Healthy Indoors Magazine

HI Dec 2017

Healthy Indoors Magazine

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24 | HOUSE WHISPERER —November/December 2017 We've all seen the studies: Our Indoor Air Quality is terrible! It's KILLING MILLIONS!! The problem with these studies is that if you're like me you thought, "Great, another scare tactic," or, "It's really only a problem in Asia." Or, of course, "Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) may be a problem in someone else's house, but not mine." Even if you've read that poor IAQ is being found to be a cause of childhood asthma and mental illness, or that air pollution is the single largest environmental health risk according to the World Health Organization, it still feels too remote to worry about it. To further enforce this disconnect, short of a govern- ment study, there has been no clear way for the average person to gain even the vaguest insight into their indoor air quality (but here's a hint, if you use air "fresheners," you have an IAQ problem.) Well, that's all changed, no more guessing. Average Joes like you and me can now get a pretty good picture of how good or bad the air in our homes is, and see what efforts are effective at improving our indoor air quality. This is thanks to a new class of indoor air quality (IAQ) monitors in the $150-250 range that has recently hit the market. Until now, only professional level monitors for dust (PM2.5) and chemical pollution (VOCs) have been avail- able, usually for thousands of dollars. The new IAQ monitors create new questions. Which new air quality devices are good? Which are best? Which can help us not just understand when things are awry in our homes, but also help us make our homes healthier? Let's pause for two definitions: PM2.5 refers to particulate matter 2.5 microns and be- low. It's very small dust, or particulate matter, that we can inhale, some of which goes straight into our bloodstreams through our lungs. For reference, human hair is about 50- 70 microns thick. Exhaust from cars and trucks is a major contributor. VOCs are Volatile Organic Compounds; if you can smell a chemical, the odds are good it's a VOC, or chemical pol- lutant. You can smell them because their vaporization (boil- ing) points are close to room temperature. Many are highly reactive with other chemicals, often creating other, even nastier chemicals. Some VOCs you can't smell, and most we can't smell at lower levels. They are most prevalent indoors where they can build up. Gasoline, cleaners, and paint are a few products that contain VOCs. Almost a year ago I posted an article on GreenTech Me- dia that this device revolution was coming. Shortly there- after I set out to find answers as the monitors began to hit the market. Exciting times! Finally, it looked like there was a way to directly measure and understand the scary stories and statistics I'd heard about indoor air quality (IAQ): • Mental illness in children has been linked to air pol- lution. • Children's asthma has been causally linked to damp buildings (high humidity). • 1 in 8 worldwide deaths is caused by air pollution. (World Health Organization) • PM2.5 is the world's largest single environmental health risk. (WHO) • There has been a significant increase in respiratory and heart disease, strokes, and lung cancer related to air quality. (WHO) • Asia has air quality index (AQI) apps to predict when they can go outdoors. Buildings and cars have special filtration and keep the windows closed. (The US has an AQI website too.) • 50% of Americans are exposed to unhealthy air. California, the rust belt, and the south generally have the worst Outdoor Air Quality. American Lung Associ- ation • Indoor air is 2 to 5 times as polluted as outdoor air with VOCs. (EPA) • We spend 90%+ of our time indoors; if there's bad stuff there, it's affecting us. Best Indoor Air Quality Monitors

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