Indoor Air Pollution

Mon. Dec. 11, 2017
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Protecting Your Family/Tenants from Indoor Air Pollution

The purpose of this web page is to help owners and occupants of residential properties become better educated about the topic of indoor air pollution in homes. We're concerned about the health and welfare of our neighbors, and we offer this material as a public service.

Pollution is the contamination of our air, water, or earth by harmful substances. Our concern about the affect of pollution on our health has grown alongside our concern for the environment generally. The advent of automobiles, increased chemical wastes, nuclear wastes, and accumulation of garbage in landfills created a need for better understand of ways to identify, decrease and repair our polluted ecosystems.

There are different types and degrees of "pollution", ranging from odors that are merely annoying, all the way up to environmental disasters and severe industrial contamination that represent a clear and present danger to our health and safety, as well as the well being of the other inhabitants of our world.

In commercial settings "indoor air pollution" can result from any number of generators, but primarily by the materials and processes involved in the manufacture or handling of chemicals and other materials. Until recently this was only a concern within industrial environments. However, "indoor air quality" is now also an issue in homes, and not just from toxic mold or radon gas. As with so many other areas of science, our understanding of this topic is still evolving.

The issues associated with industrial and commercial pollution are beyond the scope of this web site. This web page focuses on the area of pollutants and indoor air quality concerns in residential settings ... people's homes. If your interest is related to a contaminated commercial or industrial property, please see our web page focused on contaminated commercial properties .

In residential environments, property owners (and their lenders) are becoming increasingly concerned, thanks to our better understanding of the potentially hazardous nature of fumes released by common household products, such as tobacco smoke, pesticides, carbon monoxide and volatile organics from paint and cleaning products. Then you have to naturally occurring sources, including pollen, animal dander, and the mold-mildew combination.

This page does not address the other kinds of pollution that can affect a residential dwelling, such as water pollution, because these are almost always caused by external sources, and are beyond the control of the inhabitants of a home. On the contrary, the indoor air quality issues discussed on this page can often be abated by the people who live in the home.


Air Quality Issues

Property owners are encouraged to also be aware of water quality issues, which typically mean drinking water. A good place to start is at the Sierra Club's "clean water" web page .

The EPA estimates that indoor air pollutant levels can be 2 to 5 times higher than the pollutant levels outdoors, because homes today are intentionally built to "hold" air inside. This "energy efficiency" reduces utility bills, but it doesn't allow the home to breathe. People spend up to 90% of their time indoors, so indoor air pollution may pose a greater threat to health than outside pollution.

Health problems believed to be linked to indoor pollutants in homes include asthma, headaches and dizziness, as well as eye, nose and throat irritation.

People react differently when exposed to contaminants, based on their sensitivity and length of exposure. People who are most susceptible include those with chronic illnesses, especially respiratory, or illnesses aggravated by pollutants, and the very young or very old, who may be more sensitive to pollutant effects. So the risk isn't the same for everyone.

Most pollutants can't be seen, smelled, tasted or felt, and pollutant-related illnesses may mimic the effects of a cold or virus.

Further clouding the issue, indoor air is influenced by outside sources like passing cars and nearby industrial emissions, as well as pollen and ozone levels. It's influenced by everything from cooking to cleaning to "off-gassing" from new household rugs and furnishings.

Other factors include construction materials, maintenance of the HVAC and ventilation systems, etc. The inhabitants can affect pollutants with their activity levels. Only a few states regulate indoor air quality (as of 2007), but others have legislation pending.

Pollution from any one source is often not a significant health hazard, except to those especially sensitive to it. However some homes have multiple indoor pollution generators, and the combination can become serious, especially over time.


So what can property owners and occupants do?

Fortunately, there are ways to control most pollutants, quickly and inexpensively, which will help you maintain a healthy home for your family and tenants.

  • Keep the place clean! Yes, it's that simple. Experts say that keeping a clean home can make a big difference. Regular vacuuming is very important, according to the American Lung Association and the EPA. Most new vacuum cleaners have "HEPA" filters, which pick up and keep inside the bag tiny particles, so that they don't get back out into the air. Regular vacuuming reduces animal dander, as well as insects and their eggs.
  • Vacuum carpets weekly, more if you have pets. Vacuum upholstered furniture, drapes and mattresses on a regularly. Wash bedding in hot water, and encase mattresses in allergen-control covers. Wash stuffed animals. Control moisture in your home to reduce mold spores, by keeping relative humidity below 55%. Clean appropriate hard surfaces with a damp cloth. Keep windows closed if you want to keep allergens from the outside from entering. Control cockroaches; their feces are an allergen.
  • Guard against carbon monoxide leaks by inspecting gas appliances. Be sure to have central heating systems inspected, and cleaned, annually by a trained professional. Don't let your cars idle in attached garages.
  • Use pesticides properly.Property owners should ensure maintenance personnel or contractors are trained to properly mix, use, store and dispose of these products. Only use these products in well-ventilated areas. When possible, schedule pesticide applications for times when the properties are unoccupied. Only apply pesticides in targeted locations, with minimum treatment of exposed surfaces. Keep track of all pesticides and other chemicals used. Similar precautions should be taken even for more "consumer" products like paint strippers, adhesive removers, and aerosol spray paints.

Laws + Regulators

No single federal agency directly addresses indoor air quality, and existing regulations cover only indoor air quality on a piecemeal basis. For instance, the EPA indirectly regulates indoor air quality through the Clean Air Act, the Toxic Substances Control Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Because there is no consistent regulatory approach to the regulation of indoor air quality, property owners must become better educated, to minimize future problems and potential liability.

