Important Articles for Healthy Homes



Lead researcher W. James Gauderman, publishing in the highly respected The Lancet says "Children growing up alongside freeways risk having their lung development impaired, which can increase the likelihood of serious respiratory diseases later in life. Other studies have shown that children living alongside highways are more likely to develop respiratory problems, such as asthma.

Gauderman and his colleagues followed 3,677 children for eight years, tracking their lung development. This is the first study to show that long exposure to car and truck exhaust emissions actually affects the growth of the lungs, and hence their capacity. Exposure from tailpipe emissions from motor vehicles potentially carries chronic health risks. Kids who live alongside freeways had significantly less lung capacity, compared with kids who lived further from freeways.

Reduced lung capacity is a known risk factor for cardiovascular disease and respiratory diseases, such as emphysema. When they are older, they will have a significantly increased risk for respiratory diseases." Prior studies and common sense both suggest that breathing in a great deal of automobile exhaust cannot be good for the healthy development of children's lungs," said Dr. David L. Katz, an associate professor of public health and director of the Prevention Research Center at Yale University School of Medicine.

(Source:Steven Reinburg)


Many children being raised in L.A.'s hip, new freeway-adjacent housing are damaged for life. Faye Green lives in a four-bedroom unit, regularly dirtied by a heavy film of what she calls 'dust'. She explains, "I clean the place up, and in two or three days, I have to wipe again." Her young son, who has a sinus problem, requires extra attention so he can breathe; Green herself suffers from asthma.

Alarming numbers of children ages 10 to 18 who live within about a block of a Southern California freeway suffer reduced lung development, a deficit likely to persist through adulthood, and which may increase the risk of respiratory disease and premature death. (Three weeks ago, a group of USC and European scientists delivered more bad news: Hardening of the arteries is twice as common among Angelenos living within a block of an L.A. freeway.)

The implications were clear: long-term health problems ranging from asthma to early death for significant numbers. Around the same time, UCLA also published important findings showing that pregnant women who lived within 750 feet of a freeway had a greater-than-normal risk of delivering premature babies.

Years ago, upon receiving harrowing calls from school that her young daughter couldn't breathe, Elaine Lyles was told by her doctor that the girl had contracted asthma due to "pollutants in the atmosphere". Lyles witnessed her daughter Itanza suffer horrific asthma attacks, which can kill victims via suffocation, and she remains haunted by the fear that her daughter could die at anytime.

A friend at church tragically lost a child during a severe asthma attack, devastating her and shocking the Lyles family. "Your kid can't get air"' Lyles says. "You have as many inhalers as possible around, but you never know. As a parent, you're never free of the idea that your child could succumb."

USC scientists Rob McConnell and Jim Gauderman told the LA Planning Commission, "The very smallest particles pass right through the respiratory system and into the body, including the brain. It's not just watery eyes or coughing after a particularly polluted day. ... we're talking about long-term risks of asthma, long-term risks of reduced lung development in children."

Scientists are especially concerned about nitrogen oxide and 'particulate matter', essentially a dust that sometimes can't be seen. Particulates can be metals, gas emissions from cars and trucks, tire rubber and tire-brake dust. When kids breathe in this highly toxic particulate, it goes deep into their lungs and can cause long-term health problems. McConnell explained, - more sick kids near the freeway, more healthy kids farther away.

(Patrick McDonald is a staff writer at L.A. Weekly. In 2011, he won the "Journalist of the Year" award from the Los Angeles Press Club and the prestigious "Public Service" award from the Association of Alternative Newspapers. McDonald was also honoured with a 2011 Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism)
Mothers living ADJACENT TO freeways and congested roads and exposed to air pollution are more likely to give birth to premature babies and suffer from preeclampsia according to a study by University of California scientists. The findings, based on pregnant women in the Long Beach/Orange County region of Southern California, add to the growing evidence that car and truck exhaust can jeopardize the health of babies while they are in the womb.

