Today’s energy-efficient houses have reduced carbon emissions and saved homeowners billions in utility costs. But these airtight homes can prevent toxic substances from escaping. The same can happen in poorly ventilated spaces. The result is known as sick house syndrome, which can make a home’s occupants ill. Here’s what you need to know to keep your family safe.
Several toxic substances can accumulate in a home and cause sick house syndrome.
- The most common is mold. Undetected dampness in a wall, crawl space or basement can result in mold that infiltrates living spaces, potentially causing respiratory illnesses.
- Over time, tobacco smoke infiltrates or coats upholstery, carpet, hard surface floors and walls. Little by little, this residue taints the air.
- Dust and dust mites accumulate in heating and air-conditioning ductwork over time and blow into living spaces, contributing to sick house syndrome. Ducts can also be a vector for mold and smoke residue.
- Newer carpets no longer create chemical off-gassing. But glues used to lay carpet padding can irritate respiratory passages in some people.
- Household cleaning products can produce pungent smells that may cause respiratory irritation.
- Some furnishings are built from materials that emit toxic chemicals.
- Asbestos and lead do not present a problem unless they are disturbed, such as when old asbestos insulation is stripped from pipes during a renovation.
The best protection is prevention
Your frontline tactic against sick house syndrome should be keeping these toxins out of your home.
- Since mold develops from water penetration, regularly check your attic, basement, sinks, toilets and walls that contain plumbing. Also, inspect window casements for rain penetration. Invest in water detection alarms and place them where needed.
- Prohibit smoking inside the house.
- Use natural cleaning products instead of chemically-based ones.
- Dust and vacuum your home weekly. Change the HVAC filters faithfully according to the manufacturer’s recommended schedule. Have your air conditioning ducts cleaned annually.
- When weather permits, throw open your windows and allow breezes for a surge of refreshing air.
Remediation for sick house syndrome
If your house has extensive mold or years of tobacco smoke accumulation, hire a professional to remove it.
Related – Eliminating Musty Smells in the Basement