Remedies to Indoor Air Quality Problems Living Areas

Paneling, pressed-wood furniture and cabinetry. These products may release formaldehyde gas. 
Remedy: Ask about formaldehyde content before buying furniture or cabinets. Some types of pressed-wood products, such as those with phenol resin, emit less formaldehyde.
Also, products coated with polyurethane or laminates may reduce formaldehyde emissions.
After installation, open windows. Maintain moderate temperature and humidity.
Carpet. Biological pollutants can grow on water-damaged carpet. New carpet can release organic gases. 
Remedy: Promptly clean and dry water-damaged carpet, or remove it altogether. 
If adhesives are needed, ask for low-emitting ones. During installation, open doors and windows, and use window fans or room air conditioners. Vacuum regularly. 
Consider area rugs instead of wall-to-wall carpet. Rugs are easier to remove and clean, and the floor underneath also can be cleaned. Floor tiles. Some contain asbestos. 
Remedy: Periodically inspect for damage or deterioration.
Do not cut, rip, sand or remove any asbestos-containing materials. If you plan to make changes that might disturb the asbestos, or if materials are more than slightly damaged, contact a professional for repair or removal. Call your local or state health department or the Environmental Protection Agency.

Moisture. 
Moisture encourages biological pollutants, including allergens such as mold, mildew, dust mites and cockroaches. Remedy: If possible, eliminate moisture sources. Install and use exhaust fans. Use a dehumidifier if necessary. 
Remove molds and mildew by cleaning with a solution of chlorine bleach (1 cup bleach to 1 gallon water). 
Maintain good fresh air with natural and mechanical air circulation.

Fireplace. 
Your fireplace can be a source of carbon monoxide and combustion pollutants.
Remedy: Open the flue when using the fireplace. Have the flue and chimney inspected annually for exhaust back drafting, flue obstructions or cracks, excess creosote or other damage. 
Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

Air conditioner.
This can be a source of biological allergens. 
Remedy: If there is a water tray, empty and clean it often. Follow all service and maintenance procedures, including changing the filter.

Gas or kerosene space heater.
These devices can release carbon monoxide and combustion pollutants. 
Remedy: Never use unvented kerosene or gas space heaters. In the room where the heater is located, provide fresh air by opening a door to the rest of the house, turning on an exhaust fan and slightly opening a window.

Tobacco smoke. 
Smoke contains harmful combustion and particulate pollutants, including carbon monoxide and combustion byproducts. 
Remedy: Do not smoke in your home or permit others to do so, especially near children. If smoking cannot be avoided indoors, open windows or use exhaust fans.

Draperies.
New draperies may be treated with a formaldehyde-based finish and emit odors fora short time. 
Remedy: Before hanging, air draperies to ventilate odors. After hanging, ventilate the area. Maintain moderate temperature and humidity.

Lead-based paint.
Paint manufactured before l978 may contain lead. 
Remedy: Leave lead-based paint undisturbed if it is in good condition. Before removing paint, test for lead. Do-it-yourself lead test kits are available from hardware or building supply stores. Do not and, burn off or remove lead-based paint yourself. Hire a person with special training to correct lead-based paint problems. For more information, call 1-800-LEAD-FYI.

Animals.
Many animals leave allergens, such as dander, hair, feathers or skin, affecting indoor air quality. Remedy: Keep pets outdoors as often as possible. Clean the entire house regularly. Deep clean areas where pets are permitted. Clean pets regularly. House dust mites. Biological allergens can trigger asthma. 
Remedy: Clean and vacuum regularly. Wash bedding in hot water above 130 degrees F. Use more hard-surface finishes; they are less likely to attract and hold dust mites.

Kitchen Household cleaners.
Unhealthy or irritating vapors may be released from chemicals in products.
Remedy: Select non aerosol and nontoxic products. Use, apply, store and dispose of them according to manufacturers’ directions. If products are concentrated, label the storage container with dilution instructions. Completely use up a product.

Pressed-wood cabinets.
These can be a source of formaldehyde vapor. 
Remedy: Maintain moderate temperatures (80 degrees maximum) and humidity (about 45 percent). When purchasing new cabinets, select solid wood or metal cabinets or those made with phenol resin; they emit less formaldehyde. Ventilate well after installation.

Unvented gas stove and range.
These are a source of carbon monoxide and combustion by products. 
Remedy: Keep appliance burners clean. Periodically have burners adjusted (blue flame tip, not yellow). Install and use an exhaust fan. Never use a gas range or stove to heat your home.

