Health Impacts from New Building Materials

Indoor residential chemical emissions as risk factors for respiratory and allergic effects in children: a review

Abstract:  Most research into effects of residential exposures on respiratory health has focused on allergens, moisture/mold, endotoxin, or combustion products. A growing body of research from outside the US; however, has associated chemical emissions from common indoor materials with risk of asthma, allergies, and pulmonary infections. This review summarizes 21 studies in the epidemiologic literature on associations between indoor residential chemical emissions, or emission-related materials or activities, and respiratory health or allergy in infants or children. Associations, some strong, were reported between many risk factors and respiratory or allergic effects. Risk factors identified most frequently included formaldehyde or particleboard, phthalates or plastic materials, and recent painting.

Findings for other risk factors, such as aromatic and aliphatic chemical compounds, were limited but suggestive. Elevated risks were also reported for renovation and cleaning activities, new furniture, and carpets or textile wallpaper. Reviewed studies were entirely observational, limited in size, and variable in quality, and specific risk factors identified may only be indicators for correlated, truly causal exposures. Nevertheless, overall evidence suggests a new class of residential risk factors for adverse respiratory effects, ubiquitous in modern residences, and distinct from those currently recognized. It is important to confirm and quantify any risks, to motivate and guide necessary preventive actions.

J. Mendell

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Indoor Environment Department, Berkeley, CA, USA

Key words: Indoor air quality; Phthalates; Volatile organic compounds; Formaldehyde; Asthma; Allergy.

Indoor Environment Department, 1 Cyclotron Rd,MS 90-3058, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA

Indoor Air (2007)