Tips for Creating and Maintaining a Safe Indoor Environment

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Relatively few indoor air quality regulations exist for a number of reasons: indoor air pollution is mostly invisible, it comes from a variety of sources, and air quality problems vary from building to building. Many of the symptoms caused by indoor air pollution are not easy to pinpoint and may occur at extremely low pollutant levels that are difficult to measure, making it difficult to determine what contaminant to regulate and at what level. OSHA created indoor air standards that are designed to protect workers in industrial occupational environments. However, these standards may not be appropriate for homes, offices or elementary schools.

On a state level, these are some of the things that are being done in an attempt to create better indoor air quality:

  • Setting up commissions to study and assess health risks of indoor air quality
  • Educating residents about the hazards of various indoor air pollutants
  • Notifying parents before pesticides are used in schools
  • Requiring sellers of property to disclose environmental hazards such as radon or asbestos
  • Improving school indoor air quality
  • Establishing state programs or offices to deal with indoor air quality issues.

During the past few years, a number of bills have been introduced that require indoor air quality testing and compliance with mandatory indoor air quality guidelines in newly constructed schools or those undergoing major renovation. One of the most common topics of legislation has been indoor air quality in schools. The reasons for this involve the previously discussed susceptibility of schools to indoor air problems and the fact that schools are usually government owned buildings, making them easier to regulate than private homes or businesses.

49 states and DC have clean indoor air provisions restricting smoking in public places, such as offices, restaurants, and government buildings. Such laws have improved indoor air quality by reducing exposure to secondhand smoke, which contains many harmful and irritating chemicals.

Other tips for creating and maintaining clean indoor air include:

  • Don't smoke and don't let others smoke in your home or car.
  • Keep your home as clean as possible. Dust, mold, certain household pests, secondhand smoke, and pet dander can trigger asthma attacks and allergies.
  • Limit outdoor activity on ozone alert days when air pollution is especially harmful.
  • Walk, use bicycles, join or form carpools, and take public transportation.
  • Limit motor vehicle idling.
  • Avoid open burning.

In the workplace, here are some things that can be done:

  • Increase air supply. Clean and maintain the ventilation system and open or unblock all sources of fresh air.
  • Eliminate sources of contamination. Substitute less dangerous chemicals, such as water-based paints, for more toxic substances, such as oil paints.
  • Clean and dry damp areas or places where bacteria or fungi can grow.
  • Isolate machines that release toxic fumes, such as photocopier.
  • Make sure hazardous work is done only on the weekends, and inform the union before it begins.
  • Ensure that people who work with hazardous chemicals are protected with adequate ventilation or protective equipment, such as respirators.


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