INDOOR AIR QUALITY and Environmental Toxins Page

Indoor Air Quality and
Environmental Toxins Page

This section was compiled by Frank M. Painter, D.C.
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If there are terms in these articles you don't understand, you can get a definition from the Merriam Webster Medical Dictionary. If you want information about a specific disease, you can access the Merck Manual. You can also search Pub Med for more abstracts on this, or any other health topic.

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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has determined that indoor air pollution is a major health risk –– indoor air pollutants can accumulate at 2 to 100 times higher concentrations than outdoor pollution. Why is that? Because modern homes have been built to be "leak-proof" –– with tighter seals on our doors and windows.

The average person spends 90% of their time indoors, surrounded by a vast array of modern chemicals –– including the glues and coatings on our furniture and walls, the plastic cases on our electronic toys, synthetic fabrics, disinfectants, soaps, perfumes, insecticides, lubricants and more. All these products "breath" out some level of pollution –– as described by the term out–gas.

Did you see Bill Moyers recent documentary about the chemical industry? It was pretty scary! By the time there have been enough clinical studies to confirm the health risks of any particular substance, it may be too late for the generation of people who have been exposed and are at risk.

Adding to that list are biologic entities in our homes which may contribute to allergic reactions –– molds and mildews in our walls and ductwork which release spores, dust mite excrement in our rugs and bedding, and the danders from our pets.

Another fact to consider is the dramatic increase in childhood asthma and learning disabilities –– again associated with exposures to cleaning products and certain food–colorings and additives. The intention of this page is to offer access to the most current, scientific, and non-sensational information, so that you may reduce those health risks associated with indoor air pollution.

My family's personal solution has been to remove all toxic cleaners from our home. We proudly rely on Shaklee's line of biodegradable cleaners. We also utilize the AirSource air purification system. These small incremental steps have greatly reduced our exposures to volatile organic compounds (VOCs).


Indoor Air Quality Resources

The Pollution Within
National Geographic ~ October 2006

Join author David Duncan as he explores the effects of the hundreds of toxic chemicals found in his blood sample. Modern chemistry keeps insects from ravaging crops, lifts stains from carpets, and (perhaps) saves lives. But the ubiquity of chemicals engulfing us is taking a toll.

EPA's Indoor Air Quality Page
Most people are aware that outdoor air pollution can damage their health but may not know that indoor air pollution can also have significant effects. EPA studies of human exposure to air pollutants indicate that indoor air levels of many pollutants may be 2-5 times, and occasionally, more than 100 times higher than outdoor levels. These levels of indoor air pollutants are of particular concern because it is estimated that most people spend as much as 90% of their time indoors. The pages devoted to "Indoor Air and Your Health",   "Biological Contaminants" and the "Indoor Asthma Triggers" may all be of immediate interest.

National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals
The National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals is a new publication that will provide an ongoing assessment of the U.S. population’s exposure to environmental chemicals using biomonitoring. For this Report, an environmental chemical means a chemical compound or chemical element present in air, water, soil, dust, food, or other environmental media.

Center for Children's Health and the Environment
The Center for Children’s Health and the Environment (CCHE) is the nation’s first academic research and policy center to examine the links between exposure to toxic pollutants and childhood illness. Pages that caught my eye were: “Children's Vulnerability to Toxins in the Environment” and a page devoted to "Indoor Air Contamination and Childhood Asthma".

Preventing Harm:
A Resource For Children And The Environment

NOTE: Although this site is no longer online, the links below are still important. Awareness of learning and behavioral disorders makes us ask if toxics in our air, water or food combine with other factors to keep our children from reaching their full human potential. This site is about learning more, finding resources, sharing what we learn, and taking action for our families and communities. Pages of note are   “Kids At Risk”,   and a link to Bill Moyer's “Trade Secrets” Report

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)
NIEHS is one of 25 Institutes and Centers of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Human health and human disease result from three interactive elements: environmental factors, individual susceptibility and age. Their page includes important articles like "Breast Cancer: Susceptibility and the Environment", and their "20 Easy Steps to Personal Environmental Health Now" has an amazing array of recommendations.

