Monthly Archives: February 2013

For the Love of Breathing: A Review on Improving Your Indoor Air Quality

Written by ESG’s blog contributor and Warren Wilson College student Annie Pryor.

Do you recall the anti-smoking campaign in the late 90’s? I sure do. One ad, which focused on the dangers of secondhand smoke, played on TV often: a little girl coughs, buckled in her seatbelt in the backseat of a small car. Eerie music starts to play and smoke curls around her forehead. The camera pans over to the windows, suggesting that her mother’s smoking habits are imprisoning her child. Statistics regarding cancer-related illness and second-hand smoke appear on the screen.

In short, I grew up in a world aware of the dangers of certain types of air pollutants. However, air pollutants are not limited to cigarette smoke. Other types include: mold, dust mites, chemicals found in carpeting and in treated lumber, as well as gases and particulates from paint and other finishes. At times, particularly when found in high concentrations, these and other air pollutants can negatively impact the health of humans, particularly the elderly, children and persons with compromised immune systems. Some of the negative influences of these pollutants include increased levels of, or exacerbation of asthma, headaches, and even cancer.

But really, what’s the big deal? According to the EPA “Indoor air pollutants may be present at levels two to five times higher – and occasionally more than 100 times higher – than outdoor levels of pollutants. The average person spends nearly 90 percent of his or her time indoors.” So, in a nutshell, if your indoor air quality is terrible, odds are so is your health, and being sick is a big deal.

Poor ventilation in a home can majorly impact the indoor air quality of that space. A house that is too tightly sealed and insulated will probably keep outdoor air outside, and will simply circulate air that is already inside. That is, while you may be saving energy, a too-tight energy envelope may have a negative influence on the air quality in that space.

However, keeping pollutants out of a space and controlling the source of air may help “reduce indoor air pollution and limit chemical exposure,” according to the Greenguard Environmental Institute. That is, using products that are certified for low chemical emissions can help reduce the amount of chemical pollutants present in a building’s air.

The anti-smoking ads of the 90s had an impact, but there are many more things we can do to improve indoor air quality. Hopefully you’ve learned a few ideas here that you can implement today.

Landlords and Tenants – Tips for When Indoor Air Quality is an Issue (Part 2)

Craig Whittaker founded Environmental Solutions Group to help property owners more appropriately contend with environmental health and safety issues. ESG has helped dozens of landlords and tenants sort through air quality issues and reach a fair conclusion.

Our office fields several calls each month from either a landlord or tenant concerning the air quality in a rental unit.  We tend to get more calls from tenants than from landlords, usually due to a child being sick most of the time or visible mold on tile grout or window sills.

The landlord/tenant challenge is often more of a battle as both sides believe they are right.  Here are a few suggestions for landlords when there is an issue. We covered tips for tenants in a previous post.

Tenants often blame any indoor air qualities on the property itself and not their lifestyle. As the property owner, do your part by taking proper care of the building. This should include visiting your property a few times a year to see how the tenant lives and work on any changes before there is a major issue.

Visit the property on a rainy day to be sure rainwater is not ponding near the foundation or getting under the house. You can check the gutters and downspouts for proper drainage as well. A damp basement or crawl space can lead to health symptoms for people living in the house and will eventually cause structural damage.

Fix any leaks promptly and let the tenant know when you find and/or fix a leak. This includes keeping evaporative moisture from the soil under a properly installed vapor barrier in the crawl space and cleaning out gutters so they drain properly.

If the lease specifies no smoking indoors and no pets, enforce the rules at the first sign that the tenant is smoking indoors or has brought home a pet.

Document any issues that could affect air quality with photographs and a written timeline of when the issue first appeared.

Landlords and Tenants – Tips for When Indoor Air Quality is an Issue (Part 1)

Craig Whittaker founded Environmental Solutions Group to help property owners more appropriately contend with environmental health and safety issues. ESG has helped dozens of landlords and tenants sort through air quality issues and reach a fair conclusion.

Our office fields several calls each month from either a landlord or tenant concerning the air quality in a rental unit.  We tend to get more calls from tenants than from landlords, usually due to a child being sick  or visible mold on tile grout, a bathroom ceiling or window sills.

The landlord/tenant challenge is often more of a battle as both sides believe they are right.  Here are a few suggestions for tenants when they have an issue.

  • Landlords tend to believe that the tenant is the cause of any indoor air quality issues. Be sure you have held up your end of the bargain by keeping the place clean, changing air filters if that is your responsibility, and not smoking indoors if that is in the lease.
  • Pay rent on time, and do not withhold payment over a dispute.
  • Know the terms of the lease as well as your landlord knows them. Knowledge is power.
  • Try to avoid ‘blindsiding’ the landlord with a list of grievances and a demand for immediate repairs. Landlords need time to do their own research and to arrange for someone to assess the place.
  • Put grievances in writing and call the landlord to be sure they received your mailing. Use email or postal service so there’s a paper trail.
  • Be mindful of the fact that landlords rely on your rent to pay their bills. Repair costs eat up their profit margin, therefore they want to be sure any expenses are warranted.
  • Be patient but firm. Assign a deadline as to when you expect a response to your issue.
  • Document any issues with photographs and a written timeline of when the issue first appeared and how the landlord responded.

We will cover tips for landlords in a subsequent post.