shows the air inside our homes and schools can be more toxic than the air
outside. Why? Because the materials and products we use to furnish and
maintain our indoor environments can release hundreds of pollutants such as
formaldehyde, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), ozone and even biological
allergens. The evidence is significant because statistics show that children
are especially at risk as they spend roughly 85 percent of their time
indoors. The GREENGUARD Environmental Institute (GEI) Children & SchoolsSM
certification program measures and verifies that the levels of chemical
emissions of products being used indoors are acceptable to the unique
sensitivities of infants and children. This article was prepared for readers
of MetroplexBaby.com by Mandi Joyner, GEI Communications Manager.
PROTECTING OUR CHILDREN FROM TOXINS IN THE AIR
The Air We Breathe •
How Pollutants Affect Our Health
• Improving Your Child's
Air We Breathe
On average people take about 23,000 breaths in any given
Children spend about 85% of their time indoors, where
the air can be as much as 100 times more polluted than
outside air, which means those 23,000 breaths are extremely
very materials and products we use to furnish and maintain
our indoor environments can release hundreds of pollutants
such as formaldehyde, volatile organic compounds (VOCs),
ozone and even biological allergens into the air we breathe.
These pollutants also have short- and long-term health
Affect Our Health
Short-term health effects
Trigger asthma and
Long-term health effects
poor indoor air quality (IAQ) has an impact on all building
occupants, it has an even greater impact on children for a
couple of reasons.
approximately 72% of their environmental exposure
Their organs and
respiratory, immune and neurological systems are still
developing, and because of their lower body weight,
breathe in a relatively greater volume of air than
Newborns breathe through
their mouths, as do many older infants and children –
more so than adults.
This difference in
breathing may increase children’s risk of pulmonary
exposure to particulates and fibers, which might
otherwise be filtered out in the nose.
zones are much closer to the ground than adults, and as
a result, heavier airborne chemicals pose more of a risk
to children than to adults. These factors combine to
create a higher body burden of air pollutants for the
same amount of exposure.
is one of the most notable health consequences. Research
shows a correlation between poor IAQ and asthma.
Asthma rates in children
under the age of five increased more than 160% over a
Asthma is the
3rd leading cause of hospitalization
among children under the age of 15
Asthma is the #1 cause of school absenteeism among
children ages 5 to 17 and accounts for an annual loss of
more than 14 million school days per year (approximately
8 days for each student with asthma) and more
hospitalizations than any other childhood disease.
Child's Air Quality
The good news is that you can improve IAQ. Here are some
general tips for improving your homes indoor air quality and
reducing your exposure to VOCs.
best way to reduce your exposure to VOCs is by reducing
products in your home that contain VOCs. Try to find
safer substitutes. When buying paints and stains, look
for labels that describe a "low-emitting formula". It is
important to note that many products are labeled for VOC
content (e.g. "Formaldehyde-Free" or "Low-VOC"). Content
is not an appropriate indicator of what emits off of the
product. Be sure to always have adequate ventilation.
Purchase and use
building materials and furnishings, including furniture,
that have been certified by a reputable third-party,
independent source (such as GREENGUARD Environmental
Institute and Energy Star) to emit low levels of VOCs.
Testing should indicate that products meet
acceptable indoor air quality standards.
Use water-based cleaners
biodegradable; avoid ones that say "danger," "caution"
or "flammable." Use non-fragranced cleaners or polishes
you rub on rather than spray. Often cloths dampened with
water work well to control dust.
Dispose of partially
full containers of old or unneeded chemicals safely.
Because gases can leak even from closed containers, this
single step could help lower concentrations of organic
chemicals in your home.
Products containing VOCs
should be stored in tightly sealed containers in a
secure and well-ventilated area.
Never store opened
pesticide, paint or other chemicals in containers
Air out newly built
renovated or furnished areas with fresh, clean outdoor
air for a minimum of one week or until the new odors
Avoid products with
Use high efficiency
(HEPA) vacuum cleaners only.
Fix all water leaks
immediately and keep indoor humidity at 60% relative
humidity or less.
Use dehumidifiers if necessary.
Remove all mold
contaminated porous materials such as wallboard,
insulation or ceiling tile. Do not attempt to clean or
Avoid the use of
pesticides or fungicides.
Consider removing your
shoes when entering the home from the outside.
indoor air quality is important in creating and maintaining
a healthy home. For more information on indoor air quality
visit the United States Environmental Protection Agency
(USEPA), Occupational Safety and Health Administration
(OSHA), California Air Resources Board (CARB), or American
Lung Association websites. For a list of low-emitting
products visit GREENGUARD Environmental Institute’s website