Indoor Air Quality at Home and Work
Volunteer Inspection Services, LLC is available for consultations Monday through Saturday, 8:00AM – 9:00PM. Contact us today!
Breathing good quality air in our homes and workplaces is critical to our health and our quality of life. This seems like an obvious statement but it’s worth your consideration.
As indoor air quality professionals, we inspect a wide spectrum of homes and commercial properties. More importantly we see people, some our clients, who are significantly impacted by issues that are always correctable.
No one should suffer from indoor air quality related illness. Our mission is to help identify and correct “Sick Building Syndrome.”
East Tennesseans spend a lot of time indoors. Whether at home or work, most of us average 14 to 18 hours a day indoors. For infants, children and senior citizens the average is 18 to 20 hours a day. In our practice, we find that the vast majority of our clients are spending a lot of time in highly toxic environments.
The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates that indoor air quality contamination affects 25 million Americans, including 7 million children, in any given year. Asthma symptoms account for nearly 17 million physician office visits each year and counting.
We get referrals weekly from local East Tennessee physicians who advise their patients to consider having their indoor air quality tested. Physicians prescribe medication and breathing treatments but are often frustrated seeing their patients’ complaints and symptoms return after treatment ceases.
While we are not physicians and offer no medical advice, at Volunteer Inspections, LLC, we do know a sick building when we see it.
Sick Building Syndrome Defined:
“A set of symptoms (as headache, fatigue, eye irritation and breathing difficulties) that typically affect workers in modern airtight buildings, that are believed to be caused by indoor pollutants (such as formaldehyde fumes, particulate matter, or microorganisms), and tend to disappear when affected individuals leave the building.”
Common Indoor Pollutant Categories:
Second Hand Smoke from tobacco smoke is estimated, by the American Lung Association, to cause 7,500 deaths from lung cancer and 34,000 deaths from heart disease every year among Americans. Smoking and being in environments near smokers is a deadly risk on all levels and should be avoided.
Secondhand smoke is especially harmful to young children!
- Secondhand smoke is responsible for 150,000 and 300,000 lower respiratory infections in children under 18 months of age.
- Second hand smoke exposure results in more than 10,000 infant hospitalizations each year.
Carbon Monoxide is colorless and odorless gas, which is rarely detectable by human senses. Carbon monoxide, also known as CO, essentially blocks oxygen absorption through the body. CO causes headaches, dizziness, weakness, and nausea and, in high enough counts, death. CO poisoning is generally avoided by installing CO detectors in homes on all interior floor levels.
Nitrogen Dioxide is colorless and odorless gas that causes eye, nose and throat irritation, shortness of breath and increased risk of respiratory infections. Nitrogen dioxide, commonly known as N2O, is produced indoors by tobacco smoke, gas- wood- oil- kerosene burning stoves, ovens, space heaters, water heaters and fireplaces. High levels are commonly found in parking garages and factories.
Paints are a significant source of VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) in the indoor environment. The main concern is the release of TVOCs (Total Volatile Organic Compounds). Irritants becoming airborne are toxic in sufficient quantities.
Chemicals released in paints:
- Latex – Propylene glycol, ethylene glycol, texanols, butoxyethanol, butyl propionate, alcohols and aldehydes and more.
- Alkyd, oil, and gloss paints – Benzenes, xylenes, naphthalene, and heavy alkanes.
All of these chemicals are toxic in concentrations. Those most susceptible to toxicity are the very young, aged and those with respiratory and compromised immune systems.
Cleaners – Most typical cleaners we purchase at the grocery store are very toxic. Even products advertised as “GREEN” or “NATURAL” often contain chemicals that can cause health problems. Many have high levels of VOCs, some are corrosive and flammable. Ammonia and bleach lead the risk of most toxic and dangerous chemicals within easy reach of children, and are frequently used in homes and offices.
Air fresheners, dry cleaning chemicals and rug and upholstery cleaners are extremely hazardous, and send many to the emergency wards with “mysterious” symptoms.
Formaldehyde is a colorless, flammable, strong smelling chemical used in most building and household products. Common in high quintiles in pressure treated woods, flooring, adhesives, fabrics, permanent press clothing, paints and chemical germicides and disinfectants. Materials containing formaldehyde release gas vapors into the air, causing burning eyes and throats, coughing nausea and skin irritation.
Mold is a serious and growing concern for many East Tennesseans. We know mold is everywhere in our world, however, when concentrations are high, toxicity from mycotoxins produced by molds make many of us quite ill. Conditions such as high moisture (humidity or leaks) on wood or other organic surfaces is a breeding ground for mold growth indoors. The classic “musty odor” indoors is a red flag indication of mold growths.
