Indoor Air Pollution

Exposure to indoor air pollutants (such as carcinogens, combustion products, irritants, and environmental tobacco smoke ETS), contributes significantly to an individual's total pollutant exposure and is a major source of health problems and preventable deaths. As part of the continuing effort to improve overall air quality, the Sierra Club supports programs of regulation and incentives, education, and research to control indoor air pollution and to reduce the incidence of tobacco addiction, the fundamental source of ETS.

1. New regulatory and incentive programs are needed to:

a. Prohibit tobacco smoking in all indoor public places including workplaces and public transportation;

b. Reduce the incidence of tobacco addiction by reducing the availability of tobacco products to children and by eliminating tobacco advertising;

c. Require right-to-know labeling for all household products and building materials;

d. Study and develop building codes and building operation and maintenance standards that include adequate air exchange with minimum sacrifice of energy conservation objectives and minimum penetration of polluted outdoor air.

2. The United States Environmental Protection Agency should be designated as the lead agency for the coordination of an indoor air pollution education and research program. The Centers for Disease Control should be the lead agency for management of education and research programs to eliminate public exposure to environmental tobacco smoke. The Department of Energy should be the lead agency for conducting research on effective ventilation based on sound energy conservation practices.

a. Educational programs should be conducted on the health hazards from consumer products, radon exposure hazards, and combustion appliance use.

b. A comprehensive, appropriately-funded research program should be implemented to determine the effects of indoor air pollution on human health, well-being, and productivity.

c. A comprehensive, quantitative assessment of the risks posed by ETS in the form of lung cancer, cancers other than the lung, other lung disorders, and heart disease should be prepared and publicized.

d. EPA should help fund state and local indoor air pollution monitoring programs to respond to citizen concerns.

3. Federal legislation should not preempt the right of states, and state legislation should not preempt the right of localities, to enact stronger controls consistent with this policy.

Adopted by the Board of Directors, February 6-7, 1993

Guidelines On Indoor Air Pollution

These guidelines were developed by the Sierra Club Air Quality Committee to help interpret and implement the policy.

The following outlines key issues for consideration in an indoor air pollution management program. The material is provided as an assistance to Sierra Club groups, chapters, RCCs, and staff as they work on indoor air pollution issues and legislation.

A. Regulation and Incentives

Effective government regulatory and incentive programs are an integral part of a comprehensive indoor air pollution prevention and control program.

1. Lead Enforcement Agency

Designate the EPA as the lead agency for the management of an indoor air pollution research, education, and control program. Provide adequate funding for an effective program. Require the EPA to coordinate with other federal agencies, including the Department of Energy, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Health and Human Services Administration,

Consumer Product Safety Commission, National Institutes of Health, and Department of Housing and Urban Development.

2. Product Labeling/Use Restriction

Enact comprehensive right-to-know legislation that mandates a system of labeling of household furnishings (furniture, carpets, drapes, etc.) and home products, combustion appliances, office supplies, art and hobby supplies, and building materials to warn consumers of the potential health effects from their improper use. In some cases, such as with aerosol sprays and methylene-chloride-containing products, consumer use should be further restricted.

3. Accidental Fire

Enact regulations requiring notification to consumers, workers, and local fire departments concerning the types of toxic fumes that could be emitted from products or building materials in the event of fire. Product labeling must include instructions for protection from such fumes.

4. Building Codes

Conduct research and cooperate with state, local, and federal building code entities to require:

a. use of construction materials and designs that do not produce hazardous emissions, and

b. installation of ventilation technology that meets at least the minimum American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineers standards.

The ventilation technology chosen must include effective air exchange systems to allow for frequent exchange of indoor and outdoor air with minimum sacrifice of energy conservation objectives and minimum indoor penetration of polluted outdoor air.

5. Lead Removal

Develop and implement a certification program for lead removal contractors.

6. Building Operation and Maintenance Standards

Establish standards for building operation and maintenance that will protect the quality of indoor air for federal and state buildings, and all government subsidized buildings and homes.

7. Smoke-Free Public Places

Enact non-preemptive state and local clean indoor air acts prohibiting tobacco smoking in all indoor public places. Enact federal regulations prohibiting smoking in indoor public places where state and local law does not apply:

a. on all interstate trains and buses;

b. on all commercial airline flights, both domestic and international;

c. in the workplaces of, and in the public areas in, buildings owned or operated by agencies of the federal government.