Fragranced Products Information Network
Sensitivity and adverse effects from added-fragrance are hardly isolated events. An estimated 1-2% of the population has skin allergy to fragrance. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) labels fragrances and pesticides as a volatile organic compound form of Indoor Air Pollutantion. The Fragrance Products Information Network website was developed to help fill the void of information that exists regarding scented products.

Toxins: NTP Chemical Health & Safety Data
Health and Safety information has been collected on over 2000 chemicals studied by the National Toxicology Program. There are a number of ways to retrieve data from these NTP files.


Air Quality Articles of Interest

Air Pollution Can Trigger Heart Attacks
Read this collection of 3 separate press releases discussing the impact of air polution on the heart and circulatory system.

The National Institute of Health (NIH) Takes a Closer Look
at Pollution and Children's Health

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) convened the three-day meeting, which will look at indoor and outdoor pollutants' role in asthma, brain and reproductive system disorders, behavioral problems like autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and cancer. Children are especially vulnerable to pollutants because they breathe in more air and take in more food and liquid, proportional to their size, than adults, said Phil Lee, a senior scholar at the University of California, San Francisco, and former assistant secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services. More information like this may be found in our Pediatrics Section

Bad Air Breeds Ailments in Homes, Schools, Offices
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution July 20, 2003

Nine workers in an Atlanta office went to their employer three years ago complaining about respiratory and sinus problems, wondering if their workplace was making them sick. An inspection found mold on a wall and carpet and an air-handling unit that wasn't bringing in fresh air. The property owner made repairs. Complaints declined. The employer? The federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, based in Atlanta. The agency's mission, in part, is "providing trusted health information to prevent harmful exposures and disease related to toxic substances."

Top Child Health Agencies Urge Testing to Protect Early Brain
Development From Toxins: One Out of Six Affected

One out of six children are suffering from behavioral disorder according to the Learning Disabilities Association and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS-NIU). Both are calling for research testing to recognize, reduce and eliminate the environmental toxins scientifically linked to learning disabilities.

The Environmental Medicine Series
Chemical compounds ubiquitous in our food, air, and water are now found in every person's body. The bioaccumulation of these compounds can lead to a variety of metabolic and systemic dysfunctions, and in some cases outright disease states. I hope you will enjoy these 4 Full-Text articles from the Alternative Medicine Review.

   Part I:   The Human Burden of Environmental Toxins
and Their Common Health Effects

Alternative Medicine Review 2000 (Feb);   5 (1):   52–63 ~ FULL TEXT

Chemical compounds ubiquitous in our food, air, and water are now found in every person. The bioaccumulation of these compounds in some individuals can lead to a variety of metabolic and systemic dysfunctions, and in some cases outright disease states. The systems most affected by these xenobiotic compounds include the immune, neurological, and endocrine systems.

   Part II:   Health Effects of and Protection From
Ubiquitous Airborne Solvent Exposure

Alternative Medicine Review 2000 (Apr);   5 (2):   133–143 ~ FULL TEXT

L Chemicals known as solvents are part of a broad class of chemicals called volatile organic compounds. These compounds are used in a variety of settings, are ubiquitous, and off-gas readily into the atmosphere. Asa result of their overuse, they can be found in detectable level virtually all samples of both indoor and outdoor air. Certain of these compounds are detectable in adipose samples of all U.S. residents

   Part III:   Long-Term Effects of Chronic Low-Dose Mercury Exposure
Alternative Medicine Review 2000 (Jun);   5 (3):   209–223 ~ FULL TEXT

Mercury is ubiquitous in the environment, and in our mouths in the form of "silver" amalgams. Once introduced to the body through food or vapor, mercury is rapidly absorbed and accumulates in several tissues, leading to increased oxidative damage, mitochondrial dysfunction, and cell death. Mercury primarily affects neurological tissue, resulting in numerous neurological symptoms, and also affects the kidneys and the immune system.

