Our Homes Suck – And That's Why Our Kids Have Sinus Problems

It's a fact!

Unhealthy homes increase the severity of asthma, allergies, and other health issues.

BPI CEO Larry Zarker sheds some light on the health effects of unhealthy homes in his recent Performance Matters article, "Our Homes Suck - And That's Why Our Kids Have Sinus Problems."

Our Homes Suck - And That's Why Our Kids Have Sinus Problems

Tags: Audit, BPI, Energy, Healthy, Safety

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Air sealing has gone to far. People are in fact getting sick from energy retrofits because our work force has been trained to the bare minimum. We as contractors, designers and industrial hygienist do not fully understand the dynamics a residential home delivers. Not each family lives in their home the same as the next. How many people actually test the homes TVOC and other hidden "proprietary" chemicals used in today's modern plastics and adhesives after a home is fully constructed? I'm betting very few because the dollar loss gets in the way. What better way to say "install a air exchanger" and it will give you controlled outside air. What do you do when the home is in the inner city where the outside air is ten times more contaminated than the indoor air? In my opinion, the only thing that sucks is this modern science project played on millions of innocent families for profit and JOBS! If I'm wrong, someone please explain why Asthma is continuing to rise among other unexplained disease within our children. Please do not use global warming as a response since this is what brought on the air sealing population. 

Bravo Richard. You may have nailed it.

I agree that in many homes the indoor air sucks.  However, a lot of this problem is caused because of the occupant's behavior, contaminants in the building, and materials and furnishings.   I disagree that retrofits are the major cause of the poor indoor air quality.  Contrary to your claim, research has found that home retrofits have actually helped the majority of those served.

Research on the Low-Income Heating and Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) has shown that helping low-income families to pay their fuel bills can reduce unscheduled hospital admissions and the health risks experienced by underweight children (Frank et al., 2006). It is reasonable to expect that energy upgrades in the homes of low-income Americans will also produce these health benefits, because these upgrades reduce low-income clients’ fuel bills. According to DOE, weatherization and other low-income energy upgrade programs reduce client heating bills by roughly 30% in the first year, and these savings are expected to continue over the long term because the home will continue to use less energy.

Comprehensive Energy Upgrades Improve Comfort and Safety, and Reduce Contaminants

Improve comfort.

Improve safety of home. (reduce mold and mildew)  

Improve ventilation and reducing exposure to contaminants.

Reduce asthma attacks.

Stop mice, rats,  and other vermin:


 Benefits of Home Energy Improvements can be valued at over $2,000 for a person with chronic breathing problems such as Asthma.  It can be over $200 for the average home occupants, that benefit from better air quality that results in fewer colds and breathing related illnesses.





Richard is not correct about this issue.  

Air sealing has not gone far enough.  What we need to learn is that we need to add mechanical ventilation to air tight buildings to bring in fresh air.  A good HRV/ERV will not only bring in fresh air, but reduce heat loss while filtering the fresh air.  "Airtight and ventilated right" is spot on.  Let's keep building science progressing forward and not stepping backwards.  

Does Richard's thinking seems a bit disjointed/simplistic here or am I interpreting it wrong:

Houses are too tight making people sick, but outdoor air is somehow worse than indoor air and that makes people sick, therefore tightening houses has gone too far..

Control is what is missing.  If your house is really leaky you have no control of where your "fresh" air comes from.  If you can't control it you have no ability to improve it.   

If you DO have control, you can filter and clean it, mix in fresh, control distribution.  Yes, tightening homes WITHOUT control is a problem, blame these "Comprehensive" Energy Efficiency programs that look only to Energy Savings Return on Investment.  

If you have sold a job, and your project passes without the "cost" of fresh air but fails when you add fresh air, do you still sell the job, or do you say "sorry we can't move forward with this work" and go to the unemployment office?  


I think you just hit the nail on the head! It is all about economics...ie..JOBS and Manufacturing.When do you think it's going to be about public safety and our children who's immune systems are not fully developed living in these modern science projects?

Where do you suppose HRV's and ERV technology originated from? How do you suppose these units made it into our homes? How do you filter the air from these units? Is it particulate filtration or chemical adsorption / absorption filtration or both?

Do you or Todd Collins have any model homes which have been effectively tested (TVOC) to support the theory an HRV/ERV is enough in a home to support a sick free home which is built air tight within the city?

I think we all need to move away from theory and show some real life test results. Once you all can support your published "theory" with real life facts with the proper science to support your comments, only then do  you have a right to dismiss comments.

