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America's Children and the Environment, Third Edition (ACE3)

Indoor Environments

Indicator E5 graph

Download high-resolution JPEG file of this graph | Data Tables for this Topic (PDF) (2pp, 152K, About PDF)

Data characterization

  • Data for this indicator are obtained from an ongoing annual survey conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics.
  • Survey data are representative of the U.S. civilian noninstitutionalized population.
  • In 1994, 2005, and 2010, an adult survey participant in each sampled household was asked whether any resident smokes inside the home and the number of days per week that smoking occurred.
  • In 2010, 6% of children ages 0 to 6 years lived in homes where someone smoked regularly, compared with 27% in 1994.
  • Children living in homes with family incomes below poverty level were more likely than their peers at higher income levels to be living in homes where someone smoked regularly. In 2010, 10% of children below poverty level lived in homes where someone smoked regularly, compared with 8% of children in homes with incomes between 100-200% of poverty level, and 3% of children in homes with incomes at least twice the poverty level.
    • The differences between children in homes with family incomes below poverty level and children in homes with family incomes at or above poverty level were statistically significant.
  • In 2010, 20% of White non-Hispanic children below poverty lived in homes where someone smoked regularly, compared with 10% of Black non-Hispanic children and 2% of Hispanic children living below poverty. These differences were statistically significant. (See Table E5a (PDF) (2pp, 152K, About PDF).)

Indicator E6 graph

Download high-resolution JPEG file of this graph | Data Tables for this Topic (PDF) (2pp, 152K, About PDF)

Data characterization

  • Data for this indicator are obtained from two surveys of U.S. homes conducted by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
  • Surveyed homes were representative of permanently occupied, non-institutional housing units in the United States in which children may live. Only surveyed homes with children ages 0 to 5 years were included in calculation of this indicator.
  • Lead was measured in samples of paint and dust collected from the surveyed homes.
  • In 2005-2006, 13% of children ages 0 to 5 years lived in homes with an interior lead dust hazard, compared with 16% in 1998-1999.

  • In 2005-2006, 11% of children ages 0 to 5 years lived in homes with an interior deteriorated lead-based paint hazard, compared with 12% in 1998-1999.
  • In 2005-2006, 15% of children ages 0 to 5 years lived in homes with either an interior lead dust hazard or an interior deteriorated lead-based paint hazard, compared with 22% in 1998-1999.

  • Changes in percentages between the two surveys were not statistically significant.

About the Indoor Environments Indicators

Indicators E5 and E6 present information about children exposed to environmental tobacco smoke or lead in their homes. The data for Indicator E5 are from a national survey that collects health information from a representative sample of the population each year. The data for Indicator E6 are from two national surveys that collected samples of paint, dust, and soil from a representative sample of homes.

  • Indicator E5 presents the percentage of children ages 0 to 6 years regularly exposed to environmental tobacco smoke in the home, by family income, in 1994, 2005, and 2010.
  • Indicator E6 presents the percentage of children ages 0 to 5 years living in homes with interior lead hazards in 1998-1999 and 2005-2006.

Children spend most of their time in indoor environments and may be routinely exposed to chemicals in the air and those that accumulate in dust. Hundreds of chemicals have been measured in indoor air including pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), phthalates, carbon monoxide, and benzene. Pollutants in indoor environments can come from many different sources like combustion sources (e.g., furnaces, gas stoves, fireplaces, and cigarettes), building materials (e.g., treated wood, paint, furniture, and carpet), cleaning products, and products used for hobbies like arts and crafts. Infants and small children may have the highest exposure to house dust contaminants due to their frequent contact with surfaces where dust gathers like the floor and their frequent hand-to-mouth activity. Two indoor environmental contaminants for which there is extensive evidence of children's health effects are environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) and lead.

ETS, commonly referred to as secondhand smoke, is a complex mixture of gases with at least 250 chemicals known to be toxic or carcinogenic. Children can be exposed to ETS in their homes or in places where people are allowed to smoke. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, there is no safe level of exposure to ETS, and breathing even a small amount can be harmful to human health. The Surgeon General has concluded that exposure to ETS causes sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), acute lower respiratory infection, ear problems, and more severe asthma in children. Children's exposure to ETS has declined in recent years, due in part to a decline in the percentage of adults who smoke, increased restrictions on smoking in public places, and efforts to reduce the exposure of nonsmokers in homes.

The primary pathways of childhood lead exposure are ingestion of lead-contaminated house dust, soil, and water. The National Toxicology Program (NTP) has concluded that childhood lead exposure is associated with reduced cognitive function and attention-related behavioral problems. EPA has issued a number of regulations to address childhood lead exposure, including requiring all contractors performing renovation, repair, and painting projects that disturb lead-based paint in pre-1978 homes to be certified and follow specific work practices to prevent lead contamination.

Indicator E5 presents data on children exposed to ETS in their homes from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). Indicator E6 presents data on children living in homes with interior lead hazards from the American Healthy Homes Survey (AHHS) and the National Survey of Lead and Allergens in Housing (NSLAH).

More information about indoor environments and Indicators E5 and E6 is provided in the Indoor Environments section of America's Children and the Environment, Third Edition (PDF) (20 pp, 1.6MB, About PDF).

Related Links

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR): Lead

American Healthy Homes Survey: Lead and Arsenic Findings (PDF) (115pp, 945K, About PDF)

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Indoor Air Quality

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Lead

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Smoking & Tobacco Smoke - Secondhand Smoke

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS): The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke: A Report of the Surgeon General

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD): Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control

U.S. EPA: Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)

U.S. EPA: Lead

U.S. EPA: Lead - Technical Studies

Summary of Methods - Indoor Environments

The National Center for Health Statistics, a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, conducts the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), a series of annual U.S. national surveys of the health status of the noninstitutionalized civilian population. The interviews are conducted in person at the participants’ homes by asking a parent or other knowledgeable household adult questions regarding the health status and behavior of household residents.

Indicator E5 uses the NHIS data to present the percentage of children ages 0 to 6 years regularly exposed to environmental tobacco smoke in the home, stratified by family income. For these indicators we used the responses to the following questions: “In a usual week, does ANYONE who lives here, including yourself, smoke cigarettes, cigars, or pipes anywhere inside this home?” If yes, then the following question was asked: “Usually, about how many days per week do people WHO LIVE here smoke anywhere INSIDE this home?”

The American Healthy Homes Survey (AHHS) was conducted from 2005-2006 to update the National Survey of Lead and Allergens in Housing (NSLAH), which was conducted from 1998-1999. Samples of paint, dust, and soil were collected from a nationally representative sample of housing in the United States and analyzed to determine their lead content to estimate the prevalence of children who may be exposed to household lead. These surveys were conducted by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Indicator E6 uses the AHHS and NSLAH data to present the percentage of children ages 0 to 5 years living in homes meeting any of three hazard definitions (based on levels defined by EPA’s Residential Lead Hazard Standards): “interior lead dust,” “interior deteriorated lead-based paint,” and “either interior lead dust or interior deteriorated lead-based paint.”

Detailed Methods for Indicators E5 and E6 (PDF) (19 pp, 246K, About PDF)

Metadata for American Healthy Homes Survey (AHHS) (PDF) (2 pp, 111K, About PDF)
Metadata for National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) (PDF) (2 pp, 106K, About PDF)
Metadata for National Survey of Lead and Allergens in Housing (NSLAH) (PDF) (2 pp, 90K, About PDF)

 

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