How do indoor air quality standards keep us safe?

What Are Indoor Air Quality Standards?

Keep the elements outside, and clean air inside.
Keep the elements outside, and clean air inside.
Brock Hanson/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

Indoor air quality standards establish acceptable thresholds for indoor pollutants, like cigarette smoke. Where the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the EPA and other federal government agencies may help by making sure our products are safe to use indoors and our manufacturing and energy plants are controlling emissions, regulation of indoor air standards often falls to the states. The U.S. Department of Labor's OSHA Act mandates safe indoor air quality in the workplace as part of Section 5(a)(1), but it's up to the states to comply by establishing their own standards and policies. This is commonly known as OSHA's General Duty Clause. It obligates employers to:

". . . furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees;" [source: OSHA].

You can visit the plan details for the 24 participating states by visiting the State Occupational Safety and Health Plans page of the Occupational Safety & Health Administration's website.

Other state laws may also be in place to control indoor air quality. Minnesota's Clean Indoor Air Act restricts smoking in businesses and public buildings, for instance, as part of an ongoing campaign to protect the public's welfare. Check with your state offices for more information on how the laws in your area may help promote cleaner indoor air [source: MDH].

Beyond the controls established by these agencies, there are indoor air safety concerns, air quality standards, and indoor air safety recommendations you should know about to protect your family. Efforts to make homes more energy efficient have led to better insulated buildings, but all that trapped air can cause a buildup of dangerous toxins. On the next, page let's take a look at some of the worst offenders.