really important to remember that we want that air to be as clean as possible. 

Staff, [email protected]

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