Air Quality in Homes Impacting Your Health

 It’s no secret that the air quality in homes can affect an occupant’s health. Realtors® have been working with purchase contract contingencies concerning radon tests, mold and indoor air quality tests for years. Now based on research done by the EPA’s Office of Research and Development studies have found levels of about a dozen common organic pollutants to be two to five times higher inside homes than outside of the home, regardless of whether the homes were located in rural or highly industrial areas.

Toxins such as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s) can enter a home or workplace from paint, flooring, stains, varnishes, plywood, carpeting, insulation and other building products used in their construction or remodeling process. These substances are released into the air through a process called off-gassing. The off-gassing can continue for years and affect the health of the homeowner or occupants long after the construction has been completed, or the updates to the home, or building have been made. Today’s more airtight homes actually work to seal some of these substances in, rather than allowing fresh air exchanges to dilute or dissipate the off-gassing.

Who would think that when a home seller is doing the common things to get their home ready to sell, like adding a fresh coat of interior paint, new cabinets or countertops, installing new carpets or adding insulation; they may actually be creating a higher risk of off-gassing and indoor pollutants in the home? When preparing for a new baby homeowners many times will choose to put a fresh coat of paint in a bedroom, install new carpets, and purchased new nursery furniture to convert the bedroom into a sparkling new nursery? In reality the new parents maybe creating a greater health risks for their newborn rather than minimizing it.

The average adult breathes approximately 13,000 liters of air each day, along with whatever VOC’s and other pollutants happen to be in the air. People’s immune systems work to protect them from harmful toxins that they encounter. But the human immune system can only handle so much. Eventually if a person’s body overloads with too many harmful substances the immune system cannot keep up and the body suffers. Once in a person’s system, VOCs are stored in body fat and can lead to serious health problems over an extended time period. The EPA has estimated that indoor air pollutions adversely affect thousands of people each year. Effects from over exposure to radon gas alone causes over 14,000 deaths annually. Many other commonly used compounds in manufacturing can also be known carcinogens and some of their uses are not presently regulated. Indoor air quality has become a significant health concern in the United States.

Many U.S. building materials manufacturers have also made changes in their manufacturing processes in order to eliminate VOC’s and off-gassing from their products. In everything from adhesives, sealants, drywall, paints, carpets, manufactured doors, cabinets, windows and insulation products, changes have been, made to make the end user product VOC free. Owens Corning one of the U.S. largest insulation manufacturers, (you know the people with the Pink Panther) has spent millions of dollars retrofitting their plants so they are now able to produce a fiber insulation that is a 99% natural product, made with 58 percent recycled content which is formaldehyde free. Owens Corning’s formaldehyde free insulation is marketed under the name Eco-Touch® PINK®FIBERGLAS Insulation.

Home builders these days are also keenly aware of the problems of off-gassing and many take proactive steps in their construction process to minimize hazards from indoor air pollutants.  They do this by using construction materials and products that are VOC free and having their HVAC contractors install furnaces and air handling equipment that provide adequate filtration and indoor air exchanges in the home.

For any new construction questions you might have contact Jim with Nebraska Realty Builder Services at