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Keywords:

  • Indoor air quality;
  • Hazard analysis;
  • Residential;
  • Concentrations;
  • Volatile organic compound;
  • Semi-volatile organic compounds;
  • Criteria pollutants;
  • Ultrafine particulates;
  • Exposure;
  • Metals;
  • Chronic;
  • Acute;
  • Air toxics;
  • Hazardous air pollutants;
  • Toxic air contaminants

Abstract  Identifying air pollutants that pose a potential hazard indoors can facilitate exposure mitigation. In this study, we compiled summary results from 77 published studies reporting measurements of chemical pollutants in residences in the United States and in countries with similar lifestyles. These data were used to calculate representative mid-range and upper-bound concentrations relevant to chronic exposures for 267 pollutants and representative peak concentrations relevant to acute exposures for five activity-associated pollutants. Representative concentrations are compared to available chronic and acute health standards for 97 pollutants. Fifteen pollutants appear to exceed chronic health standards in a large fraction of homes. Nine other pollutants are identified as potential chronic health hazards in a substantial minority of homes, and an additional nine are identified as potential hazards in a very small percentage of homes. Nine pollutants are identified as priority hazards based on the robustness of measured concentration data and the fraction of residences that appear to be impacted: acetaldehyde; acrolein; benzene; 1,3-butadiene; 1,4-dichlorobenzene; formaldehyde; naphthalene; nitrogen dioxide; and PM2.5. Activity-based emissions are shown to pose potential acute health hazards for PM2.5, formaldehyde, CO, chloroform, and NO2.

Practical Implications

This analysis identifies key chemical contaminants of concern in residential indoor air using a comprehensive and consistent hazard-evaluation protocol. The identification of a succinct group of chemical hazards in indoor air will allow for successful risk ranking and mitigation prioritization for the indoor residential environment. This work also indicates some common household activities that may lead to the acute levels of pollutant exposure and identifies hazardous chemicals for priority removal from consumer products and home furnishings.