Indoor Residential Chemical Emissions as Risk Factors for Children’s Respiratory Health

February 23, 2007 - 12:00pm

Most research into the effects of residential indoor air exposures on asthma and allergies has focused on exposures to biologic allergens, moisture and mold, endotoxin, or combustion byproducts.  A growing body of research suggests that chemical emissions from common indoor materials and finishes have adverse effects, including increased risk of asthma, allergies, and pulmonary infections.  The identified risk factors include specific organic compounds such as formaldehyde, benzene, and phthalates, as well as indoor materials or finishes such as vinyl flooring, carpet, paint, and plastics.  This presentation presents a brief review of studies published on this topic in the scientific, peer-reviewed literature. This body of literature suggests the occurrence of adverse respiratory and allergic effects from at least some common indoor materials in residences, including formaldehyde-emitting materials, flexible plastics, and painted surfaces.  Findings are also consistent with additional risks from other indoor materials that emit various chemical compounds.  All these indoor materials are nearly ubiquitous in modern homes; their use seems likely to increase, leading to increased emissions; and exposures also seem likely to be exacerbated by continually decreasing ventilation rates in housing worldwide. Available findings thus suggest the possible large-scale occurrence, and future increase, of important yet preventable adverse respiratory and allergic effects in infants and children worldwide, related to modern residential building materials and coatings.

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