Did you know that the average American spends approximately 90% of their day indoors? This is why indoor air quality is an important issue for everyone, particularly for those family members afflicted with asthma or allergies.
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Ron Cowgill, CR, CKBR, participant in the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) Green Remodeling Program said: “Many sources can contribute to poor air quality inside a home, including pollutants such as radon, carbon monoxide and pesticides brought in from outside. Indoor pollutants can also come from products existing in the home and used during a remodel, such as paints, adhesives, carpets, vinyl and wood treatment products.” These products can release toxins, called volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air. VOCs can include formaldehyde, benzene, xylenes, toluene and ethanol.
Some concerns with VOCs are that they contribute to pollution by reacting with sunlight to form ground level ozone, a major component of smog, and cause indoor air pollution levels two to three times higher than outdoor air. Some products report the parts per million VOCs on labels, and the fewer parts per million the better. Green products are often made with water-based solvents that are less harmful to people and the environment.
Some indoor air quality issues involve gases that leak into a home, as opposed to off-gassing inside it. Radon is a toxic, gaseous, radioactive element that comes from the breakdown of uranium found in soil and rock. Leaking begins underneath the house, most commonly in the basement. It is the number one cause of lung cancer among non-smokers since there are no immediate symptoms. Symptoms show up anywhere from five to twenty-five years after harmful exposure.
Measure radon levels in your home once a year and be aware that radon levels inside a home tend to increase during the winter. When remodeling your home ask your contractor to check for cracks in the foundation where radon can leak through, and repair them.
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas produced by incomplete burning of materials containing carbon such as propane, gasoline, oil, natural gas, and coal. These fuels can be found in furnaces, stoves, fireplaces, and car engines, which, if they are not ventilating efficiently, can build up and cause carbon monoxide poisoning.
Air quality can be protected with adequate ventilation and locating air intakes away from exhaust vents and driveways, and using products that are nontoxic. Signs of poor ventilation include condensation on windows or walls, stuffy air, dirty air systems, and mold growth.
By incorporating green remodeling practices, homeowners can avoid serious health issues linked to unhealthy indoor air.
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