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Healthy Home

Plants and Indoor Air Quality

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Plants and Indoor Air Quality

by Nick Gromicko and Kate Tarasenko (InterNACHI)
Raising plants indoors is a home-healthy move because of their ability to clean the air of carbon dioxide, but their benefits don’t stop there. According to several studies, the average houseplant can remove formaldehyde, benzene, and a host of other toxins that plague typical indoor air. Golden Pothos
It may come as a surprise, but indoor air is often much more polluted than the air outside. Off-gassing from paints, adhesives, and even unsuspected items, such as clothing and tap water, infuse the air we breathe will a host of chemicals, many of which are proven carcinogens. Newer, tighter homes are especially problematic, since they limit the amount of fresh air that can make its way into the interior. Compound this with the average time that citizens of developed nations spend indoors –- approximately 90% -– and the need for remediation becomes clear. Answering this need can be as simple as the addition of green, leafy plants to the living space.

Interesting Facts

  • Removal of environmental airborne toxins with the aid of plants is called phytoremediation.
  • Plants can reduce stress, increase work performance, and reduce symptoms of ill health.

Study Performed by NASA

While researching the ability of plants to cleanse air in space stations, NASA made some fascinating and important discoveries concerning the role that houseplants play here on Earth. They tested the ability of a variety of plants to remove common volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from the air. The toxins tested include:

  • benzene:
    • found in petroleum-based indoor coatings, gasoline, inks, oils, paints, plastics, rubber, cleaning solutions, plastics, and exterior exhaust fumes emanating into  buildings;
    • an irritant and probable carcinogen. Inhalation of benzene has been reported to cause dizziness, weakness, euphoria, headache, nausea, blurred vision, respiratory diseases, tremors, irregular heartbeat, liver and kidney damage, paralysis and unconsciousness.
  • trichloroethylene (TCE):
    • found in a wide variety of products, such as inks, paints, lacquers, varnishes and adhesives;
    • is a potent liver carcinogen.
  • formaldehyde:
    • found in virtually all indoor environments due to its widespread use in many kinds of products. Specifically, it may be found in:
      • urea-formaldehyde foam insulation (UFFI), particleboard and pressed-wood products;
      • paper products, such as grocery bags, waxed papers, facial tissues and paper towels;
      • common household cleaning agents;
      • stiffeners, wrinkle-resisters, water-repellents, fire-retardants and adhesive binders in floor coverings, carpet backings and permanent-press clothes; and
      • heating and cooking fuels, such as natural gas and kerosene, and cigarette smoke.
    • Formaldeyde causes watery eyes, nausea and wheezing. More seriously, the chemical is classified as carcinogenic to humans by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
  • toluene:
    • found in adhesives, disinfectants, rubber, printing ink, lacquers, and leather tanners;
    • Symptoms in low doses include sleepiness, confusion, weakness, memory loss, nausea, loss of appetite, and hearing and color-vision loss. High levels of toluene may cause light-headedness, unconsciousness, and death.

In the NASA testing, flowering plants, such as chrysanthemums and gerbera daisies, effectively removed benzene from the chamber’s atmosphere. Golden pothos, spider plants and philodendron were the most effective in removing formaldehyde molecules. Other top performers were red-edged dracaena and the Peace Lilly. The rest of the plants tested, with the exception of Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema modestum), were effective at removing at least one of the chemicals from the air. NASA researchers found that plants absorb airborne substances through tiny openings in their leaves, but roots and soil bacteria are also part of the purification process.

The study concluded that in an 1,800-square-foot house, occupants should incorporate 15 to 18 houseplants in 6- to 8-inch diameter containers to improve air quality. The larger and more vigorously they grow, the better.

India Study

The government of India published the results of a groundbreaking study in September of 2008 that analyzed the effects of certain These plants are excellent enhancers of indoor air qualityspecies of plants on indoor air quality. Three plant species –- areca palm, pothos (known as Mother-in-Law’s Tongue), and the Money Plant -– were tested for 15 years at the Paharpur Business Centre and Software Technology Incubator Park in New Delhi. The building was 20 years old and 50,000 square feet, and it housed more than 1,200 plants for 300 workers. The study found that the building had the healthiest indoor air in the city. Specifically, compared to other buildings in New Delhi, the building showed reductions of:

