Fix that ailing abode

As the trees thaw and flowers emerge, many people attribute the accompanying allergens as the cause of their coughs, sneezes and sniffles.

Yet the contaminants clogging your airways may not be cropping up from the dirt. They may have been resid­ing in your house all winter long — possibly even before that!

Persistent coughing, congestion, fatigue, headache and other chronic ailments may have an unexpected culprit: sick building syndrome. The condition occurs when people experience health and comfort issues that can be linked to time spent in a building, but no spe­cific illness or condition can otherwise be found, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports.

Indoor pollutants can be up to 100 times higher than outdoor levels, according to the EPA. The agency also estimates that people spend up to 90 percent of their time indoors which means a building’s air quality is vital to ensure proper health.

While you may be concerned with leaks in your home, proper ventilation also is important to effectively distrib­ute air through the building, which the EPA reports can impact sick building syndrome. Without proper venti­lation in your home, contaminants that build up from everyday items such as cleaning supplies, hairspray, plants, pets, air fresheners, tobacco smoke and even humid air can linger, impacting your long-term health and well-being.

Fortunately, there are ways to check and address any poor ventilation issues you may have in your home. Your local co-op can help! A blower-door test can find out exactly how your home is performing and where it needs attention — for sealing and ventilating.

The best way to ensure your home is ventilated and sealed properly is to call a contractor. We can help you in your first step by providing a home energy audit, which will show you where you’re losing money on energy inef­ficiency and also will include a blower-door test to deter­mine how your home’s ventilation system is performing.

Dan Phillips, energy efficiency program coordinator at Wabash Valley Power who works with energy advisors at local co-ops in Indiana, Illinois and Missouri, previ­ously worked on a study that found when weatherization improvements including ventilation were made, some people’s health improved and some children even missed fewer days of school.

“If the air quality is poor, addressing moisture issues and making sure ventilation is properly attuned to the house can make it better,” Phillips said.

The blower-door test can help determine potential issues, which also can arise from conditions related to humidity. Health complications can impact some people in a building while others are not affected.

“If you’re more sensitive to mold spores and similar kinds of irritants, then going into a building that’s damp could make matters worse,” Phillips said. “It’s unique to the person and the building.”

For assistance with a home energy audit, contact your local electric cooperative’s energy advisor.

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