ENERGY SOLUTIONS: Well-sealed homes a definite health risk

NANAIMO: Time to celebrate healthy bodies and a healthy planet.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am keen to save energy.

I am also a keen advocate for health.

I recently experienced how one had negatively impacted the other.

Just a few weeks ago I did an energy audit on a relatively new home in Chemainus.

As soon as I entered the home I knew there was an air quality issue. It turns out that this well-sealed home (common to homes built since the 1990s) was not ‘breathing’ enough.

The bathroom timer, the principal method of removing old stale air, had been turned off.

As a result, this home had moisture problems (sweating windows are always a sign that the house is too humid, not that the windows need replacing).

Humidity levels of greater than 60 percent are hard on our respiratory health, especially if that moisture begins to grow mould in the building.

When I did the air pressure test I discovered the house’s fans were able to reduce the inside pressure nearly three times below the danger level, meaning that combustibles (fireplace, wood stove, oil furnace, etc.) might be drawn into the house instead of up the chimney.

In this home, both gas fireplaces were leaking into the interior of the home.

The occupant was suffering from a very deep cough and a bad headache that had lasted for weeks.

Her physicians could not figure out why she was sick. She was suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning.

The good news is that the next day (after she aired out the house) her headache was gone and she was on her way to better health. She was also now turning on the hood fan over her gas stove when cooking.

Not long ago Health Canada tested many Canadian homes and found that most had an air quality that was six to 10 times worse indoors than out.

Even when there is no burning of any kind, we degrade the air we breathe with toxic cleansers, make-up, scented products, air fresheners, paints, dust mite feces, anti-inflammatory sprays on furniture and beds, house dust (90 per cent of which is microscopic) and more.

It is possible to have both fresh air and energy efficiency, but the province still does not require heat recovery ventilators to be installed in all new homes, and we continue to poison ourselves with toxic products.

Until we change, we will continue to suffer from increasing illness, lost work days, higher health-care costs and needless deaths.

Let’s instead celebrate healthy bodies and a healthy planet.


Ian Gartshore chairs the non-profit Energy Solutions for Vancouver Island.

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