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Is Poor Air Quality Affecting your Health?

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, health problems associated with poor indoor air quality include eye irritation, allergies, headaches, and respiratory problems such as asthma. These problems can be directly related to the presence of mold and dust mite infestation in the home. One of the recognized solutions to addressing these health issues is effective moisture control or de-humidification.

 Dehumidifiers help reduce the risk of serious health issues by controlling moisture levels in the home.

Since we spend 90% of our time inside, no home or family is immune to issues with poor indoor air quality. Whether you have an old colonial or a new construction you are still at risk.  Older homes have more years of “character” behind them and have housed many generations of families.  Newly constructed homes are built so tightly, poor air flow restricts air quality.  New construction is also prone to pollutants that are in building materials, wood, new carpet, flooring, pipes, etc.  The Journal of the American Medical Association stated that the risk of respiratory infection is 45% higher among occupants of new energy efficient buildings.   Relative humidity affects the rate of off-gassing of formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds from indoor building materials and furniture. Chemicals will off-gas more under warmer conditions with high humidity.

Several organizations, including the Environmental Protection Agency, American Lung Association, and American Medical Association all recommend using dehumidifiers in basements and crawl spaces to maintain humidity levels of 50% or less in the home.

Dust is also an irritant. The average home collects more than 40 pounds of dust each year, and can make life miserable.  Your allergies get worse and you’re tired from lack of clean air that may impair breathing or even lead to respiratory irritation and severe problems.  No amount of cleaning can make a home impervious to these issues.  Chemical contaminants are also a factor that can cause health and respiratory problems.  A few examples are burning candles, smoke from tobacco and woodstoves, household cleaners, common fumes & air fresheners.

We should also become aware of biological contaminants in the home.  The amount and range of these contaminants vary, depending on the age of the home, habits of previous owners and the time of year.  Typical biological contaminants include, but are not limited to, plant pollen, mold, mildew, dander, Common household dust mites and viruses.

Research has found that dust mites may be a factor in as many as 80% of asthmas, hay fevers and other allergic ailments. Along with respiratory symptoms, high levels of dust mite allergens have also been correlated with atopic dermatitis (AD), characterized by itchy, irritated skin.

Dust mites are microscopic creatures that live and multiply in warm, humid places. They thrive at temperatures at or above 70°F with a relative humidity of 75% to 80%. They die when the humidity falls below 50%. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, to reduce dust mites, it is important to keep humidity below 50% throughout the home.

Mold is a fungus that feeds on organic substances and survives in moist conditions. Besides causing allergies, they produce harmful chemicals such as VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) and mycotoxins. Health hazards related to mold are coughing, wheezing, running eyes/nose, skin rashes and muscular aches, loss of appetite, inability to concentrate, and fatigue. Keeping the relative humidity levels low is the only way to actually reduce mold growth in a home.



Indoor Air Quality -Do this to Breathe Better- Feel Better

By: Holly Haining-Zulieve/Mid-Coast Energy systems

Indoor Air Quality – Living in Maine can pose special challenges when it comes to indoor air quality.  Winterizing and energy retrofits intended to make our homes as air tight as possible and keep cold air out during heating season, can also result in unintended consequences that may adversely affect our health. Many factors affect air quality; among them are indoor environmental pollutants, improper design, construction techniques, improper renovations, poorly executed energy efficiency design, improper use regarding humidifiers and un-vented heating devices. Even poor cleaning and maintenance practices can severely compromise the air that we breathe inside of our home or business.

Health problems caused by increased  irritants and allergens can range from general symptoms of malaise (headaches, fatigue, irritability, nausea, dizziness and brain fog) to problems with asthma, sinusitis and other respiratory diseases.

  • Tightness and Indoor Air Quality

Simply knowing that a home is relatively air tight does not by itself guarantee good air quality.  The first 3-5 years after a home is built, all of the materials used in the construction of the house, are off-gassing and can leave nasty chemicals like formaldehyde in the air.

Negative health effects to low levels of  pollutants are not only unknown in many instances; determined by the sensitivity of individuals to airborne irritants vary quite widely from one person to another.  We know that some people respond with severe respiratory distress to even relatively small levels involving certain airborne mold spores.

  • What can homeowners do to be proactive?

Reasonable indoor air quality precautions for weatherization retrofit projects on older homes include adding kitchen and bath vent fans if they were not present before. If radon levels are known to be high geographically, test for radon levels before and after the retrofit; seal basement cracks and gaps, and cover (and possibly vent) basement sump pits.

Consider installing a high-efficiency Heat Recovery Ventilators (HRV) to ensure optimal indoor air quality and comfortable living for energy-efficient construction.

How Do HRV’s Work?

HRV’s are commonly installed in highly energy efficient homes to provide a continuous fresh air stream throughout the year; an attractive solution for those dreading the return of spring’s seasonal allergy symptoms.

Spring pollen levels are consistently reported as medium to high in most of the United States. Tree pollens, such as birch, ash, maple, and oak, are especially prevalent in spring, becoming airborne and leaving a noticeable layer of pollen dust on cars and waterways. Humidity levels have also been elevated, boosting dust mite populations and mold growth.

(HRV/ERV) move stale & contaminated air from inside the house to the outdoors. At the same time they draw fresh oxygen-laden air from outside and distribute it throughout the house. Stale, polluted air is constantly being replaced by an equal quantity of fresh clean air.

As the two air streams pass through the unit they do not mix. They pass on either side of our exclusive and patented aluminum heat-exchange core in HRV’s, or enthalpic core in ERV’s transferring heating/cooling energy from the outgoing air to the incoming air. The efficiency of the HRV and ERV is so great that virtually none of the warm/cool air collected from your home is lost to the outside. In summer, HRV and ERV’s work in reverse – removing heat from the incoming air and transferring it to the outgoing air, to keep your home cool and fresh.

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