Homebuyers today are increasingly concerned about the indoor air quality of their homes. Issues like mold, radon, carbon monoxide and toxic chemicals have received greater attention than ever as poor indoor air quality has been linked to a host of health problems. 

A few things to consider regarding indoor air quality when building your new home:

  • Up to 90% of our time is spent indoors
  • 750,000 new asthma cases per year in the U.S. alone
  • Childhood asthma has increased 600% in the last 30 years
  • Homes built today are much tighter than just a few years before and fresh air is hard to get into the home

Danger Level 1 Contaminants (in a home) include toxic compounds such as:

  • Building materials
  • Furniture
  • Carpets
  • Paints
  • Cleaning chemicals

Flame retardants and other chemicals have been used for decades in the production of commercial and residential upholstered furniture as a method for achieving fire protection. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has classified formaldehyde as a Toxic Air Contaminant, based on its potential to cause cancer and other adverse health effects.
What is formaldehyde? Formaldehyde is a colorless gas. At elevated concentrations it has a strong, pungent odor and can be irritating to the eyes, nose, and lungs. Formaldehyde is released into the home from a variety of indoor sources. Some resins, or glues, used to bind wood chips or fibers into plywood, particleboard, and other pressed wood products, contain formaldehyde. Cabinetry and some floor and wall materials are often made from such products. Formaldehyde is also used in fabrics to impart wrinkle resistance or to fix color, and in some consumer products it is used as a hardening agent or preservative. Also, formaldehyde is a by-product of cabinetry, and gas appliances are common sources of two combustion processes, such as wood burning, gas appliance use, and cigarette smoking. Formaldehyde is usually present at lower (but not necessarily healthful) levels in outdoor air; it is emitted in some industrial sources, and is also created from chemical reactions in the air among combustion pollutants, such as those in automobile exhaust.

Some common sources of formaldehyde indoors:

  • Pressed wood products: particleboard, plywood, medium-density fiberboard (MDF); often used in cabinetry, and wall and floor materials
  • Consumer Products: fingernail hardeners, nail polish, wallpaper, some other paper goods, paint, coatings; often a preservative in these and other products
  • Coatings for Some Cabinet and Furniture Products: acid-catalyzed urea-formaldehyde type finishes
  • Permanent Press Fabrics: clothing, linens, draperies
  • Combustion Appliances: wood stoves, gas appliances, kerosene stoves
  • Tobacco products: cigarettes, cigars.

Health effects from exposure to formaldehyde affect concentration:

  • Odor 50-500 ppb eye & nose irritation, nasal stuffiness, 40-500 ppb lung discomfort (coughing, wheezing, bronchitis symptoms)
  • Allergic reactions, worsening of asthma – variable symptoms
  • Cancer – No known level with zero risk
  • Approximate range of concentrations where effect first observed, in parts per billion (ppb)

What can I do to reduce formaldehyde in my home?

There are practical steps you can take to reduce your exposure to formaldehyde in your home. Levels can be reduced whether you are building a new home, remodeling an older home, or seeking to reduce exposure from sources you may have in your home. The most effective way to reduce formaldehyde in indoor air is to remove or reduce sources of formaldehyde in the home and avoid adding new sources. Formaldehyde from sources such as pressed wood products can take years to off-gas. Additionally, porous materials and furnishings can absorb formaldehyde and re-emit it later. Thus, avoidance of sources and prevention of emissions from the start is best.
Because homes are built so tight today, building a new home can unintentionally create a harmful environment for breathing. Research the products that go into your home, including the furnishings, or hire a builder that is an expert on indoor air quality and builds Indoor airPLUS certified homes.

Article Received from Living Stone Design + Build


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