Cooper Anderson on Indoor Air Pollution

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What is Indoor Air Pollution?


 Indoor air pollution, very often referred to as “Sick Home Syndrome” (SHS), is an unhealthy and sometimes hazardous condition in which a home’s occupants experience illness, discomfort or allergy-like symptoms for which no explanation can be found.  

What Causes It?


  The EPA cites inadequate ventilation, along with chemical and biological contaminants as the main causes of Sick Home Syndrome. Houses today are so airtight that contaminants can’t escape. Throughout most of the 1900’s, building ventilation standards called for about 15 cubic feet per minute of outside air for each building occupant in order to reduce to dilute and reduce body odors, the EPA says. But as a result of the 1973 oil embargo, national energy conservation measures dropped the standard to 5 cubic feet per occupant. In many cases, these reduced outdoor air ventilation rates were inadequate to maintain the health and comfort of building occupants. If the building can’t breath in enough fresh air, it gets filled with indoor pollutants. And still today, most new homes are being built to be more energy efficient and more people are trying to make older homes more airtight by installing new windows, doors and adding more insulation.  



 According to the EPA, there are many symptoms of SHS: headache; eye, ear or throat irritation; dry cough; dry or itchy skin; dizziness and nausea; difficulty concentrating; fatigue; sensitivity to odors. Usually these symptoms subside shortly after the affected person leaves the building or home.  

Cleaning and Prevention


The EPA Recommends Air Cleaning

The goal of air cleaning is to remove indoor pollutants by trapping them inside a mechanical device. Effective air cleaning protects HVAC systems and components, protects furnishings and décor of occupied spaces, reduces housekeeping and building maintenance, reduces furnace and heating equipment fire hazards and, most importantly, protects building occupants. In addition to trapping particulates, it is necessary to remove, and hopefully destroy, micro-organisms such as mold, fungus, bacteria and viruses. Finally, efficient air cleaning involves the removal of gases, VOCs, vapors and odors that could very well be prevalent in the home.  


The EPA Recommends Ventilation

 A well-designed and properly designed HVAC system brings in and conditions outdoor air and circulates the air through the home/building. The primary benefits beyond warming, cooling and managing the humidity of the air are to dilute indoor air pollutants to minimize their impact on the indoor environment and building occupants. The HVAC system also transports indoor air contaminants outside. The downside is the HVAC system may bring in outdoor air pollutants as well as pick up indoor air pollutants, such as mold spores, allergens, dust and VOCs form one area of the building and transport them to another.  


The EPA Recommends Source Removal

 While source control is the only completely effective way to remove pollutants from indoor environments, experts agree that total eradication of indoor contaminants often is not feasible or practical. More realistic approaches are to use materials, furnishings, finishes and cleaning products/processes that emit low levels of VOCs and to adopt surface cleaning practices such as regular hypo-allergenic cleaning and maintenance to remove larger particles and kill bacteria and viruses on floors, furniture, walls, doorknobs, bedding and linens and bathroom fixtures. In addition, keeping HVAC systems in good working order and air ducts and drip pans clean is important for minimizing dust and particle accumulation and indoor mold growth within the system.  



Air Quality Information:

Allergy Facts and Figures:

Asthma Statistics:

Air Pollution Introduction:

Air Pollution Introduction:

Indoor Air Quality (WA State Dept of Ecology):

Sick Building Fact Sheet EPA:

Do You Live in a Sick Home – MOTHER EARTH NEWS:

Sick House Syndrome Independent Property Inspections:

Dust Mite Allergy:

What Causes or Triggers Asthma (Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America):

Dust Mite Allergy: (Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America)

Dust Allergy: (American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology)

House Dust Mite:

Air Quality Monitor:

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences_particles_size:

Florida Solar Energy Center_ Mold Growth:

Airflow Products: