Magazine article Special Libraries

Indoor Air Pollution Resources

Magazine article Special Libraries

Indoor Air Pollution Resources

Article excerpt


Recent scientific research has shown that the air inside homes, schools, and office buildings may be more seriously polluted than outdoor (ambient) air, even in large and heavily industrialized cities. This evidence has a greater impact when considered with other studies which indicate that most people spend a large majority of their time indoors. [1]

Indoor air pollution is a relatively recent phenomenon. The energy crisis of the 1970s necessitated the design of well-insulated homes and buildings. These "tight buildings," designed to prevent outside air from coming in, also resulted in preventing inside air from getting out. Any pollutants which would have escaped outside are now trapped indoors, and recirculated.

Sources of indoor air pollution are diverse. They include: wood-burning stoves and fireplaces; household cleaning and personal products; humidifiers, heating and cooling systems; drinking water; dust mites; wall panelling, cabinetry, and furniture made from certain pressed wood products; tobacco smoke; house pets; pesticides; carpeting; and insulation containing deteriorating asbestos. Humans contribute by exhaling carbon dioxide and shedding skin. Outside pollutants such as radon, automobile exhaust, and ambient air pollution also contribute. Indoor air may contain high levels of dust, pollen, or microbes--all potential allergens.

Adverse health effects from indoor air pollution are manifested both acutely and chronically. Acute effects include eye, ear, nose, and throat irritation, headaches, and dizziness. Repeated or long exposure may produce chronic respiratory, cardiovascular and nervous system diseases, including cancer.

Indoor air pollution has many ramifications. Besides medical and public health, there are chemical, engineering, architectural, environmental, psychological, and legal issues. Law information resources will not be addressed in this paper.

The complex array of sources and effects of indoor air pollution makes it difficult to collect comprehensively for all but the largest libraries. Yet, in spite of its multidisciplinary nature, indoor air pollution is narrow in scope, and occupies a small space in the vast area of environmental science. General collections of environmental resources typically devote relatively minor attention to indoor air materials. This paper will attempt to assist information professionals in collecting indoor air pollution materials, choosing appropriate online databases, and developing search strategies. It will be limited to resources of primarily U.S. origin.

Government Agencies and

Professional Associations

A substantial amount of materials on indoor air pollution is produced by federal, state, and private organizations, as well as professional associations. The leading federal agency is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). A number of EPA divisions produce relevant documents, including the offices of Air and Radiation, Research and Development, Pesticides and Toxic Substances, Environmental Criteria and Assessment, and Atmospheric and Indoor Air programs, Indoor Air Division (which plans to have an indoor air quality clearinghouse ready in 1992); the Environmental Monitoring Systems Laboratory; and the Air Risk Information Support Center. Many of these publications are available from the National Technical Information Service (NTIS); others may be obtained directly from EPA.

The EPA headquarters library, 401 M St., SW, Washington, DC 20460, provides telephone reference service (202/382-5922) and houses the Public Information Center (PIC). The PIC (202/475/7751) distributes environmental materials, written in nontechnical language for the general public, at no cost. The library also lends materials via interlibrary loan.

The EPA Center for Environmental Research, 26 Martin Luther King Drive, Cincinati, OH 45268, also distributes documents, frequently at no cost. …

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