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April/May 2016 Teacher's Guide for
A Close-Up Look at the Quality of Indoor Air
Table of Contents



About the Guide

Teacher’s Guide editors William Bleam, Regis Goode, Barbara Sitzman and Ronald Tempest created the Teacher’s Guide article material. E-mail: bbleam@verizon.net


Susan Cooper prepared the anticipation and reading guides.
Patrice Pages, ChemMatters editor, coordinated production and prepared the Microsoft Word and PDF versions of the Teacher’s Guide. E-mail: chemmatters@acs.org
Articles from past issues of ChemMatters can be accessed from a DVD that is available from the American Chemical Society for $42. The DVD contains the entire 30-year publication of ChemMatters issues, from February 1983 to April 2013.
The ChemMatters DVD also includes Article, Title and Keyword Indexes that covers all issues from February 1983 to April 2013.
The ChemMatters DVD can be purchased by calling 1-800-227-5558.
Purchase information can be found online at www.acs.org/chemmatters.

Student Questions


(taken from the article)

A Close-Up Look at the Quality of Indoor Air


      1. How does indoor air become polluted?

    1. Why is it difficult to detect radon in your home?

    2. How does radon enter the soil?

    3. What is a “daughter product”?

    4. How do polonium-218 and polonium-214 cause cancer?

    5. Why are some substances volatile?

    6. List two reasons that new homes have higher levels of VOCs than older homes.

    7. Cite two reasons why formaldehyde is considered dangerous?

    8. Under what conditions does burning natural gas produce carbon monoxide?

    9. Provide two reasons for obtaining a blue flame in your Bunsen burner in the lab.

    10. Why is carbon monoxide toxic?

    11. What is the best way to eliminate VOCs from your home?


Answers to Student Questions


(taken from the article)

A Close-Up Look at the Quality of Indoor Air


      1. How does indoor air become polluted?

Indoor air becomes polluted by toxic gases and airborne irritants that originate from within a building or structure.

      1. Why is it difficult to detect radon in your home?

It is difficult to detect radon in your home because it is a colorless and odorless gas.

      1. How does radon enter the soil?

Radon enters the soil as a decay product of the uranium present in rocks and soil.

      1. What is a “daughter product”?

A “daughter product” is the element produced when a radioactive substance decays into other elements.

      1. How do polonium-218 and polonium-214 cause cancer?

Polonium-218 and polonium-214 cause cancer because when they are inhaled into the lungs, they decay, emitting alpha particles that damage the DNA of cells inside the lungs and cause mutations that can lead to cancer.

      1. Why are some substances volatile?

Some substances are volatile because the intermolecular forces between their molecules are weak. This means that even room temperature “… is enough to overcome these forces and release gaseous compounds into the air.”

      1. List two reasons that new homes have higher levels of VOCs than older homes.

Newer homes have higher levels of VOCs than older homes because

  1. any component used to build a home can release harmful VOCs (e.g., particle board, insulation, paints); newer homes are likely to have more of these components than an older home, and

  2. levels of VOCs dissipate in a home over time, so an older home will have fewer of them.

      1. Cite two reasons why formaldehyde is considered dangerous.

Two reasons that formaldehyde is considered dangerous are:

  1. it is known to be a human carcinogen and

  2. it is toxic if ingested.

      1. Under what conditions does burning natural gas produce carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide forms when the combustion of methane is incomplete (due to insufficient oxygen).

      1. Provide two reasons for obtaining a blue flame in your Bunsen burner in the lab.

We try to obtain a blue flame in our Bunsen burner because it ensures:

        1. the hottest flame, and

        2. complete combustion.

      1. Why is carbon monoxide toxic?

Carbon monoxide is toxic because it binds readily to hemoglobin, displacing oxygen and, thus, causing suffocation.

      1. What is the best way to eliminate noxious chemicals from your home?

The best way to eliminate noxious chemicals from your home is to open the windows to displace the stale air.


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