(BPT) - One in five Americans suffer from allergies, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA). As the 2013 allergy season begins, experts warn that it may be one of the worst in recent years, with people experiencing an unusually strong reaction due to increased tree pollen.
But little attention is paid to the impact of indoor air on allergies, asthma and general health. We spend an average of approximately 90 percent or more of our time indoors, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA reports that “indoor levels of pollutants may be two to five times higher, and occasionally more than 100 times higher, than outdoor levels.”
How does this impact your next home improvement project? A survey by Angie's List revealed Americans spend more than $300 billion annually on remodeling projects. Yet these endeavors typically focus solely on a home’s aesthetics while ignoring one important consideration: Is your home healthy?
Start at the bottom
We all want beautiful floors in our homes. Many people, however, don’t realize that some new flooring can threaten your indoor air quality. When flooring is installed, you may notice an odor for a few days or even weeks. The odor might mean noxious gases are emitting from the materials used during installation. And these emissions, particularly those resulting from volatile organic compounds (VOCs), could potentially have serious, long-term effects on your health - as well as an immediate impact on the health of family members with asthma or allergies.
The good news is gorgeous flooring options are now available that are certified “asthma and allergy friendly” by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. In 2010, Tarkett Flooring committed resources toward developing flooring solutions which help people breathe easier. The company’s FiberFloor is the industry’s only residential flooring currently certified by the AAFA. To earn this certification, the flooring underwent rigorous testing by the AAFA and successfully met the following criteria:
* Installation of the flooring does not result in elevated levels of chemicals.
* The flooring has a low capacity for retaining allergens.
* The recommended cleaning of the flooring will not result in exposure to airborne allergens.
Additionally, other flooring options offered by Tarkett, such as its luxury vinyl tiles and planks and laminates, are FloorScore-certified by the Resilient Floor Covering Institute (RFCI) together with Scientific Certification Systems for better indoor air quality.
Tarkett’s “iSelect” program simplifies flooring options and introduces customers to an interactive, multi-faceted shopping experience. The system begins with six inspirational color families: Champagne Celebrations, Hushed Conversations, Earthy Connections, Evening Receptions, Fireside Chats, and Warm Gatherings - each offering its own feel and color space to help you find the perfect floor to meet your design, durability and health needs while also coordinating with your existing furnishings and adjoining floors.
Spring for PVC-free accessories
Did you know that your shower curtain can be one of the greatest sources of noxious gas in your home? Many homeowners purchase PVC shower curtains and liners because of their functionality and ease of cleaning. However, according to “Practically Green,” a website for people interested in green living, a recent study “found that 108 different volatile organic compounds, including those known to cause developmental, liver, nervous system, respiratory and reproductive damage, were released into indoor air by PVC shower curtains.” Replacing current shower curtains and liners with PVC-free products are quick and inexpensive fixes that will make your bathrooms healthier for the whole family.
Manage mold and mildew
If you’re noticing moisture or mold building up on your windows, have your home checked by an energy rater or a building analyst. To prevent moisture from getting in your windows, select windows made with double pane, insulated glass to create an insulating barrier and keep moisture, mildew or mold from developing. For added energy savings, you can opt for a Low Emissivity or “Lo-E” coating to keep heat from radiating beyond the side of the window where it originated. You’ll save on your heating and air conditioning bills while also minding your health.
Home improvements should be a proud reminder that your home is your castle and you treat it well. This year, consider investing in simple projects that can also improve the health of the castle’s residents.