Air Pollution Problems of the new home

Previously thought to be merely a nuisance, indoor air pollution today is viewed as a major public health threat. Symptoms to look out for include: burning eyes, sneezing, shortness of breath, dry eyes and throat, coughing, headaches, allergies, fatigue, irritation of the nose, eyes, and throat, etc.

Medical complications linked to indoor air pollution include: allergies, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, asthma, brain impairment, allergic rhinitis, humidifier fever, Legionnaire’s disease, the flu, measles, chicken pox, etc. Naturally, air pollution can come from different sources. The last three medical conditions listed above, for example, come from bioaerosols (contaminated airborne organic particles, flora or germs), such as mold, bacteria, saliva, feces, sweat, dust mites, viruses, allergen proteins, fungi, etc.

Other air quality pollutants/allergens at home include cleaning chemicals, cosmetics, paint solvents, and adhesives/glues from toys, flooring/ceiling products, furniture, etc. For new homes, a common problem are the new synthetic materials found in insulation, carpets, wall paneling, and pressed-board furniture. Although cheaper, these materials tend to release high levels of formaldehyde and other toxic chemicals.

The biggest problem with new home construction, however, is the impetus (from the 1970s) to create air-tight living environments. These designs, however, have greatly reduced natural air ventilation. As a result, many pollutants now routinely get trapped inside homes.

What are some of the pollutants found in new homes? Although banned, asbestos (a strong carcinogenic) can still be found in some construction materials (especially if imported from countries, like China). As home designers try to take advantage (by adding basements, etc.) of the natural insulating capacity of homes built closer to ground surface, the problem of radon gas has become more prevalent. It is a naturally occurring radioactive gas detected only with special devices.

Other air quality disruptors are cooking stoves and heating units not properly ventilated; this can include grills and outdoor kerosene heaters. These can emit dangerous toxic gases, including carbon monoxide. As a result, it is recommended that new home owners install carbon monoxide (and radon) detection devices.

Other pollutants sometimes found in new homes include mold (if high humidity exists, sometimes the result of poor ventilation), tobacco smoke, pesticides, heavy metals, volatile organic compounds (wood preservatives, air fresheners, moth repellents, sprays, and paint solvents), and bioaerosols (pet by-products, overly-watered plants, ejaculates from sick persons, etc.).

As for all the allergens and pollutants in a new home, suggests that “for the family that is having a new home built, it is imperative to talk with the builder about their policies and materials to make sure that toxic chemicals not only stay out of the building process but that the builder also uses home environmentally friendly materials and processes.” Regarding air purification solutions, this site recommends the use of tests and detectors; air filtration, though, they warn, may not be relied upon for some toxic gases, like carbon monoxide and radon.

Anyone looking to purchase a home should seriously consider having the property checked for air quality problems. This can be included in the home inspection report.

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