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Indoor Environmental Quality

Detailed Recommendations for Pest Control

Use Integrated Pest Management:

Use integrated pest management (IPM)—a program of pest prevention, monitoring, record-keeping, and control that eliminates or drastically reduces the use of pesticides.

Follow recommendations for integrated pest management (IPM) in “Healthy Hospitals, Controlling Pests Without Harmful Pesticides”. The Los Angeles Unified School District also has an exemplary plan for an IPM Program.

Eliminate the use of chemical pesticides or minimize their use to the greatest possible extent.

Pest management program should be part of an overall Indoor Air & Environmental Quality (IAQ/IEQ) program.

Designate an IPM coordinator.

When contracting for IPM services, give clear instructions on the type of service requested, including which, if any, pesticides are acceptable for use under specific conditions.

Eliminate all scheduled or routine use of pesticides. Use chemical pesticides only as a last resort when non-chemical methods have failed to control a pest problem.

Use organic methods to maintain lawns and landscape vegetation.

Do not use fertilizers that contain herbicides (e.g., “weed and feed” products).

Do not use herbicides to kill grass, shrubs, or other unwanted vegetation prior to removal or replacement.

If control methods are needed, preference should be given to physical (e.g., barriers), mechanical (e.g., mouse traps, pulling weeds, vacuuming, fly swatters, hosing insects off plants), and cultural (e.g., improved soil health, proper watering and pruning) controls, using bio-controls (e.g., natural predator insects) if those methods fail, and only using chemical pesticides as a last resort.

Prevent Pests:

Emphasize pest prevention through non-chemical means.

To avoid creating conditions attractive to pests, clean thoroughly, promptly fix building cracks and plumbing leaks, restrict eating to designated areas, and promptly dispose of waste.

Adopt and adhere to strict maintenance schedules to determine and repair points of possible pest entry, such as torn screens, cracks and holes in walls, and damaged or improperly placed door seals and sweeps.

Initiate additional housekeeping routines to reduce the chances of pest infestation, including more frequent trash removal, securing trash container lids, and steam cleaning trash containers.

Locate trash cans and dumpsters, compactors, and recycling areas away from the building.

Maintain healthy lawns and landscape vegetation to increase resistance to pests.

To maximize health of lawns, develop healthy soils, mow often and with sharp blades, reduce thatch, and water deeply but not too often.

Maintain soil health. Avoid the use of synthetic fertilizers.

Prevent mosquitoes from breeding by draining stagnant water from bird baths, swimming pool covers, buckets, tires and other areas where water may be collecting. Drill holes in bottom of recycling bins that must be kept outside. Check rain gutters to ensure they are draining properly.

Discourage the introduction or presence of indoor plants because they attract pests, encourage pesticide use, and often promote mold growth.

If indoor plants are present, minimize mold growth by being careful not to over water, loosening the top layer of soil every week, and not keeping plants in wicker baskets. Do not use synthetic fertilizers or pesticides on indoor plants.

Change the water in flower vases frequently.



Use the least toxic pesticide in the least amount necessary to accomplish the job. Spot treatments are preferred.

Least hazardous pest management materials include:

  • Boric acid and disodium octoborate tetrahydrate
  • Soybean oil and corn gluten meal
  • Diatomaceous earth
  • Nonvolatile insect and rodent baits in tamper-resistant containers or for use in crack and crevices
  • Microbe-based insecticides (such as Bacillus thuringiensis, B.t.)
  • Botanical insecticides that do not contain synthetic pyrethroids or toxic synergists
  • Biological control agents, such as parasites and predators
  • Soap-based products

[Note that due to individual variations in sensitivities, some people with allergies, asthma, or chemical sensitivities may not tolerate one or more of the above least hazardous materials.]

Least hazardous physical pest management methods include the use of liquid nitrogen for cold treatment of termites.

Pesticide applications should only be made by a licensed pest control applicator.

The O & M Committee recommends that certain pesticides, such as organophosphates, carbamates, pyrethroids, and other neurotoxic insecticides; 2,4-D, other phenoxy herbicides, and glyphosate; and fungicides such as mancozeb, chlorothalonil, and maneb, never be used.

Do not apply pesticides to buildings by fogging, bombing, or tenting or by space, broadcast, or baseboard spraying.

Do not apply pesticides in occupied areas or areas that may become occupied during the 24 hours (at a minimum) following an application. In buildings that are constantly occupied, pesticide applications should be made when they are least occupied. It is recommended that pesticides be applied when there is the longest time before the area will be re-occupied, such as at the beginning of a weekend or vacation period.

