A growing concern within the commercial and residential construction industries is the management of indoor air quality (IAQ). Often overlooked, IAQ refers to the air quality in and around a home or building, particularly in regards to the health and comfort of the occupants. Poor air quality has been linked to numerous bad health effects; ranging from mild irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, to far more serious ailments including respiratory diseases and some cancers. Only very recently are many builders beginning to realize the importance of maintaining clean and livable air.
Until recently, most IAQ attention and research was focused on a long-standing “big-three” of combustion from heating/cooking, formaldehyde, and radon. But as the negative effects of poor air are becoming better understood, it’s clear that far more pollutants are present. Mold and mildews are among the largest culprits of bad air, as are off-gassing, dust mites, animal wastes, and asbestos. These factors can combine to create significant negative effects on health. The EPA has released their own research data boldly claiming that up to 50% of illnesses come from one’s home.
Fortunately, there are an increasing number of steps and actions one can take to mitigate the effects of bad IAQ. Foremost, limiting water intrusion into one’s home is a paramount step to prevent feeding mold. Only as recently as the 1980’s have builders learned how to keep moisture out of a home; leaving a massive number of older homes susceptible to water intrusion and mold problems. Fortunately, there a number of products now available to kill and to prevent mold. AfterShock is the first EPA registered mold-resistant coating. Designed for interior walls and surfaces, Aftershock kills any existing mold and creates a barrier keeping mold off of applied surfaces.
Mold management alone isn’t enough, however. Equally important as keeping water and mold away from living spaces is to source your air from places unlikely to be affected by poor IAQ. Many older buildings take their air from unsealed crawl spaces or basements, where mold, bacteria, and a host of other pollutants may reside. The EPA estimates that people generally spend some 90% of their time indoors; a factor that combined with poor IAQ may account for many of the 17 million Americans with asthma.
Along with respiratory problems, chemical sensitivities are being increasingly reported. Some forward-thinking builders are beginning to shy away from products containing formaldehyde based resins, in favor of non-toxic materials. Modern homes breathe, and many people have switched to non-toxic building materials have experienced fewer illnesses; particularly among those with chemical sensitivities.
Builders specializing in healthy homes and focusing on maintaining a high standard of indoor air quality are well ahead of the rest of the industry. A healthy building focus has now become a competitive edge, and will only continue to grow in focus.