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Indoor air quality

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Jan 22, 2013, 09:39 AM
Indoor air quality
I have reason to think that the air quality in our 1300 sq. ft., 15 year old bungalow, is not ideal, and may be causing grief to my respiratory system, which is a bit sensitive to pollutants and other aggravating things. I have two questions: (1) Can air quality be tested by the home-owner, or is it best to pay a pro to do it, and if so, at what cost? (2) I keep furnace filters fresh, vacuum, and generally try to keep dust to a minimum. What other things can one do?
Thanks very much for any suggestions.
Jan 22, 2013, 11:29 AM
Installing a heat recovery air exchanger can do wonders to improve air quality in the house.

Here are a few things that came up when I searched on Indoor Air Quality Tests.
First an article on the subject:

To have a commercially skilled air quality testing professional come in will run you significantly more than a DIY test and is most likely overkill, but you should be able to learn a lot about what's causing the health hazards in your home and how best to improve your indoor air quality from the professional you hire.
A great local service in SoCal to check out is Dan Thomsen's "The Building Doctors." He's a really valuable and trusted resource to us SoCal residents.
Do-it-yourself kits can cost as little as $90 to test for just a few things, but to get formaldehyde and VOC testing the cost rises to above $300.
There was an excellent do-it-yourself kit exhibitor from AirLab at Santa Monica's Alt Build Expo last weekend. Best one I've seen yet. It's a little pricey at $499, but the test quality and how the results are displayed are excellent!
All kits that I've seen so far have a small collection tube or device of some sort that you'll set up in your home for about 24 to 48 hours and then send off to the manufacturer's lab for testing.
If you need to use the results for any sort of litigation, you'll need to have a professional set up the test for you.
You can definitely use a DIY indoor air quality testing kit with great success.
I would do Airlab's $499 test, if that's in your budget. With that info, you'll be able to make a lot of changes in the products you buy or discover anything major that's causing air pollution in your home.
From there you can hire someone like The Building Doctors to physically test and improve your HVAC system or your home's building envelope.

Now some products to DIY it.

General Disclaimer

Any advice given here is general in nature and is not necessarily valid for your given area. If in doubt check with your local codes enforcement department for what is required when doing electrical, plumbing or structural work on your house. Permits may or may not be required in your area and home owners may not be able to DIY some tasks. I have no way of knowing if you have the skills needed to complete the tasks you are asking about, when in doubt seek professional assistance.

My advice may be worth exactly what you pay me for it. :-) For the record I did not stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night.
Jan 22, 2013, 12:29 PM
air check test kits are sold at the Home Depot, and doubtless other places. in my closest store, they are curiously near the plumbing stuff (leaks create mold, so it's not that big a stretch.)

know that those are quick tests. if they indicate issues, you really need a professional evaluation with a suction air sample and lab analysis to determine what the molds and stuff really are. and you'll need an allergist skin test to see if you are overly sensitive to any of the molds you have.

every home, outside, everyplace has mold spores. some are worse than others, and the real problem comes from fruiting growths. you need water, ignorance, food (wood, paper, scraps, etc.), and time to generate a serious mold issue in a home.

treating mold illness is complex and not ten pills and done. prevention is best.

sig: if this is a new economy, how come they still want my old-fashioned money?
Jan 22, 2013, 01:01 PM
My father and I both have Honeywell air purifiers in our homes and we both can tell the difference. They might not be the highest level of air filter sophistication, but they've helped.

I have allergies to mold, dust and chemical substances, including things like perfume, so when the allergies get bad, I turn on the air filter and can breathe easier.

I don't recall how expensive the unit was. We bought ours at either Home Depot or Lowes. It's sizeable but not excessively large.

I think it would also be advisable to see a pulmonologist for tests to determine your respiratory capacity and whether it has been compromised. My father has had COPD, COLD and emphysema for over a decade, but he's been off medicine for years, doesn't use oxygen or a nebulizer, and is still active in his mid 90's. So start treatment now if necessary.

But a word of warning: if you do see a pulmonologist and he/she wants to prescribe Spiriva, avoid it. It has dangerous side effects if it gets in the eyes, not that you'd deliberately do it but it has to be handled very carefully so that you don't accidentally get it on your skin, hands, fingers and/or eyes.

