Sick Home Syndrome
catch phrase "Sick Homes" describes homes with poor, even hazardous, living environments.
There are several sources which can make homes uncomfortable and unhealthy to
live in. And a basic problem is poor air quality often caused by too little
ventilation may be a combination of things. New houses are insulated and sealed
so well that no fresh air enters in. Moisture builds up but can't escape and that
makes a perfect breeding ground for mold.
Also, some types of building materials emit vapors that are harmful or discomforting
to many people. Such conditions eventually make a house "sick."
House" symptoms develop because the house literally can't breathe. As a result,
it gets congested with internal pollutants.
Especially in winter, pollutants can be more abundant when air flow is less. Common
sources of pollutants in the home are Carpets, Furnace, Fireplace, pressed wood
Cabinets & Cupboards, excessive moisture.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) consist of a range of chemicals that are released
into the air over time. Often described as that pleasant, "new smell," VOCs can
be harmful. Short-term exposure to VOCs can cause headaches, nausea and irritate
eyes, throat and nose.
Conditioner, Humidifyer, Heat Ducts
Stove & Fireplace Smoke
Fiberboard, Cabinets, Countertops, Carpet, Fabric
Through Cracks in Foundation
Can you smell if there's trouble? Yes, and no. Even the pros must rely on sophisticated
equipment. But to a degree, the nose knows.
Newly introduced VOCs, especially in carpet, can easily be detected by the odor
they give off. They smell "new." Open up a cupboard door and smell. If it smells
"funny," formaldehyde may be present. If you see discolored walls, it may be mold.
senses aren't always reliable, so if you're unsure, have the home professionally
tested. That may cost about $200, but it's money well spent.
If you're thinking of buying a house, consider hiring an inspector who is experienced
and will look for signs of possible indoor pollutants.
All those creepy dust mites, molds and VOCs seem to make a house unfit to live
in. Thankfully, there are some simple, cost-effective solutions to reduce/eliminate
furnace filter once a month.
bathroom vent fan when showering to discourage mold growth
humidifier and air conditioning drain pans
new carpet, drapes, furniture "air out" before bringing inside
gutters clean to avoid moisture penetration
cracks in basement/foundation
clean and tune all fuel-burning appliances/fireplaces
(From the American
Lung Association, Minneapolis Affiliate)
combustion units such as the gas furnace and hot water heater prevent dangerous
gases from entering the home.
One of the best ways to enhance air quality is to install a whole house Energy
Recovery Ventilator (ERV), which we discuss in our section on Ventilation.