We tend to start our day inside. We tend to end our days inside. We tend to spend most of our time indoors. So breathing healthy air where we live, work and play is critical. Learn how to recognize and eliminate pollution sources in and around your home, on the job and at schools.
While we are inside, we breathe. Breathing is a part of our daily life, an action which we do naturally without giving it much thought. Although, how clean, fresh and healthy is our home’s indoor air?
The average homes can suffer from moisture, odors and particles as well as many other air borne contaminants such as dust mites, CO2, pollen, volatile organic compounds and radon.
The quality of the indoor air we breathe is extremely important. We protect our health and well-being by improving indoor air quality. We can design and construct new high performing home or retrofit our existing home. By improving the ventilation within our homes we are improving the air we breathe.
When the air we breathe is clean, we can feel the difference. Poor air quality has been linked to numerous acute and chronic conditions, from decreased concentration and cognitive function to sleep issues and the development of autoimmune conditions, asthma, or even heart disease and cancer. Also, some health effects may show up shortly after a single exposure or repeated exposures to a pollutant, such as irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, headaches, dizziness, and fatigue.
Ways to ensure healthy indoor air quality in our homes
Integral whole house ventilation and air filtration
Can you design and build a health promoting high performance home with excellent indoor air quality? Is there anything you can do to improve the indoor air quality in your existing home or office now? Absolutely.
The easiest, least expensive and least invasive way to remove contaminants from a house is to suck them out with an efficient mechanical ventilation system. Whole house fresh air ventilation system guarantee a reliable daily fresh air exchange throughout the entire house. The efficient Heat and Energy Recovery Ventilation systems, known as HRV or ERV units, recycle over 85% of home generated heat (e.g. appliances, light bulbs and body heat).
These systems remove excess mold causing humidity, remove stale air by exhausting it outside, and cycle in an entire home of fresh filtered air.
Heat Recovery Ventilation systems (HRV) and Energy Recovery Ventilation system (ERV) providing you with fresh filtered air while increasing your home’s energy efficiency and take up considerably less space and make less noise than traditional furnace or boiler systems.
Make no mistake, installation of an HRV or ERV system is a fairly extensive project, and we recommend you consult with a trusted professional about your options.
Your climate changes what works best for you, and you have options. If you’re in the dry summer climate and you want to ensure that your new home or building has healthy indoor air, tell your architect or designer that you want an integrated HRV system. If you live in a warm humid climate, ask about Energy Return Ventilation (ERV).
Materials and finishes
An essential parameter for indoor air hygiene is the concentration of harmful volatile organic compounds (VOC), emitted into the air by different materials.
Building products, from paint, coatings and insulation to adhesives, sealants, caulk and vinyl off-gassing a variety of chemicals that could be harmful to your health with increased exposure. Off-gassing refers to when new, manufactured items release chemicals, also known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), into your indoor air. These materials may not only emit odors (pleasant or unpleasant) during installation, but they may continue to off-gas throughout the life of the material.
Exposure to harmful off-gassing is avoidable with the right knowledge and technique. Product labels from official product-certification programs are available to help you select low-emitting products. For example, the EMICODE label displays indoor VOC emissions from adhesives, sealants, parquet varnishes and other construction products. The BLUE ANGEL environmental label also certifies a variety of products and services with low emissions into indoor air and thus potential impact on human health. The Blue Angel is the ecolabel of the federal government of Germany since 1978.
In order to reduce emissions of pollutants at their source, we need to know more about the materials we use in our living spaces. European countries have different procedures for qualifying building products based on their emission levels of volatile pollutants. These procedures are used to identify and promote “low emissivity” building materials and decoration products. Unfortunately, there are no Europeans guidelines for emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) for building materials and products.
Tips to improve indoor air at home
Avoid smoking indoors. If others in your household smoke, ask them to smoke outside.
Take off your shoes and boots. Consider removing shoes at the door to minimize dust and dirt tracked in from the outdoors. Many particles end up in the air because they are brought in to the house and stirred up by motion, commotion, or that wonderful warm sunbeam.
Solid surfaces like wood, linoleum, and tile are easier to minimize dust and pollen buildup than carpets.
Maintain your heating and cooling equipment and change air filters regularly. Any type of air purifier won’t work well if the filter is clogged and dusty, and, if filter is full, it may stop working entirely.
Choose your cleaning products. Have you ever gotten dizzy while spring cleaning? This isn’t a coincidence – many cleaners contain off-the-chart levels of VOCs. Many cleaning products contain Harmful chemicals compound. Vinegar, sliced lemons and baking soda are great for disinfecting, and you can make great natural cleaning solutions that work. Use high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) vacuum cleaners with disposable bags and microfiber cloths for surface dust removal.
Don’t store chemicals, solvents, glues, or pesticides near your living quarters.
Stop using aerosol sprays inside, Deodorants, hair sprays, carpet cleaners, furniture polish and air fresheners. These chemicals sprayed into the air can, do, and will make it into your lungs.
Stay away from synthetic fragrances. In air fresheners and in laundry products, in perfumes and in hand soap, synthetic fragrances are actually harmful Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs).
Minimize use of candles and wood fires. Scented candles and incense also release soot and particles into the air, which can trigger asthma attacks and allergic reactions.
Use exhaust fans in kitchen, bath, and laundry areas
Renovate your home. Lead can be present in old paint, and asbestos in ceiling and vinyl floor coverings or tiles. Painting over walls and ceilings is an effective seal. If you are living in an older home we strongly advise you bring in an accredited professional to test for the presence of lead and asbestos. If your home tests positive, we strongly encourage you to hire a professional.
Add plants. Some houseplants act as natural air purifiers. They can really help remove toxins from the air in your home, whilst providing additional oxygen.
The amount of moisture that builds up just breathing and everyday activities can be enough to create condensation and mold growth. Common household items can emit harmful pollutants into the living space examples include cleaning and personal care products, paints wood burning stoves and gas appliances as well as out-gassing from things like floor coverings, finishes and furniture.
Ensuring you have a healthy air quality home with no harmful off-gassing affecting you and your family is worth the time, the money and the effort it takes to get your team of professionals.