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Indoor Pollution, Human Health and Technology

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  1. Indoor Pollution, Human Health and Technology Wendy Geise ESP 6130 Science and Technology for Environmental Security May 15, 2006

  2. Overview • Why should we care about indoor pollution? • Categories of indoor pollution • Health impacts • Solutions and suggestions (some technical, some not)

  3. Why should we be concerned about indoor pollution? World Health Report’s estimates of death and ill-health (DALYs) from leading risk factors in the year 2000 Source: Smith 2000

  4. There are four principal categories of indoor pollution • Combustion Products • Chemicals • Radon • Biological

  5. Combustion generated pollutants are a major issue in developing countries • Half the world’s population and 90% of rural households rely on unprocessed biomass including wood, dung and crop residues • Indoor concentrations of particles can be 10-100 times higher than US EPA guidelines for daily exposures • Women and children exposed 3-7 hours per day over many years • Increases risk of pulmonary and respiratory disease - leading cause of death in children under 5 years • Additional association to low birth weights, TB, throat cancers, cataract and lung cancer (from coal) Source: World Health Organization 2000

  6. Africa and Asia are the most highly impacted

  7. The estimated cost to improve indoor pollution in developing countries is $2.5 billion • China has implemented over 200 million stoves to reduce indoor pollution • Kenya and Sri Lanka nearly 1 million each Source: Practical Action 2006

  8. Indoor exposure to chemical sources is a concern in developed countries • 80,000 chemicals compounds being made worldwide • US EPA approves 2,000 additional each year • 80% approved in less than 3 weeks • Less than 10% have been tested for human and environmental safety • 43% lack basic toxicity data • Researchers estimate 5-10% of chemicals in production could be carcinogenic • EPA study found indoor exposures to carcinogenic substances 5-70 times higher than outdoors, some levels were high enough to qualify as a Superfund site Source: Naturally Clean 2005

  9. Chemical sources are found throughout the modern house

  10. What are the human impacts? • Accumulation in fat cells, muscles, bones, brains and organ tissues • Body burden - According to EPA, every man, woman and child in US has at least 700 pollutants in their bodies • Forty-four percent of men and thirty-nine percent of women will get cancer in their lives – 24% increase in 30 years • Women who work in the home have 55% higher risk of cancer and respiratory disease than women who work outside the home (Sterling 2001). Researchers have found that many chemicals in household cleaners cause hormone disruption (new area of study) • Exposure to VOC’s linked to higher rates of asthma • Total indoor hydrocarbon concentration significantly related to “sick building syndrome” (Norback, 1990) • 15-30% of Americans report sensitivity or allergy like conditions from exposure to chemicals • New condition called Multiple Chemical Sensitivities from a single high exposure event or repeated low-level exposure to chemicals affects 5% of population Source: Naturally Clean 2005

  11. Recent legislative proposals suggest a more precautionary approach • Current lax regulations allow chemicals to be released into the environment and routinely used in consumer products on the assumption that they cause no harm • REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals) in EU • Assess the estimated 100,000 chemicals currently on the European market • It will permit the continued use of these most hazardous chemicals even if a safer alternative is available. • US Child, Worker and Consumer Safe Chemicals Act – 2005 proposed legislation following REACH in EU • Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM), the initiative is a voluntary UN agreement that deals with risk assessments of chemicals and standardized labeling – 2006 • Persistent, Bioaccumulative and Toxic substances (PBTs) • Very Persistent and Very Bioaccumulative substances (vPvB) • Chemicals that are carcinogens or mutagens or adversely effect reproductive, endocrine, immune or nervous system, including all forms of asbestos; • Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) • Mercury and other metals of global concern Source: EurActiv 2000-2005

  12. Exposure to radon is also greater indoors • Radon is an odorless gas that comes from natural breakdown of uranium in nearly all soils • It can also be found in well water • 2005 - The Surgeon General of the United States issued a Health Advisory warning Americans about the health risk from exposure to radon in indoor air • Two studies show definitive evidence of an association between residential radon exposure and lung cancer.  • The World Health Organization (WHO) says radon causes up to 15% of lung cancers worldwide • Smokers have higher risks • US EPA suggests all homes should be tested for radon Source: US EPA

  13. Trained contractors can be hired for radon mitigation • Vent/pipe system and fan are installed to pull radon gas from beneath the house and disperse outside the home • Foundation cracks are sealed • Costs range from $800 to $2500 for contractor to install Source: EPA Radon Citizens Guide

  14. Types: Bacteria Mold/Mildew Viruses Animal dander Dust mites Pollen Health Effects: Allergic reactions Asthma Infectious disease Disease causing mycotoxins from molds and mildews Homes also can contain many biological contaminants

  15. Steps to control indoor biological contaminants • Maintain relative humidity between 30% - 50% year round (whole house air purifier/dehumidifiers cost up to $2200) • Install and use exhaust fans that are vented to the outdoors in kitchens and bathrooms and vent clothes dryers outdoor • Ventilate the attic and crawl spaces to prevent moisture build-up • Thoroughly clean and dry water-damaged carpets and building materials (within 24 hours if possible) or consider removal and replacement • House dust mites, pollens, animal dander, and other allergy-causing agents can be reduced, although not eliminated, through regular cleaning   • People who are allergic to these pollutants should use allergen-proof mattress encasements, wash bedding in hot (130° F) water, and avoid room furnishings that accumulate dust, especially if they cannot be washed in hot water • Take steps to minimize biological pollutants in basements Source: US EPA

  16. The basic strategy for controlling indoor pollution • Source control • Ventilation improvements • Air cleaners • Activated carbon (removes some but not all VOC’s, gases) • HEPA filtration (developed by Atomic Energy Commission to remove radiation particles from nuclear labs) • Most effective is a combination HEPA/Activated carbon

  17. Questions?