The "green" movement towards healthier living spaces not only pertains to outdoor environments, but also indoor ones too. Which is a good and necessary effort, considering that air pollution ranks among the top five environmental risks to public health.
In fact, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, the indoor environments where U.S. citizens spend 90% of their time, such as homes and workplaces, and in most other indoor places, are highly polluted
. Indoor levels are nearly two to five times higher, and occasionally one hundred
times higher than outdoor levels, the EPA reports.
Among the chief threats to acceptable Indoor Air Quality
levels are volatile organic compounds (VOCs) like formaldehyde, which are gases or vapors given off by liquids and solids, a process known as off gassing.
Formaldehyde is used in manufacturing processes and found in home products such as bonding and laminating agents, adhesives, paper and textile products, and foam insulation. Overexposure to the colorless, strong-smelling contaminant
may result in nose irritation, sneezing, dry throat, eye irritation, headache, and nausea.
To reduce the possible adverse health effects associated with formaldehyde, a new type drywall reduces the VOC content of interior air by extracting VOCs from the air and neutralizing them within the walls.
The gypsum board product uses a patent-pending technology that captures VOCs, especially formaldehydes and other aldehydes, as they circulate through interior air and converts them into inert compounds that remain trapped within the gypsum board, claims CertainTeed, the product's manufacturer. According to the company, its AirRenew family of products are the only gypsum boards that actively clean the air utilizing the industry’s first formaldehyde-absorbing technology.
INDOOR AIR QUALITY
Indoor Air Quality generally refers to chemical, physical and biological characteristics of indoor air
that can adversely affect the comfort and/or health of the occupants of a given space. Common IAQ problems in the commercial, residential, public buildings and health care sectors typically fall under three general categories:
- problems related to inadequate ventilation
- chemical contamination
- microbial contamination
Inadequate ventilation is the most common cause of IAQ problems, although many issues are often the result of a combination of any of the above.
IAQ problems are not only linked to buildings with poor ventilation systems, but also to contaminants found inside dwellings, like the formaldehyde, which off-gasses from building materials and textiles. This is especially true in recent buildings, as newer materials tend to off gas at higher levels. New carpeting or furniture in established buildings also can raise formaldehyde levels.
As awareness of the importance of good IAQ has grown, so too, has homebuyer demand for healthy living spaces. Underwriters Laboratories
(UL), a global independent safety science company, polled
consumers to learn more about their priorities and preferences among sustainable or green products. The resulting report, titled “Under the Lens: Claiming Green,
" found that 83% percent of consumers have recently purchased green products; 70% of consumers actively seek greener products; and 43% list IAQ as a primary concern.
It's ironic to realize that technology, which undoubtedly has played a role in harming our living spaces, inside and outside, will also play a role in improving them.