Indoor Air Quality

Most of us spend much of our time indoors. The air that we breathe in our homes can be more polluted than the air outside, putting us at risk for health problems. Some pollutants can be chemicals known as volatile organic compounds, gases from combustion and living organisms like mold and pests.

Volatile Organic Compounds
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are chemicals found in paints and lacquers, paint strippers, cleaning supplies, varnishes and waxes, pesticides, building materials and furnishings (such as plywood containing formaldehyde), office equipment, moth repellents, air fresheners, and dry-cleaned clothing. VOCs evaporate into the air when these products are used or sometimes even when they are stored.

Asthma Triggers
Asthma triggers commonly found in homes include mold, dust mites, secondhand smoke, and pet dander. A home may have mold growing on a shower curtain, dust mites in pillows, blankets or stuffed animals, secondhand smoke in the air, and cat and dog hairs on the carpet or floors. Other common asthma triggers include some foods and pollutants in the air.

Combustion Gases
Combustion gases can pollute a homes air because of improperly vented fireplaces, natural gas appliances, or similar devices. It is critical that fireplaces be vented properly, cleaned and operated with the flue open. Gas and other combustion appliances should be vented properly and regularly inspected to insure proper operation. A home should have carbon monoxide detectors if there are any natural gas or similar appliance in the home.

Additional Information
Indoor air quality can be improved for both existing homes and for homes under construction are that are being remodeled. For existing homes make sure that your home is adequately ventilated, use low VOC cleaning and similar products, control humidity and moisture to reduce mold, change your HVAC filters regularly and clean and dust. For homes under construction or during remodeling specify low VOC paints and lacquers. Use formaldehyde free plywood and other building products. Make sure the HVAC system and ventilation are properly designed to keep humidity between 30 and 50% and properly ventilate the house.

For complete information, please see the Environmental Protection Agency's guide to indoor air quality. For more information on low VOC, green paints, cleaners, and building products, visit