Bathroom Personal care products.
Organic gases are released from chemicals in some products, such as deodorant and hair sprays, shampoos, toners, nail polish and perfumes. 
Remedy: Select odor-free or low odor-producing products. Select non aerosol varieties. Open a window, or use an exhaust fan. Follow manufacturers’ directions when using the product and disposing of containers.
Air freshener. These products can release organic gases. 
Remedy: Open a window or use the exhaust fan instead. If you use air fresheners, follow manufacturers’ directions. Select natural products.

Bedroom Humidifier/vaporizer.
Cold mist vaporizers can encourage biological allergens, including mold, mildew and cockroaches, that can trigger asthma and encourage viruses and bacteria.
Remedy: Use and clean them according to manufacturers’ directions. Refill daily with freshwater.

Moth repellents.
These often contain the pesticide paradichlorobenzene. 
Remedy: Avoid breathing vapors. Place them in tightly sealed trunks or other containers. Store separately, away from living areas.

Dry-cleaned goods.
Chemicals used in the cleaning process release organic gases.
Remedy: Bring odors to the attention of your dry cleaner. Try to air out dry-cleaned goods before bringing them indoors. Seek alternatives to dry cleaning, such as hand washing items.

Utility Room Unvented clothes dryer.
Gas dryers produce carbon monoxide and combustion by products and can be a fire hazard.
Remedy: Regularly dispose of lint around and under the dryer. Provide air for gas units. Vent the dryer directly to the outside. Clean vent and ductwork regularly.

Gas or oil furnace/boiler and gas water heater.
Air quality problems include back drafting of carbon monoxide and combustion pollutants. 
Remedy: Have your heating system and water heater, including gas piping and venting, inspected every year.

Asbestos pipe wrap and furnace insulation.
These can release asbestos fibers into the air.
Remedy: Periodically look for damage or deterioration. Do not cut, rip, sand or remove any asbestos-containing materials. If you plan to make changes that might disturb the asbestos, or if materials are more than slightly damaged, contact a professional for repair or removal.

Basement Ground moisture.
Moisture encourages biological allergens like mold and mildew.
Remedy: Inspect for condensation on walls, standing water on the floor, or sewage leaks. To keep basement dry, prevent outside water from entering by installing roof gutters and downspouts, not watering close to the foundation, grading soil away from the home, and applying waterproofing sealants to basement interior walls. For standing water, consider installing a sump pump. If sewage is the source, have drains professionally cleaned. If moisture has no obvious source, install an exhaust fan controlled by humidity levels. Remove mold and mildew. Regularly clean and disinfect the basement floor drain.

Radon.
This invisible, radioactive gas poses a lung cancer risk. Remedy: Test your home foredoom. Have an experienced radon contractor fix your home if your radon level is 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) or higher. For more information on indoor air quality call 1-800-SOS-RADON.

Hobby products.
Chemicals in products such as solvents, paint, glue and epoxy release organic gases. 
Remedy: Follow manufacturers’ directions for use, ventilation, application, clean-up, and container storage and disposal. Use outdoors when possible. Indoors, open a window, or use an exhaust fan. Reseal containers well. Clean tools outside or in a well-ventilated area.

Garage Car and small engine exhaust.
These are sources of carbon monoxide and combustion byproducts. 
Remedy: Never leave vehicles, lawn mowers, snowmobiles, etc., running in the garage.

Paint, solvent and cleaning supplies.
These products may release harmful vapors and effect indoor air quality. 
Remedy: Provide ventilation when using them. Follow manufacturers’ directions. Buy only as much as you need. If the products contain methylene chloride, such as paint strippers, use them outdoors. Reseal containers well. Keep products in their original, labeled containers. Clean brushes and other materials outside.

Pesticides and fertilizers.
Yard and Garden chemicals may be toxic. 
Remedy: Use on chemical methods when possible. Follow manufacturers’ directions for mixing, applying, storing and using protective clothing. Mix or dilute them outdoors. Provide ventilation when using them indoors. Store them outside of the home in their original, labeled containers. After using the product, remove your shoes and clean your hands and clothing to avoid bringing the chemicals into your home.

Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
* Install a smoke detector in each bedroom or in the adjacent hallway.
* If you have gas or other fossil fuel appliances in the house, install carbon monoxide detectors in these locations.
* Combination smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are available.
* Check the batteries frequently.

Amount of Ventilation
If too little outdoor air enters a home, pollutants can accumulate to levels that can pose indoor air quality, health and comfort problems. Unless they are built with special mechanical means of ventilation, homes that are designed and constructed to minimize the amount of outdoor air that can “leak” into and out of the home may have higher pollutant levels than other homes. However, because some weather conditions can drastically reduce the amount of outdoor air that enters a home, pollutants can build up even in homes that are normally considered “leaky”.

