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Blog/Opinion: Avoiding Simplistic Solutions to Complex Situations

By HHI Staff

We continue to get a lot of questions about what we call “simplistic solutions to complex situations.” For example, most people want an easy way to solve the problem of poor indoor air quality. Well, we’d like that too and, in some cases, there are relatively simple solutions. But in many cases, the solution isn’t easy. For example, we’ve spoken to a number of people over the years who started feeling sick after moving into a new house or apartment. After talking with them for a while it was clear to us that they were apparently reacting to a combination of all the new materials, as well as a lack of ventilation. In many cases, it was also apparent that one or more of the occupants was already, or was in the process of becoming, hypersensitive to a variety of indoor air contaminants.


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In such cases, the first thing we're often asked is: “Isn’t there some kind of filter I can get?” Filters are marvelous inventions, but we consider filtration to be a subcategory of the principle of Ventilation. To clean up the air in a polluted house with filtration alone would be very difficult. For example, you would need a fairly large filter system capable of processing a great deal of air over and over very quickly.


That’s because you would be trying to clean the indoor air while, at the same time, all the new materials (e.g., paint, cabinets, etc.) continue to release various VOCs. You have to try to filter them out faster than they are being released. Portable filters generally simply don’t have the capacity, so a whole-house filtration system is necessary. This can be expensive. There will need to be a tremendous amount of air movement through the filter - and the house - and, in the end, it will still be an imperfect solution. We're certainly not against filters or air purifiers. They’re wonderful, and, in small enclosed areas such as bedrooms, they do help. It’s just that, in many cases, they aren’t the best solution. The most effective solution involves Prevention, removing contaminants at the source (we can this the Elimination principle), Isolation of contaminants when they can't be removed, and Ventilation.


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(Note: The views expressed in this blog post are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent those of The Healthy House Institute, LLC.)

Avoiding Simplistic Solutions to Complex Situations:  Created on October 10th, 2011.  Last Modified on October 11th, 2011


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