The District does not regulate indoor air quality, or indoor air quality devices. The following is provided for informational purposes only.
Indoor air quality refers to the quality of air we breathe inside our homes, our offices, our schools and other buildings. The household products we use every day as well as appliances, furniture, and building materials emit gasses that can become trapped indoors. Many of these gasses are pollutants that are harmful to health. Smoke from fireplaces and wood burning stoves can also be harmful to health, especially to sensitive individuals. See more About Smoke and Health.
Common Sources of Indoor Air Pollution
Breathing wood smoke reduces lung function, aggravates heart and lung diseases, and can trigger asthma. Learn about Cleaner Fireplace Burning to benefit you and your neighbors. The District does not regulate burning in fireplaces or wood stoves, however, smoke from homes and restaurants may cause public nuisance complaints. For more information see the District’s Role below.
Fuel-burning and gas appliances
Carbon monoxide is produced by household appliances that burn fuel including oil or gas furnaces, gas water heaters, space heaters, gas ranges and ovens, fireplaces, and wood-burning stoves. Learn more about Carbon Monoxide in your Home .
Asbestos is a lightweight fiber used in construction materials to provide insulation and as fire resistance. What makes asbestos useful in construction though, also makes it very harmful to human health. When broken or crushed, asbestos particles become airborne and if they are inhaled they can become permanently lodged in lungs and tissues. In fact, asbestos has proven so dangerous to human health that many asbestos products are now banned. Asbestos can still be found, though, in many buildings and homes. Learn more about Asbestos so you can detect it and prevent it from causing harm.
Formaldehyde is a chemical often used as an adhesive in pressed wood products such as particleboard, hardwood plywood paneling, and fiberboard. It is a colorless but strong-smelling gas that can cause watery eyes, burning in the throat, nausea, and respiratory problems. Formaldehyde is particularly a concern for people with asthma because it can trigger attacks. Visit the Environmental Protection Agency’s page on Formaldehyde to learn more about how to reduce exposure.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are frequently found in household products such as such as paints, cleaning supplies and glues, and in furniture and office equipment. Learn more on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Volatile Organic Compounds’ Impact on Indoor Air Quality.
Lead affects almost every system in the body. Children are especially vulnerable because lead exposure can impact physical and mental development. Lead is mostly found in lead-based paints, but can also be found in contaminated soil and drinking water. Visit the Environmental Protection Agency’s page on Lead to learn more.
Radon comes from the natural decay of uranium that is found in nearly all soils. It is a toxic, colorless gas that typically moves up through the ground to the air above and into your home through cracks and other holes in the foundation. Your home traps radon inside, where it can build up. For more information, including how to test for radon in your home, see the Environmental Protection Agency’s page on Radon.
Mold and Moisture
Mold can grow on virtually any organic substance such as wood, paper, carpet, and insulation. Mold growth occurs when excessive moisture accumulates in or on buildings and building materials. Potential health effects and symptoms associated with mold exposures include allergic reactions, asthma, and other respiratory complaints. Visit the Environmental Protection Agency’s webpage on Mold to learn about mold prevention and basic cleanup.
Cigarettes contain dozens of harmful chemicals which are released into the atmosphere when smoked. Secondhand smoke can cause asthma and respiratory infections in children. Learn more about Secondhand Tobacco Smoke and Smoke-free Homes at the Environmental Protection Agency website.
During construction, remodeling, or improving the energy efficiency of your home, pollutants can be released by new materials or by disturbing materials already in your home. See Resources for Homeowners and Schools below.
Strategies for Improving Indoor Air Quality
- Control sources of pollution: The most effective – and usually the most cost-effective – way to improve indoor air quality is to eliminate or reduce sources of air pollution. See the links above to find out specific methods for controlling sources of air pollution that you think are a problem in your home or office.
- Improve ventilation: Increasing circulation between indoor and outdoor air will lower the concentration of indoor pollutant. This can be achieved by opening windows and doors and using attic fans or window air conditioners. It is especially important to take these steps when you amid activities that can generate a large amount of pollutants in a short period of time. Examples of these activities are painting, remodeling, or using fuel-burning or gas appliances.
- Use air cleaners and upgrade filters: There are many different kinds of air purifiers and cleaners available to reduce specific indoor air pollution problems. It is best to use a mechanical air cleaner with a HEPA filter. If you have a central air or heating system, it’s also good to upgrade to a filter with a higher MERV rating. See more information on these options see the Air Resources Board Air Cleaning Devices for the Home.
Healthy Indoor Air During Home Energy Upgrades
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has developed new guidance that provides a set of best practices for improving indoor air quality in conjunction with energy upgrades in homes. This guidance focuses primarily on the health and safety of building occupants and identifies priority environmental issues associated with air contaminants such as asbestos, carbon monoxide, lead, moisture, ozone, radon, and wood smoke, among others. The document contains an Assessment Protocol for each air contaminant that includes Minimum Actions to be taken during energy retrofit activities and Expanded Actions that provide opportunities to promote improved occupant health. Healthy Indoor Environmental Protocols for Home Energy Upgrades is available for download at EPA’s Protect Indoor Air Quality in Your Home.
Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control
The Office of Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control enforces the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s lead-based paint regulations, provides public outreach and technical assistance, and conducts technical studies to help protect children and their families from health and safety hazards in the home. Explore the Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes for more valuable information to assist in making your home healthier for you and your family.
Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools
Learn how to promote a healthy indoor environment at your school by visiting EPA’s Creating Healthy Indoor Environments in Schools. Find information specifically designed for you whether you are a school official, facilities staff member, teacher, health care professional, parent or student. Download the Action Kit that provides best practices, industry guidelines, sample policies and a sample IAQ management plan to improve school air at little or no cost.
- Introduction to indoor air quality by the Environmental Protection Agency
- California Air Resources Board website on indoor air quality and personal exposure assessment program
- Care for Your Air brochure from the EPA about indoor air quality
The District has not adopted any rules or regulations to ban or limit the burning of wood or other solid fuels in a fireplace, wood stove, or other wood-burning device. However, wood-burning appliances and fireplaces in homes and restaurants may be the cause of public nuisance complaints. The California Health and Safety Code and District regulations (including Rule 303, Nuisance) prohibit emissions of air contaminants that cause nuisance or annoyance to a considerable number of people, or that present a threat to public health, or damage to property. If complaints are received, District inspectors will investigate to determine compliance with Rule 303. To avoid the potential for a nuisance situation to occur, we recommend that new construction projects consider limiting wood-burning appliance and fireplace installation and install natural gas-fueled appliances and fireplaces in areas where nearby residents could be affected by smoke.