How Does Outdoor Air Enter a House?
Outdoor air enters and leaves a house by: infiltration, natural ventilation, and mechanical ventilation. In a process known as infiltration, outdoor air flows into the house through openings, joints, and cracks in walls, floors, and ceilings, and around windows and doors. In natural ventilation, air moves through opened windows and doors.
Air movement associated with infiltration and natural ventilation is caused by air temperature differences between indoors and outdoors and by wind.
Finally, there are a number of mechanical ventilation devices, from outdoor-vented fans that intermittently remove air from a single room, such as bathrooms and kitchen, to air handling systems that use fans and duct work to continuously remove indoor air and distribute filtered and conditioned outdoor air to strategic points throughout the house. The rate at which outdoor air replaces indoor air is described as the air exchange rate. When there is little infiltration, natural ventilation, or mechanical ventilation, the air exchange rate is low and pollutant levels can increase.

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Quick Facts about Indoor Air Quality

* Indoor air quality can be worse than that of outdoor air.
* Problems can arise from moisture, insects, pets, appliances, radon, materials used in household products and furnishings, smoke and other sources. All of which affect the indoor air quality.
* Effects of poor indoor air quality range from minor annoyances to major health risks.
* Remedies of poor indoor air quality include ventilation, cleaning, moisture control, inspections, and following manufacturers’ directions when using appliances and products. Research has shown that the indoor air quality can be worse than that of outdoor air. Many homes are built or remodeled more tightly, without regard to the factors that assure fresh and healthy indoor air quality. Our homes today contain many furnishings, appliances and products that can affect indoor air quality.
Signs of indoor air quality problems include:
* Unusual and noticeable odors.
* Stale or stuffy air.
* Noticeable lack of air movement.
* Dirty or faulty central heating or air conditioning equipment.
* Damaged flue pipes or chimneys.
* Unvented combustion air sources for fossil fuel appliances.
* Excessive humidity.
* Presence of molds and mildew.
* Health reaction after remodeling, weatherizing, using new furniture, using household and hobby products, or moving into a new home.
* Feeling noticeably healthier outside.

Common Sources of Indoor Air Pollution
Poor indoor air quality can arise from many sources. At least some of the following contaminants can be found in almost any home:

* Moisture and biological pollutants such as molds, mildew, dust mites, animal dander and cockroaches from high humidity levels, inadequate ventilation, and poorly maintained humidifiers and air conditioners.
* Combustion products, including carbon monoxide, from unvented fossil fuel space heaters, unvented gas stoves and ovens, and back drafting from furnaces and water heaters.
* Formaldehyde from durable press draperies and other textiles, particle board products such as cabinets and furniture framing, and adhesives.
* Radon, a radioactive gas from soil and rock beneath and around the home’s foundation, groundwater wells and some building materials.
* Household products and furnishings such as paints, solvents, air fresheners, hobby supplies, dry-cleaned clothing, aerosol sprays, adhesives, and fabric additives used in carpeting and furniture which can release volatile organic compounds.
* Asbestos found in most homes more than 20 years old. Sources include deteriorating, damaged or disturbed pipe insulation, fire retardant, acoustical material and floor tiles.
* Lead from lead-based paint dust created when removing paint by sanding, scraping or burning.
* Particulates from dust and pollen, fireplaces, wood stoves, kerosene heaters and unvented gas space heaters affect indoor air quality.
* Tobacco smoke, which produces particulates, combustion products and formaldehyde.
READ NEXT: Remedies to Indoor Air Quality Problems Living Areas

Radon Mitigation

The EPA recommends a Standard Practice for Installing Radon Mitigation Systems in Existing Low-Rise Residential Buildings. This is a voluntary, consensus-based standard that was developed and issued by the American Society for Testing and Materials International, and is identified as ASTM E-2121.

When talking with a contractor about your mitigation alternatives, insure they follow the recommended standard set forth by the EPA. 

Many General Contractors are building the mitigation right into the new construction, “just in case”. If you’re building a new home, it may be wise to inquire about this, as it may save you money down the road. Compare a system put in at time of construction to one put in 5 or 10 years later. It may just be money in your pocket. 

The basic concept behind radon mitigation is redirecting the radon gas before it gets into the home. By intercepting the gas before it enters the home, there is a much lower risk to the occupants of the home. 

There are several methods used as a mitigation for high radon levels.

The first is also the most used form of remediation.

Whether it is a slab, crawlspace or basement will dictate for the most part how much it’s going to cost.