Bacteria grows on many commonly handled surfaces in the home and office and oftentimes in hidden areas like heaters, dehumidifiers and interiors of HVAC (Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning) systems in our buildings. Bacterias grow fast and can spread disease and infections rapidly. Legionnaires disease, MERSA an STREP are among the most well known bacterias in our offices and homes in East Tennessee.
Absence of Fresh Air / Lack of Circulation
CO2 (Carbon Dioxide) is a colorless, odorless and non-flammable gas. In buildings, CO2 is typically introduced by its occupants through respiration (breathing). CO2 levels rise due to poor ventilation (lack of fresh air exchange). Potential as an intoxicant in heavily populated buildings like classrooms, offices and housing units is great. CO2 can very from safe levels to deadly levels.
- Shortness of breath
- Breathing becomes heavy, sweating, quick pulse
- Headaches, dizziness, restlessness, breathlessness, increased heart rate and blood pressure, visual distortion
- Impaired hearing, nausea, vomiting, loss of consciousness
- Coma, convulsions, death
High Humidity indoors is a very bad thing. Humidity levels in excess of 50% RH (relative humidity) are known to foster mold and bacterial growths. Once mold growths are established, interior humidity can be enough for mold to thrive on.
As people we are most comfortable when RH levels are in the 40 to 55% range. Lower RH tends to dry out our skin and sinuses. Higher levels tend to make us uncomfortable, as our bodies cannot release heat to cool ourselves.
Here’s the good news!
The inspectors at Volunteer Inspections can inspect, test, report and provide correction advice for all of the above issues. We are experts in indoor air quality and are solution based.
Poisons and Toxins at Homes, Schools and Workplaces
Indoor Air Quality is about more than mold and dust. In fact, a large number of us are exposed to toxins that enter our bodies through our lungs, eyes and skin on a daily basis. Some contact with VOCs can cause rashes, coughs or minor irritations. For some the symptoms are far more profound, causing lung, eye and skin damage and triggering severe reactions by our autoimmune systems.
Volunteer Inspections tests for a wide variety of indoor contaminants, including volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) and bacterias.
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are organic chemicals that have a high vapor pressure at ordinary room temperature. The high vapor pressure causes large numbers of molecules to evaporate from a liquid or solid form to enter the surrounding air.
Many of us have experienced this phemnomona when entering a craft store or lumber yard. Remember the variety of fumes you experienced? Some of my clients have such severe reactions to the VOCs that they get very ill from just entering the building. Headaches, skin rashes, hives and respiratory distress follow for many. Current research tells us that they are having an autoimmune reaction.
High VOCs Containing Materials:
- Paint (latex and oil based)
- Carpet, especially new
- Furniture finishes (lacquer, varnishes, etc.)
- Treated clothing and fabrics
- Oils and cosmetics
The list goes on and on. You have likely experienced many of these VOCs in the course of your life.
Remember that new car smell?
Yes that new car smell is all those VOCs off-gassing (being released from the materials in the car, plastic fibers, etc) that cause you to drive with the windows open or risk getting ill.
Health Risks of Exposure:
- Respiratory, allergic or immune effects in children are closely associated with man-made VOCs in our indoor environment
- Eye, nose and throat irritation
- Headaches, loss of coordination and nausea
- Cancers in humans and animals
Length and frequency of exposures to humans is a critical factor in all VOC exposure. (The longer the exposure the greater the health risk)
VOCs play an important role.
VOCs can play an important role in communication between plants, and messages from plants to animals. Some VOCs are dangerous to human health or cause harm to the enviornment.
VOCs are regulated by law, especially indoors, where concentrations are the highest. Harmful VOCs typically are not acutely toxic, but have compounding long-term health effects. Because the concentrations are usually low and the symptoms slow to develop, research into VOCs and their effects is difficult.
Volunteer Inspections Cautions:
We caution our clients to take reasonable steps in managing VOCs in their homes and offices for the safety and comfort of all.
- Use low VOC paints and finishes
- Open doors and windows frequently to allow VOC levels to dwindle. If you can’t open windows, make sure your heating and air contractor installs a fresh air admittance duct and valve to draw in fresh air to your air conditioning system.
- Read the labels on all clothing and linens. Wash and dry all fabrics before you wear or sleep on them.
- Avoid breathing gas fumes while fueling your car.
Some contact with VOCs can cause rashes, coughs or minor irritations. For some the symptoms are far more profound, causing lung, eye and skin damage and triggering severe reactions by our autoimmune systems.
Volunteer Inspections and Volunteer Mold tests for VOC level in all types of buildings. Sick Building Syndrome is possible in all of our structures. If you have a concern, call us now.