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Indoor Air Quality - Home

John Poullain, P.E.

Course Outline

This three-hour online course provides general guidelines and measures to take for the improvement of indoor air quality in the home. The topics cover the causes of indoor air quality problems, sources and types of air pollutants, ventilation, air exchanges and outdoor air entry. This course covers how to improve the air quality and how to identify and measure pollutants. Source-specific pollutants including radon, tobacco smoke, stoves, fireplaces, pesticides, asbestos, related health effects and ways to reduce exposure are discussed. Office air quality and considerations for new home constructions are briefly discussed. The course covers many links and references to informative sources covered in the text topics.

This course includes a multiple-choice quiz at the end, which is designed to enhance the understanding of the course materials.

Learning Objective

At the conclusion of this course, the student will:

Intended Audience

This course is intended for civil engineers and IAQ professionals.

Benefit to Attendees

The student will become familiar with the causes, health risks and suitable actions to take for indoor air problems at home and office. How IAQ problems are identified, pollution levels are measured and the basic methods for improving IAQ by controlling the sources of pollutants, ventilation and air cleaning are discussed. Also the student will consider the sources of office air pollution and review IAQ measures to take for new homes. Reference sources are provided for additional information pertaining to indoor air pollution problems, health effects linked to pollution sources and appropriate steps to reduce exposure of occupants.

Course Introduction

It has been estimated that people spend as much as 90% of their time indoors at home, office, schools, stores or other buildings. This has become a health problem since indoor pollution may be worse than outdoor air pollution and some people including the elderly, young and those with respiratory diseases are especially susceptible to indoor air quality (IAQ) problems. OSHA estimated 30% of Americans worked in buildings with air pollution. Asthma attacks are often triggered by house dust, pollen or animal dander and estimated as the forth-leading cause of work absenteeism.

Concern over IAQ has generated the sale of many air cleaning or purification devises, electrostatic filters and radon test kits as a means to protect occupants or detect indoor air pollutants. The statistics for people affected by allergies, asthma and other respiratory diseases have been increasing for all age groups. Prominent aspects of poor IAQ, tobacco smoke and sick building syndrome have received much public attention causing regulatory actions and litigation to push building owners to improve IAQ and monitor the indoor air pollutants.

There are many regulations for air quality but most pertain to outdoor air quality and the emission of pollutants into the atmosphere. Until now indoor air quality standards could not be easily developed because monitoring devises were not available for accurate measurements. Indoor air quality is a complex problem which is hard to target because of ever changing types and levels of pollution and a key factor is the occupant's susceptibility and perception of indoor conditions. Factors affecting IAQ are pollutant sources, operation and maintenance of ventilation systems, moisture and humidity. IAQ is basically controlled by the following activities:

1. Manage the sources of pollutants by removal or protect the occupants with physical barriers.
2. Ventilate the building with proper rates of air exchange.
3. Clean the air and remove pollutants with filtration.

Course Content

This course is based primarily on United States Environmental Protection Agency booklet, "The Inside Story: A Guide to Indoor Air Quality", EPA 402-K-93-007 (1995 Edition, 32 pages), PDF file. It is also based on Section VIII ("Indoor Environmental Quality", pages 176-179) of the US DOE publication, Greening Federal Facilities", (2001 edition, 4 pages), pdf file.

The links to the course materials are:

The Inside Story: A Guide to Indoor Air Quality

US DOE publication, Greening Federal Facilities

You need to open or download above documents to study this course.

Course Summary

This course considers the pollution sources, health risks and actions to take to improve indoor air quality at home and office. The course presents the methods and actions to take if you suspect indoor air problems in the home or office and steps to take when building a new home. Informative references for major indoor air pollutants are provided by sources, health effects and necessary steps to control and reduce exposure for each type of indoor pollutant.

Related Links

For additional technical information related to this subject, please refer to:
Introduction to health and IAQ, sick building syndrome causes, diagnostic quick reference and diagnostic checklist are helpful to target most likely pollution problems. Information and reference material about IAQ improvement and point source controls are presented.
IAQ topics for homes, schools, FAQ, information and guidance for air quality regulations


Once you finish studying the above course content, you need to take a quiz to obtain the PDH credits.

DISCLAIMER: The materials contained in the online course are not intended as a representation or warranty on the part of PDH Center or any other person/organization named herein. The materials are for general information only. They are not a substitute for competent professional advice. Application of this information to a specific project should be reviewed by a registered architect and/or professional engineer/surveyor. Anyone making use of the information set forth herein does so at their own risk and assumes any and all resulting liability arising therefrom.