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Indoor Air Quality: Part One – The More Energy Efficient Your Home Is, The More Attention Is Needed

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As we learned in fifth grade science from the works of Sir Isaac Newton, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. This law of motion holds true to creating an energy efficient home. For all the benefits associated with having "tighter buildings" there is a downside — unless there is proper ventilation, the air quality in these energy efficient homes suffers.

Some studies now show that indoor air pollution can be 25-62% worse than outdoor pollution. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ranks Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) as one of the top five environmental risks to public health.

From the EPA,

Indoor pollution sources that release gases or particles into the air are the primary cause of indoor air quality problems in homes. Inadequate ventilation can increase indoor pollutant levels by not bringing in enough outdoor air to dilute emissions from indoor sources and by not carrying indoor air pollutants out of the home. High temperature and humidity levels can also increase concentrations of some pollutants.

Like outdoor air pollution, indoor air pollution contributes to health care costs. According to Centerpoint Energy, in Minnesota alone, the health and property damage associated with indoor air pollution now exceeds one billion dollars. If Minnesota is typical, that means nationwide, the costs associated with indoor air pollution are around 50 billion dollars.

According to the environmental consulting firm, Bluepoint Environmental, the health issues associated with poor IAQ range from short-term throat and eye irritation to chronic respiratory diseases.

Symptoms of poor indoor air quality are very broad and depend on the contaminant. They can easily be mistaken for symptoms of other illnesses such as allergies, stress, colds and influenza. The most common symptoms are:

  • coughing
  • sneezing
  • watery eyes
  • fatigue
  • dizziness
  • headaches
  • upper respiratory congestion

If you notice relief from your symptoms soon after leaving a particular room or building, your symptoms may be caused by indoor air contaminants.

In part two of this series, we’ll look at the causes of indoor air pollution.