Healthy Indoors Magazine

HI April 2018

Healthy Indoors Magazine

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30 | HOUSE WHISPERER —April 2018 To Catch a (Health) Thief A healthy home is in balance. It's com- fortable, healthy, and easy to control. Part of what make it healthy are that moisture levels aren't too high or too low, dust particles are being filtered out, chemical and pollutant levels are under control, and the air just feels fresh. In other words, indoor air quality (IAQ) is continuously man- aged all year. If any of this is missing there is a Health Thief in the house. If you or your family are having health problems that are IAQ related, this health thief is a thief we need to catch. To catch a health thief, we need to understand how he works. To stop him we need to figure out how he's getting in and what he's taking. Here's how we do that. IAQ Varies Throughout the Year From watching multiple client homes we've learned that in- door air quality varies drastically throughout the year. That means our health thief may not always be present, and he uses different tools depending on the season. Our climate has warm, humid summers and pretty cold winters. Your climate may be a bit different, but this is what we see in Cleveland, Ohio. • Summer: Often the second best season for IAQ. It's warm enough for the air conditioner to run, so it helps dehumidify the air and this reduces VOCs somewhat. VOCs are Volatile Organic Compounds, or chemical pollutants. They are often found in cleaning products and building materials. Dr. Richard Corsi of the Uni- versity of Texas Austin found that VOCs increase with humidity levels, so keeping humidity low is critical. Win- dows are closed, so outdoor humidity and pollutants aren't pouring in through them. Linda Wigington and the ROCIS project have shown that outdoor particu- late matter largely stays outside when windows are closed. (We advocate for windows to be closed all year to maintain family healthy IAQ.) • Winter: Typically the best IAQ. Houses are usually dri- er in winter because outdoor air is dry, so VOC levels are typically lower. The stack effect is working hard, with cold dry air leaking into the bottom of the home and warm humid air leaking out out the top. Because of this, the house is reasonably well ventilated. The win- dows are closed, so outdoor pollutants don't come in very quickly, and are filtered somewhat through build- ing materials and insulation. • Spring and Fall: These are typically worst for IAQ. The air and ground are damp. Windows are open some- times, letting humidity and pollution pour indoors. The air conditioner isn't running, so humidity levels and VOC levels are uncontrolled. The furnace fan doesn't run, so there is no filtration of particulates. IAQ is typi- cally awful. What seasonal variations have taught us is that short term monitoring is not particularly useful. The health of a home changes like the weather. So we like to track IAQ like many track the weather. What does the Health Thief steal? This question tracks back to the 3000 gallons of air we breathe every day. Yes, we ingest 3000 gallons of air, every single day. You don't drink dirty water, should you breathe dirty air? Over 90% of our time is spent indoors, so the quality of indoor air has a substantial effect on our health. Our body has to deal with all the bad things in the air we breathe.

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