Chemical Emissions of Residential Materials and Products: Review of Available Information

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This report is prepared in the context of a larger program whose mission is to advance understanding of ventilation and indoor air quality in U.S. homes. A specific objective of this program is to develop the scientific basis — through controlled experiments, monitoring and analysis — for health risk-based ventilation standards. Appropriate and adequate ventilation is a basic element of a healthy home. Ventilation provides outdoor air and in the process removes indoor odors and contaminants including potentially unhealthful chemicals emitted by indoor materials, products and activities. Ventilation traditionally was assured to occur via infiltration of outdoor air through cracks and other leakage pathways in the residential building envelope. As building air tightness is improved for energy efficiency, infiltration can be reduced to inadequate levels. This has lead to the development of standards requiring mechanical ventilation. Though nominally intended to ensure acceptable indoor air quality, the standards are not explicitly tied to health risk or pollutant exposure targets. LBNL is currently designing analyses to assess the impact of varying ventilation standards on pollutant concentrations, health risks and energy use. These analyses require information on sources of chemical pollutant emissions, ideally including emission rates and the impact of ventilation on emissions. Some information can be obtained from recent studies that report measurements of various air contaminants and their concentrations in U.S. residences. Another way to obtain this information is the bottom-up approach of collecting and evaluating emissions data from construction and interior materials and common household products. This review contributes to the latter approach by summarizing available information on chemical emissions from new residential products and materials. We review information from the scientific literature and public sources to identify and discuss the databases that provide information on new or low-emission materials and products. The review focuses on the primary chemical or volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions from interior surface materials, furnishings, and some regularly used household products; all of these emissions are amenable to ventilation. Though it is an important and related topic, this review does not consider secondary pollutants that result from reactions of ozone and unsaturated organics bound to or emitted from material surfaces. Semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOCs) have been largely excluded from this review because ventilation generally is not an effective way to control SVOC exposures. Nevertheless, health concerns about exposures to SVOCs emitted from selected materials warrant some discussion.

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