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Health Effects from Indoor Air Pollutants

While pollutants commonly found in door air are responsible for many harmful effects, there is considerable uncertainty about what concentrations or periods of exposure are necessary to produce specific health problems. People also react very differently to exposure to indoor air pollutants. Comprehensive worker protections provided pursuant to OSHA, discussed below, are not considered particularly stringent. Where there have been competing regimes, whether by EPA or state agencies, these agencies have generally set standards that are occasionally orders of magnitude more stringent than those set by OSHA. 

Immediate or acute health effects may show up after a single exposure or repeated exposures. These include irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, headaches, dizziness, and fatigue. Such immediate effects are usually short-term and treatable. Sometimes the treatment is simply eliminating the person’s exposure to the source of the pollution if it can be identified. Symptoms of some diseases, including asthma, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, and humidifier fever, may also show up soon after exposure to some indoor air pollutants. Other, chronic health effects may show up either years after exposure has occurred or only after long or repeated periods of exposure. These effects, which include some respiratory diseases, heart disease, and cancer, can be severely debilitating or fatal. 

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