Sources of Exposure: Air
Both outdoor and indoor air quality have diminished over the past 20-30 years. Poor outdoor air quality can be attributed to the indiscriminate use of pesticides. Indoor air quality in homes and workplaces have changed due to 2 main factors: making buildings more air tight and energy efficient, and the increase in use of building materials and home furnishings consisting of higher content of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
Some changes in standard building materials include:
Plywood and chipboard (containing more formaldehyde and VOCs)
Solid wood beams and plywood laminate beams (more formaldehyde)
Hardwood flooring and plywood with pad and carpet (more VOCs). Carpets also act as a reservoir for dust and pesticide
In 1985, the Total Exposure Assessment Methodology (TEAM) study by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) studied breath samples of 780 people showed that indoor air quality was much worse than outdoor air. This study reflects what is seen in homes as well. Some of the most commonly found chemicals were: paradichlorobenzene (moth balls and room deodorizers), styrene (plastics, foam rubber, and insulation), tetrachloroethylene (dry cleaning), vinylidene chloride (plastics), xylene (paints), and benzene and ethylbenzene (gasoline). These chemicals enter our bodies through our lungs and get metabolized and then excreted. Levels of some of these compounds or their metabolites can be measured in our urine.
Volatile organic compounds and pesticides affect the body primarily through its neurotoxic effect. Symptoms of low dose exposure to VOCs include respiratory complaints such as sinusitis, and wheezing. Some of the symptoms of high-dose VOC exposure include brain fog, decreased memory and retention, disturbances in balance and coordination. Mood disorders, irritability, headache and fatigue are also commonly presented. Long term exposure may lead to kidney damage, reproductive problems and cardiovascular disease.