Many owners of green homes are concerned about indoor air quality. GBA often receives questions from homeowners who worry that some building materials emit dangerous chemicals. For example:
- Will the glue in my plywood or OSB subfloor emit dangerous fumes?
- Will borate-treated cellulose insulation off-gas enough to affect the health of my children?
- What type of clothes dryer is best from the perspective of indoor air quality?
We do our best to provide answers to these questions. But if there is a theme running through these questions — and I think there is — it would be this: homeowners are worrying about the wrong materials and substances.
Occupant behavior matters more than construction specifications
Indoor air quality (IAQ) is a big topic. To get a handle on it, we need to break it down into small bites.
Here’s how I’d like to proceed:
- First, I’ll provide an overview of the issue.
- Then I’ll create three lists of substances that are worrisome. The first list will include worrisome substances that are only found in older houses. The second list will include worrisome substances arising from construction methods sometimes used in new homes. The third list will include worrisome substances that homeowners are exposed to because of occupant behavior.
- I’ll share a list of new home specifications that are important for anyone concerned about indoor air quality.
Finally, I’ll share researchers’ findings about which chemicals are most concerning.
Indoor air is low-quality air
In most U.S. locations, indoor air is more polluted than outdoor air. According to the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), “Studies from the Environmental Protection Agency on human exposure to air pollutants show that indoor levels of pollutants may be two to five times, sometimes more than 100 times, higher than…