Pollution Isn’t Just Outside

We often think about air pollution as an outside problem. When we do think about indoor air pollution, we think about the issue as a problem in office buildings. Finally, we are led to believe that building codes protect us from problems in our homes, so we really do not have to worry about our home’s air.

Well, we need to think again.

First, you need to understand that building codes are generally no more than minimum building standards designed to keep us from dying due to poor construction. This is a bit of an exaggeration, but not that much of one.

This is especially true when it comes to home ventilation. How many of you have a vent hood in your kitchen that actually moves the air from the kitchen to the outside of your home? If you don’t you may be one of the 55-70% of all homes with gas stoves that exceed the U.S.E.P.A.’s definition of clean air when it is measured against the nitrogen dioxide levels in a home.

If you think that is bad, you could be in the 25% of homes that have air quality worse than the worst recorded smog (Nitrogen Dioxide) event in London. (These statistics and the concept of kitchen pollution can be found in the New York Times Article, “The Kitchen as a Pollution Hazard” July 22, 2013.)

Clean AirFirst, let me point out that this scary information is NOT an excuse to avoid improving insulation and home sealing to increase energy efficiency. Nor should this information be used to denigrate the efforts of people to increase overall home efficiency.

Instead, this is a strong endorsement for people to think about their homes in their entirety. In other words, if you are going to seal up the home, think about proper ventilation. Don’t let a contractor, or anyone else talk you into a non-venting stove hood.

About those building codes again. Why aren’t homes required to have outdoor venting hoods rather than re-circulating hoods?

In my case, I know that some people laughed when I put in a fume hood that could ventilate the kitchen at a rate of almost one time per minute, or 60 times per hour. Now it turns out that this is indeed overkill (12 times per hour is sufficient), but I do not need to run it at the highest setting.

And by the way, can you really have too much fresh air?

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