   Part IV:   Pesticides - Biologically Persistent and Ubiquitous Toxins
Alternative Medicine Review 2000 (Oct);   5 (5):   432–447 ~ FULL TEXT

Although the use of pesticides has doubled every ten years since 1945, pest damage to crops is more prevalent now than it was then. Many pests are now pesticide resistant due to the ubiquitous presence of pesticides in our environment. Chlorinated pesticide residues are present in the air, soil, and water, with a concomitant presence in humans. Organophosphate and carbamate pesticides - the compounds comprising the bulk of current pesticide use - are carried around the globe on air currents.

Toxic Effects of Indoor Molds
PEDIATRICS 1998 (Apr);   101 (4) Mar:   712–714
American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Environmental Health

This statement describes molds, their toxic properties, and their potential for causing toxic respiratory problems in infants. Guidelines for pediatricians are given to help reduce exposures to mold in homes of infants. This is a rapidly evolving area and more research is ongoing.

Biological Action of Mycotoxins
J Dairy Sci 1993;   76 (3) Mar:   880–91

Mycotoxins are ubiquitous, mold–produced toxins that contaminate a wide variety of foods and feeds. Ingestion of mycotoxins cause a range of toxic responses, from acute toxicity to long–term or chronic health disorders. Some mycotoxins have caused outbreaks of human toxicoses, and at least one mycotoxin, aflatoxin B1, is a presumed human hepatocarcinogen.

What Every Homeowner Should Know About Mold and Insurance
Stachybotrys. If you can't pronounce it (let alone spell it), don't worry, you soon will. That's because stachybotrys (pronounced "stack-e-botris") — a toxic mold that has been found in all 50 states — has been thrust into the limelight by high-profile cases of "sick building syndrome."

Hidden Menace:
Insurers Worry About Toxic Mold Claims

ABC June 26, 2001

Earlier this month, a Texas jury awarded $32 million to a woman for what mold did to her 22-room mansion and the mental anguish she went through. The insurer she sued, Farmers Insurance Group, was among the companies seeking relief from the state.

Moldy Schools: Are Your Kids Getting Sick at School?
  ABC April 18, 2001

St. Charles' high school, like hundreds of other schools around the country, is infested with toxic mold — millions of tiny spores that, when inhaled, can trigger a range of allergic reactions. Allergist Dr. John Santilli says symptoms include pounding headaches, a fever and chills. And doctors say children are most at risk because their lungs are still developing.


Asthma and Exposure to House-dust Allergens

Acute Health Effects of Ambient Air Pollution:
The Ultrafine Particle Hypothesis

J Aerosol Med 2000 Winter;   13(4):   355–59

A strong and consistent association has been observed between adjusted mortality rates and ambient particle concentration. The strongest associations are seen for respiratory and cardiac deaths, particularly among the elderly. Particulate air pollution is also associated with asthma exacerbations, increased respiratory symptoms, decreased lung function, increased medication use, and increased hospital admissions.

Asthma Severity, Atopic Status, Allergen Exposure
and Quality of Life in Elderly Persons

Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol 2001 May;   86(5):   524–30

A cross-sectional data analysis with 80 elderly persons with asthma recruited from medical, geriatric, and allergy/immunology tertiary care centers. Asthma severity was determined by symptoms and measurements of lung function. House dust specimens were collected from mattresses and bedroom carpets and analyzed separately for the major allergens of house dust, using monoclonal antibody-based immunoenzymetric assays.

The Relation Between Infant Indoor Environment and Subsequent Asthma
Epidemiology 2000 Mar;   11(2):   128–35

Poor indoor air quality may play an important role in the development of childhood asthma.

Adverse Effects of Low-level Air Pollution on the Respiratory
Health of Schoolchildren in Hong Kong

J Occup Environ Med 2001 Apr;   43(4):   310–6

Children of both sexes in the more polluted district had significantly poorer lung function, and the differences among girls were more marked. The study provides additional evidence for the adverse effects of long-term exposure to relatively low-level air pollution.

