At Vine Healthcare, we treat lots of patients suffering from biotoxin/mycotoxin illness, otherwise known as ‘mold illness’ or CIRS (chronic inflammatory response syndrome) as a result of exposure to water damaged buildings. While we have a whole toolkit of treatment options, ultimately, our patients must minimize or eliminate biotoxin/mycotoxin exposure to make headway in health improvement.
We usually direct our patients to start by creating a safe place at home, because your home is where you spend the most time, and therefore get the most exposure. Whether you’re building or buying, here are four of the highest return-on-investment things that you can look for or implement to positively impact your health:
- No Carpet. Carpet is a huge reservoir for dust, allergens and other environmental triggers. Additionally, it’s usually made of materials that are environmental triggers themselves. Swap carpet for hardwood flooring or tile.
- If you pick engineered hardwood, watch for low-VOC options.
- Pre-finished is typically healthier than having the finish done in-home because of fumes and factory finishes hold up better.
- Watch for aluminum oxide UV coatings (industry standard) if you’re trying to steer clear of heavy metals. Companies like Green Building Supply have a host of pre-vetted healthier options.
- Ventilation. Today’s homes are built tighter than ever before, which is great for energy efficiency, but can be a huge health threat if the air isn’t properly filtered or exchanged with fresh air. According to the EPA, indoor air is 2x to 5x more toxic than outdoor air.
- Bring in fresh air through air exchangers like an ERV or HRV. Or, externally-vented over-stove fans, externally-vented bathroom fans can create negative pressure to bring in fresh air through the “leaks” or cracks in your home.
- Filter the existing air in the home with a higher level of filtration. MERV is the rating system that filters are rated on, which correlates to particle size that can pass through. Increase your filtration capability by upgrading your filtration cabinet to accommodate a higher MERV level filter. MERV 10 is a great balance between filter cost and the level of filtration that it provides. Caution: don’t stick a MERV 10 filter in a system built for a low MERV filter – it could suction the filter into the system because of the increased drag on the system, causing significant damage.
- Last, have an HVAC expert check the air balancing on your current system to be sure that the filter or ventilated air that you’ve upgraded is being properly circulated throughout the home.
- If you’re unable to address a HVAC overhaul, consider putting an Austin Air filtration unit in your bedroom to minimize mold particles in the air. Austin Air was specifically developed by a family that faced CIRS issues and has been tested by the US Government for eliminating biological threats.
- Humidity Control. Get a hygrometer and monitor the humidity in your home. It should be below 55%. If it’s not, talk with an HVAC expert and/or get a dehumidifier. If you’re building a home in an area that is higher-humidity in the summer, consider a dehumidifier that’s integrated into your overall HVAC plan, like an Ultra-Aire, which can bring in fresh air, filter it, and take 100+ gallons of water out of the air each day. The key to any of these tools is your use of them – they take monitoring and maintenance.
- No VOC Furnishings and Finishes. When you’re choosing paints, couches, picture frames, cabinetry and other things to put on the inside of your home, pick things that have low chemical content. “No VOCs” can be a helpful indicator, but doesn’t cover all of the chemicals that you may be sensitive to. If you’ve already invested in items that may have higher than ideal chemical counts, consider swapping them out for healthier choices over time.
For more ideas on how to make your home healthier, check out Prescriptions for a Healthy House by Paula Baker-LaPorte.