Indoor Air Quality and Your Health

Reader Contribution by Paul Scheckel
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The holiday season is the perfect time to think about Indoor Air Quality (IAQ). Our homes are closed up tightly against winter and full of people and pollution generating activities like cooking and cleaning. A growing body of research indicates that poor IAQ leads to physical health problems and reduction in cognitive function.

Reducing the air leakage of your home is one of the best things you can do to improve its energy efficiency. If you’ve done any weatherization to your home, the air leakage rate is probably fairly low. Even in an old drafty farmhouse, the air leakage rate is likely to be minimal unless the wind is blowing. When your guests arrive for the holidays, more people are sharing the same amount of air in the closed environment of your home. People inhale oxygen and exhale CO2. The CO2 and VOC levels in the air can quickly increase and we begin to feel the effects. Exposure symptoms range from a general feeling of weariness to headaches and dizziness. Long term exposure to certain VOCs can cause severe problems.

Measuring Indoor Air Quality

I recently received a shipment of Foobot indoor air quality monitors for a home energy and environment study I’m working on. The Foobot measures VOCs and particulate matter, along with an estimate of CO2 levels. I had to familiarize myself with it at home first and discovered some unpleasant surprises! You can learn more about the Foobot and what I found out about my home in this unboxing video. Knowledge is power, but it can also be a pain, because once you know something is wrong you need to act.

Steps to Improve Mental Stamina and Breathe Healthy

• Open at least two windows for cross-ventilation
• Turn on the exhaust fans
• Upgrade recirculating range hood fan to a ducted exhaust that moves air to outside
• Gas ovens release large amounts of moisture, CO2, and nitrogen oxides
• Upgrade your home with a heat-recovery ventilation system
• Purchase a Foobot or CO2 meter and keep track of your home’s indoor air quality
• Find some lithium hydroxide and duct tape, and cross your fingers (hey, it worked for the astronauts)

You can learn more about indoor and indoor contaminants at the CDC Indoor Environmental Quality web page, and learn about specific products and associated pollutants from the National Institute of Health, household products database.

Paul Scheckel is an energy efficiency and renewable energy consultant and author of The Homeowner’s Energy Handbookand other books. Visit his Amazon Author page to keep up, and read all of Paul’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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