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The Problem

Most of our time is spent indoors where there are many types of air pollution: consumer products, appliances, building materials, cigarette smoke, and furniture can all contribute to the problem.

The Environmental Protection Agency ranked indoor air pollution fourth in cancer risk among 13 top environmental problems analyzed. Indoor radon gas was at the top of this list. A lot relates to the problem of indoor air quality problems. First of all, we spend most of our time indoors. Because many pollutants are found indoors we all inhale them everyday. Secondly, indoor air pollution is often higher than those outdoors. The EPA has said indoor levels of pollutants, such as formaldehyde, chloroform, and styrene, range from 2 to 5 times higher than outdoor levels. Exposure to pollutants such as cigarette smoke is usually indoors.

Indoor air pollution consists of toxic gases or particles that can harm your health. These pollutants can build up rapidly indoors to levels much higher than those usually found outdoors. This is especially true if large amounts of a pollutant are released indoors. Additionally, the better construction in newer homes can prevent pollutants from escaping to the outdoors.

  • According to the EPA, the air inside your home may be 10 times more polluted than the air outside.
  • More than half -- 55% -- of the US population is breathing unhealthy amounts of air pollution according to the American Lung Associationís State of the Air, 2004.
  • According to the American Lung Association, 20.3 million Americans are currently battling asthma.
  • Today, some 50 million Americans suffer from at least one allergic condition according to American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology. These allergies are responsible for $15 billion in medical costs and an estimated 10 million lost school days and 3.5 million lost workdays each year.
  • High levels of microscopic, soot-like particles are increasing the risk of premature death for millions of people, including those with heart or lung disease, according to the American Lung Association State of the Air: 2004.
  • Sick Building Syndrome, a worldwide phenomenon, results when chemical substances used in office construction are steadily released into the atmosphere from electronic equipment, carpeting, furniture and fittings.
  • Virus, fungus, bacteria and hundreds of other germs are carried in the air at all times. If inhaled into the lungs, germs can cause cold, flu, pneumonia and other respiratory infections. When these germs lodge in your lungs, your breathing can be disrupted and you can become ill. American Lung Association
  • Indoor air pollutants can cause asthma attacks, as well as itchy eyes, sneezing and runny nose. Radon and tobacco smoke can cause even more dangerous health effects, including lung cancer, according the American Lung Association
  • Strong new evidence suggests that air pollution emitted by power plants and vehicles across the U.S. raises the risk of lung disease, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

During the past decade, Second Wind has been a pioneer and leader in the development and manufacturing of ultraviolet air purification equipment and technologies. We have exhaustively tested our products to insure that we offer you, our customer, dependable solutions to indoor air pollution. To understand the significant role Second Wind Air Purifiers play in solving many of the indoor air quality issues that we face today, you must first understand the basic fundamentals and physical makeup of air pollution.

Site pages outline in easy to understand language, the components and terms used to describe poor indoor air quality. Much of the dangers found in our homes and places of work often can't be seen and may have no detectable odor, unfortunately these silent invaders are responsible for all types of allergies and disease, which for many results in a poor quality of life and sometimes even death. Few of us realize that items such as laundry and dishwasher detergent, polishes, paints, wood based building material, carpets, cosmetics, etc., generate measurable air pollutants.

Listed below are the categories that pollutants fall into:

1. Particulates: dust, smoke, etc.

2. Bioaerosols: micro-organisms such as viruses, bacteria, mold, etc..

3. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs): chemical or odor causing gases etc.

Of the three categories of contaminants mentioned above, the Center for Disease Control has reported that bio-aerosols and volatile organic compounds combine for over 65% of our indoor air pollution and are the main contributors or causes of allergies, asthma, respiratory problems and general poor health. See How Second Wind Air Purifiers Can Help!

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Is air pollution being produced and distributed in your home?
Unfortunately, often the answer is yes.

Just as uncontrolled industrial processes can foul the air outside, many of industrial products, wonderful as they are, can contribute to air pollution in our homes. The process of cooking, as well as heating and cooling our homes, can also add to indoor pollution.

