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Indoor air quality in the home can be an important driver of health. In homes near major current and former industrial sites, however, indoor air can be deeply polluted.

 

Why it Matters: Communities worldwide are often built near active mining sites. In many cases, nearby homes show elevated levels of heavy metals indoors. Exposure to those pollutants is dangerous to all residents, but could be especially harmful to infants, creating neurological and developmental problems. Young children’s exposures may be higher compared with adults—even in the same home—since they play close to the ground and often put objects in their mouths. Children may also have closer contact with contaminated soil or house dust.

The Details: Harvard Chan School researchers studied 53 infants’ homes near the Tar Creek Superfund Site in Oklahoma. They measured lead, manganese, arsenic, and cadmium in indoor air, house dust, yard soil, and tap water, as well as levels of the metals in infants’ blood and hair to gauge exposure.

Results: The study found that concentrations in household dust and children’s blood were usually lower than levels considered dangerous, but confirmed that children were still being exposed to multiple mine waste metals through household dust.

The Upshot: The findings suggest that risk assessments and exposure prevention strategies for hazardous waste sites should focus more heavily on house dust, particularly for young children.

Climate Connection: Higher temperatures due to climate change may force people to spend more time indoors, often in air conditioned buildings and homes that have poor ventilation. As a result, those residents’ exposure to indoor pollutants may become more severe.

Resources:

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