One thing you can easily do is get a pack of the hospital type masks and wear one whenever you (or your wife) vacuums, dusts, or cleans. It does help, believe me.

If you and/or your family do woodworking, gardening or anything that exposes you to allergens outside, wear masks. Much as I hate it, I have to wear a mask even when painting; otherwise I get sick.

Another is to increase the consumption of anti-inflammatory foods to help reduce the allergic response when it does occur.

Dark fruits and vegetables contain quercetin, an ingredient which acts as an anti-inflammatory and anti-histamine and is much safer than OTC meds. (See the third paragraph of this article:

Tart cherries, blueberries, raspberries and grapes have worked well for me. Red cabbage, red onions, blackberries also are candidates.

And they're a lot healthier and safer than OTC meds or prescription meds that a doctor would prescribe.

Another thing you can do, which is a more long term solution, is to eliminate carpets, throw rugs and stuff which accumulates dust. Wash drapes (if they're washable) or curtains frequently to avoid dust buildup. Use the extension wand of your vacuum cleaner instead of a dust cloth when you dust - less dust becomes airborne. If you don't have a HEPA vacuum and can afford one, it would a worthy investment.

Paying special attention to areas where moisture accumulates is another preventive action - if you don't have a vent fan in the bathroom, installing one is a good idea to reduce moisture buildup.

Hope this helps, and good luck.
Jan 22, 2013, 07:27 PM
Invest in a good, reusable, allergen type air filter for your furnace return. For $20, it will remove 99% of pollen and other small stuff and is completely reusable and washable. If you frequently change out your paper filters the reusable one will pay for itself within a year.

If you really want to keep the house dust free, run your fan on the "on" position all the time. For a few dollars in electric, you get 24/7 filteration.

Jan 23, 2013, 11:23 PM
Thanks very much for those answers. That gives me a lot to work with. Tomorrow I will search out a DIY test kit, and take it from there. Because of the locations where the air bothers me, I fear that there are both mould and formaldehyde-and-VOC problems.
Thanks again.
Jan 24, 2013, 11:56 AM
I don't think there is a home quick test for formaldehyde and all the solvents classified as VOCs.

clean with vinegar and water, and you get rid of continuing release of VOCs from commercial cleaners.

use a room air purifier where you sleep. my allergist told us to bag the pillow and mattress in anti-dust-mite covers as well.

my big issue was the festering basement, which we have completely gutted to the blocks, cleaned like a space shuttle, and rebuilt. my issues are way, way, way down.

sig: if this is a new economy, how come they still want my old-fashioned money?
Jan 10, 2014, 06:40 PM
Note to spammers: Even though we'll still know you for what you are anyway, maybe next time you should respond to a post that IS LESS THAN A YEAR OLD!

Jan 10, 2014, 07:24 PM
Ah.... but that takes half a brain (to know enough look at the year).Wink
Jan 11, 2014, 08:14 AM
Oh.... we need the bump. Gotta have the bump.
Oh.... we need the bump. Gotta have the bump. Cool
Jan 11, 2014, 12:15 PM
yeah, but the A--h bumped the year old post to the top, and we're reading it
Jan 11, 2014, 12:20 PM
Originally posted by nona:
yeah, but the A--h bumped the year old post to the top, and we're reading it

But only to let it know its life here will be short lived and that we know it's just a spammer and that no one here will click on the links.

This message has been edited. Last edited by: GardenSprite,
Jan 20, 2014, 02:03 AM
I was born with weak lungs and like you, I am very sensitive to changes in the quality of air. I am not allowed to stay outside especially once the street gets busy. So apparently, it is home which has become my hiding place from air pollutants. However, I was surprised until somebody educated me about some of the seemingly neglected.
One is combustion which is a very common indoor pollutant that sources out from the kitchen. The burning of gases can really be a cause for air quality to go down.
Radon which is a colorless and odorless gas is number 2 cause of lung cancer in the US and usually comes in from the basement.
Asbestos is another health risk. It naturally occurs in soil and is usually used as insulators. Inhaling its fibers can cause lung cancer.
Volatile organic compounds like those from paints are also agents to low indoor air quality.