Take-Home Pathway

Chemicals can be brought into a home and negatively impact the health and well-being of a family in a few ways. One way is by bringing dirty air into a space that has very poor ventilation, or very little fresh air, coming into the space. By having low or poor ventilation, people are deprived of fresh air which can, at least in the short-term, result in eye, nose, and throat irritation, headaches, and fatigue. Long-term, it can result in a buildup of air pollutants, greatly increasing the risk of chronic exposure effects such as the onset of respiratory diseases, heart disease, and cancer. You can increase ventilation by opening a window, increasing fresh air in your space with a fan or air-conditioning unit, turning on exhaust fans to pull dirty air out, and installing HEPA filters and maintaining them properly.


Another way the indoor environment can be polluted is through the take-home pathway. This is a common issue with pesticides in agricultural areas, but this take-home exposure pathway can certainly be used to understand, for example, construction workers and their exposures. Since the 70s, scientists have been investigating the unusually high cases of heavy metal poisonings and respiratory diseases in family members of various workers that had been exposed to lead dust or asbestos. What they found were families being harmed by the chemicals that contaminated workers’ clothes, shoes, equipment, and vehicles.


A study by Knishkowy and Baker found similar exposure issues with Hawaiian families working in lumber processing for arsenic dust found in their homes. A direct way to reduce this risk is to have changing areas for workers to remove and wash their work clothes. Other interventions include educational and training sessions for workers on changing their clothes in a way that doesn’t contaminate clean environments and generally following the hierarchy of controls.