And this pollution can be trapped indoors. In past years, our need to save energy encouraged us to conserve it where we could. So we made our houses airtight, adding storm windows and insulation. We applied weather stripping and caulking to seal cracks, and have increasingly turned to kerosene, wood and coal to help heat our homes. However, we have often ignored the effects of these measures on indoor air quality. As a result, researchers have found air pollution can be much greater inside the home than outside.

On average we spend about 90 percent of our time indoors - out of that 90 percent, 65 percent is spent at home. The people who are especially susceptible are the very ones who spend the most time at home. Children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with lung disease -- these become the major victims of indoor air pollution.

What's worse, like so much air pollution, many of the contaminating substances give no warning and produce vague and sometimes similar symptoms that are hard to pin down to a specific cause or produce symptoms years later, when it's even harder to discover the cause. Based on research already done on industrial and outdoor air pollution, and more recent research on a variety of indoor pollutants, we can identify many harmful substances.

We know the effects they can have and many of their sources. In many circumstances, we can take responsibility for the quality of air in our own homes.

What Causes Indoor Air Problems? Indoor pollution sources that release gases or particles into the air are the primary cause of indoor air quality problems in homes. Inadequate ventilation can increase indoor pollutant levels by not bringing in enough outdoor air to dilute emissions from indoor sources and by not carrying indoor air pollutants out of the home. High temperature and humidity levels can also increase concentrations of some pollutants.

Pollutant Sources

There are many sources of indoor air pollution in any environment. These include combustion sources such as oil, gas, kerosene, coal, wood, and tobacco products; building materials and furnishings as diverse as deteriorated, wet or damp carpet, and cabinetry or furniture made of certain pressed wood products; products for household cleaning and maintenance, personal care, or hobbies; central heating and cooling systems and humidification devices; and outdoor sources such as pesticides, and outdoor air pollution. Some sources, such as building materials, furnishings, and household products like air fresheners, release pollutants more or less continuously. Other sources, related to activities carried out in the home, release pollutants intermittently. These include smoking, the use of unvented or malfunctioning stoves, furnaces, or space heaters, the use of solvents in cleaning and hobby activities, the use of paint strippers in redecorating activities, and the use of cleaning products and pesticides in housekeeping. High pollutant concentrations can remain in the air for long periods after some of these activities.

Factors Affecting Indoor Air Quality

Indoor air quality is not necessarily a concept that is easy to understand or define. It is a constantly changing interaction of a complex set of factors. Each of these factors must be considered when looking for an indoor air quality problem. IAQ professionals use the four listed below as a basis for every sound investigative approach. Without considering each of the following factors, simple solutions to the problems at hand could be easily missed.

IAQ Contaminant Sources

Indoor air contaminants can originate within the building or be drawn in from outdoors. If contaminant sources are not controlled, IAQ problems can arise, even if the HVAC system is properly designed and well maintained. It may be helpful to think of indoor air pollutant sources as fitting into one of the following categories. The examples given for each category are not intended to be a complete list.

Air Quality Sources Outside the Building

Contaminated Outside Air

  • pollen, dust, fungal spores
  • industrial pollutants
  • general vehicle exhaust

Emissions From Nearby Sources

  • exhaust from vehicles on nearby roads or in parking lots or garages
  • loading docks
  • odors from dumpsters
  • re-entrained (drawn back into the building) exhaust from the building
  • unsanitary debris near the outdoor air intake

Soil Gas

  • radon
  • leakage from underground fuel tanks
  • contaminants from previous uses of the site (e.g., landfills)
  • pesticides

Moisture or Standing Water Promoting Excess Microbial Growth

  • rooftops after rainfall
  • crawlspace


HVAC System

  • dust or dirt in ductwork or other components
  • microbiological growth in drip pans, humidifiers, ductwork, coils
  • improper use of biocides, sealants, and/or cleaning compounds
  • improper venting of combustion products
  • refrigerant leakage

