Growing Problems With Indoor Air Quality.
One of the main reasons for heightened public concern about deteriorating indoor air quality is the alarming number of children and young adults with severe allergies and asthma. With that in mind let's talk about today's home.
Changes in new home construction practices that evolved out of the 1970's energy crisis created "tight homes" = tightly sealed, heavily insulated and very energy efficient. While these new construction practices help conserve energy, they also lock in allergenic particles, infectious agents and toxic compounds.
Your beautiful, "clean" home could be a major source of airborne contaminates that could prevent you and your family from feeling healthy and energetic.
New home sizes have steadily increased from approximately 1,100 average square feet in the 1940s and 1950s to over 2,400 square feet in 2005.27, 28 At the same time, even as home sizes have increased, home building techniques have resulted in “tighter,” more energy-efficient homes that unfortunately also allow a greater build-up of indoor air pollution.
Here's some statistics and useful information from AirAdvice.
- Garages: a common source of chemical pollutants and carbon monoxide. In 1967, only 48% of new homes had a two-car garage vs. 82% in 2002; from 1991 to 2005 the number of new homes with three or more garages has doubled from 10% to 20%.
- Bathrooms: a source of chemical pollutants, particle allergens, and humidity issues. Over half (55%) of new homes in 2002 had 2.5 or more baths, contrasted to only one in five (20%) in 1975. Over the past 30 years, homes built with 1.5 baths or less has declined from 41% to just over 4%.
- Bedrooms: a common source of particle allergens, chemical pollutants and carbon dioxide. The average number of bedrooms in owner-occupied homes is three. While most new homes continue to be built with three bedrooms, the percentage with four or more has risen from 21% in 1975 to 39% in 2005.
- Air Conditioning: impacts temperature, humidity, particle allergens, and other IAQ issues. Between. 1975 and 2005, the percentage of homes built with air conditioning rose from 46% to 89%.
- Fireplaces: a source of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, particle allergens and chemical pollutants. They also play a role in temperature and humidity issues. Over half of all new homes built over the last three decades have included a fireplace.
- Heat Sources: impact temperature, humidity, particle allergens, ventilation, and other IAQ issues. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of the year 2000, just over half of all homes were heated with gas; the next most frequently-used heating fuel was fuel oil (kerosene, etc.) at just under a third of all homes. Less than 20% of households used other fuels such as coal (9%), electricity (6.5%), or wood (1.7%) as their main heat source. Each of these fuels and the associated equipment is a potential source of IAQ problems.
- Common Items: such as paint, carpets, furniture, bedding, household cleaners, candles, air fresheners, and more can be significant sources of indoor air pollution. The popularity of scented household air freshener products more than doubled since 2003. This year alone, consumers are expected to spend $1.72 billion on scented air freshener products.31 The incidence of indoor air pollution has more than doubled partially due to chemicals emitted by these products. For more information on air fresheners and other common household IAQ problem sources, see Appendix A, Do I Have an IAQ Problem? and Appendix B, IAQ Source Control.
- Energy efficiency is extremely important to the modern homeowner. Today’s energy-efficient and airtight homes save energy and help the environment. Energy efficiency is closely related to home comfort and can minimize your carbon footprint†.
Unfortunately, because these efficient homes are “tighter,” indoor air pollution levels can quickly build up. This can occur if the home is not properly ventilated or if the heating and cooling system is inadequate for the home’s total square footage.
The good news is that homeowners will often enjoy increased energy efficiency in their homes by addressing IAQ and comfort problems.