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EPA IAQ Report Page

Below is a truncated version of the ALA, EPA, CPSC, and AMA report on Indoor Air Pollution, referencing specifically the adverse health effects and symptoms from formaldehyde and exposure to CCP. You may call the Indoor Air Quality Information Clearinghouse U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for a paper copy at: 1-800-438-4318

Full text:



"Indoor Air Pollution: An Introduction for Health Professionals"

Co-sponsored by: The American Lung Association (ALA), The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), and The American Medical Association (AMA)
U.S. Government Printing Office Publication No. 1994-523-217/81322, 1994

Health Professionals Guide to IAQ


This document may be reproduced without change, in whole or in part, without permission, except for use as advertising material or product endorsement. Any such reproduction should credit the American Lung Association, the American Medical Association, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The user of all or any part of this document in a deceptive or inaccurate manner or for purposes of endorsing a particular product may be subject to appropriate legal action. Information provided in this document is based upon current scientific and technical understanding of the issues presented and agency approval is limited to the jurisdictional boundaries established by the statutes governing the co-authoring agencies. Following the advice given will not necessarily provide complete protection in all situations or against all health hazards that may be caused by indoor air pollution.


The sponsors thank the following people for the time and effort contributed to the creation of this publication: Steven Colome, Ph.D., Integrated Environmental Services, Irvine, CA; Robert J. McCunney, M.D., University Medical Center, Boston, MA; Jonathan M. Samet, M.D., University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM; David Swankin, Esq., Swankin and Turner, Washington, DC.

Appreciation is also extended to the many additional reviewers who contributed their valuable expertise.


Health Problems Caused By
(Formaldehyde, Pesticides, Solvents, Cleaning Agents)

Key Signs/Symptoms

  • conjunctival irritation
  • nose, throat discomfort
  • headache
  • allergic skin reaction
  • dyspnea
  • declines in serum cholinesterase levels
  • nausea, emesis
  • epistaxis (formaldehyde)
  • fatigue
  • dizziness

Diagnostic Leads

  • Does the individual reside in mobile home or new conventional home containing large amounts of pressed wood products?
  • Has individual recently acquired new pressed wood furniture?
  • Does the individual's job or a vocational pursuit include clerical, craft, graphics, or photographic materials?
  • Are chemical cleaners used extensively in the home, school, or workplace?
  • Has remodeling recently been done in home, school or workplace?
  • Has individual recently used pesticides, paints, or solvents?

Remedial Action

Increase ventilation when using products that emit volatile organic compounds, and meet or exceed any label precautions. Do not store opened containers of unused paints and similar materials within home or office. See special note on pesticides.

Formaldehyde is one of the best known volatile organic compound (VOC) pollutants, and is one of the few indoor air pollutants that can be readily measured. Identify, and if possible, remove the source if formaldehyde is the potential cause of the problem. If not possible, reduce exposure: use polyurethane or other sealants on cabinets, paneling and other furnishings. To be effective, any such coating must cover all surfaces and edges and remain intact. Formaldehyde is also used in permanent press fabric and mattress ticking. Sensitive individuals may choose to avoid these products.


At room temperature, volatile organic compounds are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids. VOCs include a variety of chemicals (e.g., formaldehyde, benzene, perchloroethylene), some of which may have short- and long-term effects. Concentrations of many VOCs are consistently higher indoors than outdoors. A study by the EPA, covering six communities in various parts of the United States, found indoor levels up to ten times higher than those outdoors -- even in locations with significant outdoor air pollution sources, such as petrochemical plants42.

A wide array of volatile organics are emitted by products used in home, office, school, and arts/crafts and hobby activities. These products, which number in the thousands, include:

  • personal items such as scents and hair sprays;
  • household products such as finishes, rug and oven cleaners, paints and lacquers (and their thinners), paint strippers, pesticides (see below);
  • dry-cleaning fluids;
  • building materials and home furnishings;
  • office equipment such as some copiers and printers;
  • office products such as correction fluids and carbonless copy paper43,44;
  • graphics and craft materials including glues and adhesives, permanent markers, and photographic solutions.

Many of these items carry precautionary labels specifying risks and procedures for safe use; some do not. Signs and symptoms of VOC exposure may include eye and upper respiratory irritation, rhinitis, nasal congestion, rash, pruritus, headache, nausea, vomiting, dyspnea and, in the case of formaldehyde vapor, epistaxis.


Formaldehyde has been classified as a probable human carcinogen by the EPA45. Urea-formaldehyde foam insulation (UFFI), one source of formaldehyde used in home construction until the early 1980s, is now seldom installed, but formaldehyde-based resins are components of finishes, plywood, paneling, fiberboard, and particleboard, all widely employed in mobile and conventional home construction as building materials (subflooring, paneling) and as components of furniture and cabinets, permanent press fabric, draperies, and mattress ticking.

Airborne formaldehyde acts as an irritant to the conjunctiva and upper and lower respiratory tract. Symptoms are temporary and, depends upon the level and length of exposure, may range from burning or tingling sensations in eyes, nose, and throat to chest tightness and wheezing. Acute, severe reactions to formaldehyde vapor -- which has a distinctive, pungent odor -- may be associated with hypersensitivity. It is estimated that 10 to 20 percent of the U.S. population, including asthmatics, may have hyperreactive airways which may make them more susceptible to formaldehyde's effects46.


EPA Integrated Risk Information System  IRIS
Order ORD Public
Online 600Z93001 Federal Register: August 17, 1994
Part III Final Report:  Principles of Neurotoxicity Risk Assessment;


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Last modified: July 21 2006, 05:00pm