Minimize contamination of the HVAC system by sealing all inlets and outlets to the area where pesticides are applied. When the seals are removed, ventilate the area with 100% outside air with no recirculation at least until the building is re-occupied.

No application of pesticides should be made along paths of travel or in the vicinity of entrances, windows, or outside air intakes.

Do not use pesticides that contain added fragrance.

Ensure proper training of all personnel working with pesticides.

Prohibit other staff and building occupants from using pesticide products.

In the event of a scheduled structural or lawn care pesticide application (including spot or crack & crevice treatments), provide pre-notification and post signage in appropriate disability formats before, during, and after the application.

Signage for pesticide applications should include the name of the pesticide product applied and EPA registration number, date and time of application, name of the applicator, and the name and number of contact person from whom to obtain more information. For examples of notification requirements, see Healthy Hospitals report (17) and New Jersey regulations (20) under References.

Require that pest control applicators provide the building manager or designated agent copies of Material Safety Data Sheet(s) and product label(s) for all pesticides used inside the building or on facility grounds. These documents should be provided to building occupants and the public upon request. Note, however, that neither the MSDS or product label provide complete information on product ingredients or their potential health effects.

Maintain a voluntary registry of persons at increased risk of injury or harm from pesticide exposures who wish to receive individual notification prior to pesticide applications (or notified after an emergency application).

Reasonable accommodation to programs, services, and employment needs to be readily available to people whose disabilities require that they avoid exposures to pesticides.

Maintain secured separate storage for pesticides and limit access to authorized personnel only.

Store any pesticide and disinfectant products away from food, laundry areas, paper product storage, areas occupied by children, and HVAC air intakes.

Maintain separate equipment, including mixing containers, for use with pesticides. Avoid cross contamination with equipment used for cleaning and other maintenance activities.

Establish a reporting procedure and encourage individuals who are experiencing adverse health effects from a pesticide exposure to report the incident to the building manager and the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency. See EPA Pesticide Health Incident Reporting


IPM for Schools: A How-to Manual, EPA 909-B-97-001, March 1997

Pest Prevention: Maintenance Practices and Facility Design by Sewell Simmons, California School IPM, California Department of Pesticide Regulation

School Integrated Pest Management Program, California Department of Pesticide Regulation

National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

ExToxNet (Extension Toxicology Network) Pesticide Information Profiles, Cornell University, (Does not include information on all health impacts experienced by people with pesticide/chemical sensitivities)

The Safety Source for Pest Management: A National Directory of Least-Toxic Service Providers

Beyond Pesticides
701 E Street, SE, Suite 200, Washington DC 20003

Bio-Integral Resource Center
P. O. Box 7414, Berkeley CA 94707

Californians for Pesticide Reform
49 Powell Street, #530, San Francisco, CA 94102

International Pest Management Institute
P. O. Box 474, Ash Fork AZ 86320
Bill Currie, Director

IPM Institute of North America
1914 Rowley Avenue, Madison WI 53705

National Center for Environmental Health Strategies
1100 Rural Avenue, Voorhees NJ 08043

Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides
P.O. Box 1393, Eugene OR 97440-1393

Pesticide Action Network North America
49 Powell Street, Suite 500, San Francisco CA 94102

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of Pesticide Programs
Ariel Rios Building
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Mail Code 3213A
Washington, DC 20460

National Pesticide Information Center
Cooperative effort between Oregon State University and U.S. EPA
333 Weniger, Corvallis OR 97331
(Good site for basic pesticide information, but does not include full range of possible health effects experienced by people with pesticide or chemical sensitivities)

Detailed Recommendations for Cleaning & Disinfecting

Do not used fragrance-emitting devices (FEDS), plug-ins, or sprays; urinal or toilet blocks; or other deodorizer/re-odorizer products.

To reduce odors, increase cleaning and ventilation and/or use baking soda or zeolite to absorb odors.

Do not use products containing paradichlorobenzene or naphthalene (commons ingredients in FEDS).

Avoid or limit the use of products containing chlorine, ammonia, quaternary ammonium, phenol, isopropyl and other alcohols, formaldehyde, and other petroleum distillates.

Discourage the use of alcohol-based hand washes.

Do not use products that contain or have a fragrance.

Do not use citrus- or pine-based products.

Use vegetable-based surfactants rather than petroleum-based ones. Do not use or citrus- or pine-based solvents.

Cleaning and disinfecting programs should be part of an overall Indoor Air & Environmental Quality (IAQ/IEQ) program.