Non-HVAC Equipment

  • emissions from office equipment (volatile organic compounds, ozone)
  • supplies (solvents, toners, ammonia)
  • emissions from shops, labs, cleaning processes
  • elevator motors or other mechanical systems

Human Activities

Personal Activities

  • smoking
  • cooking
  • body odor
  • cosmetic odors

Housekeeping Activities

  • cleaning materials and procedures
  • emissions from stored supplies or trash
  • use of deodorizers and fragrances
  • airborne dust or dirt (e.g., circulated by sweeping and vacuuming)

Maintenance Activities

  • microorganisms in mist from improperly maintained cooling towers
  • airborne dust or dirt
  • volatile organic compounds from paint, adhesives, or other products
  • pesticides from pest control activities
  • emissions from stored supplies

Building Components and Furnishings

Locations That Produce or Collect Dust or Fibers

  • textured surfaces such as carpeting, curtains, or other textiles
  • open shelving
  • old or deteriorated furnishings
  • materials containing damaged asbestos
  • Unsanitary Conditions and Water Damage
  • microbiological growth on or in soiled or water damaged furnishings
  • microbiological growth in areas of surface condensation
  • standing water from clogged or poorly designed drains
  • dry traps that allow the passage of sewer gas

Chemicals Released from Building Components or Furnishings

  • volatile organic compounds or
  • inorganic compounds

Other Sources

Accidental Events

  • spills of water or other liquids
  • microbiological growth due to flooding or to leaks from roofs or piping
  • fire damage (soot, PCBs from electrical equipment, odors)

Special Use Areas and Mixed Use Buildings

  • smoking lounges
  • laboratories
  • print shops, art rooms
  • exercise rooms
  • beauty salons
  • food preparation areas

Redecorating or Remodeling and Repair Activities

  • emissions from new furnishings
  • dust and fibers from demolition
  • odors and volatile organic and inorganic compounds from paint, caulk, adhesives
  • microbiologicals released from demolition or remodeling activities
Health Effects of Biological Pollutants
All of us are exposed to biological pollutants. However, the effects on our health depend upon the type and amount of biological pollution and the individual person. Some people do not experience health reactions from certain biological pollutants, while others may experience one or more of the following reactions:
  • Allergic
  • Infectious
  • Toxic
Except for the spread of infections indoors, ALLERGIC REACTIONS may be the most common health problem with indoor air quality in homes. They are often connected with animal dander (mostly from cats and dogs), with house dust mites (microscopic animals living in household dust), and with pollen. Allergic reactions can range from mildly uncomfortable to life-threatening, as in a severe asthma attack. Some common signs and symptoms are:
  • Watery eyes
  • Runny nose and sneezing
  • Nasal congestion
  • Itching
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing and difficulty breathing
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
Health experts are especially concerned about people with asthma. These people have very sensitive airways that can react to various irritants, making breathing difficult. The number of people who have asthma has greatly increased in recent years. The number of people with asthma has gone up by 59 percent since 1970, to a total of 9.6 million people. Asthma in children under 15 years of age has increased 41 percent in the same period, to a total of 2.6 million children. The number of deaths from asthma is up by 68 percent since 1979, to a total of almost 4,400 deaths per year.

INFECTIOUS DISEASES caused by bacteria and viruses, such as flu, measles, chicken pox, and tuberculosis, may be spread indoors. Most infectious diseases pass from person to person through physical contact. Crowded conditions with poor air circulation can promote this spread. Some bacteria and viruses thrive in buildings and circulate through indoor ventilation systems. For example, the bacterium causing Legionnaire's disease, a serious and sometimes lethal infection, and Pontiac Fever, a flu-like illness, have circulated in some large buildings.

Indoor Air and Your Health
Health effects from indoor air pollutants may be experienced soon after exposure or, possibly, years later. Immediate 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.

The likelihood of immediate reactions to indoor air pollutants depends on several factors. Age and preexisting medical conditions are two important influences. In other cases, whether a person reacts to a pollutant depends on individual sensitivity, which varies tremendously from person to person. Some people can become sensitized to biological pollutants after repeated exposures, and it appears that some people can become sensitized to chemical pollutants as well.

