Asthma And Allergy: Indoor Air Quality Is Still Key

By Andrea Richardson

The drive for sustainability and energy efficient buildings must not be at the expense of healthy indoor air, particularly for those with asthma and allergies.

As Canadians we spend over 90% of our time indoors, according to the Health Canada website, so the quality of our indoor air should be a concern to all of us. A lack of ventilation, especially in air-tight buildings, is a key factor that impacts the quality of indoor air. Health Canada first issued risk assessment and management guidelines on indoor air pollutants in 1987 in the Exposure Guidelines for Residential Indoor Air Quality (1987).

This issue is coming to the fore again with the new drive for energy efficient buildings. Many buildings are being retrofitted or re-clad to improve energy efficiency but this is having a knock on effect for air circulation and quality. The issue of reducing the quality of indoor air is especially relevant to at risk more sensitive population groups such as those suffering from asthma and allergy. You would not drink contaminated water so why breathedirty indoor air?
The Canadian mortgage and Housing Corporation Stresses on their web site that our homes contain many substances that may be hazardous to our health. Indoor air pollutants range from minor irritants such as dust and animal dander, to major irritants such as molds and chemical vapours that may be emitted from building materials and furnishings. It is important to be aware of how air contaminants can affect our health and to adopt corrective measures that will improve indoor air quality in our homes.

Canadian houses are relatively airtight and with new energy efficiency drives will become tighter still. The old farmhouses where people lived several generations ago had little resistance to air. The Canadian mortgage and Housing Corporation goes on to say that Modern housing restricts air entry through good air barriers and sheet materials, such as plywood, oriented strand board (OSB) and drywall.

In fact, new Canadian houses and many retrofitted existing houses are so airtight that you cannot count on incidental leakage for good indoor air quality. You must induce or augment the house air-change rate using mechanical ventilation, a requirement in the National Building Code for new houses since 1990.

Those with allergies and asthma are particularly susceptible to indoor air pollution. Asthma educators emphasize the need for environmental control measures as part of an overall management plan, but often fail to highlight the importance of non-specific irritant chemical accumulation. While source control represents one mainstay in reducing exposures, ventilation is key in the removal of particulate and gaseous airborne pollutants.
Dr Bruce Mitchel, Chief Executive Officer of Airmid Healthgroup, in a recent article stressed the importance of appropriate product selection such as paint and floor coverings, �Now more than ever, as buildings and homes are sealed to maximize energy efficiency, it’s critical that the products we use are optimized to create the healthiest indoor air environments possible.�

The creation of healthy indoor homes and offices requires that at design, construction, furnishing and maintenance stages, approaches to ensure low level exposure be integrated. Good Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) is a fundamental principle of sustainable �green� buildings, and requires a balance between maximising energy conservation and protecting health.
One educational initiative in this area is the consumer product program �asthma and allergy friendly certification’ an educational labelling program by the Asthma Society of Canada to help consumers identify suitable products. Given the rising prevalence of asthma and allergies, there’s great demand from consumers for quality information and products that can help them avoid an often-debilitating condition.

The other program is the health friendly air program, a European initiative, which addresses the relevance of the 20 most prevalent indoor air factors (allergens, volatile chemicals, infectious organisms and ventilation as well as thermal comfort). Buildings are assessed, audited and rated against the criteria

Understanding the issues connected with the indoor environment is vital to people whose lives are affected by allergy, health care professionals and Asthma Educators.

The above article is take from a series of seminars and educational material from the asthma& allergy friendly�” certification program educational booth at The 2011 Green Living Show in Toronto.At the booth certified asthma educators and experts from the ASC offered tips on strategies to avoid allergy trigger factors.
The Certification Program, a partnership between Allergy Standards Limited [ASL] and the Asthma Society of Canada [ASC], provided visitors with the latest on asthma and allergy research and solutions.

Certification Program Contact
Andrea Richardson
Email: [email protected]

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