The United States Environmental Protection Agency defines vapor intrusion as "a migration of volatile chemicals from groundwater contamination or contaminated soil into an overlying building". The chemicals can be of different classes including volatile organic compounds (VOCs), certain semi-volatile organic compound and inorganic chemicals, such as elemental mercury, naturally occurring radon, and hydrogen sulfide.
At worst, vapor intrusion can be a safety hazard, e.g., when flammables are involved in form of an explosion. Noxious vapors can cause health effects, either acutely such as CNS disturbances like headaches or mental status changes, and they can have chronic health effects, e.g. in the case of radon, which can cause lung cancer. Lastly, vapors can be severe "aesthetic problems", e.g., odors from hydrogen sulfide.
In the United States, vapor intrusion is handled in individual states in different ways.
In June 2010, the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM International) released a commercial "Standard Guide for Vapor Encroachment Screening on Property Involved in Real Estate Transactions" (ASTM E 2600-10).
In 2002 the US EPA had issued its first draft guidance on the subject . The George W. Bush Administration dropped the project in 2003, and only in 2013 Obama’s appointee as EPA Assistant Administrator in the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, made it a priority to complete the document. On June 11, 2015, the EPA released its final Vapor Intrusion Technical Guide, along with a Technical Guide for Addressing Petroleum Vapor Intrusion At Leaking Underground Storage Tank Sites. A guide is neither a statute nor a regulation, but a guidance.
- Superfund for a list of Environmental Protection Agency Superfund sites
- Trichloroethylene (TCE) for a discussion of the chemical compound
- "What is Vapor Intrusion?". US EPA. 30 September 2015. Retrieved 9 May 2016.
- Guidance for Evaluating Soil Vapor Intrusion in the State of New York Final Soil Vapor Intrusion Guidance, 92pp, October 2006.
- "ASTM E2600-10 Standard Guide for Vapor Encroachment Screening on Property Involved in Real Estate Transactions". ASTM International. 1 June 2010.
- "OSWER Draft Guidance for Evaluating the Vapor Intrusion to Indoor Air Pathway from Groundwater and Soils (Subsurface Vapor Intrusion Guidance)". Environmental Protection Agency. 2002-11-29.
- "OSWER Technical Guide for Assessing and Mitigating the Vapor Intrusion Pathway from Subsurface Vapor Sources to Indoor Air.". US EPA. 11 June 2015. p. 267. Retrieved 29 August 2015.
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