Why Should You Test Your Home’s Air Quality?

The quality of air in your home can affect your health and comfort, as well as that of your family. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has declared that indoor air quality poses a greater health hazard to humans than outdoor air pollution, with pollutant levels averaging two to five times higher, and sometimes 100 times higher, than outside air. The World Health Organization has stated that indoor air pollution is responsible for nearly 3% of the worldwide burden of disease. We spend approximately 90% of our time indoors, much of that time in our homes; therefore, our exposure to air pollutants is significant. And with asthma onset rates at an all time 30-year high, especially among children, it is no wonder that indoor air quality is becoming a serious topic of discussion.

The air you breathe in your home should be free from hazardous chemicals and smoke. The humidity and temperature levels should be regulated. Proper air ventilation should exist, especially in newer, more energy-efficient homes. Breathing bad air can cause many health effects, from mildly irritating to extremely serious. Symptoms such as frequent headaches, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, confusion, coughing, wheezing, itchy eyes, nose and throat irritation can be indicators that the quality of air in your home is poor – especially if these symptoms subside once you leave the house. Other more serious health problems that can arise with poor indoor air quality are asthma exacerbation, digestive problems, and damage to the liver, kidneys and central nervous system. Some air contaminants are so harmful that they can even cause cancer. And the source of these harmful air contaminants? Products that we use or biological agents that we are surrounded by every day. Click here to read about the causes of indoor air pollution.

In addition to the presence of health problems from inhalation of mold, serious structural damage can occur if mold is present. Leaky pipes, poorly working or dirty air conditioning and heating systems, and ground water penetration in basements and other damp areas are all potential sources of actively growing mold. Often this mold goes undetected because it’s growing behind drywall or underneath flooring.

If you could perform a simple, inexpensive test that could give you a total assessment of the air you breathe every day, wouldn’t you want to do it? If not for yourself, for your loved ones?

Home Air Check is just that test. It is the only test available to the home market that gives you a cost-effective, comprehensive air quality audit of the total number of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and the total number of Mold Volatile Organic Compounds (MVOCs), such as mold, with a single air sample. This test, while simple to perform, is based upon sophisticated chemical analysis technology, previously only available to the industrial community. Because of the analysis methods employed, this single test is extremely sensitive and can measure for air contaminants within a 2000 sq. ft. area, and can even detect mold hidden behind walls. While the air sample is taken inside the home by our team member,

Now that you’ve found your dream home, make sure the air inside is healthy.
Whether you are a first time buyer or an experienced veteran, buying a house is probably the biggest investment you’ll ever make, and the decision could affect you for many years. There is always a financial risk involved with such a large purchase decision. How can you be sure that your dream home doesn’t have indoor air quality (IAQ) problems that could cost you good health and well-being? Buying a home with existing IAQ issues can subject you and your family to serious health hazards, and might require you to incur large clean-up costs, reduce your property value, and make your home hard to sell in the future. With a Home Air Check™ IAQ audit, you can make your home purchasing decision an informed decision. This simple, inexpensive test can quite literally allow you to breathe easy and confidently.

Love that New Home Smell?
Today’s new-home construction materials contain an excessive amount of chemicals that evaporate and off-gas into VOCs, or Volatile Organic Compounds. Kitchen and bathroom cabinets, molding and paneling, drywall, flooring and roofing materials are manufactured using toxic chemicals such as formaldehyde and phenolic resins. Paints, stains, and sealants are used extensively in just about every room in the house, and contain VOCs that can cause serious health effects. A newly-constructed house will have a significant amount of VOCs in the air because the rate of off-gassing for VOCs is highest initially. This accounts for the “new house smell” that most new home buyers experience. After several weeks the rate of VOC off-gassing from building materials will decline; however, the off-gassing will continue at a slow and continuous pace and the gases will remain in the air for many months, and possibly years. There have been many cases of homeowners who have developed mysterious health ailments shortly after moving into a new home.


Products that emit VOCs in Newly Constructed or Remodeled Homes

  • Paints & varnishes
  • Building materials
  • Carpeting
  • Wallpaper
  • Vinyl flooring
  • Glues & adhesives
  • Cabinets and built-in bookcases made from pressed wood
  • Roofing shingles

Buying a resale home?

Poor IAQ is a serious health issue, and public health experts advise homeowners and prospective home buyers to take the initiative and test for indoor air pollutants. Several states have now enacted laws requiring home sellers to disclose the presence of certain air pollutants like formaldehyde and mold to the prospective buyer. Although many states still do not require home buyers or sellers to conduct IAQ tests, performing a comprehensive home IAQ audit just makes good, healthy sense.