Fetuses "are in a very sensitive stage of development" that could be vulnerable to the toxic substances inhaled by their mothers, said Jun Wu, an assistant professor of epidemiology at UC Irvine and the study's lead author.

Other recent studies have linked air pollutants to preterm births and low birth weights. But until now, "no study has associated air pollution with preeclampsia. This is the first one," Wu said.

Tracey Woodruff, director of University of California, San Francisco's Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment, said "This is just one more piece of the scientific evidence that air pollution can have effects on adverse pregnancy outcomes," said Woodruff, who was not involved in the research.

The babies in the study were born between 1997 and 2006 at four hospitals: Long Beach Memorial and three in Orange County--Anaheim Memorial, Orange Coast Memorial in Fountain Valley and Saddleback Memorial in Laguna Hills. (Source: Marla Cone)
Environmental health researchers from UCLA, the University of Southern California and the California Air Resources Board have found that during the hours before sunrise, freeway air pollution is worst.

A second striking finding of the study was that although traffic volumes are lower in the pre-sunrise hours, the air pollution concentrations measured by the team were higher than even those during daytime traffic congestion peaks. Concentrations are higher before sunrise even though emissions are lower because of the unique weather conditions. In the pre-sunrise hours, wind speeds are generally very low.

Our research shows that under the low wind speeds and shallow temperature inversions during the early morning, before sunrise, air pollution from freeways is trapped near the surface, limiting dilution and creating a zone of influence many times greater than during the day," said Dr. Suzanne Paulson, a professor in the UCLA Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences and a co-principal investigator of the study. "These meteorological conditions are very common in the hours before sunrise."

Our findings confirm previous work showing peak levels of ultrafine particles (UFP) immediately adjacent to the freeway during the pre-sunrise hours," said Dr. Scott Fruin of the USC Keck School of Medicine. In the present study, other pollutants, including nitric oxide and particle-bound polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, were found during the pre-sunrise hours.

Numerous epidemiologic studies have already shown that traffic-related pollution is linked to increased risk of asthma, respiratory illness, cardiovascular disease and premature mortality.

(Science Daily)
Among the established effects are heart attack and stroke, but a new study sheds light on what’s actually happening, and why pollution causes high blood pressure. The culprit, it turns out, is the small particulate stuff spewed out in large quantities by trucks. Scientists at the University of Michigan, led by Dr. Robert Brook, found that [polluted air] can increase your blood pressure, and cause unhealthy changes in your blood vessels that last for hours and perhaps even days

First, the fine matter triggers changes in the central nervous system, causing a switch from the more controlled regulation of body processes to a more instinctive, automatic fight-or-flight response. This revs up the heartbeat and causes blood pressure to spike as the body may be responding to the presence of foreign, potentially dangerous particles in the air.
(The Infrastructurist)
PURE Eco Homes is a conviction builder. This means that we operate by a Moral Code of Conduct, in addition to our legal obligations. We say it how it is. The truth can sometimes offend, but it can never do harm!  You may find our Code of Conduct page refreshing or confronting.

As housing becomes more airtight to conserve energy required for heating/cooling, the quality of indoor air has declined considerably contributing to irritants and allergens that impact especially hard for sufferers of respiratory illness like Asthma, Hay fever, and surely affecting the general health of a home's residents.  This is now an important causator of 'general unwellness' as is the relative humidity levels within homes that assist or prevent the multiplication of viruses, bacteria, mold, the sources of unwellness.

PURE has created a Synergy of Build Technologies™ to keep you and your family healthy in these and other scenarios in our current polluted modern day lifestyles and everyone can benefit from the filtered pure air our homes provide.

To back up this discussion research articles are provided.   In this respect the purpose of these article extracts is to highlight American and European experience of planning decisions made decades ago, to force residential development adjacent to freeways. Their citizens are now experiencing the health hazards of their bureaucrats' planning folly. Secondly it is  to understand how indoor air quality has a major impact for those suffering from asthma, hay fever and other respiratory illnesses . 