Certain immediate effects are similar to those from colds or other viral diseases, so it is often difficult to determine if the symptoms are a result of exposure to indoor air pollution. For this reason, it is important to pay attention to the time and place the symptoms occur. If the symptoms fade or go away when a person is away from the home and return when the person returns, an effort should be made to identify indoor air sources that may be possible causes. Some effects may be made worse by an inadequate supply of outdoor air or from the heating, cooling, or humidity conditions prevalent in the home.

Other 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. It is prudent to try to improve the indoor air quality in your home even if symptoms are not noticeable.

Why Choose A Second Wind Air Purifier?
Safe germicidal protection destroys micro and macro organisms in your environment such as: spores, molds, mildews, fungi, gases, bacteria, viruses, etc., including SARS, Anthrax and E.coli.
Relieves allergy symptoms
inside your home by efficient reduction of airborne irritants, bacteria, and allergens.
Quickly neutralizes odors
from: pets, cooking, smoking, carpets, new furniture, paint, chemical cleaners, household appliances, etc.
Proven technology! UV sterilization has been used since the 1930's in hospitals, laboratories, and other areas where airborne or surface contamination is of concern. The Second Wind™ PCO technology is specifically designed to enhance and maximize this sterilization process. It has been proven highly effective by university studies and research groups. Now it is available for your home.

Saves Money! Compared to most HEPA filter machines, which require expensive replacement filters, this could save you hundreds of dollars per year.
Saves Energy! Uses only two 40 watt bulbs - a big energy saver when compared to motor and fan-driven HEPA filter machines.
Low Cost! One-room air purifiers may make a difference -- but just in that room. The truth is, you live in more than one room and buying several room air purifiers is expensive. Whole-house air purification is almost always the most cost-effective solution. And because this air purification system uses no motors, fans, filters, etc., this technology is relatively inexpensive compared to others.

No Filters to Replace! Simple wipe the bulbs clean with a cotton ball and some alcohol once every few months. No need to shop for expensive filters, keep filters on hand, or spend time replacing them.
Completely Silent! There are no fans, no motors, no moving parts to create noise in your home. All the air in your home is cleaned as it passes through your existing heating and A/C ductwork. Now you can enjoy clean air while you sleep, watch TV, listen to your stereo, or whatever you normally do in your home, without being disturbed by any added noise.
Cleans More Air More of the Time! If you have allergies, chances are you have (or need) more than one individual room air purifier in your house now. They all make noise. And if you're like most people, you end up turning them off whenever you can, just to have some more peace and quiet. The Second Wind™ Model 2000 is completely silent and out of sight, so you can leave it doing its job of cleaning your air more of the time.
Uses None of Your Living Space -- Always Out of Sight! If you have (or need) more than one individual room air purifier in your house, think of how much room they take up (and how much more you pay!). They all need floor space or counter space and can be seen and heard. The Second Wind™ Model 2000 uses none of your living space whatsoever. It is completely quiet and out of sight.
Highly Reliable! Since there are no moving parts (no fans or motors of any kind), there is virtually no wear-down or breakage of any kind. The lamps are guranteed for one-full year and often last many years before ever needing replacment.

Office of Air and Radiation
Office of Research and Development
Office of Radiation and Indoor Air (6609J)
April 1991


The term "sick building syndrome" (SBS) is used to describe situations in which building occupants experience acute health and comfort effects that appear to be linked to time spent in a building, but no specific illness or cause can be identified. The complaints may be localized in a particular room or zone, or may be widespread throughout the building. In contrast, the term "building related illness" (BRI) is used when symptoms of diagnosable illness are identified and can be attributed directly to airborne building contaminants.

A 1984 World Health Organization Committee report suggested that up to 30 percent of new and remodeled buildings worldwide may be the subject of excessive complaints related to indoor air quality (IAQ). Often this condition is temporary, but some buildings have long-term problems. Frequently, problems result when a building is operated or maintained in a manner that is inconsistent with its original design or prescribed operating procedures. Sometimes indoor air problems are a result of poor building design or occupant activities.

