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Healthy Home

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are chemicals such as formaldehyde. They come into the household in different ways As binders or glues for engineered products such as particleboards As solvent and color pigment in paints, varnish and coating. Depending on the product, the VOC may take a short time to disappear or may Read More »
Mold spores are present almost everywhere. Inside a house, mold spores are not a problem if the count is low. When the count becomes high, it may be a cause for respiratory problems such as asthma. Mold requires certain conditions to grow. First is the presence of organic materials that serve as food for mold growth. Unfortunately, Read More »
Carbon monoxide is a result of incomplete combustion of fossil fuels such as natural gas, wood, or petroleum products. It is colorless and odorless but toxic. Acute poisoning (exposure to high levels at once) can cause neurological damages and can be fatal. Chronic poisoning (exposure to lower levels for long periods of time) Read More »

Clean Air Helps Make A Home Healthy

In this day and age, most people spend 80% or more of time indoor. A large part of that indoor time is in one’s home. It makes sense to ensure that the home provides an environment that is comfortable and healthy. Because we breathe all the time, air quality is the most important health aspect of a house. Unfortunately, the EPA has found that the air quality in a home is often 10 times worse than that outdoor. There are many reasons for poor indoor air quality.
  • Building materials that contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Engineered wood, such as particle boards, may contain formaldehyde, which is a known carcinogen, as binding material. Carpets may contain brominated and chlorinated stain-resistant and fire-retardant additives. Paints may contain VOCs.
  • Furniture that contains VOCs and toxic materials. Engineered wood used in furniture may have similar VOCs as building materials. Fire-retardants such as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are known to cause health problems, such as affecting learning, memory, and regulation of hormone release. PBDEs pose greatest risk to infants and young children.
  • Air leaked from attic, crawl space and attached garage into living quarters. Attic and crawl space may contain dust, mold, and bacteria from rodent feces that can cause respiratory problems. Car exhaust in an attached garage can be hazardous if leaked into the house.
  • Water leaks and excessive moisture in the house enables mold to grow. Mold is a common cause of respiratory problems.
  • Backdrafts from gas furnaces, gas water heaters, wood or gas fireplaces, and gas clothes dryers may increase the level of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide in the living space. Carbon dioxide reduces the amount of available oxygen while carbon monoxide is outright toxic. Backdrafts can happen when exhaust fans in kitchen or bathroom or clothes dryer are in use. Furnace, water heater or fireplace flues are the most convenient locations where air enters the house to make up for the exhausted air.
These causes of poor air can be avoided or the problems mitigated by taking proper actions during a remodel.
  • Use building materials that contain zero or minimal amount of VOC and toxic additives. These include the choices of framing material, walls, insulation, carpets, paints, cabinets, etc. For more details of some of these materials, see the section on Materials and Products.
  • Similarly, use furniture that contains zero or minimal amount of VOC and toxic additives.
  • Air seal all gaps in the walls, ceilings, floor, joints in the house frame, and recess light housings to prevent air from leaking into living space from the attic, crawl space and attached garage. Seal the door connecting to an attached garage. Don’t forget to seal the air ducts that are installed in the ceiling or crawl space.
  • Fix all water leaks. Install bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans to remove moisture. Bathroom exhaust fans should be equipped with a timer to run for 15-20 minutes after a shower is taken. Make sure that there is a source of clean make-up air.
  • Have a combustion safety test done. Opening windows provides good, natural and fresh make-up air. However, if weather or safety concerns render it impractical, install proper mechanical ventilation to bring fresh air into the house. Install carbon monoxide/dioxide detectors. In some States carbon monoxide detectors are required by law. For instance, effective July 1, 2011, California requires carbon monoxide detectors in single or multi-family homes with fossil fuel appliances or attached garages.

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