Establish an audit of all cleaning chemicals currently in use. Develop a priority list and plan to establish alternatives for chemicals and cleaning methods.

Raise awareness among building maintenance staff and occupants that “green” and “environmentally friendly” products are not necessarily good for occupant health.

Minimize the number of cleaning and disinfecting products used.

Perform cleaning maintenance on an as needed basis—use spot or area cleaning rather than broad-based cleaning.

Clean stains while they are fresh to avoid need for aggressive cleaning later.

Choose cleaning products and disinfectants that emit the lowest levels of volatile fumes.

Dust with a dry lint-free cloth, or with water only. Avoid or minimize the use of polish dusting products.

Avoid perfumed and/or chemically-treated cleaning products and supplies, such as cleaning rags, vacuum bags, trash bags, tissue, toilet paper, and hand soaps.

Increase scrubbing and other mechanical methods of cleaning to reduce the need for chemicals.

Inspect areas to insure there has been proper cleaning using visual inspection, white cloth, or ultraviolet light.

Do not use cleaner/disinfectant combination products.

Hot water should be available for hand washing and cleaning.

Whenever possible, clean with hot water to reduce the amount of soap, detergent, and disinfectant that must be used.

Spray cleaning products on to cloths rather than on to surfaces or into the air.

If carpets must be cleaned, use steam or least-toxic all-purpose cleaner or carpet cleaner that does not contain petroleum solvents. Spot clean whenever possible.

Adopt fast-drying methods for carpet cleaning, 4 hours maximum. Steam cleaning + highest extraction + higher dry air flow = fast drying.

Dry all washed surfaces and floors with a dry cloth or mop to minimize chemical residues and reduce the chance of mold growth.

Use vacuums with HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Attenuation) filters and strong suction. Vacuum frequently and thoroughly.

Minimize the use of floor waxes and buffing, and if done, notify employees and the public.

Order cleaning products for use with pumps rather than spray or aerosol dispensers to minimize chemical contamination of the air and HVAC system.

Take control of your own dispensing to ensure proper measurements. Establish minimal dosing for applications. When chemical has multiple uses, dispense separately for each use. A good dispensing program can save 25% to 40% in chemical consumption and costs.

Educate staff that mixing cleaning chemicals is dangerous because it can create new compounds that are more toxic than the original products.

Initiate protocol to authorize, supervise, and provide safe areas to mix authorized chemicals.

Store cleaning chemicals securely, separated from paper, cloth, or other absorbent materials.

Post signs during cleaning activities. Make cleaning schedule available to employees or others upon request.

Schedule heavy cleaning, repairs and maintenance during low or no-occupancy periods whenever possible.

Maintain strict protocol for training employees who use hazardous products or materials. Maintain an active list of those authorized to perform those duties.

Restrict cleaning to authorized personnel only.

Prohibit occupant usage of cleaning chemicals except as authorized. Establish a list of least toxic, low-VOC cleaning products (and/or provide them to employees) which they can use to clean computers, erase felt pen writing on white board, and perform other similar activities.

Use micro vacuums for cleaning electronic equipment. Do not use solvent cleaners.

Increase air intake to a building to dilute cleaning products present in indoor air, especially during major cleaning activities such as cleaning of carpet, walls, etc.

Provide a well-ventilated room with exhaust fans in which to service computers and other portable equipment whenever toxic chemicals are involved in the repair process.

Develop protocol to dispose of cleaning solutions safely.

Reduce tracked-in dirt by using mats and grills in entryways. Where appropriate, exhaust air between separated doorway entrances.

Replace wet entrance mats and dry wet floors and carpeting as soon as possible.

Utilize only those floor mats that do not emit odors/fumes or particles.

Reasonable accommodation to programs, services, and employment needs to be readily available to people whose disabilities require that they avoid exposures to cleaning, disinfecting, and maintenance chemicals.

Waterless urinals should be maintained using products containing bacterial enzymes that biodegrade urea.


Eliminate combined cleaner/disinfectant products.

Use disinfectants only when and where necessary. This includes:

  1. Knowing what organisms need to be reduced/disinfected. Disinfectants are formulated to target certain organisms or combination of organisms. It is important to use the right product in the right place.
  2. Knowing what surfaces do (or do not) need to be disinfected, and how often.
  3. Cleaning surfaces thoroughly before disinfecting. Disinfectants can only be effective through contact. A layer of surface grime is likely to prevent sufficient contact.
  4. Using proper disinfectant mixing and cleaning procedures. This includes leaving disinfectants in place for the correct amount of time before wiping surfaces clean.

