“The Healthy Side of Green”
Indoor air quality
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
IAQ can be affected by gases (including carbon monoxide, radon, volatile organic compounds), particulates, microbial contaminants (mould, bacteria) or any mass or energy stressor that can induce adverse health conditions. Source control, filtration and the use ofventilation to dilute contaminants are the primary methods for improving indoor air quality in most buildings.
Determination of IAQ involves the collection of air samples, monitoring human exposure to pollutants, collection of samples on building surfaces and computer modelling of air flow inside buildings.
By John Lindell, eHow Contributor
Radon is an odorless and colorless radioactive gas that is impossible to detect in a person’s home without testing for it. It is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. Radon is formed when the naturally occurring uranium in the soil, water and rocks breaks down, emitting radon gas. Once in gaseous form radon will move upwards through the soil, capable of getting into homes through cracks in the foundation.
Mold and other allergens
These biological chemicals can arise from a host of means, but there are two common classes: (a) moisture induced growth of mold colonies and (b) natural substances released into the air such as animal dander and plant pollen. Moisture buildup inside buildings may arise from water penetrating compromised areas of the building envelope or skin, from plumbing leaks, from condensation due to improper ventilation, or from ground moisture penetrating a building part. In areas where cellulosic materials (paper and wood, including drywall) become moist and fail to dry within 48 hours, mold mildew can propagate and release allergenic spores into the air.
In many cases, if materials have failed to dry out several days after the suspected water event, mould growth is suspected within wall cavities even if it is not immediately visible. Through a mould investigation, which may include destructive inspection, one should be able to determine the presence or absence of mould. In a situation where there is visible mould and the indoor air quality may have been compromised, mould remediation may be needed. Mould testing and inspections should be carried out by an independent investigator to avoid any conflict of interest and to insure accurate results; free mould testing offered by remediation companies is not recommended.
There are some varieties of mould that contain toxic compounds (mycotoxins). However, exposure to hazardous levels of mycotoxin via inhalation is not possible in most cases, as toxins are produced by the fungal body and are not at significant levels in the released spores. The primary hazard of mould growth, as it relates to indoor air quality, comes from the allergenic properties of the spore cell wall. More serious than most allergenic properties is the ability of mold to trigger episodes in persons that already have asthma, a serious respiratory disease.
Mould is always associated with moisture, and its growth can be inhibited by keeping humidity levels below 50%. Moisture problems causing mould growth can be direct such as a water leaks and/or indirect such as condensation due to humidity levels.
Home Sweet Non-Toxic Home: Going Beyond ‘Green’
Wednesday, April 09, 2008 by: Julie Genser
(NaturalNews) The concept of home is universal, shared among not only the cultures of the world but much of the animal world as well, from nesting birds to burrowing rodents, to sea creatures to snails that are born with a home on their back. For most of us, animals included, home is a place to rest our weary heads, raise our young, and stay protected from the elements.
It is human nature to create a sense of home, even when transient or homeless. When I backpacked the world, a photo from home, a colorful scarf, and a small cup with a flower were enough to mark my new territory as home. Our sense of home makes us feel safe, comfortable, and grounded in our identity. Without it, we can feel uncertain, vulnerable, uncomfortable, unsettled. Nothing in life will feel exactly right if we don’t have that home base to start from.
So what about the growing sector of our population – now estimated to be between 12.6 percent and 33 percent1 – that suffers from some form of environmental illness, which can include sensitivities to chemicals found in everyday products and building materials, mold, sound, light, electricity, vibrations, and extremes of temperature? Reported as the “new homeless,” 2 those with severe chemical sensitivity often find themselves living on the fringes of a chemically addicted society – in refurbished Airstream trailers, tents, and cars, in long-forgotten fields, miles from civilization.
Health Problems Related to Natural Gas Leaks
By Deyanda Flint, eHow Contributor
Natural gas is a fossil fuel. It is formed when layers of buried plants and animals are exposed to pressure and heat for thousands of years. Natural gas is primarily composed of methane. Methane is a highly flammable compound. In its purest form, natural gas is colorless and odorless. Gas manufacturing companies add a tinge of warning smell to it that helps in the detection of any natural gas leakage. Although natural gas plays an important role in the automobile industry, where it is extensively used as fuel in vehicles, natural gas leakage can pose serious health problems.
