Making Green Living Logical

Indoor Environment is defined as the interior of your home, school, workplace, etc. The indoor environment is often more polluted than the outdoors. Indoor air quality can change rapidly, especially in small spaces like RVs, camper vans, and tiny homes. Generally the most effective way to improve your indoor air quality is to minimize the use of products that emit harmful chemicals and use proper ventilation.

Some common indoor environmental concerns are as follows:

Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is a colorless, odorless gas. Outdoor concentrations are generally in the 250-350 ppm range. Humans are the main source of CO2 in indoor spaces. Levels of 350-1000 ppm are typical of occupied spaces with good air exchange. The MN Department of Health has a great page on CO2. The Airthings Wave Plus can monitor for CO2.

Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless gas created by the inefficient burning of fuel, and is most dangerous when the burning occurs in an enclosed space. CO poisoning is a serious problem that can cause death.  Be sure to have your heating system checked and also purchase a Carbon Monoxide monitor to insure the concentrations in your home do not rise to dangerous levels.

Total Volatile Organic Compounds (TVOCs): Volatile organic chemicals that evaporate at room temperature. Common sources of VOCs are paints, cleaning products, building materials, adhesives and even hand sanitizer.  Often the concentrations of VOCs are higher indoors than outdoors, sometimes at much as 10 times higher.  Be sure to use proper ventilation whenever using products that recommend it. Use low VOC alternatives where possible. TVOCs is one of the things that the Airthings Wave Plus monitors.

Radon gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States.  Please see our Radon page for additional information.

Indoor Environment

Mold has become more of a problem since we have been sealing up our homes more effectively.  Mold grows in areas with high humidity.  Mold produces spores as a means of reproduction, and these spores travel through the air and may cause allergy symptoms, asthma and respiratory problems.

Formaldehyde is a problem in the indoor environment.  It is often emitted from pressed wood products and building materials.  This includes both materials used for construction and also pressed wood products used for furniture and cabinetry.  Exposure to formaldehyde can cause irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, and may even contribute to the formation of some cancers (see National Cancer Institute Fact Sheet).  Choosing formaldehyde-free building materials whenever possible can help reduce amounts of this chemical in the home. There are some relatively inexpensive formaldehyde monitors on Amazon.

Lead can be a problem with old, deteriorating lead-based paint (mainly in homes built before, when its use in homes was banned).  It may also be found in soil and water.  The health effects range from behavior problems and learning disabilities to seizure and death.  Children under the age of six are most at risk.

Pesticides used in the home have the potential to create many problems.  One study performed by the EPA estimated that 80% of our pesticide exposure occurs indoors.  This is from both using the pesticides indoors and also tracking the pesticides in from outdoor use. Avoid freshly sprayed lawns and remove you shoes at the door.

The Cleveland Clinic has a great article about common household chemical products, including their health risks, handling, and safe storage.

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