Limit or avoid the use of disinfectant or cleaning products containing chlorine, quaternary ammonium, phenol, and isopropyl and other alcohols.

Hydrogen peroxide-based disinfectants are preferred, but should be used judiciously with caution and care.

Use disinfectants only in areas and at strengths (i.e., levels of disinfection) required by law. Check with local health department to obtain details of all legal requirements.

Restrict or eliminate the use of alcohol-based hand washes.

Do not use hand soaps containing triclosan or other disinfectants.


See Addendum B for more information on Cleaning

Detailed Recommendations for Mechanical Equipment & HVAC Systems

If a building has poor indoor air quality, investigate the extent to which outdoor air contaminants are contributing to the problem.

In areas where poor outdoor air is a problem, use the highest efficiency filters compatible with current HVAC system, and if necessary, consider retrofitting system to increase filtration capabilities.

Use demand controlled ventilation (DCV) that utilize sensors in occupied spaces to determine when ventilation should be increased due to increased occupancy or other loads. Be wary of using motion sensors that can create significant electromagnetic fields.

Provide liberal amounts of ventilation. It is better to have more ventilation than necessary rather than too little.

Where there is an adjoining parking garage or busy roadway, or nearby heliport, anticipate the need to decrease air exchange and ventilation in buildings prior to and during “rush hours” or times of usage, respectively. During periods of decreased outdoor air ventilation, increase recirculation and filtration of recirculated air.

Adhere to a strict maintenance plan for all HVAC equipment to make sure it is working properly. This will reduce the chance of air contamination, maintain optimal efficiency, and minimize noise and vibration.

Create door and window-opening protocol to maintain proper pressure relationships and air flow in the building. Educate and provide protocol to staff and other building occupants. Policy should include provision that allows chemically sensitive and other individuals to open windows on a temporary or regular basis, as needed because of a health condition. Windows should also be permitted to be opened by occupants when the HVAC system is not working or shut off, such as may occur during nights and weekends. Policy should address emergency situations in which opening windows could exacerbate the crisis.

Maintain HVAC ducts free of particulate matter, dust, and debris. Use non-chemical methods, such as physical removal or use of vacuums.

Do not use HVAC system to disperse fragrances or other chemicals.

Before a building is re-occupied (e.g., in the mornings or after weekends), flush with at least three complete outdoor air exchanges.

Make maximum use of economizer cycle. Avoid energy conservation practices that reduce intake of outside air below minimum requirements.

Make sure the supply and return air diffusers, grills, and registers are working correctly.

Test for stagnant air areas where furniture, wall partitions, or equipment may be blocking air movement. Use ribbons or dry ice rather than smoke to study air flow patterns.

Maintain relative humidity between 30 and 50%.

Avoid or minimize the use of humidifiers in the buildings HVAC system. Maintain the cleanliness of all humidifier equipment and use the minimum amount of water treatment chemicals necessary to prevent antimicrobial contamination and to control dissolved solids and pH.

Prohibit the use of personal humidifiers except where there is a medical need.

Isolate and contain construction chemicals and particulate matter from HVAC system by covering registers and diffusers and using negative-pressure air systems.

Seal return air openings into HVAC system during remodeling and exhaust directly to the outdoors, by temporarily removing window glazing if necessary.

Quickly evacuate a building if the HVAC system becomes contaminated with a solvent, pesticide, toxic gas, or other harmful chemical at a level that can cause adverse health impacts in occupants, including sensitive and more vulnerable individuals.

Eliminate storage of toxic and/or volatile chemicals near HVAC intakes.

Do not allow the use of portable air “cleaners” that emit ozone.

Repair plumbing with least toxic, low-VOC materials.

To clear clogged drains, use mechanical methods such as snakes, or steam cleaning.

Utilize bacterial enzymes to prevent drain clogs, instead of using acids, solvents and alkalines which deteriorate pipes and necessitate repairs.

Inspect floor and other drains, especially those that are infrequently used, to ensure there is water in the P-traps, thereby avoiding sewer gas backup in the building.

Treat grease traps daily with preventive dose of bacterial enzymes, to avoid the need to use strong chemical cleaners if they become clogged.

In decorative fountains, use the minimum amount of chlorine necessary for disinfection, avoid the use of bromine, use closed ozone water treatment systems to the maximum extent possible, and make use of newer, less-toxic disinfecting technologies as they become available.