Common Health Problems
Exposure to natural gas through gas leaks can be harmful. It may lead to explosions and pose serious health hazards that are sometimes even fatal. Small gas leaks accumulate over a period of time and add a significant amount of pollutants that stress the immune system and other bodily functions. According to the National Library of Medicine, “If a natural gas leak has occurred and is severe, oxygen can be reduced, causing dizziness, fatigue, nausea, headache, and irregular breathing.” Gas leaks can cause serious harm to plants, thus affecting the environmental ecosystem as well.
Read More: http://www.ehow.com/list_6186578_health-related-natural-gas-leaks.html
Health Problems Caused by Natural Gas
Considering all the decades of natural gas use, there must be experiences of exposure. I wondered where I could find those stories. I also asked myself, if this gas has been used for so long and promoted as “safe”, why aren’t there in-depth studies published about long-term exposure? Official information seemed conspicuously absent, especially in the United States.
My research turned up reports of health problems caused by natural gas in Africa and that as other nations become more civilized and move indoors, the cases of asthma increased.
Symptoms of Natural Gas Poisoning
Judging by my family’s experience with natural gas poisoning, there are a wide variety of symptoms that may occur from natural gas poisoning.
- Increased allergies
- Gastrointestinal Problems
- Mental Fogginess
- Pain and Discomfort
- High Red Blood Cell Count
- High White Blood Cell Count
- High Cholesterol levels
- Pets are unexplainably ill
Children’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Immunology, Fegan 6, 300 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115, USA. [email protected]
Rodent allergens play a significant role in the pathogenesis of asthma and allergic rhinitis, and are potent causes of acute and chronic symptoms. This has long been apparent in occupational settings, particularly in the laboratory, but has been most recently studied and found to be important in home environments. These allergens have been suggested as uniquely important among inner-city children with asthma. Furthermore, rodents have become increasingly popular as pets. With recent awareness of significant exposure in a variety of settings, hypersensitivity to rodents has become increasingly important. This review focuses on the importance of rodent allergens, concentrating on mouse and rat, but including other potentially important rodents such as gerbil, hamster, and rabbit. It also discusses the pathogenesis, diagnosis, prevention, and management of rodent allergy.
[PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]
Read More: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12165208
Toxic Chemicals Found In Common Scented Laundry Products, Air Fresheners
ScienceDaily (July 23, 2008) — A University of Washington study of top-selling laundry products and air fresheners found the products emitted dozens of different chemicals. All six products tested gave off at least one chemical regulated as toxic or hazardous under federal laws, but none of those chemicals was listed on the product labels.
Read more http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080723134438.htm
Study: Exposure to common air fresheners can cause allergies, asthma
Thursday, November 17, 2011 by: Jonathan Benson, staff writer
(NaturalNews) Millions of Americans use scented candles, air freshener sprays, plug-in deodorizers and diffusers to make their living spaces smell clean and pleasant, but are the chemicals in these products safe? New research compiled by scientists from Emory University in Atlanta, Ga., and the Atlanta Allergy & Asthma Clinic suggests that various chemical additives in air fresheners can trigger allergies, asthma and other health problems.
Conquering Delayed-Onset Food Allergies in Three Steps
Tuesday, January 29, 2008 by: Charmaine D. Mercado
(NaturalNews) Do you find yourself suffering from asthma, migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue, fuzzy brain, non-seasonal rhinitis, depression, eczema, arthritis, bloating, or insomnia, yet no medical treatment seems to work for you? If you have one or more of these symptoms that just come and go and are unresponsive to medication, then there’s a very big chance that your diet is the main culprit behind all your health complaints. A growing number of studies have established the connection between the above-mentioned ailments to food allergy. Even irritable bowel diseases such as diverticulitis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and celiac disease have been linked to food allergies.
One of the most acutely toxic indoor air contaminants is carbon monoxide (CO), a colourless, odourless gas that is a byproduct of incomplete combustion of fossil fuels. Common sources of carbon monoxide are tobacco smoke, space heaters using fossil fuels, defective central heating furnaces and automobile exhaust. Improvements in indoor levels of CO are systematically improving from increasing implementation of smoke-free laws. By depriving the brain of oxygen, high levels of carbon monoxide can lead to nausea, unconsciousness and death. According to the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH), the time-weighted average (TWA) limit for carbon monoxide (630-08-0) is 25 ppm.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids. VOCs include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short- and long-term adverse health effects. Concentrations of many VOCs are consistently higher indoors (up to ten times higher) than outdoors. VOCs are emitted by a wide array of products numbering in the thousands. Examples include: paints and lacquers, paint strippers, cleaning supplies, pesticides, building materials and furnishings, office equipment such as copiers and printers, correction fluids and carbonless copy paper, graphics and craft materials including glues and adhesives, permanent markers, and photographic solutions.