You can review the environmental laws and regulations applicable to your state, and identify the regulating agencies on our Environmental Laws + Regulators page


Learn More

By learning as much as possible about these issues, and doing what you can to analyze and protect your own properties, including implementing the suggestions on this page, you can minimize the risks to your own family and tenants. Cherokee encourages everyone to become better educated on this topic.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (the "EPA") offers information entitled a "The Inside Story: A Guide to Indoor Air Quality". The EPA also offers information about about molds, their risks, and ways to mitigate those risks. And their National Service Center for Environmental Publications is at; P.O. Box 42419, Cincinnati, OH 45242.Phone is (800) 490-9198, Fax is (301) 604-3408, and E-mail is nscep@bps-lmit.com

The Sierra Club is the largest grassroots environmental organization in America. It works to protect our communities, "wild places", and the planet itself. Their goals are nothing short of ensuring we all have clean water and air, free from toxic threats. You can learn more about how to protect your family and your community at their web site.

www.cdc.gov/nasd/docs/d001201-d001300/d001242/d001242.html" target="_blank">Centers for Disease Controls web page: You can learn more about common indoor air pollutants, including their sources, the health risks, and how to detect and control them.

Healthy Indoor Air for America's Homesis a national consumer education program sponsored by the US Government. (keep clicking "Next" at the bottom).


Hotline Resources

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (the "EPA") maintains telephone hotlines for a variety of health related issues. For your use we offer the following:

  • Indoor Air Quality Information Line. Consumers can call toll-free (800) 438-4318 (from the Washington DC Area call 703-356-4020) to speak with an information specialist, Mon-Fri 9-5. Eastern Time. You can also e-mail to : iaqinfo@aol.com
  • Asthma No Attacks Hotline. 1-866-NO-ATTACKS (1-866-662-8822)

If you would like to speak with an asthma expert, contact one of the toll free hotlines below.


Get Legal Advice

(Disclaimer: Nothing on this web page, or anywhere on this web site, is to be construed as giving legal advice, nor is it intended to replace the counsel of your own legal and financial advisors. This information is intended to help make you more aware of issues that you should consider and then discuss with your own legal and financial advisors. For further disclaimer information, please see our Terms of Use.

Do you need a lawyer, but don't feel that you can afford one? As a general rule, free legal advice is only available to people who cannot afford a lawyer. Legal advice on topics such as environmental law is probably not available on a pro bono or discounted rate. However your circumstances may be such that you may be able to receive some assistance. You should check. To locate legal services in your state, please see our Legal Aid web page.


More Information from Cherokee?

The purpose of this web page is to provide useful, actionable information about residential indoor pollution, so people can better protect themselves. If you have further Questions that are not answered by this material, or the many external hyperlinks on these pages, please feel free to send us your Question using our webform at Contact Us and we will do our best to research the issue and respond to you. Please do not call our office with environmental Questions, and understand that we are not consultants, and we are not environmental cleanup experts. But we are experienced in cleaning up properties and restoring them to safe, productive use in their communities, and we are amenable to sharing our knowledge and research skills at no charge as a public service.


Protect the Value of Your Property

Aside from the health issues, pollution also hurts real estate values. Obviously money is not as important as people's health. Real estate isn't as important as people. But in the context of this web site, which is focused on how real estate provides "shelter", the most primal human need second human need after food, we must also address the subject of how pollution impacts the value of real estate, physically, legally and financially, even if the contamination is not on the property but nearby. These fiscal issues can hurt people, because the home is often the largest investment a family makes, and the value of their home directly affects their quality of life, and their children's future.

Property values go down when there is even a hint of any serious contamination. The less is known, the greater the fear, and the greater the "discount" necessary to entice someone to take a risk and buy a property. In a depressed real estate market, where buyers have more options, contaminated properties are even harder to sell or rent, so the affect of pollution is magnified during hard economic times.

The best way to protect the value of your property from losses due to environmental issues is to avoid contamination in advance, or clean up whatever exists. If other properties near you are contaminated, even your "clean" property will still be "stigmatized" as a result of being near a "contaminated property", especially if it is a large industrial site or an infamous "Superfund" site. Supporting public policies that seek to preserve and protect the "environment" are self-serving in the sense that they raise awareness of these issues, and spur others to clean up their own properties.


Sell Your Polluted Property?

Cherokee owns and operates residential and commercial rental properties. Most of the properties that we own were abandoned, dilapidated wrecks when we got them. We have our own construction crews to repair and maintain properties in New Jersey, and parts of San Diego County, California.

If you own, manage, or know about a distressed property, perhaps involving some of the contamination issues discussed on this web page, that you believe Cherokee could restore to safe and productive use, we encourage you to call Jay Wolfkind in our Red Bank, New Jersey office at (732) 741-2000. We are presently buying properties, tax liens and non-performing in New Jersey, New York, and parts of Pennsylvania and San Diego County, California.

We buy assets that can be repaired and returned to the tax rolls, and whose rehabilitation will facilitate community development and improve the social and economic condition of the surrounding neighborhood. Cherokee is a private, for-profit company. But our goal is not simply making a profit. Our definition of "success" is "earning a fair profit in the course of improving the people and properties we touch." When you help Cherokee acquire a distressed property, whether it's contaminated, abandoned, dilapidated, or all of these, you are helping us to make the neighborhood and the community better.