EPA, Indoor Air Quality Building Education and Assessment Guidance (I-BEAM) Software package, can be downloaded for free from EPA Web site, or can be obtained on CD from IAQ Clearinghouse at at 1-800-438-4318 or via e-mail at (ask for EPA 402-C-01-001).

See references regarding HVAC in Building Design & Construction report

Detailed Recommendations for Landscape Maintenance

Use integrated pest management (IPM) to eliminate or minimize the use of herbicides, fungicides, insecticides, and other pesticides. (See recommendations for Pest Control).

Maintain lawn and gardens organically.

Maintain soil health.

Avoid the use of synthetic fertilizer.

Do not use fertilizer products that contain herbicides (e.g., “weed and feed” products).

Maintain healthy lawns and landscape vegetation to increase resistance to pests.

To maximize health of lawns, develop healthy soils, mow often and with sharp blades, reduce thatch, and water deeply but not too often.

Pull, mow, or use mechanical weed cutter to control weeds. Vinegar can be used to kill weeds along fence lines or other hard to reach areas.

Avoid dust-blowing equipment, such as leaf blowers. Sweeping, raking, and use of a vacuum are the preferred methods for removing debris.

If string or other mechanical weed cutter is used, attempt to minimize dispersal of dust, dirt, and debris.

Avoid diesel-powered or 2-cycle engine equipment, use electric lawn equipment instead.

Close windows during grass cutting, or prior to pesticide, fertilizer, or lime applications, or use of gas-powered equipment or vehicles on building grounds.

Use least toxic low-VOC paints, stains and finishes on outside equipment, including benches, poles, decks, and porches, as is recommended for interior and exterior of buildings (See recommendations in Building Products & Materials report).

Use rock, gravel, flat stones, or pavers for mulch and/or use typar landscape barrier to suppress weeds. Avoid organic mulches (e.g., cocoa beans, peat moss, wood chips, bark), especially near windows and doors of buildings. These mulches emit volatile fumes and may harbor mold.

Avoid the use of CCA wood or wood chips because they contain arsenic and other toxic chemicals which can leach into the environment.

Do not use railroad ties because they contain creosote.

Remove plants that are chronically ill and/or frequently attract insect pests.

When replacing plants or redesigning landscape, follow recommendations in Building Construction & Design report.

Apply pesticide, fertilizers, and lime only when there is little or no wind present and in a manner that prevents drift.

Provide prenotification by posting signs prior to pesticide, synthetic fertilizer, or lime applications.


Allergy-Free Gardening, Thomas Leo Ogren,

Detailed Recommendations for Enclosure Maintenance

Routinely inspect and clean roof and gutters to make sure they are draining properly.

Promptly repair roof or plumbing leaks.

Regularly inspect walls and foundations, especially all utility entrance seals (e.g., phone, water, electric, cable) for cracks and repair promptly if found.

Insulate cold pipes to prevent condensation.

Promptly remove wet ceiling tiles and wall panels.

Seal rusted surfaces to minimize emissions of airborne particulates using least toxic low-VOC sealant.

Include proper seal of the building in commissioning and re-commissioning programs for the building.

Remove excess water from carpeting damaged by clean water and quickly dry it to avoid mold buildup. Do not use disinfectants or moldicides (other than hydrogen peroxide-based ones). Instead, utilize a steam extraction carpet cleaning system with a hydrogen peroxide-based cleaner/disinfectant. Inspect carpet after it is completely dried to ensure there is no mold or mildew. Those with asthma or chemical sensitivities should be removed from areas where there is wet carpeting. Remove carpeting if it has been wet longer than 24 hours.

Immediately remove and do not re-use any wet carpeting that has been contaminated with sewer water, heavy dirt and soils, or toxic chemicals.

Seal rusted surfaces with a least toxic low VOC sealant to minimize emissions of airborne particles.

Include proper seal of the building in commissioning and re-commissioning programs for the building.


Treschel, Hans, Ed. Moisture Control in Buildings. West Conshohocken, PA: American Society for Testing and Materials. 1992.

Committee and Other Contributors to the Report


Chair—Hal Levin, Building Ecology Research Group
Mary Lamielle, National Center for Environmental Health Strategies
Ann McCampbell, Multiple Chemical Sensitivities Task Force of New Mexico
Susan Molloy, National Coalition for the Chemically Injured
Charlie Reid, Hamilton County Board of Health, Ohio
Toni Temple, Ohio Network for the Chemically Injured

Terry Brennan, Camroden Associates
Dave Rupp, Cabinet King, Inc.