Indoor air quality and its effect on occupants of the building are what initially drew Alpine president Ron Peik to the environmental abatement field 30 years ago. Many innocuous, healthy looking homes and offices you see today can harbor hidden, toxic dangers. However, the concept of “Indoor Air Quality” is relatively new in the building industry. Just 50 or so years ago, houses and buildings were very porous. Air entered through generous cracks and seams around doors and windows – often single pane with no storms and no weather stripping – and exited through uninsulated attics with gaps around light fixtures, hatches and many other paths. In winter, this conveyor belt of air passing through the house would waste lots of energy and make for a very uncomfortable home for residents. The answer back then was to turn the thermostat up, put on a sweater, and complain about your drafty old house.
That all changed abruptly in the 1970’s with the energy crisis. In a very short span of time, America revolutionized the way houses were built and remodeled. Attics were insulated, windows and doors were weather stripped, storm windows and doors were installed, and insulated glass was introduced. People became very energy conscious and soon reaped the benefits of a well-insulated and airtight house, while saving energy and helping the outdoor environment. A win-win! Or was it?
All those drafts sucked the heat out of the houses, but they also ensured that people had plenty of fresh air. Now the air stuck around a lot longer. This wouldn’t ordinarily be a problem, but a few things happened at the time. Building materials changed with more use of synthetics, plastics, formaldehyde, and many other chemical-based materials. Even cleaning solutions and soaps introduced new chemicals. Additionally, all this new insulation was often installed improperly causing moisture buildup and mold growth. Soon it became fashionable to spray chemical-based air fresheners all over the house to mask odors, tantamount to putting out a fire with gasoline. If ever there was a time to be aware of the need for good indoor air quality, this was it.
Unfortunately, many decades later, progress has been very slow. The fallout from unhealthy indoor air is little studied and little understood, but no one doubts the cost is massive. Medical costs and suffering due to allergic reactions, skyrocketing asthma rates, and other related medical issues continue to mount. Yet the underlying causes of these issues are seldom investigated. Countless people are living and working with indoor air that is making them sick and don’t even know to suspect that it might be the cause. Chronic headaches, congestion, asthma, or fatigue can become “normal” for people, seriously impacting their lives as they treat the effects but not the cause. Their house or office might look perfectly fine, but basements, sub-floors, or wall cavities can harbor mold, manufactured wood products out-gas formaldehyde, or many other factors can cause havoc. And fixing these problems can change their lives.
To test your home or office’s indoor air quality, you can turn to monitoring devices or hire a professional home or indoor air quality inspector. Causes can range from dust mites and pollen to more serious mold growth or lead dust. The former can be kept in check with regular cleaning while the latter generally requires professional support. If you have any questions regarding your home or office’s indoor air quality, reach out to us and we’d be happy to help!