Healthy Indoors Magazine - USA Edition

HI August 2022 - USA Edition

Healthy Indoors Magazine

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Page 26 of 48

Healthy Indoors | 25 By Jeffrey C. May, ©2022 T he sources of indoor air quality (IAQ) problems can be within the components of the building in- cluding mechanical systems, crawlspaces, and basements. Many IAQ problems, however, arise from what building occupants bring into a building envelope (what I call Trojan Horses). Here are a few examples. 1. New furniture made from medium-density fiber- board or particle board that off-gasses formalde- hyde I heard about one woman who had purchased a new couch that emitted formaldehyde. She felt ill shortly after moving the couch into her living room. A doctor determined she was allergenic to formaldehyde; she felt much better after getting rid of the couch. 2. Furniture finish that off-gasses an unpleasant odor I've investigated several properties in which new fur- niture off-gassed butyric acid: a chemical that smells like vomit and that can be a byproduct from the manufacture of varnish, probably due to the presence of cellulose acetate butyrate (CAB) resin. Sometimes wiping such furniture with a dilute ammonia solution can get rid of the odor (repeated applications may be needed), but sometimes the furniture must be replaced. (An acid can be neutralized by a base, such as ammonia.) 3. Rugs I received a call from a parent whose 3-year-old son had been suffering from rashes and respiratory symptoms almost since birth. Due to the child's suffering at night, the parents got very little sleep. In the child's room there was a small cowhide rug made from many strips of hide sewn together. The moth- er had purchased the rug for several thousand dollars and placed it in the baby's room just before the birth of their son. In my IAQ investigations, I take as many air and surface samples as I deem necessary to identify potential sourc- es of particulate allergens and irritants. Since I analyze the samples I take through microscopy, I do not charge clients for individual samples. (I used to be a general contractor and home inspector, but I was also educated as an organic chemist and have taught chemistry, phys- ics, biology, and microscopy.) The "pat" sample I took from the rug contained numer- ous microorganisms, primarily yeast. The mother then told me that she had thought that the rug had a peculiar odor when she unwrapped it, but at the time had assumed the odor was due to the smell of cowhide. The couple imme- diately removed the rug from the room and complained to the store that had sold it to them. Someone from the store came to their home, removed the rug, and refunded their money. The child's symptoms abated after the rug was re- moved, and the parents were able to sleep again. Wool rugs and carpeting can emit wool-cuticle particles and/or wool-cortex fibers that can be irritating to inhale and that are indicative of deteriorating wool fibers. The only way to determine if a rug or carpet is emitting these particles and fibers is to take a "pat" sample from the material's surface. Several members of a family developed a chronic cough after wool carpeting was installed in their home. The car- peting was an enormous source of respirable wood-cuticle particles and wool cortex fibers. The family moved into a hotel for a few days while the carpets were removed, the floors refinished, and the house cleaned of all dust. They returned and their chronic coughing ceased. Don't Forget the Couch

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