Read More: http://www.epa.gov/iaq/voc.html
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a surrogate for indoor pollutants emitted by humans and correlates with human metabolic activity. Carbon dioxide at levels that are unusually high indoors may cause occupants to grow drowsy, get headaches, or function at lower activity levels. Humans are the main indoor source of carbon dioxide. Indoor levels are an indicator of the adequacy of outdoor air ventilation relative to indoor occupant density and metabolic activity. To eliminate most Indoor Air Quality complaints, total indoor carbon dioxide should be reduced a difference of less than 600 ppm above outdoor levels. NIOSH considers that indoor air concentrations of carbon dioxide that exceed 1,000 ppm are a marker suggesting inadequate ventilation. ASHRAE recommends that carbon dioxide levels not exceed 700 ppm above outdoor ambient levels. The UK standards for schools say that carbon dioxide in all teaching and learning spaces, when measured at seated head height and averaged over the whole day should not exceed 1,500 ppm. The whole day refers to normal school hours (i.e. 9.00am to 3.30pm) and includes unoccupied periods such as lunch breaks. European standards limit carbon dioxide to 3500 ppm. OSHA limits carbon dioxide concentration in the workplace to 5,000 ppm for prolonged periods, and 35,000 ppm for 15 minutes.
It is common to assume that buildings are simply inanimate physical entities, relatively stable over time. This implies that there is little interaction between the triad of the building, what is in it (occupants and contents), and what is around it (the larger environment). We commonly see the overwhelming majority of the mass of material in a building as relatively unchanged physical material over time. In fact, the true nature of buildings can be viewed as the result of a complex set of dynamic interactions among their physical, chemical, and biological dimensions. Buildings can be described and understood as complex systems. Research applying the approaches ecologists use to the understanding of ecosystems can help increase our understanding. “Building ecology “ is proposed here as the application of those approaches to the built environment considering the dynamic system of buildings, their occupants, and the larger environment.
Buildings constantly evolve as a result of the changes in the environment around them as well as the occupants, materials, and activities within them. The various surfaces and the air inside a building are constantly interacting, and this interaction results in changes in each. For example, we may see a window as changing slightly over time as it becomes dirty, then is cleaned, accumulates dirt again, is cleaned again, and so on through its life. In fact, the “dirt” we see may be evolving as a result of the interactions among the moisture, chemicals, and biological materials found there.
Buildings are designed or intended to respond actively to some of these changes in and around them with heating, cooling, ventilating, air cleaning or illuminating systems. We clean, sanitize, and maintain surfaces to enhance their appearance, performance, or longevity. In other cases, such changes subtly or even dramatically alter buildings in ways that may be important to their own integrity or their impact on building occupants through the evolution of the physical, chemical, and biological processes that define them at any time. We may find it useful to combine the tools of the physical sciences with those of the biological sciences and, especially, some of the approaches used by scientists studying ecosystems, in order to gain an enhanced understanding of the environments in which we spend the majority of our time, our buildings.
Building ecology was first described by Hal Levin in an article in the April 1981 issue of Progressive Architecture magazine. A longer discussion of Building ecology can be found at  and extensive resources can be found on the Building Ecology web site Building ecology.com.
The topic of IAQ has become popular due to the greater awareness of health problems caused by mould and triggers to asthma andallergies. In the US, awareness has also been increased by the involvement of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, who have developed an “IAQ Tools for Schools” programme to help improve the indoor environmental conditions in educational institutions (see external link below). The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health conducts Health Hazard Evaluations (HHEs) in workplaces at the request of employees, authorised representative of employees, or employers, to determine whether any substance normally found in the place of employment has potentially toxic effects, including indoor air quality.
A variety of scientists work in the field of indoor air quality including chemists, physicists, mechanical engineers, biologists, bacteriologists and computer scientists. Some of these professionals are certified by organisations such as the American Industrial Hygiene Association, the American Indoor Air Quality Council and the Indoor Environmental Air Quality Council.
On the international level, the International Society of Indoor Air Quality and Climate (ISIAQ), formed in 1991, organises two major conferences, the Indoor Air and the Healthy Buildings series. ISIAQ’s journal Indoor Air is published 6 times a year and contains peer-reviewed scientific papers with an emphasis on interdisciplinary studies including exposure measurements, modeling, and health outcomes.