On average, Americans spend 90% of their time indoors, yet the air in new homes can be ten times more polluted than outdoor air, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Children are particularly vulnerable when it comes to air pollution. A report in the New England Journal of Medicine states that 40% of children will develop respiratory disease, in part due to the chemicals in their homes.
A common source of indoor air pollution is the off-gassing of chemicals found in many building materials. Kitchen cabinets, countertops, shelving and furniture may be made from particleboard or medium density fiberboard. These pressed-wood products are typically made with adhesives that release urea formaldehyde— a known human carcinogen—into the home for years after installation. Also, many paints, floor finishes, adhesives and sealants emit unhealthy volatile organic compounds (VOCs). That “new house smell” is a telltale sign that there are harmful chemicals in the indoor environment.
Fortunately, the building products industry is responding to these indoor pollution problems by developing safer products, including low-VOC paints, cleaners and adhesives. These products are now commonly available from most major suppliers at costs comparable to conventional products.
Poor indoor air quality is also often caused by biological contaminants, such as mold that grows as a result of moisture infiltration due to inadequate ventilation, poor design and maintenance, and other factors. Dust, another major source of air pollution inside homes, can be reduced by installing permanent front door walk-off mats and by using hard surface flooring materials such as natural linoleum, bamboo, wood or wood alternatives, or concrete.