  • eye irritation by 52%;
  • respiratory conditions by 34%;
  • headaches by 24%;
  • lung impairment by 12%; and
  • asthma by 9%.
In addition, energy costs were reduced by 15% because less outside air infiltration was required. Worker productivity showed an increase of 20%, perhaps as a result of fewer sick days and increased blood-oxygen levels.
Is There a Downside to Indoor Plants?
Some controversy exists regarding how healthy it is to keep plants indoors.  In a recent paper about plants and indoor air quality, co-authored by BuildingEcology.com editor Hal Levin, it was concluded that the positive effects of keeping plants indoors were negligible, at best, and, in some cases, it could possibly be harmful.
The authors conclude that there are “significant methodological issues” for previous research conducted.  The positive gains, they argue, were likely the result of the potting soil and its abilities to cleanse or aerate indoor air, rather than the leafs of the plants themselves.  Additionally, they point out, some of these earlier studies were conducted under circumstances that do not reflect real-world conditions, so testing results can be skewed.  Experiments conducted in a sealed chamber, such as some of those performed by NASA, will have very different results than one conducted where ventilation rates mimic those in the average office building.  And, these days, there are many interpretations for what an “average” work environment is.  Every workplace is different, and every variable — from the number of people, the level of ventilation, other airborne pollutants (such as personal scents, cleaning supplies, office printers, etc.) can confuse any reasonable measurements, making an across-the-board recommendation realistically difficult.
Additionally, keeping plants indoors will affect the moisture content of the air, which must be regulated so as not to promote mold growth.  Some people may have allergies to certain flowering plants, and moisture, along with airborne pollutants that are not effectively mitigated by plants, can exacerbate such problems for building occupants.
Finally, as with any study promoting a point of view, consumers should be wary of who is behind it.  Just as some of the most publicized research on heart health in the 1990s recommended eating oatmeal every morning was paid for by Quaker Oats, some plant studies have been scrutinized for their funding sources, as well.
Inspectors should note the presence of indoor plants, and whether their containers are leaking, or if there are water stains.  Over-watering indoor plants can lead to cosmetic and even moisture-related structural problems, as well as mold and other serious indoor air quality issues.
In summary, plants can generally be used to enhance the aesthetic environment and the air quality inside buildings, but care must be taken to account for potential allergies, the use of fertilizers and pesticides indoors, adequate ventilation and air flow, and the level of moisture maintained for the plants — all factors that can affect the building and its occupants.

3 Main Areas to Monitor to Avoid Water Leaks

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Property Drainage

Most (if not all) moisture-related problems could become serious and expensive if not take care of quickly and completely. Here is some basic information for homeowners so that smart decisions and appropriate actions can be made to keep their homes dry and comfortable. In this article, we will focus on what the monitor for when it comes to roofs, gutters and downspouts and grading.

A rainstorm is perfect time to see how the roof, downspouts and grading are performing. When this system is not functioning as it should, water build up can occur and compromise the foundation and exterior protection of a home. A home inspector will inspect for proper water drainage systems at the time of an inspection, though it is important to monitor these systems as with all parts of your home, they will wear out, break down, deteriorate, leak or simply stop working.

Roof

Roofing materials can wear out, break, rust, blow off or otherwise fail and expose the roof deck and structural components beneath to moisture intrusion and damage.

  • The most common areas for roof leaks occur around a chimney, plumbing vent, exhaust fan or skylight. Possible cracks, fails and leaks can occur around flashings, sealant joints and intersection of roof surfaces.
  • Monitor for signs of a roof’s deterioration, such as cracking and curling. When having new roof shingles installed, it is best to remove the old layer otherwise is shortens the lifespan of the new shingles.
  • Flat and low-pitched roofs have unique maintenance needs as they are more susceptible to water problems as they don’t have the slope to encourage proper water drainage. It is important to ensure their roof drains and scuppers are remain clear from clogs.  A clogged drain can lead to water being collected on the roof, increasing the risk for a leak and even a possible collapsing of the roof due to the extra water weight.

Gutters and Downspouts

Gutters are designed to drain the water towards and through the downspouts, while the downspouts are to express the water away from a home’s foundation. Without sufficient overhang, water can drain directly to the ground without being collected at the roof’s edge. All gutters need to be kept clean. Regularly inspect your gutters and downspouts for:

Blockage
Build up from shingle particles, vegetation, leaves, needles, dirt and debris compromises the function of gutters and can lead to water penetration of a home and its systems. Homes near mature trees are at a higher risk of debris from vegetation build up in gutter.  If there is a screen or similar device to prevent anything but water flowing into the gutter, its performance during rainstorm should be checked to be sure that water can actually enter the gutter. Basket strainers at the top of downspouts are helpful to prevent blockages

Leakage
Gutters should slope uniformly, without sags, to downspouts. Inspect to ensure water travels through the gutter system and not overflowing on either side over-top of the gutter.  Inspect the gutters and downspouts to ensure that they are held secure with straps and that the joints are sealed through soldering or mastic, and are not experiencing water leaks. Rusted fasteners and missing hangers should be replaced.

