The web Browser you are currently using is unsupported, and some features of this site may not work as intended. Please update to a modern browser such as Chrome, Firefox or Edge to experience all features Michigan.gov has to offer.
Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy
800-662-9278 for chemical spill questions
Department of Health and Human Services
800-648-6942 for chemical exposure questions
Vapor intrusion sometimes occurs where chemicals were spilled, leaked, or dumped and not cleaned up.
For example, properties such as gas stations, dry cleaners, or businesses operating metal parts degreasers use chemicals like gasoline or solvents that can cause vapor intrusion. If these chemicals are mishandled and get into the ground, they can move through the soil and groundwater. Although the chemicals are often released as liquid, they easily evaporate, becoming a vapor in the air that you often cannot see or smell.
At some point, the vapors may come in contact with your home or business – usually around your basement or your floor. These vapors may get into your home through openings such as cracks, or other openings around pipes and sumps. This is a concern because you may breathe in these harmful vapors without knowing it.
¿Qué es la intrusión de vapor y cómo se analiza? - en espanol
How could vapor intrusion affect my health?
Health risks are different for each person and each chemical. The amount of chemical exposure, the length of time exposed to a chemical, and the general health of the person all play a part in how vapor intrusion could affect someone’s health.
Under certain conditions, chemical vapors could build up in your home or business. Most often, you cannot see or smell the chemical(s) that may be present.
Exposure to chemical vapors may increase a person’s risk of developing serious health problems. These include impairment of cognitive and motor functions, harm to the immune system, kidney damage, liver damage, and various types of cancer. Some of these chemicals are a concern for women who are pregnant as they pose a higher risk of birth defects.
If you have health concerns related to vapor intrusion, talk to your healthcare provider.
For questions about vapor intrusion and your health, contact the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) at 800-648-6942 or read the DHHS fact sheets below.
Chemicals that are often linked to vapor intrusion include:
- Trichloroethylene (TCE)
- Tetrachloroethylene (PCE)
- Vinyl Chloride
This fact sheet discusses some reasons people feel stress about environmental contamination, what you can do to support your health if you feel stress, and who to contact if you need help dealing with stress.
How Vapor Intrusion Happens: A Complex Path
Why does vapor intrusion matter to me?
Vapor intrusion can cause the air in your home to be unsafe to breathe. These chemicals can harm your health at levels well below what people can see or smell. Depending on the amount and type of chemicals, even a short time of breathing them can cause long-term and serious health problems. Once you know you have vapor intrusion issues, there are simple things that can be done to keep you and your family safe. For example, a vapor mitigation system may need to be installed. This will keep unsafe levels of chemicals from getting into your home and the air you breathe. Most of the time, these systems are very similar to what is used to prevent radon from getting into homes.
Why have I not heard of this before?
What we know about vapor intrusion has been increasing over the years. The potential risks from these chemicals that are linked to vapor intrusion are better understood today. Before, our biggest concern with underground chemicals was the safety of drinking water. But we know that some of these chemicals can get into buildings through the air. Because of our increased knowledge of the risks, vapor intrusion has become a more urgent issue. Vapor intrusion is a national problem, and state and federal agencies across the country are continuing to learn more about it.
¿Qué es la intrusión de vapor y cómo se analiza? - en espanol
Step 1: What happens when a chemical spill, leak or improper disposal becomes a vapor intrusion risk?
How do I know if I am being exposed to these vapor intrusion chemicals?
You cannot always see or smell the chemicals at harmful levels that are common with vapor intrusion. EGLE or the person responsible for the chemical release will have samples taken of the soil or groundwater from the areas around your home or business to see if these chemicals are found at levels that cause concern. If levels of concern are found, vapor samples may be taken from under your basement floor or building. If the vapor under your home or business is high, indoor air samples may be taken to determine how much of the chemical is entering the indoor air. There are other sources of these chemicals that you may have in your home or garage, like paint or gasoline. When possible, these common household sources are removed from the home before testing begins. The chemicals most often causing vapor intrusion only stay in your body for a short time so blood tests may not be effective at determining if you have been exposed unless your exposure to levels of concern is constant and ongoing. If you are told you have vapor intrusion issues in your home, your local health department or the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) can help you determine next steps and the potential health effects that you should talk about with your doctor.
Step 2: Sample for vapors and underground to determine the area of concern.
What is the government doing about vapor intrusion?
Information on the type, the amount, and the location of chemicals spilled or leaked at a site may suggest that vapor intrusion is a problem. EGLE will work to have additional samples collected or possibly implement measures to prevent further exposure from occurring. If vapor intrusion is confirmed, EGLE and the MDHHS will work with your local health department to protect your health and those living with you. If the chemical levels are a concern, the responsible person or EGLE may offer to install a vapor mitigation system in your home or business. In some cases, it may be recommended that you move elsewhere until this work can be done. If this happens, funding may be available to help with your expenses.
Step 3: Test for vapor intrusion inside homes and buildings within the area of concern.
How are samples collected?
If sampling is needed, you will always be asked for permission to enter your home or property. Sampling the vapor under a building is the best way to learn if chemical vapors may be entering a building. This is called collecting a "sub-slab vapor sample." Sub-slab sampling involves drilling a small hole in a discrete location through the floor, installing an air valve similar to a tire valve, and collecting an air sample from beneath your home. If the test results show there may be a problem, indoor air samples may also be collected.
Step 4: Take steps to make the buildings safe for people.
How do you control vapor intrusion?
If the sampling shows that vapor intrusion may be a problem, a common solution is to install a system of piping and fan(s) to pull vapors from under the building and vent them outside View how this type of "vapor mitigation system" prevents soil vapors from entering buildings. Sometimes sealants and liners are installed on the inside of a foundation and floor to improve the performance of a vapor mitigation system. The exact type of vapor mitigation system installed in a building will vary depending on the design of the building and the chemicals found.
Step 5: Determine the long-term solution