People-Killing Houses

“You might be residing in one if your eyes, nose, or throat hurt, or if you have a stuffy nose, headaches, or chronic fatigue.”

Some of the more prevalent and obvious causes of environmental illnesses in Canadian homes include the improper use and storage of solvents, cleaners, paints, and fuels.

Others may be more challenging to diagnose. Incorrectly built attached garage stairwells have caused exhaust fumes to enter the basement on multiple occasions. Forced-air heating systems have the ability to draw these fumes into a return air duct and distribute them throughout the home. Although you might not be able to smell the fumes in lower concentrations, they can cause headaches, fatigue, and nausea.

Residents of homes with new carpeting have complained about burning lungs and dizziness, among other things. The majority of manufactured products undergo an off-gassing phase after production, and the shorter the time between production and installation in your home, the worse the effect. After just a few minutes in a furniture, carpeting, or hardware store, numerous people describe experiencing symptoms similar to these.

IN THE EARLY 1970s, DURING THE OIL CRISIS, WE STARTED TO BUILD HOUSES TO BE AIRTIGHT, AND WE RECYCLED INSIDE AIR TO LOWER HEATING AND COOLING COSTS. Itchy eyes, a stuffy nose, exhaustion, headaches, and difficulty concentrating are just a few of the symptoms of sick-building syndrome (SBS), which can be brought on by pollutants.

THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION (WHO) reports that about one in every three new or renovated buildings is “sick”. An Ontario Ministry of the Environment study conducted in 1990 concluded “indoor air quality appears to be two to five times worse than outdoor air quality”.

The use of air conditioners has increased due to tight building envelopes, and in some homes up to 90% of the air is recycled. Cleaning products, radon gas from the earth, formaldehyde from manufactured goods, hydrocarbons from wood heating, and a list as long as your arm from tobacco smoke are just a few of the dangerous substances that accumulate in the air. If air conditioners aren’t maintained, their moist interiors and dirty filters serve as a haven for fungi and bacteria, which are then dispersed throughout the home. At a Legion convention in Philadelphia in 1976, a bacteria that was later named Legionaire’s Disease entered the hotel’s air conditioning system and killed 29 people.

THE VERDICT: How can you tell if your home is ill? According to medical professionals, there is a problem if more than one member of the family experiences the same symptoms or if even one member’s symptoms disappear when they leave the house. When a house is suspect, you should sniff the air for odors upon entry from outdoors, and look for telltale signs like blocked air ducts,

smudges around supply or return diffusers, mouldy basements or closets, and elevated humidity levels. Make sure there is an adequate air exchange. Every two hours, the air in a home should ideally be completely replaced with outdoor air. Although this is challenging to quantify, if your house is well-sealed and you don’t have a mechanical ventilator of any kind (HRV, etc.) you’re quite likely breathing stale air.

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