In­door air qual­ity

Sim­ple steps can lead to a health­ier home, writes Jen­nifer Veer­huis

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) - Home - - EXPERT - Jen­nifer.veer­ More

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 (pic­tured) 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 Syd­ney. We need to make sure we’re get­ting a good amount of fresh air so pol­lu­tants aren’t able to ac­cu­mu­late to high lev­els.”

Narelle McDon­ald Bi­ol­ogy stud­ies

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.

Lou­vred win­dows in this ren­o­va­tion by ar­chi­tect Caro­line Pid­cock of­fer im­proved air flow.

Open doors and win­dows on sunny win­ter days for ven­ti­la­tion.

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