Sigh, when?  I don't know.

Testing? Actually I have done a number of air advice tests.  No correlation between tight or looseness and iaq.  Surprised me.

Statistically significant, no, but I ALWAYS recommend mechanical ventilation as both discussion/education opp and because I know control is th path to consistently better air quality.

Once again Ted, How do you know control is the path to consistently better air quality aside from someone told you so?

Let's look at a more plausible way of seeing where I'm going with this. Commercial buildings have been using air dilution as a solution for years. Katrina introduced it into new homes today. However,  we still have multiple sick commercial buildings with numerous people diagnosed with disease. Berkeley has applied for a patent on a filter fabric impregnated with a mineral to help remove formaldehyde issues within commercial buildings. If these dilution principles can not work 100% of the time in commercial, how is it suppose to do the same in an uncontrolled environment (our home)? Each home will not test the same, period. A blower door test, yes. Not a home full of furniture, cosmetics, chemical cleaners, etc. This brings a whole new dilemma to indoor IAQ. We all know the real drive is heat and cooling savings and IAQ has taken a back seat. This is why it is a sole contributor to the rise in asthma and other allergic responses. What have we done? Industry labels the affected with MCS. (Multiple Chemical Sensitivity) I'm certain you will see this term broadly used in the future.

Richard, I don't "Know" that the earth is not flat, but I'm pretty confident it is not.  

If you are unable to see more than one problem at a time, your solutions will be pretty myopic and in solving one problem you are likely to create others.  That's pretty typical, and creates work for me. 

I solve problems.  I do it with comprehensive design based upon the premise uncontrolled leakage must be know and reduced as much as possible.  That control over interior environment must be achieved before it can be improved.   

I'm having difficulty making sense of your position.  Go ahead and leave your home leaky.  Leave all your windows open year round. What solutions are you proposing?  All I see is filters this, Katrina that, blah blah blah blah blah.  What is your argument?  

I don't know how you solve problems without first gaining control, but maybe you can enlighten us.  

Ted no one can help anyone with their head stuck in the sand. All you said is MONEY is your God. You continue plugging up those holes. I hope your properly insured for when that single homeowner gets sick and sues you and uses your theory... "That control over interior environment must be achieved before it can be improved." against you in a court of law. See that statement is complete ignorance and an admittance there is a problem for which you understand, but do not know how to fix. Save your BS for your friends. This is not the place for it.  

Interesting article, thanks.  I will stay tuned to what the scientific studies say about this puzzling rise in asthma -- I doubt there is a simple, single cause.  I've known of several vibrant adults who died from it.  In addition to changes in housing characteristics discussed here, there are numerous confounding factors that makes it difficult to figure out how much housing contributes to these health problems.  One massive social shift is the reduction of time spent outdoors by people.  There's also a shift away from all physical activity -- much of it related to the changing types of jobs (less manufacturing, etc.).  Even though a lot of the population lives in suburbs where it is relatively safe from crime and air quality outdoors is better outdoors than indoors, children and adults are spending less time each day outdoors.  One reason is social factors such as long work hours by all adults in the family, sprawl that necessitates long commutes, and the car-oriented design of these communities.  The Clean Air Act removed a lot of the obvious pollution (particulates, etc.) since the early 1970s, but there are of course new pollutants as well as accumulations of past pollution (such as lead in the soil from leaded gasoline).  It makes sense to zero in on home air quality, especially in bedrooms where people will be breathing in the air at least 8 hours every night. 


There are always a lot of complications we need to try to factor in.  For example I read there was a massive pine tree planting campaign in postwar Japan.  The U.S. reforested by ordering trees planted, but unfortunately a lot of the population suffers seasonal allergies to the type of tree planted.  Similarly, changes in flora in our communities due to introduction of non-natives can rapidly change the pollen mixture.  Doesn't cause asthma perhaps, but extra sinus suffering could be laid at the feet of these changes too...possibly.

    Great discussion and points brought up via this "fuse" lit. 

More testing will be the scientific route to determine cause and effect. There is no "one cure" for all homes and in the very near the future we  will be testing each and treating specific items; radon, mold, moisture, VOC's, etc. issues accordingly. In many cases we have had the opposite result sited by a few; decrease in allergies, healthier homes, far less symptoms reported, reduced mold, dust mites, cleaner homes , far better IAQ -tested. 

No question we have achieved far more positive than negative affects. I agree it is still a process to be improved upon. There are thousands of potential harmful products that can contribute to existing homes poor indoor quality of life / air.

"Better Living Through Chemistry"? 


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