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Environmental Education. Indoor Air Pollution. Contents. Introduction Sources and impacts of common indoor air pollutants Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) Legionnaires ’ disease Control measures. Introduction. “ Acceptable Indoor air quality ” :

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environmental education

Environmental Education

Indoor Air Pollution

  • Introduction
  • Sources and impacts of common indoor air pollutants
  • Sick Building Syndrome (SBS)
  • Legionnaires’ disease
  • Control measures
  • “Acceptable Indoor air quality”:
    • Air in an occupied space towards which a substantial majority of occupants express no dissatisfaction, and in which there are not likely to be known contaminants at concentrations leading to exposures that pose a significant health risk

Sources of information: web site of ASHARE (http://www.ashrae.org/ )

common indoor air pollutants 1
Common indoor air pollutants [1]
  • Biological contaminants
  • Carbon dioxide
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Nitrogen oxides
  • Environmental tobacco smoke
  • Formaldehyde
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
  • Ozone
  • Radon
common indoor air pollutants 2
Common indoor air pollutants [2]
  • Biological contaminants
    • Bacteria, fungi and viruses
    • Breed in humid environment
    • Spread through ventilation systems
    • Sources:
      • Naturally exist in air, humid and poor ventilated area
    • Effects:
      • Vary with types
      • e.g. Sick Building Syndrome, Legionnaires’ disease, Colds and Influenza
common indoor air pollutants 3
Common indoor air pollutants [3]
  • Carbon dioxide
    • No color, smell and taste
    • Accumulate in poorly ventilated areas
    • Non-toxic but makes ones uncomfortable in high concentrations
    • Sources:
      • Exhalation by living organisms during respiration
      • Combustion
    • Effects:
      • Feel sleepy and sensitive individuals may feel dizzy
common indoor air pollutants 4
Common indoor air pollutants [4]
  • Carbon monoxide
    • No color, smell and taste
    • Inhibits oxygen transport in blood
    • Irreversibly binds to hemoglobin
    • Very toxic
    • Sources:
      • Incomplete combustion
    • Effects:
      • Low concentration:
        • Flu-like symptoms, such as nausea, fatigue, rapid breathing, chest tightness and impaired judgement, cardiovascular diseases
      • High concentration:
        • death

Carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide are released during combustion. (Sources: http://hkcg.com)

common indoor air pollutants 5
Common indoor air pollutants [5]
  • Nitrogen oxides
    • e.g. NO and NO2
    • Gas generated from combustions
    • Sources:
      • Burning of cigarette
      • Vehicles exhaust fumes
    • Effects:
      • Irritate eye and respiratory tract
common indoor air pollutants 6
Common indoor air pollutants [6]
  • Environmental tobacco smoke (ETS)
    • Mixture:
      • smoke from the burning cigarette or cigar
      • exhaled smoke from smokers
    • At least 4,500 compounds found in tobacco smoke
      • 60 of the 4,500 compounds are known as carcinogens
      • Some components such as hydrogen cyanide, nicotine and nitrogen oxides are toxic and irritative
    • Effects
      • Especially harmful to children
      • Increase the incidence of respiratory tract infections, lung cancers and heart

Environmental tobacco smoke includes the smoke from burning cigarette and exhaled smoke from smoker. (Sources: http://www.corbis.com)

common indoor air pollutants 7
Common indoor air pollutants [7]
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
    • A range of organic compounds
    • Examples: benzene, chloroform and xylene
    • Evaporate at room temperature
    • Some are carcinogens, e.g. benzene and formaldehyde
    • Sources:
      • Solvents, cleaning agents, wood, paints, plastic, dyes, office machines (fax machines,computers, printers, etc), insecticides, and etc.
    • Effects:
      • eye, nose, throat and respiratory tract irritation, headaches, poor concentration, dizziness and tiredness
      • damages of central nervous system, liver and kidney
common indoor air pollutants 8

Cleaning agents are also a source of indoor VOCs. (Sources: http://www.wellcome.hk.com)

Some home appliance such as personal computer can release VOCs too. (Sources: http://www.fortress.com.hk)

Common indoor air pollutants [8]
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) (con’t)
common indoor air pollutants 9

Oil-based paints are a source of indoor VOCs. (Sources: http://www.corbis.com)

Common indoor air pollutants [9]
  • Formaldehyde
    • One of Volatile organic compounds (VOC)
    • Chemical smell in high concentration
    • Sources:
      • Paints, plastics, pressed-wood products, plywood and urea-formaldehyde foam insulation, etc.
    • Effects:
      • Irritate and sensitize eye, nose and respiratory tract
      • Carcinogen
common indoor air pollutants 10
Common indoor air pollutants [10]
  • Ozone
    • Odorless and colorless
    • Highly reactive
    • Sources:
      • photocopier, laser printers and ionisers
    • Effects:
      • Damage lung seriously
      • Irritate eye and respiratory tract

Photocopiers also release ozone. (Sources: http://www.fortress.com)

common indoor air pollutants 11
Common indoor air pollutants [11]
  • Radon
    • No color, smell and taste
    • radioactive.
    • Sources:
      • Release from granite in the concrete building.
    • Effects:
      • Prolonged intake:
        • increase the incidence of lung cancer
      • The mixture of radon and tobacco smoke is much more harmful to human
      • Smokers have high probability of having lung cancers than non-smokers under the same level of radon.
sick building syndrome sbs
Sick Building Syndrome (SBS)
  • A range of symptoms
    • including eyes, nose and throat irritation, flu-like symptoms, chest tightness, headaches, lethargy, poor concentration and itchy skin with rash
  • Not life-threatening
  • Commonly occur in air-conditioned buildings
  • The syndrome causes
    • poor work performance,
    • higher rate of absenteeism and sick leaves
  • Poor indoor air quality is believed to be a major contributing factor
legionnaires disease
Legionnaires’ disease
  • Caused by bacteria, Legionnella pneumophila
  • Symptoms:
    • Pneumonia, high-fever, chills, headache and muscle pain
control measures
Control measures
  • Eliminate the sources of pollutant
  • Increase ventilation
  • Keep the ventilation system clean

Covering the wall with wallpaper can eliminate the release of radon from concrete. (Sources: http://www.corbis.com)

Upgrade, clean and sterilize the air conditioner is one way to keep the indoor air in good quality. (Sources: http://www.fortress.com.hk)

  • Have you ever felt uncomfortable in an indoor environment with flu-like symptoms, but they all disappear once you move out to outdoor environment? Where? How do you explain?
  • What kind of indoor air pollutants could be found in the classroom?
  • How do the problems associated with indoor air quality affect the social and economic development in Hong Kong?
  • How do the government and you help to improve the indoor air quality?
relevant websites
Relevant Websites
  • Hong Kong Council on Smoking and Health (http://www.info.gov.hk/hkcosh/)
  • Indoor Air Quality Association (http://www.iaqa.org)
  • Indoor Air Quality Information Centre (http://www.iaq.gov.hk/)
  • World Health Organisation (WHO) (http://www.who.int/home-page/)
  • Environmental Protection Department (http://www.info.gov.hk/epd/index.htm)