We’re accustomed to think of air pollution as something “out there.” It’s all about smoking chimneys, dirty factories and car exhaust fumes, right? In the meantime, our homes are cosy havens where we can relax and feel safe.
The truth is a little more disturbing. A number of scientific reports have highlighted a hidden epidemic of illness, and even premature deaths, caused by the damp and unhealthy air inside New Zealand homes.
Indoor air quality is crucial. There are two main culprits to watch out for:
Several medical studies show a higher prevalence of ill health, especially respiratory illness, among adults and children who live in damp homes. Damp houses are harder to heat than dry ones, and this contributes to bronchitis, asthma and other respiratory issues.
1. Moisture can be a real killer
Once the temperature slips below 12 degrees – not uncommon in older New Zealand homes – cold extremities and a slight lowering core temperature can cause a rise in blood pressure, which can be dangerous for older people.
2. Microbes, mould and other nasties
Quite apart from the affects of cold on the human body, damp living conditions encourage the growth of toxic moulds. These can be hidden on timber framing behind plasterboard, where they release nasty spores. There’s also the issue of disease-causing microbes, which thrive in a damp environment, and house dust mites, which are a proven trigger for asthma.
New Zealand’s older housing stock, combined with our rainy climate and cool winters, doesn’t help things. The first step to sort out the situation is to install modern insulation that helps trap heat inside. The next step to improve indoor air quality is a modern house ventilation system.
Rather than relying on dehumidifiers and open windows, this fixes the problem at source. A sensor-controlled house ventilation system continually pumps dry, warm air from your roof space into the living areas, forcing damp air out through constant recirculation.
As a bonus, you’ll get rid of unsightly mildew on walls and never have to deal with a wardrobe full of mouldering clothes in midwinter. If that’s what dampness does to garments, imagine what it’s doing to your lungs.