Clean the Air Inside Your Home

The American Lung Association recently released a statement expressing the need for concern over indoor air quality. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's own reports affirm that indoor air often contains 2-5 times (and sometimes more) the amount of certain pollutants as outdoor air-indoor air quality is a major cause for concern.

The average person spends at least 90% of his or her life indoors, and 65% of it at home. Problems with indoor air quality have lead to an increase in conditions known as Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) and Building Related Illness (BRI). Sick Building Syndrome describes a condition with no specific, identifiable cause, but is denoted by acute health and comfort effects which seem to be linked to time spent in a building. Building Related Illness, however, refers to a condition in which symptoms of a diagnosable illness can be directly attributed to airborne building contaminants.

Some of the factors affecting indoor air quality include ventilation, chemical contaminants, and biological contaminants.

The conventional building practice of making homes increasingly air-tight has compounded indoor air quality problems, not only by trapping indoor pollutants within the structure, but also by adding yet more pollutants. Conventional particle board, plywood and some types of foam insulation can contain formaldehyde, a suspected carcinogen and one of the most common VOCs (volatile organic compounds). Drapes and textiles may also contain formaldehyde.

Polyurethane foam used in cushions, mattresses, and pillows can cause bronchitis, skin and eye problems, and can also release toluene diisocyanate, which can produce severe lung problems.

Naturally occurring chemicals such as radon and carbon monoxide pose a very real threat to air quality and health as well. Radon in the home is a major cause of lung cancer, second only to smoking. Carbon monoxide poisoning accounts for several hundred deaths annually in the United States.

Biological contaminants such as mold, mildew, dust and dust mites can aggravate asthma, allergies and dermatological conditions, cause general problems with breathing, and weaken the immune system. High temperature and humidity can increase the concentration of certain pollutants.


Ventilate. Air circulation will help existing toxic materials to off-gas more quickly.

Eliminate chemicals which off-gas VOCs. VOCs include a variety of chemicals that can cause eye, nose and throat irritation, headache, nausea, dizziness, and skin problems. Higher concentrations may cause irritation of the lungs, as well as damage to the liver, kidney, or central nervous system. Almost every toxic material in the home has a green and healthy substitute. Wood finishes and paint can be replaced by more natural replacements such as linseed oil finishes and milk based, low VOC or VOC free, paint. Instead of using foam or fiberglass insulation, there are insulation made from recycled denim and particle board that is made crushed sun flower kernels rather than glue and other toxins.

Pay special attention to paints, adhesives and finishes, but also be aware that VOCs can be lurking in carpet, bedding and upholstered furniture made of and/or treated with chemicals. Chances are that the salesperson selling you these items will not only fail to tell you about these chemicals, but will in fact not know that they're there. Consult a green building professional and/or a Bau-Biologist.

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