Be Aware of Your Indoor Air Contaminant Sources

Claudette Reichel  |  6/25/2008 1:04:03 AM

Figure 1, CRI - IAQ Label, Indoor Air Quality Carpet Testing Program)

Figure 2, Radon Vent System

Other common unhealthy indoor pollutants include pesticides; formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from pressed wood products, paints, finishes, adhesives, solvents, carpeting, upholstery, draperies and household products; lead from old paint dust, soil, some imported goods and other items; radon, a radioactive soil gas (low risk in Louisiana); and asbestos in some older homes. More information about controlling indoor air pollution and radon-resistant construction is available from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Pesticides: Indoor pesticide use often can be avoided with a tightly sealed home; insect screens on operable windows, patio doors and vents; and household practices that avoid carrying in or attracting insects. Borate-treated products (insulation, wood) may help deter household insects as well as termites.

VOCs: Choose water-based paints, stains, adhesives and sealants that are labeled “low VOC” or “VOC-free.” Formaldehyde-free insulation, cabinets and wood panels are available, but may be more expensive as specialty items; if they are not stocked in local stores, they can be ordered. Apply a sealant to any exposed formaldehyde-emitting wood-based products. Look for carpeting with a Carpet and Rug Institute green label for low emissions and low VOC padding. Have carpeting unrolled and aired out before installation, if possible, then ventilate the carpeted rooms for three days. As market demand increases for low VOC products, they are becoming more commonplace and competitively priced.  (Figure 1, CRI - IAQ Label, Indoor Air Quality Testing Program)

Lead and asbestos: Make sure salvaged and imported materials do not have lead-based paint or glazing and were not manufactured with lead or asbestos content. Design a space for family foyer shoe bins and large doormats at all entries to reduce the tracking of lead-tainted soil into the home. Soils can be contaminated by lead paint that was removed from homes and by the accumulated lead around roads and streets from past car exhaust when leaded gasoline was used.

Radon, other soil gases: Although radon problems are fairly rare in Louisiana, levels above the action threshold have been found in every state. EPA recommends that every home should be tested for radon. Inexpensive do-it-yourself test cartridges are available in many home improvement stores.   (Figure 2, Radon Vent System)

In addition to radon, other soil gases that can enter a home through foundation cracks and gaps may include pesticides, methane and water vapor. Maintaining a slightly positive pressure in the home can help reduce soil gas entry. A more dependable method is to install a vent pipe from the sub-slab gravel drainage pad to the exterior through the roof. The stack effect draft draws soil gases up the pipe so they don’t seep into and build up in the home.

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