Breathe easy: Simple steps to a healthier home
Simple steps can lead to a healthier home, writes JENNIFER VEERHUIS
There’s something in the air right now — and it isn’t a good thing. To stay warm over winter, many people keep their windows closed and the heater on, which has an adverse effect on indoor air quality.
Australian Society of Building Biologists president Narelle McDonald (pictured, far right) says indoor air quality is key for healthy environments.
“Building biologists know indoor air quality has a direct impact on health,” she says.
“Coming into winter, people are closing up their homes to conserve energy. By sealing our buildings, there is less fresh air exchanged.”
The result can be stagnant air that can’t escape.
“Also, the amount of chemicals has increased in new building materials, textiles and furnishings,” says Narelle. “Allergens and mould are big problems at the moment in Australia. We need to make sure we’re getting a good amount of fresh air so pollutants aren’t able to accumulate to high levels.”
NICOLE, who has her own company Healthy Living Spaces, says health and wellbeing is the first priority of a building biologist. They can test indoor air quality and use questionnaires and visual assessments to identify problems.
“It may be gas and dust mites, it could be mould, it could be fumes from building materials, paints or furniture,” she says.
“We look at anything that’s brought into a house, any product, any material and we look at the potential to cause harm and we ask if there is another alternative. A precautionary principle underpins our work.”
Makes me sick
NARELLE says mould can develop in just 48 hours so people need to address the problem and rectify it immediately.
“With mould, moisture is the key,” she says.
“Symptoms of mould exposure include asthma, bronchitis, cold and flu symptoms, hayfever, allergies and other lung problems.
“Australians are the second highest allergy sufferers in the world and allergies in children have increased by 400 per cent in the last 20 years. That is why indoor air quality is really important.”
A breath of fresh air
NARELLE says there are simple steps everyone can take to improve the air quality in their home, including taking their shoes off at the door to reduce dust within the house.
She says air purifiers and dehumidifiers can help, along with ventilation, and she suggests avoiding fragranced and commercial cleaning products as they may contain more chemicals.