Consumer Product Safety Commission
American Medical Association
Environmental Protection Agency
American Lung Association
The individual presenting with environmentally associated symptoms is apt to have been exposed to airborne substances originating not outdoors, but indoors. Studies from the United States and Europe show that persons in industrialized nations spend more than 90 percent of their time indoors1. For infants, the elderly, persons with chronic diseases, and most urban residents of any age, the proportion is probably higher. In addition, the concentrations of many pollutants indoors exceed those outdoors. The locations of highest concern are those involving prolonged, continuing exposure - that is, the home, school, and workplace.
The lung is the most common site of injury by airborne pollutants. Acute effects, however, may also include non-respiratory signs and symptoms, which may depend upon toxicological characteristics of the substances and host-related factors.
Heavy industry-related occupational hazards are generally regulated and likely to be dealt with by an on-site or company physician or other health personnel2. This booklet addresses the indoor air pollution problems that may be caused by contaminants encountered in the daily lives of persons in their homes and offices. These are the problems more likely to be encountered by the primary health care provider.
Etiology can be difficult to establish because many signs and symptoms are nonspecific, making differential diagnosis a distinct challenge. Indeed, multiple pollutants may be involved. The challenge is further compounded by the similar manifestations of many of the pollutants and by the similarity of those effects, in turn, to those that may be associated with allergies, influenza, and the common cold. Many effects may also be associated, independently or in combination with, stress, work pressures, and seasonal discomforts.