(C) Daniel FriedmanCommon Indoor Air Pollutants & How to Remove Them

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This article describes common indoor air pollutants and explains how to remove them.

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Common Indoor Air Pollutants & How to Remove Them

Table at page top and accompanying text are reprinted/adapted/excerpted with permission from Solar Age Magazine - editor Steven Bliss. Readers looking for a thorough, detailed guide to improving indoor air quality should also see INDOOR AIR QUALITY IMPROVEMENT GUIDE. Contact us to suggest text changes and additions and, if you wish, to receive online listing and credit for that contribution. [Click to enlarge any image including the page top table]

How to Remove indoor air contaminants including: allergens, formaldehyde gas, radon gas, particulates such as smoke, soot, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, organic compounds, asbestos, and improved make-up air in buildings.

The following key articles provide in-depth information about indoor air contaminant detection, effects, testing, and remediation or removal.

This article series, originally by Steven Bliss and appearing in Solar Age Magazine, explains Indoor Air Pollutants & How to Remove Them, including indoor air contamination by allergens, formaldehyde gas, radon gas, particulates such as smoke, soot, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, organic compounds, asbestos, and improved make-up air in buildings.

Sources of Formaldehyde in Buildings & Formaldehyde Exposure Effects

High levels of formaldehyde gas indoors can cause eye and respiratory irritation, and can cause headaches and dizziness. Long term exposure to formaldehyde may cause respiratory-tract harm and can trigger asthma attacks in susceptible individuals. Previous cancer-concerns associated with formaldehyde offgassing from UFFI insulation were discounted by subsequent research.Formaldehyde can cause eye, nose and throat irritation, and has been identified as a human cancer-causing agent (IARC, 2004/2009). As early as 1984 ASHRAE reported as a standard a "comfort level" of indoor formaldehyde gas as 0.1 ppm.

Formaldehyde was used and continues to be used in many building products, coatings, finishes, and furnishings because it has desirable chemical properties and is inexpensive. Nearly all products made using formaldehyde outgas to some extent, some completely, so that the level of this irritating gas is usually substantially reduced or eliminated over time with little or no consumer action.

Of chief concern, probably because their outgassing lasts longer, are wood products made with urea formaldehyde (UF) glues, including most hardwood plywoods, decorative paneling, and nearly all particle board materials. On the other hand, nearly all softwood plywoods use phenol formaldehyde adhesives that are more chemically stable and that have negligible formaldehyde emissions.

See FORMALDEHYDE HAZARDS for a table of "Common Concentrations of Formaldehyde (HCHO) in Indoor & Outdoor Air " - formaldehyde levels found outdoors and in buildings and a comparison of those levels with current residential exposure standards for formaldehyde.

See FORMALDEHYDE GAS EXPOSURE LIMITS for a table of Health Effects of Exposure to Formaldehyde and for formaldehyde exposure standards around the world.

See FORMALDEHYDE GAS SOURCES in BUILDINGS for a detailed list & description of common sources of formaldehyde in buildings.

See UREA FORMALDEHYDE FOAM INSULATION, UFFI for a history of possible formaldehyde off gassing from UFFI in buildings

See FORMALDEHYDE in LAMINATE FLOORING for details about formaldehyde offgassing from Chinese made laminate flooring

Also see these research articles on formaldehyde sources in buildings

Radon Gas in Building Air and Water - Sources & Exposure Effects

Radon is an odorless, colorless gas that occurs naturally as a byproduct of the decay of uranium. In parts of the world where uranium-bearing rock is present under buildings, this gas can in some (not all) instances seep into buildings where the enclosed character of the building leads to a higher level of radon than would be found outdoors.

At higher levels radon gas is a lung cancer hazard, especially to people who smoke (who have an 80-times greater risk than non-smokers).

See FORMALDEHYDE & RADON REDUCTION INDOORS - part 2 for additional information about radon gas, and for details see these articles:

Detailed Articles about Radon: detection, correction, & prevention in buildings

See Radon Enviro-Scare for a full discussion of the normal cycle of public fear that accompanies the discovery and publicity of various environmental hazards, including radon gas and see Enviro-Scare, the Cycle of Public Fear for our article about consumer environmental safety worry cycles that change over time.

For a Thorough Background in Radon Hazards, Radon Mitigation, & the History of Radon Concerns in the U.S. also see these articles reprinted/adapted/excerpted with permission from Solar Age Magazine - editor Steven Bliss.

US EPA Radon Zone Map

Other Sources of Common Indoor Air Pollutants or Contaminants

Basic checks for sources of common indoor air contaminants in buildings: Here and in detailed articles whose links are found at the end of this article , we provide air contamination troubleshooting help for buildings by expanded annotated information from the US EPA [5] who suggested common air pollutant sources to be considered during an indoor air quality investigation.

Ventilation to Improve Indoor Air Quality

While avoiding use of outgassing products to reduce formaldehyde gas indoors and sealing cracks or installing a radon mitigation system is effective in eliminating indoor radon gas hazards, the soup of indoor irritants and pollutants can also be effectively thinned by good building ventilation.

Doubling the rate of fresh air intake in a building will in general cut most indoor air pollutant levels in half. (This might not be true for pollen levels in some locations in some seasons where air conditioning or air filtration will be a better bet.)

Mr. Bliss's article interestingly points out that the level of indoor air contaminants varies among buildings by a factor of 100, so don't make an assumption about what your home needs without more careful study.



Here we include solar energy, solar heating, solar hot water, and related building energy efficiency improvement articles reprinted/adapted/excerpted with permission from Solar Age Magazine - editor Steven Bliss.


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