Friday, May 14, 2010
Indoor Air Quality ---You may want to Hold your Breath!
EPA-The Inside Story: A Guide to Indoor Air Quality
Summary quotes and information from GreenGuard and the EPA--
“The US Environmental Protection Agency, the American Lung Association, the World Health Organization and other public health and environmental organizations view indoor air pollution as one of the greatest risks to Human Health. “
Indoor Air is 2-5 times more polluted than Outdoor Air and in some cases 100 times more polluted, than outdoor air.
Why is this problem?
"People spend 90 percent of their time indoors."
In fact the EPA estimates that
"the average person receives 72 percent of their chemical exposure at home, which means that very place most people consider safest paradoxically exposes them to the greatest amounts of potentially hazardous pollutants."
The EPA and Green Guard a third party test group notes...
There are FOUR contributors to poor indoor air quality
4. Poor Ventilation
1. Chemicals- including off gassing from furnishings, dry cleaning and chemical cleaners as well as in finishes like paint, wall paper, carpet and curtains....
a. Controlling the source…what you or the "cat dragged in" is a problem.
2. Mold- from moisture problems including damp basements, humid laundry rooms and bathrooms…
a. Controlling the moisture with proper ventilation
b. and dehumidifiers
3. Particulates- Airborne particulates can also come from dirt and dust that are tracked in from outdoors…
a. Installing walk-off mats at doorways and cleaning them regularly.
b. Changing air filters regularly
c. Using a vacuum with a Hepa filter are all good strategies to limit these pollutants.
4. Poor Ventilation—
a. With the new standards for air tight construction, it is even more important to have ventilation systems that are designed to bring in fresh air.
b. Most ventilation systems are designed to bring in very little outdoor air and instead re-circulate the indoor air that has already been heated or cooled as an effective way to minimize energy costs; it can have a negative impact on the indoor air quality.
My two cents... You may hear things like open your window from the EPA if you are painting, and the US Green Building's LEED certification for buildings has a highly controversial flushing system that recommends blowing large quantities of air into your building to "flush out" all the toxic off gassing...well, if you really want to get technical, if you live near the water, or in a humid area, the moisture that gets pulled into the room takes you back to #2 Mold issues….And if you have allergies and it is Pollen or Hay fever season you may want to make considerations on a case by case, region by region bases but...
Please do not let this information paralyze you...
The #1 Strategy for controlling IAQ is...
Source Control-- reduce indoor air pollution and limit chemical exposure by not bringing it into your space in the first place.
1. Take off your shoes so you don't track particulates into the home.
2. When you are Buying Products--furnishings, clothing, dry cleaning, detergents and cleaning products, think about the off gassing or VOC’s.
3. Maintain Heating and Air Conditioning Equipment--Change those filters on a regular bases.
To get past the green washing of low and no VOC’s check to see if the product has been given the GREENGUARD Certified for low chemical emissions. Green Guard is a third party testing company that certifies products and their Greeness if you will. Some paints claim to be no VOC, however, the tinting added when you choose the colors are not in some cases only the base is No VOC. GREEGUARD has an amazing online Product Guide and all of these tips to improve IAQ listed on their website. http://www.greenguard.org/quickSearch.aspx
Additionally, Consumer Report Greener Choices Website is also very useful Listing information regarding Products. http://www.greenerchoices.org/home.cfm
Get outside and get some fresh air. Take in deep breaths. You will feel better....just remember to wear your sunscreen :)