INDOOR AIR

What’s the problem?

Indoor air pollutants in NYC are estimated as 10x more concentrated than outside. Poor air quality is taking its toll on New Yorkers, causing increasing numbers of asthma and allergy cases annually. This is not limited to low-income housing.

Causes are typically attributed to dust, mold, tobacco smoke, animal dander, poorly ventilated combustion appliances, cockroaches, mouse and pigeon droppings, chemical offgassing from manufactured wood products, carpets and other household furnishings, carbon monoxide (CO), and lead.

Offgassing of unhealthy VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) and formaldehyde in building materials has led to “sick building syndrome” including eye, nose and throat irritations, nausea, dizziness, and damage to the liver, kidneys and central nervous system. Commercial studies show that improving indoor air quality can improve worker productivity by as much as 16%. Imagine how effective it would be at home.

Homes are often overheated or overcooled, wasting energy and making inhabitants uncomfortable.
What can I do?

  • Take off your shoes: 80% of indoor air contaminants can be traced to shoes carrying contaminants from the outdoor world including dog poop, heavy metals from truck exhaust, road kill, garbage truck juice etc….
  • Remove mold: Mold requires MOISTURE, and a NON-VENTILATED, COOL AREA. Repair any active leaks first. Remove mold with (1:5 water:bleach or ammonia/dish detergent). Provide ventilation and heat. Sheetrock is the perfect medium for mold growth, if it comes back after cleaning, you need to replace the material the mold has grown on. Plaster fares much better than sheetrock. Other materials such a densglas can replace sheetrock. Ventilate for fresh air.
  • Clean with natural products.
  • Remove lead paint from basemoldings, operable windows, doors and casings.
  • Ventilate! Make sure that the method of ventilation doesn’t interfere with other sustainable practices (ie. it’s not a great idea to rely on opening the windows in winter just for fresh air). In summer, a vented skylight can flush the house of hot humid air and bring in cool fresh air. Bathroom fans should be run at least 25 mins after showers to reduce interior moisture. Caveat: If the house is sealed up tight, please make sure the house is mechanically vented with controlled fresh air intake.
  • Use low-VOC solvents including paints, cleaning products, sealants, adhesives, upholstery, wallpapers etc… the products are available – you just need to look for them.
  • Buy green label carpets.
  • Use plywood without formaldehyde.
  • Put valves on radiators, use a wireless thermostat so it can be moved during the heating & cooling seasons. Use a programmable thermostat to maximize comfort and efficiency.

How this helps the environment:

  • Reduce the social costs of increased asthma, allergies and other respiratory illnesses.
  • Reduce energy usage.

How this helps you:

  • Fewer respiratory problems, healthier environment, especially for children.
  • More comfortable homes.

Resources:

Greenseal
Green Label carpet adhesives

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