Indoor Air Quality: Part 1 - What It Is

Ann Pike-Paris


Pediatr Nurs. 2004;30(5) 

In This Article


Fourteen-year-old Bill A. arrives in the school nurse's office complaining of watery eyes, persistent cough, and a burning sensation in his throat, nose, and eyes. He reports having been sent to your office by his science teacher. You inquire about his recent activities and discover that the class has been performing dissections of preserved animal organs. What follow-up would you perform and what would you do for Bill?

Do these symptoms strike you as vague and perhaps questionable in authenticity? This is often the manner environmental irritants or toxicants present in a child if exposure is short and limited. For chronic, low level exposure, these same complaints may persist or intensify. Symptoms will often disappear once the exposure is eliminated, which may either confuse the health care professional or present an etiological clue. While you may encounter a client with no environmental component to his or her symptoms, how many have you unknowingly missed? Do you feel competent to assess for potential exposure to pollutants and identify sources?

Presented in two parts, Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) will be addressed as an environmental health issue. Given the vast number of common pollutants found in indoor air, it would be difficult to explore all of these in this column. This month's focus, Indoor Air Quality - Part I: "Indoor Air: What It Is," will begin with a history and definition of IAQ, case studies, and examination of two known pollutants: combustion pollutants and volatile organic compounds or VOC's. Indoor Air Quality - Part II, "What It Does," will define frequently used terms; review research based health outcomes from known toxicants; describe symptomatology of short and long term exposures, intervention, and prevention; and offer practitioner resources.


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