Sounds weird and maybe a bit exaggerated, but many homes are built in a way that can make you sick over time. You might remember the building material called asbestos that according to scientific studies has a strong link to cancer.
So it’s not that far-fetched that your home might be able to kill you.
But let’s not go to the extremes. It’s already established that you can get sick “just” from your home.
This article will show you how this can happen, what you can do about it, and how all of this relates to the emerging industry of wellness lifestyle real estate.
Is the sick house syndrome even a real thing?
There has been written a lot about mold, especially Dave Asprey from Bulletproof Executive targets toxic mold quite often in his articles and podcast episodes.
But there is much more than mold that can make you sick.
“Sick house syndrome” is a good term that encapsulates a variety of factors that can make you sick at home.
It describes a situation in which the residents of a building show symptoms of a variety of illnesses. These residents pass a long time in the building and show symptoms of which the causes can’t be easily identified.
The World Health Organization distinguishes between two types of sick house syndrome:
- Symptoms appear right after moving in.
- Symptoms persist after moving in.
If more than 10 to 20% of residents of a building have unspecified symptoms or physical discomforts which disappear fast after leaving the building, you can speak of “Sick Building Syndrome” according to the international Convention (WHO 1982, MULHAAVE 1989).
Possible causes can be toxic vapours which are liberated by sources such as:
- toxins from furniture
- mineral substances from insulating material
- substances from pest control
- cleaning materials
- badly maintained ACs
- automatic air circulation circuits that let toxic substances, smells, pollen, fungal spores, and germs enter the building.
Medics see a connection between different chemical substances and the physical ailments.
Officially those substances are found in low quantities so that they shouldn’t be harmful anymore.
Therefore it is often difficult to identify them with common detection methods.
Discomfort, tiredness, and insomnia are usually considered light ailments.
Further studies such as this one confirm the association of sick building syndrome with indoor air parameters.
There are also other symptoms such as:
- damage of the immune system
- eye and airway irritations
- kidney and liver disturbances.
All these symptoms can mean a significant limitation of the quality of life.
In some cases even depression can be caused.
Since some substances (e.g. asbestos) are considered carcinogenic, they can lead not only to a sick building syndrome, but also to cancer.
What can mold do to you?
Let’s pick on a more specific substance – toxic mold.
This is a rather controversial topic, since some people are convinced that there is definitely a causation of symptoms coming from toxic mold. Others think that there is no direct connection.
So what is true?
I checked some scientific facts on that. I have good news for people who are super worried and I have bad news for people who are not worried at all.
In September 2003 a study came out about toxic mold: phantom risk vs. science.
The objective of the study was to review the available literature on toxic mold and its potential impact on health.
The information that has scientific validity had to be segregated from information that hasn’t been proven yet and was still controversial.
The study critically reviewed previously published reviews on toxic mold and related subjects that met the educational objectives.
The researchers found that indoor mold growth is variable and the fact that you discover it doesn’t necessarily mean that residents of a building had been exposed.
According to the conclusion of the study the mold-related symptoms can be more likely traced back to transient irritation, allergy, or infection.
That mycotoxicosis has a direct connection to building-related illnesses could never be proven in the medical literature.
This point is also confirmed in this article.
If you are already allergic and haven’t been worried about mold in buildings, you should care more, and if you are not allergic, there is not much to worry about if mold is the only thing you have in your home.
7 things you can do to avoid toxic mold:
- If you have water problems or leaks in plumbing that lead to moisture buildup, identify and repair them swiftly.
- If your climate is humid, use an air conditioner or dehumidifier during the humid seasons.
- Do not have carpets in bathrooms or humid basements and open the windows or use fans when showering.
- Provide natural ventilation throughout the building.
- Indoor humidity levels should be kept between 30 and 50%.
- Vent appliances that produce moisture, such as clothes dryers and stoves.
- Add isolation to prevent condensation on cold surfaces (e.g. piping, roof, floors, and windows)
Can a humidifier make you sick?
Having read everything above, you might be able to make an educated guess. But let’s first put some emphasis on where humidifiers can actually help when used properly.
15 benefits of humidifiers
They can help…
1) soothe problems such as dry sinuses
2) prevent nosebleeds
3) ease cracked lips
4) promote well-nourished skin
5) lower the risk of developing colds and flus
6) reduce the effect of respiratory or lung diseases
7) soothe sore throats
8) improve sleep
9) speed up recovery
10) reduce allergens in the air
11) preserve your voice
12) reduce triggers of asthma
13) prevent headaches
14) protect hair and scalp
15) keep your houseplants healthy.
If you like some further in-depth information about the benefits, check out this article.
There are central humidifiers which are built into air conditioning and home heating systems. They are designed to humidify the whole building.
Then there are ultrasonic humidifiers, impeller humidifiers, evaporators, and steam vaporizers.
During the summer humidity levels are higher and during winter they are lower.
As written above, humidity in your home should be between 30 and 50%. Everything below or above that range can cause problems.
If the humidity is too low, your skin gets dry, your nasal passages can be irritated, and your eyes get itchy.
If the humidity is too high, it can cause production of mold, dust mites, and some nasty bacteria. This part is not the best for allergic people.
How to avoid your humidifier turning toxic:
According to this report the Environmental Protection Agency recommends that you wash your humidifier every third day.
You should also be careful about cleaning agents and scrub the sides of your water reservoir only with plain dish soap.
You might have heard that in 2011 there was an outbreak of lung infection in a Korean hospital.
According to this investigation the cause were humidifier disinfectants. So don’t use strong chemicals.
EPA also recommends filling a humidifier with distilled water to avoid nasty microorganisms getting air born. But this might depend on the cleanliness of the water you use.
According to EPA and some research you should be better off with evaporative or steam vaporizer humidifiers.
They emit fewer microorganisms than ultrasonic or cool-mist machines.
Ending this article you might think “Gosh, now my house or apartment can also make me sick?! As if the world is not already complicated enough”.
Yes, unfortunately real estate and building projects haven’t always been carried out with the health of their future residents in mind.
Another better approach of real estate and building projects is the emerging niche of wellness lifestyle real estate.
Projects there from start to finish have the health and wellbeing of future residents in mind.
Check out these wellness upgradeable high-end listings with top views!
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