Homeowners, scientists, manufacturers, and designers are just recently becoming more aware of the things that easily win the game of “hide and seek” in your home. And these game “winners” can unfortunately make your health a big loser. The following is a list of materials, particles, and gases that can lurk in your home, causing not only health issues, but also structural issues to your home.
Excess moisture can affect the structure of a building and health of its occupants. Moisture settles into materials, causing mold and bacteria. These things, as most people know, can cause a variety of minor to major illnesses. The structure of the building is weakened by the moisture settling on materials and causing wood framing to rot or metal framing to rust. Excess moisture most commonly points to an airflow issue within the building.
Biological pollutants are things that are sometimes able to be seen, but not always. Pollens, bacteria, soil, plant debris, and dander fall into this category. These things are typically brought into the house by the inhabitants on clothes or shoes, or via the wind, and affect different occupants in different ways.
Radon is a radioactive gas caused by the breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water. This gas is thought to be the second leading cause of lung cancer, gaining access to buildings through cracks in floors and walls, construction joints, and pipes. It is estimated that 1 in 15 homes in the US have high radon levels; a simple test can tell you whether or not your home is one of that percentage.
Gas-fired appliances emit carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrous oxides, and water vapor. Not all of those particles are bad, but the ones which are not healthy are also less easily seen. This does not mean that a home should stay away from gas appliances, but merely realize the gaseous output and make sure all appliances are vented properly.
Volatile Organic Compounds
VOCs are becoming more of a talking point due to green initiatives. Many materials and furnitures are striving to achieve the ranking of low or no-VOC.These VOCs come in the form of formaldehyde in carpets and other materials, pesticides, cleaning materials, paint, gasoline, adhesives, and office equipment. They are known to cause illness in both short term and long term periods.
This category is a no-brainer for most people. Most local governments have begun initiatives to remove smoking from indoor public buildings for the same reasons that it’s not good to smoke in your home. The carcinogenic off-gas embeds and clings to materials in the home, essentially making your home’s interior covered with chemicals that cause cancer.
This category is a reiteration of what was spoken of when we talked about combustion products and VOCs. It is important to realize, however, that even though it may seem safe in your garage instead of your home, these materials can easily find their way in if there is not an airtight separation on homes with attached garages.
These things are merely the main players in the fight against your home’s health. In the upcoming weeks we will talk about things you can do to win the game of “hide and seek” and take back your home.
The EPA provides quality information about indoor air quality suspects, which can be found here.