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The relationship between indoor environment, outdoor environment, and behavior on indoor air quality and health

  • Author(s): Yock, Yvonne
  • Advisor(s): Delmas, Magali;
  • Zhu, Yifang
  • et al.
Abstract

We should be concerned about the impact of indoor air quality on health because in the United States, people spend most of their time indoors. While earlier studies have characterized the odds of developing illness based on the home environment, they have not investigated the behaviors that can ameliorate the negative effect of indoor, outdoor, and behavioral sources. The purpose of this study was to 1) investigate the contributions of indoor, outdoor, and behavioral sources of pollutants on health symptoms, and 2) to identify the behaviors that can worsen or mitigate the number of health symptoms. Data came from two surveys (n=83,284) and include questions on home conditions, outdoor conditions, occupants’ behaviors, and health symptoms. I used negative binomial regression and identified that demographics and outdoor characteristics explain 2% of the variability in health symptoms, and maintenance behaviors explain 8% of the variability in health symptoms. Next, structural equation modeling (SEM) was used to examine the behaviors that can mitigate or worsen the number of health symptoms. The results show that maintenance issue such as mold result in significantly more health symptoms (β = .12, p <.001). and factors such as leaks, and frequent long shower may result in an increase in mold. Leaks may cause water stains (β = .39, p <.001) which could lead to molds (β = .47, p <.001). While frequent long shower can result in an increase in mold (β = .05, p <.001), the use of a bathroom exhaust during shower may help to reduce molds (β = -.04, p <.001). In terms of personal behaviors, the presence of carpet (β = .08, p <.001), and smoking also result in an increase in surface dust (β = .17`, p <.001) but frequent vacuuming could mitigate the impact of surface dust on health symptoms (β = -.12, p <.001). Home occupants who live near environmental hazards are also likely to use air purifier (β = .03, p <.001); however, air purifier is associated with more health symptoms (β = .05, p <.001). Based on the findings, it is recommended that home occupants engage in periodic maintenance to prevent issues such as leaks from escalating to molds, regular vacuuming to reduce the accumulation of surface dust. Regarding air purifier, it could be that participants who experienced more health symptoms were more likely to use an air purifier. However, some air purifiers are sources of ozone, therefore home occupants should err on the side of caution when it comes to air purifier (Britigan et al., 2006; Cestonaro et al., 2017).

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