Nc dph occupational and environmental epidemiology indoor environmental quality in residences

To create and maintain a comfortable and healthy indoor environment in the home, it is important to look at and evaluate the home as a system, in which each component of the building must work together — the building shell, mechanical systems, furnishings, construction materials, and inhabitants and their activities. Changes to one component in the system may affect the performance of other components.

Furnishings such as furniture, wall and floor coverings can give off contaminants or become reservoirs for pests. Building materials, appliances and equipment, showers and washers/dryers can be sources of contaminants. We, along with our pets, can also be sources of contaminants. The things we do (hobbies, cooking) and the materials we use, such as candles, cleaning products, pesticides and paints, also affect the indoor environment.


People often worry about how specific indoor air pollutants can affect their health. Instead, most health problems associated with indoor environments can be prevented by understanding how building systems work together and by using sound environmental management principles. To help people achieve healthy indoor environments, the National Center for Healthy Housing ( http://healthyhousing.org ) has developed a list of seven simple "Principles for Healthy Homes": dry, clean, ventilated, well maintained, pest-free, contaminant-free, and safe. 1. Dry

Prevent leaks from the roof, windows, or walls. Quickly repair plumbing leaks. There should be no condensation on windows. Make sure that grading and drainage keeps surface water from contacting the foundation or entering the crawlspace/basement. Use exhaust ventilation for bathrooms, kitchens and clothes dryers to remove water vapor and the contaminants they generate. Keep chimneys and flues in safe working order. Do not over-water plants.

Keep surfaces, equipment and appliances free of dust, dirt, debris, soils, oily residues and visible mold growth. Reduce clutter. Think of cleaning as an environmental management activity of removing unwanted contaminants from the environment. Clean smart by using tools, equipment and supplies that collect, extract and remove soils, dirt, dust, debris and bio-films from the environment using the least harmful materials and that leave minimal residues. 3. Ventilated

Make sure that enough clean and dry outdoor air circulates through the building by natural or mechanical ventilation to dilute pollutants generated by people’s activities and to replace air exhausted by bathroom and kitchen ventilation, clothes dryers, and from fuel-burning appliances such as heaters, hot water heaters, fire places and gas logs.

The roof, exterior walls, and foundation should be maintained and sealed to prevent unintended air flow, outdoor pollutants, and pests from entering the building. Repair flaking or peeling paint as well as decay or damage to exterior and interior walls. Keep fuel-burning equipment such furnaces, hot water heaters, fire places, wood stoves, gas stoves and heaters properly maintained and vented to the outside. Make sure electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems are in good working order. 5. Pest-Free

Use an integrated pest management approach to keep pests out of the building. Seal or repair cracks in walls, and foundations. Keep the building clean, dry and uncluttered to deny pests food, water and a place to hide. If needed, apply pesticides carefully to target the pest, while limiting people’s exposure to pesticide residues and minimizing environmental consequences. 6. Contaminant-Free

NEVER USE a charcoal or gas grill indoors for cooking or heating. NEVER USE a gas oven to heat the home. Never use propane or fuel camping equipment indoors. NEVER USE a gasoline-powered generator or any gasoline-powered equipment indoors. These items MUST be used outdoors, in a well-ventilated area away from the home’s windows, doors and air-intakes, as they produce deadly carbon monoxide.

Improve home safety: Use safety gates, latches, guard rails and grab bars to prevent falls. Keep medicines stored away from children. Hazardous chemicals such as cleaning products, pesticides, batteries, corrosive materials and irritants should be stored away from food, inaccessible to children, and in properly labeled containers. Make sure that flammable liquids such as gasoline or propane are stored in approved containers outdoors. Every home should have properly located and working smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms.

Other important safety measures: Uprights and railings on guard rails and cribs should be spaced close enough to each other to prevent a child from falling through, but far enough apart to prevent choking. Keep cords from window blinds and extension cords out of children’s reach to prevent choking. All firearms should be stored unloaded in a locked location; store ammunition separately. Make sure swimming pools have fences with lockable gates to prevent unauthorized entry, and that children playing in or near the pool are under direct supervision of a responsible adult.

Both landlords and tenants must work together to create homes that promote health and well-being. Residential leases and rental agreements are contracts between landlords and tenants that define each party’s obligations. In addition, some jurisdictions have minimum housing codes or property maintenance codes to define roles and responsibilities.

North Carolina General Statutes also define responsibilities in these agreements. Landlords are required to provide a dwelling fit for habitation, keep all the facilities provided under the agreement in good safe working condition, provide a working smoke detector, provide a carbon monoxide alarm if the dwelling has a fuel burning appliance, and repair any of 12 specified conditions in a reasonable time when notified by the tenant (in writing).