What Do Epidemiologic Findings Tell Us About Health Effects
of Environmental Aerosols?

J Aerosol Med 2000 Winter;   13(4):   335–54

In the last 10 years there has been an abundance of new epidemiological studies on health effects of particulate air pollution. The overall evidence suggests that fine particulate pollution can be an important risk factor for cardiopulmonary disease. Long-term, repeated exposure to fine particulate air pollution may increase the risk of chronic respiratory disease and the risk of cardiopulmonary mortality. Short-term exposures exacerbate existing cardiovascular and pulmonary disease and increase the risk of becoming symptomatic, requiring medical attention, or even dying.


Immune Response to Allergen Exposure

Serum IgE Specific to Indoor Molds, Measured by Basophil Histamine Release, is Associated with Building-related Symptoms in Damp Buildings
Inflamm Res 2001;   50 (4) Apr:   227–31

To study the relationship between basophil histamine release (HRT) to indoor moulds, indicating specific IgE, and building-related symptoms (BRS), asthma, and hay fever in individuals working in damp and moldy buildings.

Allergic Sensitization and Allergen Exposure During Pregnancy
Favor the Development of Atopy in the Neonate

Int Arch Allergy Immunol 2001;   124 (1-3) Jan-Mar:   193–6

Several studies have considered that the in utero environment plays an important role in the onset of the allergic phenotype. We assessed whether allergic sensitization and allergen exposure during pregnancy favor the postnatal onset of allergy in the neonate.

Potential Role of Environmental Factors in the Etiology and
Pathogenesis of Atopy: A Working Model

Environ Health Perspect 1999;   107 Suppl 3 Jun:   485–7

Because of the known effects of the mold cell wall component (1-->3)-ss–d–glucan on monocyte cytokine secretion, exposure to molds during childhood may be a significant etiologic factor in allergic respiratory disease in general.

Prenatal Origins of Allergic Disease
J Allergy Clin Immunol 2000 Feb;   105(2 Pt 2):   S493–8

The prevalence of asthma and related allergic disorders has increased considerably over the last 25 years. Because genetic stock has not changed, environmental factors must have influenced the phenotype. Infants who experience the development of allergy already have an altered immune response at birth. We have investigated the development of immune responses during gestation and the effect of maternal allergen exposure during pregnancy and infant exposure in the first month of life on the development of allergy and disease.

The Relevance of Allergen Exposure to the
Development of Asthma in Childhood

Environ Health Perspect 1999;   107 Suppl 3 Jun:   485–7

Sensitization to 1 or more of the common indoor allergens has been consistently associated with asthma among children and young adults (odds ratios for asthma, 3-18). For dust mite and cockroach allergens, there is a dose response relationship between domestic exposure and sensitization. Given that allergen provocation can induce many of the features of asthma, the findings strongly suggest that there is a causal relationship between allergen exposure in the home and asthma.


Systemic Fungal Diseases

There have been a variety of reports in the popular and scientific press about illnesses associated with exposure to mold spores (conidia). These chapters, from the Merck Manual are provided as an easy-access resource for review. The General Introduction notes that "Many of the causative fungi are opportunists and are not usually pathogenic unless they enter a compromised host. Opportunistic fungal infections are particularly likely to occur in patients during therapy with corticosteroids, immunosuppressants, or antimetabolites; such infections also tend to occur in patients with AIDS, azotemia, diabetes mellitus, bronchiectasis, emphysema, TB, lymphoma, leukemia, or burns." If there are terms in these articles you don't understand, you can get a definition from the Merriam Webster Medical Dictionary.


Allergic Bronchopulmonary Aspergillosis

Blastomycosis (North American Blastomycosis; Gilchrist's Disease)

Coccidioidomycosis (Valley Fever; San Joaquin Fever)

Cryptococcosis (Torulosis; European Blastomycosis)


Mucormycosis (Zygomycosis; Phycomycosis)

Systemic Candidiasis (Candidosis; Moniliasis)

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