November 24th, 2012 7:25 PM by Dan Howard
For most of human history, we lived in housing with lots of fresh air. Now we have air tight windows, caulking, insulation, high efficiency furnaces that do not bring much fresh air into a home. Energy Star rated homes that reduce fresh air infiltration into homes in the name of energy conservation are considered the “gold standard’.
"America is in the midst of a large experiment," says committee chair John D. Spengler of Harvard School of Public Health. He says that weatherization and other cost-saving measures, along with new building materials and products, have been introduced into American homes with little consideration for their effects on human health. The result, the report warns, is increased levels of indoor contaminants and humidity.
An old expression is that “dilution is the solution to pollution.” That simply means that the teaspoon of pesticide in a 50 gallon drum is less toxic than a teaspoon in a cup of water. By reducing the fresh air in a home, we are not diluting the pollutants inside of the home.
We use chemicals to clean and to add fragrance to the air. We have added new plastics and foams that can off gas chemicals. Our furnishings, floors and carpets are made with potentially toxic chemicals such as formaldehyde in their construction material. We spray pesticides in homes without a second thought that they are poisons. We still have lead paints and asbestos in homes.
According to the June 2012 issue of Consumer Reports, almost half of Americans use air fresheners at least once a week, and 34 percent use candles or incense that frequently, our nationally representative survey found. Roughly 40 percent rarely or never clean their humidifier or kitchen range hood, though they use it daily. One quarter have never cleaned or replaced their furnace filter. And almost 20 percent still smoke at home or let others smoke there. All of those things can worsen indoor air quality.
Common causes of sick homes
· Improper ventilation
· Finished basements and crawl spaces with moisture
· Interior French drains
· Leaks from storms, plumbing, gas lines
· Improperly functioning furnace, hot water tank or other appliance
· Improperly installed gas appliances
· Previously performed pesticide application
· Cleaning chemicals
· Leaking stored chemical containers
· Artificial fragrance
· New carpet, cabinets and other materials
· Bird, pet and other dander and fecal matter
· Sewage backups and leaks