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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 http://www.corbis.com) [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 http://www.corbis.com) [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) http://www.corbis.com)

  • 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 http://www.corbis.com) ’ disease

  • Caused by bacteria, Legionnella pneumophila

  • Symptoms:

    • Pneumonia, high-fever, chills, headache and muscle pain

Control measures
Control measures http://www.corbis.com)

  • 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)

Discussion http://www.corbis.com)

  • 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 http://www.corbis.com)

  • 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)