Indicators of SBS include:

  • Building occupants complain of symptoms associated with acute discomfort, e.g., headache; eye, nose, or throat irritation; dry cough; dry or itchy skin; dizziness and nausea; difficulty in concentrating; fatigue; and sensitivity to odors.
  • The cause of the symptoms is not known.
  • Most of the complainants report relief soon after leaving the building.

Indicators of BRI include:

  • Building occupants complain of symptoms such as cough; chest tightness; fever, chills; and muscle aches
  • The symptoms can be clinically defined and have clearly identifiable causes.
  • Complainants may require prolonged recovery times after leaving the building.

It is important to note that complaints may result from other causes. These may include an illness contracted outside the building, acute sensitivity (e.g., allergies), job related stress or dissatisfaction, and other psychosocial factors. Nevertheless, studies show that symptoms may be caused or exacerbated by indoor air quality problems.

Causes of Sick Building Syndrome

The following have been cited causes of or contributing factors to sick building syndrome:

Inadequate ventilation: In the early and mid 1900's, building ventilation standards called for approximately 15 cubic feet per minute (cfm) of outside air for each building occupant, primarily to dilute and remove body odors. As a result of the 1973 oil embargo, however, national energy conservation measures called for a reduction in the amount of outdoor air provided for ventilation to 5 cfm per occupant. In many cases these reduced outdoor air ventilation rates were found to be inadequate to maintain the health and comfort of building occupants. Inadequate ventilation, which may also occur if heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems do not effectively distribute air to people in the building, is thought to be an important factor in SBS. In an effort to achieve acceptable IAQ while minimizing energy consumption, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) recently revised its ventilation standard to provide a minimum of 15 cfm of outdoor air per person (20 cfm/person in office spaces). Up to 60 cfm/person may be required in some spaces (such as smoking lounges) depending on the activities that normally occur in that space (see ASHRAE Standard 62-1989).

Chemical contaminants from indoor sources: Most indoor air pollution comes from sources inside the building. For example, adhesives, carpeting, upholstery, manufactured wood products, copy machines, pesticides, and cleaning agents may emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including formaldehyde. Environmental tobacco smoke contributes high levels of VOCs, other toxic compounds, and respirable particulate matter. Research shows that some VOCs can cause chronic and acute health effects at high concentrations, and some are known carcinogens. Low to moderate levels of multiple VOCs may also produce acute reactions. Combustion products such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, as well as respirable particles, can come from unvented kerosene and gas space heaters, woodstoves, fireplaces and gas stoves.

Chemical contaminants from outdoor sources: The outdoor air that enters a building can be a source of indoor air pollution. For example, pollutants from motor vehicle exhausts; plumbing vents, and building exhausts (e.g., bathrooms and kitchens) can enter the building through poorly located air intake vents, windows, and other openings. In addition, combustion products can enter a building from a nearby garage.

Biological contaminants: Bacteria, molds, pollen, and viruses are types of biological contaminants. These contaminants may breed in stagnant water that has accumulated in ducts, humidifiers and drain pans, or where water has collected on ceiling tiles, carpeting, or insulation. Sometimes insects or bird droppings can be a source of biological contaminants. Physical symptoms related to biological contamination include cough, chest tightness, fever, chills, muscle aches, and allergic responses such as mucous membrane irritation and upper respiratory congestion. One indoor bacterium, Legionella, has caused both Legionnaire's Disease and Pontiac Fever.

These elements may act in combination, and may supplement other complaints such as inadequate temperature, humidity, or lighting. Even after a building investigation, however, the specific causes of the complaints may remain unknown.

A Word About Radon and Asbestos...

SBS and BRI are associated with acute or immediate health problems; radon and asbestos cause long-term diseases which occur years after exposure, and are therefore not considered to be among the causes of sick buildings. This is not to say that the latter are not serious health risks; both should be included in any comprehensive evaluation of a building's IAQ.

