We often hear about the potential hazards that come with buying or living in an older home, but what about new or newly renovated homes? Having a new home, new furniture, and a fresh coat of paint may make everything seem clean, but your indoor air may not be.
Whether you’re moving into a newly built home or renovating an older one, there are steps you can take to reduce the level of air pollutants in your home.
Which of These Buildings is Most Likely to Have Indoor Air Pollutants?
Between newly built and newly renovated homes, the level of air pollutants will depend on what construction materials have been used and what work has been done. Believe it or not, newly built homes have the potential to host more air pollutants as everything is new and will be going through a period of off-gassing. Off-gassing refers to the airing out of new materials. This often means that volatile organic compounds (VOCs) may be releasing into your home from all sorts of construction materials including, but not limited to, new cabinets, carpet, hard surface flooring, and paint.
Typically, home renovations focus on just one area at a time. In most cases, a renovation job has less potential to emit air pollutants than new house construction (depending on the materials). The products being used will make a difference in the level of air pollutants present. Using products such as low VOC paint or phenol-formaldehyde (PF) resin in flooring instead of paints with high VOC or urea-formaldehyde (UF) resins in flooring, will decrease the potential for air pollutants to be emitted into your house.
A fresh coat of paint may look great in your house, but the fumes you and your family are breathing in aren’t so great. Many paints contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which are released into the air when that fresh coat is applied on. Exposure to paint fumes may cause symptoms including lung irritation, headache, dizziness, and vision problems. Some people may experience more symptoms than others depending on their level of exposure and any prior conditions.
If your new home has been painted recently or you are planning to paint it, utilize methods to reduce your exposure like proper ventilation and air purifiers.
There are multiple ways that your flooring could be emitting air pollutants into your home. In a home, the most significant source of formaldehyde is through pressed wood products made using adhesives that containing urea-formaldehyde (UF) resins. Another source of the pressed wood products that can be found in your home is particleboard. Particle board is used as subflooring and using it in your home may lead to the emission of formaldehyde.
Caulks and Sealants
Caulking and sealants can be used as a method of controlling the outdoor air pollutants from coming indoors, but they may also emit their own air pollutants. Many conventional caulking grouts and sealants off-gas amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The type of caulk or sealant chosen can affect the levels of VOCs that are emitted into your home.
Furniture and Cabinetry
As mentioned previously, the most significant source of formaldehyde in a home is through pressed wood products such as particle board. Particle board is also used as shelving, cabinetry, and furniture. Other pressed wood products that emit formaldehyde include hardwood plywood paneling and medium density fiberboard. Hardwood plywood paneling is used for decorative wall covering, cabinets, and furniture. Medium density fiberboard, used for drawer fronts, cabinets, and furniture tops, is generally recognized as the highest formaldehyde-emitting pressed wood product, as it contains a higher resin-to-wood ratio than any other UF pressed wood product.
How to Prevent or Reduce Exposure to Your New Home’s Air Pollutants
There are several ways to reduce air pollutants from your new or newly renovated home. These methods can be done prior to, during, and after installation or activities. Methods you can use include the following:
Prior to Installation or Activity
- Request that the retailer air out products that may emit air pollutants. For example, carpeting can be unrolled, and any plastic that covers furniture can be removed a few days before delivery. Emissions will generally decrease as the products age, so airing them out prior to installation in your home will help to prevent or reduce the concentration levels.
- Choose building materials and furnishings that emit less air pollutants. Use exterior-grade pressed wood products which are made with phenol-formaldehyde resin in floors, cabinetry, and wall surfaces, or use solid wood products. Although formaldehyde is present in both types of resins, pressed woods that contain PF resin generally emit less formaldehyde than those containing UF resin.
- Install effective moisture barriers prior to installing carpeting to prevent mold growth.
During and After Installation or Activity
- Avoid spending time in the areas where new carpeting, furniture and other new products are being installed or paint is being applied. It is best to schedule installation or painting during a time when the least amount of people will be in the home.
- Ventilation of your home will help to reduce the concentration of air pollutants. Use ventilation both during and after installation of products or activities such as painting. Utilize multiple methods of ventilation including mechanical and natural. Mechanical ventilation includes window fans and room air conditioners. Natural ventilation includes opening doors and windows that have access to outdoor air.
- Air Purifiers help to filter out unwanted indoor air pollutants. Air purifiers should be used both during and after times of installation or activity that increases the risk of air pollutants. Regular use of air purifiers will help to remove air pollutants in your home during the times they are in use.
- Follow the manufacturer's instructions on proper installation of any products.
- Keep low indoor temperatures and humidity. High indoor temperatures and humidity can cause increased release of formaldehyde from the products in your home.
- Do not permanently adhere carpeting to concrete, so that the carpet can be removed if it becomes wet.
Using an Air Purifier to Reduce That New House Smell
Whether your house is a new build or newly renovated, it may have a lingering ‘new house smell’. This smell may be coming from a variety of products or activities, depending on the work that has been recently done. From paint fumes to the new furniture smells, these airborne particles may be polluting your air.
TruSens air purifiers make use of an active carbon filter to reduce the presence of odors and gases commonly found in indoor air. TruSens also offers a specialty odor filter, engineered with True HEPA and high-performance carbon pellets to help eliminate the strongest of odors.
Moving into a new home or renovating your home is an exciting time. Don’t let the risks of exposure to air pollutants ruin the excitement. While there are several ways air pollutants are emitted into your home, there are methods of preventing or reducing their levels in your home.