Indoor Air Quality

What is it?
Indoor Air Quality, or IAQ, is a measure of what we breath every day in our homes. This can include mold spores and allergens like dust mites and pet dander. It also encompasses various Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) that can be found in building and maintenance materials, cleaning supplies, and personal care products. Different chemicals "off-gas," or release VOCs into the air and many of these are harmful to breath.

What are some common VOC containing products?

Products known to contain VOCs number in the thousands, and their health effects and associated Threshold Limit Values (TLVs) vary greatly. Many of the common VOC-containing materials we find in homes are paint and caulking, household cleaners, floor and trim varnishes, various construction adhesives, and even carpets. Other VOCs can come from fuel-burning appliances like gas stoves and water heaters or tobacco smoke. 

What is mold?
Mold is a fungus that consumes organic material and thrives in damp, dark, and humid places. Dead leaves or the expired cheese in the refrigerator are perfect food for mold to break down...but so are materials found in our homes like wood, drywall, and carpet. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are approximately 1.5 million different species of fungi on earth - these include mold, mildew, mushrooms, and yeast. While most of these are not harmful, many can have a serious impact on respiratory health and even building components.   

Is mold dangerous?
Some mold can present serious health concerns. Mold secretes enzymes to break down the organic material it consumes and grows upon. Some of these enzymes contain mycotoxins that are known to be dangerous for both humans and animals. As mold reproduces, it releases microscopic spores into the air that can also be harmful if inhaled.

How can VOCs affect me or my family?
This depends on a number of factors to include the type and concentration of pollutants present, environmental factors, or a person's existing autoimmune issues. Some air contaminants can be allergenic, meaning they cause reactions such as a runny nose or itchy skin. Others are pathogenic, meaning they can cause much more serious respiratory problems or fungal infections. Lastly, some are toxigenic - the most dangerous. These can be ingested, inhaled, or absorbed from skin contact. 

What causes mold in a house?

Mold needs moisture, humidity, and organic material to thrive. Water intrusion from a leaking roof, a defective water pipe, or an improperly vented bathroom are just a few examples of possible mold-creating scenarios. Mold can begin to grow in as little as 24 hours after the right moisture conditions are met, and mold typically begins to reproduce and spread in 5-7 days. 

Can VOCs be seen or smelled?
Until mold growth spreads to a colony size, it may not be visible. Since it thrives in damp, dark places, mold can remain hidden as it grows - even behind walls or under carpet. If conditions are right, mold can even grown on other biological sources in the air that are not visible to the human eye. These include epithelial cells like pet dander or even dust mites. Other VOCs like chemicals found in that fresh coat of paint on the walls, in the cleaning supplies under the sink, or in the form of Carbon Monoxide from the improperly functioning gas furnace in the basement may all be very dangerous - but potentially undetectable - without specialized testing devices and monitors. 

How are VOCs identified and analyzed?
Sometimes the presence of mold is obvious as the colony has grown to a visible size or that telltale musty smell is present.  Other VOCs cannot be seen or smelled, and without professional analysis at an accredited laboratory, we cannot be positive about the type of VOC present or develop a plan to remediate it. 

How do I get rid of VOCs in my house?
Remediation begins with first identifying potential VOCs and what their cause might be. Only then can a plan can be developed to mitigate the cause and keep the VOCs away. For instance, we know that mold requires moisture and humidity to thrive. If your air test shows heightened levels of mold spores, a dehumidifier combined with proper ventilation and airflow may play a large role in keeping mold away after the affected areas are remediated. Other VOCs could be off-gassing from potent cleaning chemicals or fresh paint. Increasing ventilation can help lower VOC levels, and considering new paints and cleaning supplies labeled with "low or no-VOC" may also improve overall levels. Lastly, high quality air purifying devices with proven VOC-reducing filters can have a positive impact on indoor air quality. 

What report will I receive?
If combined with your home inspection, you will receive a $50 discount on the IAQ inspection!  In addition to your home inspection report, you will receive a detailed analysis from an independent, licensed, and accredited laboratory. Please allow 10 business days for the report to arrive by email. Click here to see sample reports.

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