Downspouts
As a rule of thumb, there should be at least one downspout for every 40 feet of gutter. Undersized or an insufficient number of downspouts can cause gutters to overflow and issues to arise. Make sure downspouts are long enough and directed to drain away from the foundation of the home. There should be attachments or straps at the top, bottom and at each intermediate joint. Often, they are designed to be moveable to allow for proper lawn maintenance, however, remember to place the downspout back down after lawn maintenance. For buildings with multiple roofs it is best practice to use downspouts pipes to discharge the water from upper gutters to lower gutters. Otherwise, the excess drainage of water will wear out your roofing material faster.  Occasionally, wooden gutters and downspouts are used, and they may be built into the roof eaves and concealed by roof fascias.  Wooden gutters are especially susceptible to rot and deterioration and should be monitored.

Grading

The ground around your house should slope away from all sides.  Otherwise water can pool beside your foundation and lead to damage, cracks and leaks.  Most are homes are unfortunately not waterproofed, they are merely water resistance, so the property drainage systems become import to ensure the longevity of the structure and health of a home.

When it comes to your current or new landscaping it is important to consider the grading and the effect changes may have on water flow surrounding your home.

Did you know?
Flower planters should not be adjacent to house’s exterior wall as the structure around the planting bed traps water.  It is best to avoid having water collect outside of foundation walls as they can lead to penetration, cracks and possible leaks.

If you are unsure about the function of your property’s drainage and would like a professional assessment and inspection, please do not hesitate to contact us at Bocc Home Inspections Ltd.
www.BoccInspections.com
(403) 585-6279

4 Crucial Reasons Your Home Needs an Ozone Blast

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  1. Eliminates Odors

All too often home owners become familiar with lingering odors in our homes and rather than eliminating them we try to cover them up with room sprays, candles, potpourri, Scentsy, Febreze or Glad products. These methods are futile in removing odors as they simply cover up the smell temporarily by adding new smells and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) further polluting your indoor air. Ozone is an effective, natural cleaner and deodorizer which eliminates organic odors through oxidization, before reverting safely back into oxygen.

  1. Give Your Home a Fresh Start

Whether it’s the home you are moving out of, your current home, or your new home, press reset and give it that “new home” smell again. Ozone blasting treatments effectively remove that odor from where your cute puppy or kitten marked their territory, the room that someone once smoked cigarettes in or the kitchen that has hosted so many delicious and flavourful meals. Give the new owners, or yourself, the fresh start you deserve and make some new memories.

 

  1. Airborne Irritants in Home Ventilations System (HVAC)

Over time air vents trap a collection of bacteria, allergens, pathogens, mold spores and odors and distribute them throughout your home.  Ozone blasting treatments through your HVAC system allows the tiny ozone molecules to target and eliminate the micro-sized airborne irritants that furnace and air duct cleanings cannot remove. Both home maintenance methods, ozone and duct cleanings, are important to the upkeep of air quality within your indoor environment and should be performed every two years.

 

  1. Alleviate Frequent Illness

Frequent headaches, allergies, asthma or respiratory problems could be alleviated through ozone blasting treatments. If you are not able to pinpoint the causes of these ailments an Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Inspection with testing can provide information regarding the quality of air that you are breathing within your home. Having a routine ozone blasting treatment every two years will help improve air quality within your home by eliminating allergens, pathogens and bacteria.  Reducing the amount of airborne irritants in your home will allow you to breathe easier and stay on top of your indoor air quality.

Dirty Air Ducts

” 50 % of all illness is either caused or aggravated by poor indoor air quality.”

– American College of Allergists

Remove Odors & VOC’s With Ozone Blasting

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Remove Odors & VOC’s with Ozone Blasting
Airborne odors can linger within homes caused by pets, previous cooking, smoking and more.  When unpleasant smells cannot simply be covered up with candles, deep cleaning or other band-aids, ozone blasting is a great solution to permanently removing old odors. It is important to have ozone blasting performed by a trained and certified professional, to ensure it is properly conducted ensuring an effective odor removal, and safety for you and your home.

Ozone Blasting in a Nutshell

Ozone blasting is a natural and environmentally friendly deodorizing and cleaning method harnessing the power of an ozone (O3) molecule. Bocc Ozone Blasting is a safe, effective and affordable method to remove odors from a variety of spaces, vehicles and items. With our Ozone Blasting services we can permanently remove odors allowing you to enjoy your spaces again, returning your home to a safe and healthy environment for your family and even increase your market of potential buyers when looking to sell. Ozone is a highly soluble gas that is able to penetrate though the air and eliminate odors in a variety of areas.  It is one of nature’s most powerful cleaning and disinfecting instruments. Ozone works to clean and deodorize your belongings by attaching itself to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and breaking down their cell wall.  Ozone blasting is highly effective in permanently removing odors from areas, as it kills the odor causing elements, rather than covering them up.

Visit www.OzoneBlasting.ca for more information.

Calgary Home Inspectors