(NaturalNews) North Americans spend 90 percent of their time indoors, sucking in air that has two to five times more pollutants than outdoor air (in some cases 100 times more). Given those statistics, it's surprising that so much thought is given to reducing smog and cleaning up outdoor air, when relatively little thought goes into improving indoor air quality.
Indoor air quality (IAQ), or the more broad term, indoor environmental quality (IEQ), has been on some people's minds, however. Particularly those who have multiple chemical sensitivities, allergies and asthma. Air filters and dehumidifiers have traditionally been the tools homeowners would enlist to maintain a healthy indoor environment, but are they really enough?
What are healthy homes?
Healthy homes use building materials like no-VOC paints and formaldehyde-free flooring to maintain an environment that contains few or no chemicals. Air is improved through optimum air filtration, outdoor air ventilation and moisture control.
Healthy homes stress the importance of controlling indoor contaminants such as dust. They're designed with easy-to-clean surfaces and permanent walk-off mats at entryways. It's debatable how clean a person would want their home; however, since the hygiene hypothesis suggests over-cleanliness can lead to increased rates of autoimmune disorders, such as asthma and allergies.
Indoor environmental quality is a broader term that encompasses the many aspects of home health apart from the air itself. Examples include improved safety (i.e. carbon monoxide monitors on every floor), comfort (better day lighting) and reduced electromagnetic radiation (using LEDs instead of CFLs).
Healthy home programs and certifications
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention takes the meaning "healthy home" a step further. "CDC's Healthy Homes Program is a coordinated, comprehensive, and holistic approach to preventing diseases and injuries that result from housing-related hazards and deficiencies." Room-by-room, their program makes recommendations to combat the most common problems. For example, they offer suggestions on how to avoid mold in the laundry area, carbon monoxide in the garage, drowning in the bathroom and falls down stairs.
Health House is a home building certification program run by the American Lung Association. Health House certified homes promise better IAQ, moisture control, comfort and energy efficiency than conventional homes. They cost three to five percent more to build, but can save 30 to 40 percent in utility bills.
Green homes are healthy homes. LEED, an international green building certification system, rates homes according to a number of IEQ criteria, such as optimum moisture control, air filtering, contaminant control and radon protection. Numerous studies have been done on LEED construction, finding building costs are on average two percent more than conventional construction, but can be built for the same cost depending on the construction materials used and features chosen.
Whether building a new home or sticking to your old one, designing or renovating your home with health in mind is well worth the additional expense. It may cost you a little more, but it will pay back in utility savings due to increased energy efficiency. The payback to health; however, is immeasurable.