8. Reduction of the Availability and Appeal of Tobacco Products to Children

a. Repeal the federal preemption of state regulation of tobacco advertising and promotion to enable state and local regulation.

b. Eliminate tobacco industry sponsorship of sporting events.

c. Eliminate the advertising of tobacco products on billboards, on public transportation, and in other public places.

d. Require the licensing of the sale of cigarettes in the same strict fashion as alcohol.

e. Increase federal and state excise taxes to make cigarettes less accessible.

f. Eliminate the distribution of tobacco products for commercial purposes at less than the basic cost of such products to members of the public in public places and at public events.

g. Eliminate the distribution of tobacco products through vending machines in public places.

h. Eliminate marketing practices that promote tobacco use among children.

i. Make the penalties for selling tobacco products to minors as severe as those for selling alcohol to minors.

j. Raise the age required to buy, posses, and use tobacco to 21.

k. Eliminate federal tobacco price support system.

9. Indoor Air Monitoring

Citizens need an agency to turn to when they feel that their home or office has a contamination problem. Local and State programs can best respond to these concerns with mobile monitoring equipment. EPA should take a major role in funding this response effort.

B. Education

Education of the general public as well as such key individuals as teachers, office workers, members of the building industry, health professionals, government officials, labor union leaders, and the media is an important element of a program to reduce indoor air pollution because personal behavior as well as public regulation is involved. Education needs to be aimed at:

1. Health Hazards from Products

The use, or improper use, of certain building materials, construction and maintenance supplies, pesticides, home and office products, furnishings, appliances, art, and photography, hobby and science materials can produce dangerous indoor air pollution. Instruction in the correct use and maintenance of products, substitution of non-polluting products, and recommended levels and frequency of ventilation can reduce indoor air pollution.

2. Radon Exposure Hazards

Establish programs to educate home builders and dwellers to:

a. potential risks of radon and the use of materials and supplies that contribute to this source of air pollution, and

b. available techniques for reducing radon levels in buildings through radon-proofing techniques, ventilation, and the substitution of alternative building materials and design.

3. Combustion Appliance Use

Safe installation, ventilation, maintenance, and use of space heating, water heating, and cooking appliances is vital for protecting indoor air quality. Wood stoves, kerosene heaters, coal heaters, and natural gas water and space heaters are of special concern.

4. The Hazards of Tobacco Addition

a. Educate children at a young enough age to help them avoid becoming addicted to tobacco before they understand its hazards.

b. Established counter-advertising campaigns funded where necessary by dedicated increases in cigarette excise taxes.

c. Further educate the public by encouraging hospitals, universities, investment funds, insurance companies, municipal pension funds and other entities to divest themselves of tobacco company holdings.

5. Pesticide Use

Educate the public about the hazard of pesticide use in and around homes and the resulting indoor air pollution.

C. Research

Research is needed to further define the extent and the nature of indoor air pollution and to develop effective pollution elimination and control programs. This research should be funded and supervised by an appropriate federal agency, preferably the EPA, and augmented by state and private efforts. Research should be directed towards:

1. Sources of Indoor Air Pollution

Identifying the magnitude as well as the major sources of indoor air pollution, including but not limited to air pollution from building construction materials, building design, building maintenance, pesticide use, activities and products used within homes, offices, schools, and public places, and the indoor penetration of polluted outdoor air.

2. Effects of Indoor Air Pollution

Identify key health problems, including but not limited to chemical hypersensitivity. (Health surveys of individuals not previously exposed to modern building materials, furnishings and products that product hazardous vapors and particles would provide useful baseline data.)

3. Radon Pollution Control

a. Identify those regions of the country with elevated levels of naturally occurring radon in soil, rocks, and water.

b. Develop methods for predicting which sites and building designs will lead to excessive radon levels inside a building.

c. Develop technology to retrofit current buildings to reduce/eliminate radon problems.

4. Pollution Control Consistent with Energy Conservation

Determine what level and frequency of ventilation and pollution source reduction is adequate to rid buildings of unsafe levels of air pollutants without sacrificing energy conservation objectives and with minimal indoor penetration of polluted outdoor air.

5. Assessment of the Risks of ETS Exposure

Quantitatively assess the death and disease caused by ETS, including lung cancer, other forms of cancer, other lung disorders, and heart disease. Publicize this assessment and periodically refine it as new data become available.