√ Sub-Slab Ventilation.

Pipes are inserted into drilled penetrations in the slab. These pipes are then connected to a fan which draws the gas outside, usually through the roof.

√ Block Wall Ventilation.

Positive pressure- forcing air into the hollow block walls or negative pressure- using an exhaust fan to remove the radon can be used as a mitigating method.

√ Sealing penetrations.

Penetrations, cracks and voids in floors and walls are access points that radon readily passes through. Sealing is not a reliable method used alone.

√ Covering exposed earth under the home.

Covering a crawlspace floor with an impermeable material will help lower radon levels. As with all of these methods, proper application technique will determine its efficiency.

√ Drain-tile suction.

A perimeter drain is installed at the footing of the foundation. A fan is used to apply a negative pressure which draws radon away from the surrounding soil.

√ Replacement air.

Fresh air make up for combustion appliances (furnaces, gas water heaters) can help reduce the negative pressure induced in the home while running these systems.

√ Forced ventilation.

This method uses fans to exchange the indoor air multiple times per day. This not a viable method in climates where such temperature ranges exist. However a heat recovery system can reduce the wasted energy.

The only way to accurately determine the cost to you is to have a company dealing with radon mitigation give you an on-site estimate.

READ NEXT: Quick Facts about Indoor Air Quality

Radon Testing

Radon testing and why you should do it.

20,000 people die each year because the home they live in has high levels of radon. The EPA’s action level is 4.0 pCi/L or more (thats about the same as smoking 1/2 pack of cigarettes a day). The EPA has a new Public Service Announcement (PSA) concerning radon. U.S. Surgeon General’s warning indicates radon causes lung cancer and that you should test your home.

Radon is an odorless and colorless gas that forms during the radioactive decay of uranium in the ground. It is the second leading cause of lung cancer, smoking being the first. With all the information about CO (carbon monoxide) widely available it only kills approx. 300 people /year. Thats a big disparity of awareness. The information is available for everyone to read, but until 2 and 2 are put together, like with smoking, people will continue to die

Radon testing came about in the early 1980’s. An engineer in NY working at a nuclear power plant kept setting off radiation alarms when he came into work. His home was tested and found to have over 2,700 picocuries of radon. His home was mitigated using piping and fans to draw the radon to the outside of the home. Mitigation of this type often costs around $1000 but can much be more.

Radon testing costs between $120 and $150 but has the potential (like a home inspection) of saving thousands. Not to mention the health risks. 

READ NEXT: Radon Mitigation

Why You Can’t Rely on Your Real Estate Agent for Inspections

People tend to rely on the real estate agent only while buying a house. This is not advisable. After all, an agent, while working to satisfy clients, is also focused on making a deal in order to make his commission. But you need to buy a house in order to live in. So you need to get it inspected thoroughly. You should think about consulting a professional. Here are things you need to know and what you can expect from your professional.

Doing building and pest inspection before a purchase
It is very important to get a house inspected properly before buying it. After all, there is no point in buying a house and then realizing soon after that it requires major structural repairs or renovation, which means spending a large amount of money. An estate agent is generally not very keen to get a building and pest inspection done. This is because this kind of inspection will require a lot of time. The estate agent will not have so much time to spend on each deal. Hence they would try to dissuade the buyer from getting any kind of building inspection done.

Know all about building inspection
While doing building inspection, one will come across minor as well as major repair issues. It is important to remember here that no house is perfect. Some amount of repairs will always be necessary. The buyer needs to decide how much of repair work they would be able to handle. Besides, there will always be routine repair and maintenance issues. The buyer should not expect the seller to deal with each of these issues.

What a buyer needs to focus upon is the major structural issues that may affect the resale value of the house. Also, the house should not be in such a condition that it may harm the occupants of the house. In fact, while having the initial talks with the estate agent, it is important to discuss out all these things. Basically, the estate agent needs to be on the same page as the buyer. This way he will not be wasting time in showing that property to the buyer which does not meet all his requirements.

Getting building and pest inspection done properly
It is important to inform the estate agent that building inspection will be done before buying the house. In case there are major structural repair issues requiring big expense, the cost of the house has to come down accordingly. While finalizing the deal, the estate agent will be in a rush to close the deal. At this time, he would ask the buyer to raise the price in order to close the deal. He may even say that there are other buyers and the house may go away. At that time, proper negotiation is required rather than getting pushed by the estate agent. It is vital to get a properly qualified inspector to get the building and pest inspection done. This inspection has to be done from the foundation to the rooftop. There are so many details to be considered. In case the house is old, the time taken will be much more.

READ NEXT: Radon Testing