Building Investigation Procedures

The goal of a building investigation is to identify and solve indoor air quality complaints in a way that prevents them from recurring and which avoids the creation of other problems. To achieve this goal, it is necessary for the investigator(s) to discover whether a complaint is actually related to indoor air quality, identify the cause of the complaint, and determine the most appropriate corrective actions.

An indoor air quality investigation procedure is best characterized as a cycle of information gathering, hypothesis formation, and hypothesis testing. It generally begins with a walkthrough inspection of the problem area to provide information about the four basic factors that influence indoor air quality:

  • the occupants
  • the HVAC system
  • possible pollutant pathways
  • possible contaminant sources.

Preparation for a walkthrough should include documenting easily obtainable information about the history of the building and of the complaints; identifying known HVAC zones and complaint areas; notifying occupants of the upcoming investigation; and, identifying key individuals needed for information and access. The walkthrough itself entails visual inspection of critical building areas and consultation with occupants and staff.

The initial walkthrough should allow the investigator to develop some possible explanations for the complaint. At this point, the investigator may have sufficient information to formulate a hypothesis, test the hypothesis, and see if the problem is solved. If it is, steps should be taken to ensure that it does not recur. However, if insufficient information is obtained from the walk through to construct a hypothesis, or if initial tests fail to reveal the problem, the investigator should move on to collect additional information to allow formulation of additional hypotheses. The process of formulating hypotheses, testing them, and evaluating them continues until the problem is solved.

Although air sampling for contaminants might seem to be the logical response to occupant complaints, it seldom provides information about possible causes. While certain basic measurements, e.g., temperature, relative humidity, CO2, and air movement, can provide a useful "snapshot" of current building conditions, sampling for specific pollutant concentrations is often not required to solve the problem and can even be misleading. Contaminant concentration levels rarely exceed existing standards and guidelines even when occupants continue to report health complaints. Air sampling should not be undertaken until considerable information on the factors listed above has been collected, and any sampling strategy should be based on a comprehensive understanding of how the building operates and the nature of the complaints.

Solutions to Sick Building Syndrome

Solutions to sick building syndrome usually include combinations of the following:

Pollutant source removal or modification is an effective approach to resolving an IAQ problem when sources are known and control is feasible. Examples include routine maintenance of HVAC systems, e.g., periodic cleaning or replacement of filters; replacement of water-stained ceiling tile and carpeting; institution of smoking restrictions; venting contaminant source emissions to the outdoors; storage and use of paints, adhesives, solvents, and pesticides in well ventilated areas, and use of these pollutant sources during periods of non-occupancy; and allowing time for building materials in new or remodeled areas to off-gas pollutants before occupancy. Several of these options may be exercised at one time.

Increasing ventilation rates and air distribution often can be a cost effective means of reducing indoor pollutant levels. HVAC systems should be designed, at a minimum, to meet ventilation standards in local building codes; however, many systems are not operated or maintained to ensure that these design ventilation rates are provided. In many buildings, IAQ can be improved by operating the HVAC system to at least its design standard, and to ASHRAE Standard 62-1989 if possible. When there are strong pollutant sources, local exhaust ventilation may be appropriate to exhaust contaminated air directly from the building. Local exhaust ventilation is particularly recommended to remove pollutants that accumulate in specific areas such as rest rooms, copy rooms, and printing facilities. (For a more detailed discussion of ventilation, read Indoor Air Facts No. 3R, Ventilation and Air Quality in Office Buildings.)

Air cleaning can be a useful adjunct to source control and ventilation but has certain limitations. Particle control devices such as the typical furnace filter are inexpensive but do not effectively capture small particles; high performance air filters capture the smaller, respirable particles but are relatively expensive to install and operate. Mechanical filters do not remove gaseous pollutants. Some specific gaseous pollutants may be removed by adsorbent beds, but these devices can be expensive and require frequent replacement of the adsorbent material. In sum, air cleaners can be useful, but have limited application.

Education and communication are important elements in both remedial and preventive indoor air quality management programs. When building occupants, management, and maintenance personnel fully communicate and understand the causes and consequences of IAQ problems, they can work more effectively together to prevent problems from occurring, or to solve them if they do.

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