Indoor Air Quality
Indoor air quality (IAQ) is a relatively new topic in environmental safety. While a lot of attention has been placed on outdoor pollution over the past few decades, the focus on indoor air quality is just beginning. The quality of a home's air mainly has to do with the amount of pollutants inside (particulates and VOC’s / off-gassing), but it's also affected by humidity and ventilation levels. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has found that concentrations of pollutants can be up to 100 times higher indoors than outdoors. The American Lung Association estimates that most people spend 90% of their time indoors, so clean indoor air is very important. Poor air quality causes discomfort, health problems, home damages and even higher energy costs when your system runs inefficiently.
Imagine a 5-gallon bucket with a drain on the bottom. If one gallon is going in while one gallon is draining out, the bucket will never overflow. Now let’s take the same bucket and start filling it with two to five times as much water while the drain stays the same size. The bucket would quickly overflow since there is much more water going in than out.
Now think of this bucket as your body and the water going in as air pollutants such as pollen, fungi, bacteria, viruses, dirt, dust, mites, and various chemicals . The drain represents your immune system draining out the contaminants that we breathe. Our immune system is designed to handle outside air, but cannot keep up with the two to five times more contaminants that is in our indoor air. As these contaminants build up in our body they eventually overflow and cause symptoms such as sneezing, hacking, coughing, watery eyes, headaches, skin rashes, and other ailments while aggravating allergies and asthma. This is the natural effect of the body responding to the toxic compounds.
The average adult, when resting, inhales and exhales about 11,000 liters of air per day. Compare that to the 2 to 3 liters of water most adults drink per day, and it’s easy to see that we take in much more air than water. While many people agree that it’s best to filter impurities out of our water, we typically don’t focus on the air we’re breathing in – which leads directly into our lungs and bloodstream. This needs to change.
Improve Your Air Quality
As a leading and highly reputable service provider, Custom Services takes your home’s IAQ seriously. Since every person, family, and home is different, we customize solutions to fit your unique situation. Some of the products and services we offer include:
- Home IAQ Monitoring
- Whole House Air Cleaners
- Ozone-Free Whole House Air Purifiers
- Whole House Humidifiers
- Whole House Dehumidifiers
- Energy Recovery Ventilators
- Variable Speed Air Circulation
- Air Duct Cleaning
If you are experiencing some of the symptoms above, or just want to be proactive about improving your home’s environment, call (918) 622-8686 or (918) 258-8686 today to schedule a no-cost consultation with one of our IAQ experts. Let’s “empty the bucket”!
What is off-gassing?
We’ve all experienced that “new” scent. It smells artificial, yet slightly intoxicating, and comes from sources beyond a new car. Sometimes, for instance, it wafts from a new carpet, or emanates from a fresh coat of paint.
What exactly is it? That characteristic “new smell” called off-gassing, and it isn’t so innocuous. Here is all you need to know about what off-gassing is, how it occurs in our homes, and what we can do to keep our air cleaner.
Off-gassing doesn’t sound very healthy. What is it exactly? Off-gassing occurs when new, manufactured items in our homes release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other chemicals. Consider the last few furniture items you purchased — maybe the leather couch had “new car smell” for a few weeks. That odor is a result of finishes, paint, glue, and other substances emitting chemical particles as they settle.
What other household products off-gas? A lot. In terms of furnishings, common culprits include cabinets, tables, couches, and even mattresses, which often contain several synthetic materials. There’s also a lot of off-gassing going on behind our walls and under our floorboards: Carpeting, vinyl flooring, wall paint, particleboard, plywood, and insulation all emit myriad VOCs. Even the items we use to clean our homes, such as air fresheners and cleaning sprays, contain toxic substances that stick around in the air long after use.
What chemicals are ‘off-gassed’? Thousands. Since World War Two, 80,000 new chemicals have been invented and placed in household items, though we have only studied the impact of a few. Formaldehyde, for instance, is a known carcinogen, but is still found in wood finishes, glues, insulation, and even hand soap. Polyurethane foam, a petroleum-based chemical found in mattresses, can cause respiratory difficulties and skin irritation.
For a more complete list of chemicals and the household products they’re in, check the Department of Health and Human Services database.
Is my furniture going to make me sick? It isn’t that cut and dry. The health effects of VOC exposure varies depending on the person, the chemical, and its concentration. Sometimes, off-gassing manifests as temporary dizziness after the use of cleaning products, but other times, you might feel nothing. In the long-term, however, doctors are concerned about continued exposure to off-gassing. So far, chemical contaminants have been linked to 180 diseases.
Does this last forever? What if I can’t smell it? Chemical off-gas at different rates, but manufactured goods usually undergo their most noxious (and smelly) off-gassing for about a month after they’re produced. Still, some chemicals can emit VOCs for years. Carpeting, in particular, can off-gas for up to five years. And certain VOCs, like Phthalates, are odorless, and so may go undetected.
What can I do to make sure I don’t buy products that emit VOCs? Thanks to increased consumer safety advocacy over the past two decades, there are now numerous third-party certifications for household goods. For furniture, the GREENGUARD, Scientific Certification Systems (SCS) and SGS Group certifications denote goods that are low to no-emission. Solid wood generally contains fewer VOCs than particleboard or plywood. If you want to purchase a mattress, look for one that is made of organic cotton, chemical-free wool, or natural latex.
Alternatively, buying used furniture is also a strong vanguard against harmful VOCs, as most second-hand goods have already undergone their worst off-gassing.
What can I do to decrease off-gassing on the items I’ve already purchased? No need to throw it out, but you probably shouldn’t let items sit in your house as they off-gas. Instead, leave them in a garage to air out for a few weeks. If that isn’t a possibility, many furniture stores will allow you to ventilate your purchases on-site before taking them home. If you’re painting, do it in the spring when you can open the windows.
Can I eliminate VOC’s after they’re introduced in my home? There are various ways to eliminate these harmful byproducts from your home, such as installing a ventilation system to exchange stale indoor door with fresh outside air, or adding a whole-home air purification system with tested and proven results. Custom Services has many great solutions and can walk you through which is best for you and your unique situation.