INDOOR AIR QUALITY

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Indoor Air Quality

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Create a Healthier Indoor Environment


Your home is supposed to be your refuge from the stresses of the outside world. It should promote health and wellbeing of the occupants and visitors. It can be surprising to learn that our homes can be a major source of pollutants and toxins in the air we breathe every day. Poor indoor air has been associated with asthma, headaches, nausea, allergies and other illnesses. In fact, it's not unusual for the air quality inside the home to be worse than it is outside. The EPA has deemed indoor air quality one of the top five environmental health risks the U.S. faces today. Indoor air pollution can be caused by 
  • Improper ventilation
  • Building materials, finishes and furnishings that contain carcinogenic chemicals, formaldehyde fumes, solvents and VOC’s
  • Poor design and construction of the home, leading to unhealthy mold and mildew, radon exposure, lead, asbestos and combustion gases.
Many commonly used products, such as paints and adhesives, emit a variety of harmful chemicals into the air for months after they have been applied. These chemicals, collectively termed volatile organic compounds (VOC’s), can have a negative impact on indoor air quality and public health. While VOC’s were once necessary for good performance in many products, most companies now produce cost-effective low or non-VOC replacements. Products that may emit VOC’s include, but are not limited to, the following:
  •  Paints, paint thinners, solvents
  • Wood preservatives and finishes
  • Caulks, sealants and adhesives
  • Aerosol sprays, cleaners and disinfectants
  • Synthetic carpets and upholstery /vinyl flooring
  • Formaldehyde in particle board products used in cabinets
At Gary Rosard Architect, we endeavor to design and specify systems and products that will limit exposure to indoor air pollutants, providing a safe and healthy environment in your home. 

Top 10 Ways Homeowners Can Ensure Good Indoor Air Quality

More detailed tips for your home

Garage
  • Turn off the car before you close the garage door, and open the door before you start the car. Likewise, don’t turn on lawn mowers or other gas powered tools inside (or near open windows for that matter.)
  • Inspect that the walls and ceiling adjoining the living space are well sealed. Gas fumes and other liquids from car engines, continue vaporizing after the car is off. These combustion pollutants can be drawn into the home through open doors, poorly sealed doors, cracks in walls, spaces around ductwork and wiring, as well as through the ceiling.
  • Make sure the door from the garage to the house has proper weather stripping, and use caulking or foam to seal all the gaps created by wiring or ducts.
  • If any ductwork runs through the garage, make extra certain that the ducts are sealed, not just with duct tape, but with mastic, or enclosed in drywall.
Basement
  • A damp basement is commonly caused by moisture migrating through the foundation. As this moisture evaporates, it increases indoor humidity and can promote the growth of mold.
  • Check to see that gutters and downspouts are clear and directing water away from the foundation. Make sure the grade is sloping away from the house in all areas.
  • Try not to store used containers of paints and solvents. Or at least keep them in well ventilated areas and out of reach of children. Away from HVAC return air supply.
Kitchen
  • Household cleaning products can release dozens of chemicals such as those which give cleaners their characteristic lemon or pine scent.
  • Look for non-toxic cleaners with no added fragrances. Consider chemical alternatives wherever possible. Vinegar is an excellent all purpose cleaner and baking soda works well to scrub and deodorize surfaces.
  • Limit use of bleach and ammonia based cleaners and avoid mixing them, as this combination can produce highly toxic airborne chemicals.
  • Use your range hood exhaust whenever cooking. Verify that it is appropriately vented to the outdoors.
  • Manually clean oven, or if you must use the self clean feature, be sure to use exhaust hood and open the windows while doing so.
  • Plastics- One of the most alarming of these toxins is Bisphenol A (BPA). BPA is found in some hard plastic products, and has been linked to neural and behavioral problems in infants. Although BPA has been phased out of use in baby bottles, it’s still prevalent in reusable water bottles, so avoid those marked with a seven for the recycling code—unless it specifically states that it’s BPA free. Aluminum bottles and cans are often lined with BPA, as well. So going with a stainless steel water bottle is your best option.
  • Alternatives to plastic containers and bottles are readily available. Microwave-safe and heat resistant glass containers—like Pyrex—and ceramics are good substitutes.  
Bathroom
  • Make sure to use an exhaust fan that is properly ducted to the outside. This helps not only to lessen moisture buildup that can lead to mold problems, but provides an effective means for creating ventilation throughout the house. Leave the fan running for up to 20 minutes. Timers are available for fans as well.
  • Many bathrooms have more toxic chemicals than the garage. The more bottles and tubes there are sitting on the counter, lined up in the medicine cabinet, packed in drawers, and stashed in the shower, the more poison you are likely accumulating in your body. Go through your supplies and see which ones might have more natural alternatives.
  • The fastest way to absorb a chemical or substance into the body and bloodstream, aside from injecting it directly into the veins, is by inhaling the product into the lungs. When you use an aerosol spray product, about half of the material that is sprayed out winds up in the air around you. In a small and unventilated bathroom, a great deal of the product, and all of its harmful chemicals, will be inhaled.Air fresheners might very well be the worst aerosol offenders in your bathroom. In a recent study conducted by the National Resources Defense Council, 12 out of 14 popular aerosol air fresheners were found to contain dangerous chemicals known as phthalates. These phthalates have been linked to a number of harmful conditions, including causing hormone imbalance, and they have even been linked to birth defects. Light a match- works wonders to kill unpleasant bathroom odors.
  • The simplest way to eliminate the problems these products cause is to eliminate all products in your home with an aerosol spray distributing system. There are generally much safer alternatives available for purchase. Consider using a solid stick deodorant or a liquid pump hairspray instead of their aerosol counterparts. However, this might not always be the most convenient solution, especially when it comes to getting rid of expensive hair products we’ve come to enjoy.
  • In the bathroom, if you do use aerosol products, make sure the room is well ventilated. Open up the door and bathroom window. If possible, apply the spray products in an even larger room than the bathroom in order to reduce your risk of inhaling any of the excess product. Cover your nose and mouth with your free hand and avoid staying in the same area where you have applied the product.
  • -White vinegar contains a natural, odor-neutralizing bacteria that is completely safe and does not have a harsh “vinegary” smell.
  • You can use natural, essential oils mixed with water to freshen up a room. Put the mixture in a spray water bottle and apply to a room in need of freshening. Depending on the oil used, the product would also be safe to spray directly onto your skin.
Bedroom
  • The chemicals involved in dry cleaning are so harmful that you shouldn’t hang your freshly dry cleaned clothing in your bedroom, let alone allow it to touch your skin.
  • Perchloroethylene (perc), a solvent and volatile organic compound (VOC), is the strong-smelling chemical used at most traditional dry cleaners. Though very effective for removing odors and stains, perc is not removed from the clothing during the washing process—it stays in the fabric and lingers for days or even weeks. The toxins are not only absorbed through your skin when you wear dry cleaned clothes, but if you hang the clothing in your bedroom you are breathing in perc vapors eight hours a night as you sleep.
  • Look for dry cleaners that use less toxic cleaning agents. 
  • Unwrap clothes and let them hang in an open area for a couple days before storing in a tight closet, or wearing right away.
  • Textiles treated with formaldehyde are not required to be labeled, but it was likely used in anything labeled “wrinkle resistant,” “permanent press,” “no iron,” or “water repellant.”
  • Use a natural moth repellant such as cedar in your closet instead of chemical based repellents.
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