Term Paper: Quality of Indoor Air

Pages: 8 (2524 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Transportation - Environmental Issues  ·  Buy This Paper


[. . .] This sense is associated with the trigeminal nerve, and can trigger avoidance reactions like discomfort, breath holding, paresthesias, and odd sensations like skin crawling, burning and itching. Further, trigeminal irritation can result in dilation of surface blood vessels, decreased attention, disorientation, diminished reflex time and dizziness.

It is almost impossible to determine if the volatile compounds released by mold play a large part in the total concentration of VOC's in any indoor environment. Certainly, a mold-contaminated building may have volatile chemicals that are also released by paints, cleaners, and building materials.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the odors released by molds can be highly aversive among many people. The ability to perceive and respond to odors varies widely among the general population. As such, a segment of the population can detect very low concentrations of volatile compounds. Responses to mold odors can include vomiting, headache, nasal stuffiness and nausea.

The fourth major indoor air health issue that is associated with mold is toxicity. Molds can produce antibiotics and mycotoxins. Almost all mycotoxins are cytotoxic, and can disrupt cellular structures like membranes, and interfere with RNA and DNA synthesis. As such, mycotoxins are often highly toxic to plants and animals, including humans. The toxicity of mycotoxins varies greatly, and not all molds produce mycotoxins. Mycotoxin production varies upon the growth surface, season, and mold life cycle.

The exposure to multiple mycotoxins from a mixture of molds growing in a wet indoor environment may have adverse human health effects. The health effects from multiple mycotoxins can differ from those in single mycotoxin exposures. In addition, the exposure to mycotoxins can result in a wide variety of effects. Vascular system effects include increased vascular fragility and hemorrhage into body tissues. Further digestive system effects include diarrhea, vomiting, intestinal hemorrhage and effects on the liver. Respiratory system symptoms include respiratory distress and bleeding from lungs, while effects on the nervous system include tremors, incoordination, depression and headache. Rash, burning sensations, and nephrotaxicity are also symptoms. Further, infertility, and changes in a woman's reproductive cycle, and immune changes or suppression can result.

Perhaps not surprisingly, these myriad effects can occur from many mycotoxins. These mycotoxins include vomitoxin, trichothecenes, ochratoxin, citrinin, T-2 toxin and zearalenone.

The legal issues involved in indoor air quality, and mold exposure specifically often focus on the liability of employers for the health of their employees. Certainly, a number of recent court cases have made employers highly aware of their potential liability in sick building syndrome.

This liability certainly extends to potential health issues resulting from the exposure to molds. In addition to employers, school boards are well aware of the potential legal issues surrounding exposure to mold.

Visual inspections that trace the presence of mold in indoor air are becoming more and more commonplace. Visual inspections have two main parts. First, the inspector searches for potential signs of mold contamination. These can include inspection for signs of mold like discoloration, and direct evidence of the growth of mold. Second, the inspector searches for wet areas that may soon harbor the growth of mold. This can occur after flooding, in wet areas like basements. Certainly, the inspector must visually search for any area within a building that is wet or damp.

The sampling and collection of mold often occur as part of the process of monitoring indoor air quality. As with any other potentially hazardous undertaking, the proper safety precautions must be undertaken. First, clothing like gloves and long sleeves are worn to prevent skin contact with molds. Second, a mask and a breathing apparatus are often worn to prevent the accidental inhalation of molds or other toxic compounds in the building that is being inspected for mold.

The heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system is certainly one of the major concerns in indoor air quality. This system supplies all of a building's employees with air. Therefore, if the HVAC system becomes contaminated with mold, the entire population of a building can be quickly exposed to mold.

All three components of the HVAC system are susceptible to mold contamination. Certainly, mold can grow within a heating system, in a warm moist environment. Further, mold can easily thrive in a ventilation system, particularly in ventilation ducts that are irregularly cleaned, or that provide a moist environment. Further, mold can also grow in an air conditioning system. Mold can survive in almost all ecological niches, and the temperatures in an air conditioning system are not cold enough to inhibit the growth of mold. As such, any HVAC system should be regularly inspected and cleaned in order to ensure healthy and excellent indoor air quality. In addition, the best way to prevent mold is to prevent damp areas anywhere within a building.

In conclusion, mold is one of the greatest concerns with indoor air quality. Mold is ubiquitous, and has a variety of health effects. The four main effects are: 1) allergy, 2) infection, 3) toxicity, and 4) irritation (of the mucus membranes and sensory). Symptoms vary widely, but include effects on almost all major organ systems, including the nervous, immune, reproductive, urinary, respiratory systems. Legal issues related to mold are largely limited to the issue of liability related to the health of a building's occupants. Further, the maintenance of a building's HVAC system is crucial in limiting mold exposure.


Ammann, Harriet M. Ph.D., D.A.B.T. Is Indoor Mold Contamination a Threat to Health? (20 May 2002). http://www.doh.wa.gov/ehp/oehas/mold.html

Carlile, M.J. The Fungi, 2nd ed. San Diego, Calif.: Academic Press, 2001.

Indoor Air - Mold/Moisture. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (20 May 2002). http://www.epa.gov/iaq/molds/moldresources.html

Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings. United States Environmental Protection Agency Office of Air and Radiation, Indoor Environments Division. (20 May 2002). http://www.epa.gov/iaq/molds/index.html

Kendrick, Bryce. The fifth kingdom, 2nd ed.

Newburyport, MA: Focus Information Group, 1992.

Mold and Human Health. Health Effects of Indoor Mold. (20 May 2002). http://www.epi.state.nc.us/epi/oii/mold/healtheffects.html.

Mullen, Frank X. Jr. Toxic mold: Reports double since 1988. Researchers feel science, awareness lag. Reno Gazette-Journal. Sunday January 14th, 2001. http://www.rgj.com/news2/stories/news/979531976.php [END OF PREVIEW]

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