Signs of Possible Home Indoor Air Quality Problems

  • Unusual and noticeable odors, stale or stuffy air
  • Noticeable lack of air movement
  • Dirty or faulty central heating or air conditioning equipment
  • Damaged flue pipes or chimneys
  • Unvented combustion air sources for natural gas or propane appliances
  • Excessive humidity
  • Air-tight home
  • Presence of molds and mildew
  • Health reaction after remodeling, weatherizing, using new furniture, using household or hobby products, or moving into a new home
  • Feeling noticeably healthier outside the home

Source: Healthy Indoor Air, a partnership program of the Montana State University Extension Service, www.healthyindoorair.org

Buying a foreclosed home?
Sometimes your dream home becomes available in the form of a foreclosed property. Currently, home foreclosures are at record levels with nearly 2 million foreclosed properties available for purchase. It is predicted that this number will continue to rise and reach 5 million through the year 2011. This rise in foreclosures also means that there are many great deals to be had if you are in the market for a new home. Often, these homes are sold for prices well below market value because the bank or mortgage holder is eager to sell them. However, investing in a foreclosure can be extremely risky.  Property inspections in advance of their sale can be hard, or impossible. Many buyers are purchasing foreclosed properties “as is,” not realizing what is waiting for them once they take possession.

Indoor Air Quality in Foreclosed Homes
Many homes in foreclosure have been locked up tight for many weeks or months without utilities, giving ample opportunity for mold to grow at amplified rates and airborne contaminants to remain trapped in the home. Not only does this pose a potential structural problem with the home, but it could also pose significant health risks for anyone who enters. In some instances, unsuspecting home buyers who believed they were getting a great deal on a foreclosed property ended up paying thousands of dollars to solve severe air quality issues. For only $125 and very little time, a Home Air Check test can be performed on the foreclosed property prior to the sale, and an accurate assessment of the indoor air quality can be made.

Could the foreclosed property you want to buy be a former meth lab?
In 2007, the DEA seized over five thousand clandestine methamphetamine laboratories (meth labs) in the United States. Formerly, these meth labs were set up in remote and rural locations, usually on private property. Now, with the advent of more sophisticated manufacturing practices, they are increasingly being found in private residences in busy suburbs and cities, as well as in apartment complexes. Although the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) reports that the rate of clandestine meth lab seizures has been declining since 2003, it also states that many criminals are producing meth on a smaller scale, becoming more sneaky in their production of the drug, moving from site to site after only a few months of use, and breaking up the meth production to more than one site in order to avoid detection. This means that the number of actual sites used as meth labs is growing, and many of those properties have been the subject of past and present foreclosures. But one thing has not changed—the operators of these methamphetamine manufacturing facilities do not conduct their business in an environmentally responsible manner. The mess they leave behind can pose varied risks to those responsible for cleanup or for the people who may live there after the cleanup. And that cleanup isn’t cheap. The cost of de-contaminating a former meth lab property can range from $3,000 to $150,000, depending on the size of the house and the scope of remediation.

Are meth labs really dangerous to your health?
Methamphetamine is an illegal synthetic drug manufactured from various chemicals often found in common household items and over the counter medicines. Cold and allergy medications containing pseudoephedrine or ephedrine are “cooked” with other chemicals to produce meth. These chemicals are often found in everyday household products and can be dangerous in their inherent form (see section on VOCs). Of the 32 chemicals that are commonly used in the production of methamphetamine, about one third are extremely toxic. Add the “cooking” process where these chemicals are evaporated into the air, and the situation has gone from dangerous to deadly. It is estimated that about six pounds of highly toxic waste is generated from every pound of meth that is produced. Vapors and hazardous chemical spills can seep into carpeting, insulation, woodwork and drywall. Plumbing lines and septic systems can also become contaminated with waste chemicals from meth production. Toxic VOCs are drawn into the home’s heating and cooling systems and spread throughout the ventilation system when it’s activated. Many of these chemicals remain in the home for months and years, and aren’t always removed in the toxic clean-up process.

The following is a list of typical chemicals that produce VOCs that have been associated with meth labs:

With a Home Air Check indoor air quality test, you can determine the total level of VOCs in the air. To determine if the home has traces of specific compounds used for meth production, a very detailed additional data analysis needs to be done. There is an additional charge for this analysis. if you feel you require this additional service. Even after cleanup or remediation has occurred, additional testing is recommended to ensure there are no lingering hazards. This is needed primarily to document that the cleanup has been successful, thus minimizing the liability of the property owner, everyone involved in the cleanup, and the people paying for the cleanup. It is also useful documentation to have in the event there is an impending property transfer.