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New construction comes with air quality questions; what’s up?

New construction comes with air quality questions; what’s up?


Recently, my family moved into a newly constructed home.  We were excited about the move until a few of us started feeling poorly.  Can the air inside my brand-new house be causing our health-related problems?

We are environmental consultants, not medical professionals.  We cannot diagnose medical problems; you may need to see a healthcare professional if you or your family members are experiencing poor health that you believe may be related to the air quality in your home for appropriate guidance.  We can, however, share a few ways new construction may affect the air quality of your home.

  1. Dust and particulate matter: The disruption and movement of soil can create particulate matter. Naturally, these particles can be inhaled when floating in the air.  The inhalation of the particles may lead to respiratory issues; the severity of your problems depends on the amount inhaled, the individual’s age, and overall general health.
  2. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs): VOCs are chemicals found in multiple products in and around a home construction site:  paint, certain building materials, adhesives, and sealants.  These products can release potentially harmful fumes into the air, called off-gassing.  Health effects will vary depending on the amount of exposure and the length of exposure an individual experiences; symptoms range from eye, nose, and throat irritation to more severe health effects.
  3. Formaldehyde: Classified as a human carcinogen, this VOC can be found in building materials such as glue, pressed wood products, or insulation.  Lengthy exposure to formaldehyde can cause respiratory issues.
  4. Asbestos: Building materials containing asbestos may be used in new construction and is often found in older homes.  Tearing out, tearing apart, burning, etc., of materials containing asbestos can release asbestos fibers into the air, leading to severe respiratory diseases.

This list serves as an overview of the more common causes of air quality concerns related to new construction.  As you can see, several factors, including ones not listed here, impact air quality while your home is being built and possibly after you have moved in and called it “home.” Many regions enforce regulations and guidelines regarding practices and the use of specific materials on a construction site, causing construction companies to minimize the impact these actions and materials may have on air quality.  Guidelines may include using VOC-free or low-VOC materials, properly handling and disposal of asbestos-containing materials, and implementing dust control measures.  You may notice the use of filtration systems or an intentionally well-ventilated work area to reduce the concentration of airborne pollutants during the construction phase.

Our safe space experts will be happy to test the air in your home to determine if it falls within the normal range for various pollutants.  There are many, many tests that can be performed, and there is no guarantee that there will be any concerning results; having results that indicate the indoor air quality of your home is normal is a good thing! Be the number one advocate for yourself and your family, be aware of your environment, and consult a healthcare professional if you are experiencing health issues.

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