NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Indoor Air Quality Worse Than Outdoors

January 16, 2001

Experts say that exposure levels to carcinogenic substances in homes are 5 to 70 times greater than those outdoors. According to a report in the journal Preventive Medicine by University of Connecticut medical student Kenneth R. Spaeth, in their homes, "Americans are exposed to numerous pollutants from heavy metals to volatile organic compounds."

  • During the winter, when people spend most of their time indoors, they are exposed to substances released in heating and cooking, cleaning agents, building and decorating materials, and tobacco fumes.
  • New building techniques developed to make homes and offices air-tight and more energy-efficient have contributed to the problem of indoor pollution, experts say.
  • Spaeth says that some toxin levels inside the majority of homes are "greater than the levels that qualify as a chemical waste site for Superfund status."
  • Experts advise opening windows just a crack at night, purchasing one or more High Efficiency Particulate Arresting air cleaners, and when the time comes for a new vacuum cleaner, getting one with a HEPA filter.

Other suggestions range from cleaning chimneys, stove pipes and furnaces annually to removing the plastic bag from dry-cleaned clothes before leaving the cleaner and allowing them to air out on the journey home.

Source: Jane E. Brody, "Another Source of Air Pollution: The Home," New York Times, January 16, 2001.


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