- Indoor air pollution is wide spread. You are more likely to get sick from pollution in your home and office than from pollution in the air outside.” – The American Lung Association
- Indoor air pollution is America's Number One Environmental Health Concern” – EPA
- 50% of all illness is caused by indoor air pollution.” – EPA
Known as Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) or Building Related Illness (BRI), in short, your home or office may be making you sick! You may have heard of it or seen recent magazine articles interviewing individuals affected by SBS. There is so much we don't realize about our indoor air quality.
1984 World Health Organization Committee report suggested that up to 30 percent of new and remodeled buildings worldwide may be the subject of excessive complaints related to indoor air quality (IAQ). Some of these airborne contaminants may be temporary caused by things such as adhesives, carpeting, upholstery, manufactured wood products, copy machines, pesticides, and cleaning agents may emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including formaldehyde. Environmental tobacco smoke contributes high levels of VOCs, other toxic compounds, and respirable particulate matter.
Causes of SBS include:
Biological contaminants: Bacteria, molds, pollen, and viruses are types of biological contaminants. These may breed in water that has accumulated in ducts, humidifiers and drain pans,rarely used sinks or tubs or where water has collected in your ceiling from leaks, carpet and padding from spills, or be in your insulation.
Contaminants from outdoors: Things such as automotive exhausts, plumbing vents and home exhausts not working correctly or configured correctly could come back into your home.
Inadequate ventilation: This may very well be the leading contributor to SBS. In an effort to conserve energy, we have sealed our homes with the best plastics, windows, seals, insulations and spray foam. We are keeping in our heating and cooling, but we are also trapping in all of the things outside air and proper ventilation used to be able to help reduce. Along with cheaper building materials that are breeding grounds for things like mold, mildew and black mold, the poor ventilation is contributing to SBS.
What can we do to reduce or eliminate these harmful contaminants from our homes and offices?
Remove known sources of contaminants. Remove wet ceiling tiles, reduce odor causing chemicals, request low emission carpets and paints when building or remodeling, proper ventilation, proper mainenance of your heating and cooling system, use humidifiers with UV lights to help eliminate bacteria and viruses, keep your ducts clean or treated to reduce the spread of mold and mildew.
Proper Ventilation: Use the exhaust fan in your bathroom and kitchen. Make sure your hot water tank and furnace are properly maintained to run according to manufacturers ventilation requirements.
Education: Follow directions on chemical cleaning products. Find safer products for use in your home. Talk to contractors about your concerns, ask them to use less porous building materials.
Air Purification/Filtration: There are several ways to do this. I will cover 2 here.
1.There are products available to filter the air in your home. If not used properly, these products can do more harm than good. Alway make sure to follow the manufacturers recommendations for cleaning and filter replacement. Your furnace filter can take out some of the larger particulates from the air but normally does not do very well with smaller particles. There are several products available on the market that include hepa filters that are designed to take out smaller particles from the air. Filters are a good way to reduce particles in the air in smaller spaces when known contaminants will be used. The problem is that air that does not pass through the filters is not treated
2. Purifiers: Many purifiers on the market can go beyond the air that comes into direct contact with the unit. They are ofter called ionizers. These products release active Ions into the air that attach to particles and weigh them to the ground...taking them out of the air. Keep in mind the square footage of the area you are treating when purchasing and using these items. One of the best that I have seen can cover up to 3000 square feet, has added technology that can reduce or eliminate up to 99.999% of harmful bacteria and viruses such as staph, mold, black mold, mildew, eColi, Strep and many more from surfaces, including your heating and cooling ducts when used correctly. This product can be seen at http://www.freshairliving.com/jarbiz (password is guest)
The best course of action is to do something rather than nothing. Become educated about your health and your environment. The internet and health magazines are great resources for education. Use them wisely and always maintain the equipment in your home according to recommendations. Outdated hepa filters and water filters are breeding grounds for the same bacteria and viruses they were meant to reduce or eliminate. Be smart, and be healthy!