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Author(s): Nancy Moreno, PhD, Barbara Tharp, MS, and Judith Dresden, MS.

There's Something in the Air

Indoor air pollution can occur in many ways. Some indoor pollutants are produced when something burns. These include gases, such as carbon monoxide, as well as particles, like those in soot. Tobacco smoke introduces these pollutants and many other chemicals into the air. Other indoor pollutants, such as pollen, spores, insect parts and droppings, and dust mites come from biological sources. Formaldehyde, a poisonous chemical, can be given off by particle board, carpeting, insulating foam, some cleaners, permanent-press fabrics and tobacco smoke. These and many other sources (such as solvents and cleaners, paints, glues and dry-cleaning fluids) add potentially harmful chemicals to the air.

The concentration of such compounds is much higher indoors than outdoors, in part because many modern, energy-efficient buildings are designed to prevent air leaks or the introduction of outside air into heating or cooling systems. With inadequate ventilation, chemicals and other substances become concentrated in these closed environments.

To reduce indoor air contamination, heating and cooling systems should by serviced regularly. Humidifiers and air conditioners should be cleaned frequently to reduce places where molds and bacteria can multiply. New buildings should be ventilated thoroughly before being occupied. Other measures that can reduce the build-up of harmful indoor pollutants are given on page 3 of the Air unit's Explorations magazine.

Funded by the following grant(s)

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, NIH

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, NIH

My Health My World: National Dissemination
Grant Number: 5R25ES009259
The Environment as a Context for Opportunities in Schools
Grant Number: 5R25ES010698, R25ES06932

Houston Endowment Inc.

Foundations for the Future: Capitalizing on Technology to Promote Equity, Access and Quality in Elementary Science Education