I receive several calls monthly from prospective clients who would like to find homes with healthy indoor air quality due to their having chemical sensitivities, health issues, or just because they live a green lifestyle and do not want to be exposed to poor indoor air quality. You may find this article helpful should any of your clients bring up the subject of indoor air quality.
Cleaners, cosmetics, personal care products, disinfectants, air fresheners, paints, solvents, pesticides, nicotine, glue: The list of chemicals in many homes is extensive. Heavy concentrations of these chemicals can irritate your eyes, nose and throat, cause headaches, loss of coordination, and nausea, and can even damage your liver, kidneys and central nervous system. Children and the elderly are particularly vulnerable, as are pets. In fact, pets are often the ones who show signs of illness first.
Indoor air quality is a term that refers to the air quality within and around your home, especially as it relates to the health and comfort of occupants. Acknowledging reports that air quality inside homes can be worse than outside, engineers have identified ways to move air in and out of homes to minimize the factors that lead to indoor air quality problems. In the past, residential ventilation was not a major concern because it was felt people were getting enough outdoor air by opening their windows and by air leaking through the building’s walls.
As homes and duct systems were built tighter to save energy, trapping contaminants indoors, concern rose about indoor air quality, especially since people spend almost 90 percent of their day indoors — 65 percent of that in their homes. Also, residents are now less likely to open windows because of energy costs, security issues, drafts, noise and dirty air from outside.
Source control, filtration and the use of ventilation to dilute contaminants are the primary methods for improving indoor air quality, and homeowners can further improve indoor air quality by routinely cleaning carpets and area rugs. The EPA has guidelines for frequency of cleaning based on traffic, number of household members, pets, children and smokers. Carpets and rugs act like an air filter and must be cleaned. And if your clients are considering implementing home energy upgrades, they might want to consider consulting the EPA’s Healthy Indoor Environment Protocols for Home Energy Upgrades, found on the EPA’s website.
All of us face a variety of risks to our health as we go about our daily lives. Some are risks we might decide to avoid if we had the opportunity to make informed choices. Indoor air pollution is one risk that we can do something about.