Indoor Air Quality

Many people associate outdoor urban life with polluted air. However, they often overlook the quality of the air within homes.  Indoor air quality is actually a source of numerous pollutants. For those unfamiliar with home renovation, it is a great place to start.  There are many potential sources of air pollution within a home. These include:

  • Combustion sources such as oil, gas, coal, wood, kerosene.
  • Building materials such as carpeting, asbestos contaminated insulation, certain cabinetry (particle board) and furniture.
  • Heating/Cooling systems.
  • Outdoor pollution.


Determine Indoor Air Quality:

  • You can purchase do-it-yourself test kits at local hardware stores.
  • Health effects are subjective but may be a useful indicator of inadequate air quality. Immediate effects of exposure to indoor air pollutants include irritation, fatigue and vertigo. Symptoms of disease such as asthma and hypersensitivity pneumonitis may also appear. Though easily dismissed and overlooked these symptoms could be a sign of inadequate air quality.
  • Contact a professional contractor for a reliable assessment.

EPA Maximum Indoor Air Concentration Standards: 

Indoor Contaminants Allowable Air Concentration Levels*
Formaldehyde 20 micrograms per cubic meter**
Total Volatile Organic Compounds (TVOC) 200 micrograms per cubic meter**
4-Phenylcyclohexene (4~PC)*** 3 micrograms per cubic meter
Total Particulates (PM) 20 micrograms per cubic meter
Regulated Pollutants NAAQS 







These are guidelines to look at if using professional help to determine indoor air quality.

  1. Remove or reduce individual sources of air pollution (e.g. secondhand smoke, radon, combustion pollutants, molds).
  2. Ventilate: A top contributor to inferior indoor air quality is inadequate ventilation. If possible, allow air to circulate through windows and doors. There are a number of mechanical ventilation devices, from HRV to air handling systems, which you can use to improve air circulation. There are numerous air cleaners on the market and some of them are highly effective at removing air contaminants.
  3. Change filters: Heating/Cooling systems such as central air and air conditioners have filters that trap airborne contaminants. These filters must be changed regularly.
  4. Adjust humidity: The moisture in the air can affect levels of some air pollutants. High moisture levels may contribute to mold and bacteria growth. Optimal indoor humidity should be kept between 30 to 50 percent.

Click here for a visual representation of methods to improve indoor air quality.

Contact a professionally trained contractor. It is recommended that professionals handle any major endeavors. Attempting to resolve the situation yourself may have unintended effects.

Behind the Walls
Innovation Center
One Broadway
Cambridge, MA 02142