In regards to the health hazards issue in Australia, unfortunately the previous Labor government was intent on following exactly the same failed policy of the US and Europe with little regard for the after-effects. The previous Labour government's National Housing Strategy in conjunction with the Greens, had urged a shift to medium/high density housing and a new push to 'inner-urban renewal'. Basically it wants to coral us near cities! This is an attempt to minimise the so called 'doughnut effect' to prevent population spread from cities. In a large country like ours, this is a 'no brainer' idea but when has that stopped our bureaucrats, let alone worrying about the impact on an individual's health?

The question therefore is why are developers not being encouraged (via reduced compliance and tax burden costs) to build beautiful expansive residential developments that are healthy havens for people to live in. We must look at what happened in the US and Europe with this policy - an increase in asthma, allergy and cardiovascular diseases. Australia had never experienced the problem of heavy traffic or 'gridlock' on its freeways like the US or Europe, until its population explosion via immigration in the last five to ten years.  Hence our relative ignorance of these downsides. Not surprising therefore that scant Australian research has been done in this regard, although the CSIRO does admit (in a report that has to be paid for -why?) that, "Trafficked streets are air pollution hot spots where people experience high exposure to hazardous pollutants".

 Bravo! But what has been done about it? Absolutely nothing! The most frightening aspect about this - leading scientists are shocked that years of effort researching the health of thousands of children has produced zero action from governments. Is that ringing a bell for Australians?

Bahram Fazeli of Communities for a Better Environment, says "Environmentalists have perhaps missed an opportunity by focusing on other issues even acting as cheerleaders for dense urban housing, including that along freeways, arguing that it helps to combat global warming by discouraging suburban living!
"Their focus is not on the health of individuals, but the planet".

Farzeli is right and the misguided focus is really at the heart of the problem. Living sustainably has nothing to do with supporting the Green party's policies. Nothing could be further from the truth. Nor is it about turning off the lights on coal power and huddling close to share body heat under a blanket (with partner or animal). I suggest that it is about living responsibly, minimising waste of natural resources through the intelligent application of technology and good old commonsense (seemingly in short supply moment).

It is about creating an environment to encourage the market to develop and deploy new technologies to use scarce resources more efficiently or employ natural resources more productively.

PURE Eco Homes most definately supports sustainability (defined as living within our means and enjoying but not wasting our scarce resources), finding the most efficient ways to live better and improve our health and quality of life in Australia.  Our homes will provide superb Healthy Home Allergy Friendly Sanctuaries, utilise power highly efficiently, conserve other resources and dramatically reduce building waste dumped for landfill. Where ever possible we will use Australian made products to support our country's workers. And PURE will do this all at an affordable price.  This is real sustainability in action! 

Now compare this with what the big names in the industry are doing. Sure there are enough turkeys out there but if we demand higher and more 'REAL LIVING' (not theoretical) sustainable standards of building by not buying their product, that is the sure fire fastest way to change things for the better in a capitalist economy.

For if we cannot live comfortably, if we cannot live enjoyably, if we cannot enjoy good health, if our children will struggle to own their homes in this beautiful big rich land that is Australia; what is the point of the end game that we are engaged in? 

PURE thanks the individual authors for their research and contributions to highlight the concerning and potentially health damaging aspect of our urban development policy in Australia;


Please consult a doctor if you believe you may have a respiratory illness highlighted in this site.
(All rights are accorded to and reserved by the individual authors. Articles may have been summarised for brevity).

elements of a green baby The most important aspect of green design for a newborn's environment is to reduce exposure to toxic chemicals as much as possible.

A nontoxic nursery is especially important because newborns spend most of their life in the nursery—an average of 16 to 17 hours a day.

1. If you are pregnant, do not paint the room yourself. Have someone else—family member, friend, or hired hand—paint with one of the new water-based low-VOC paints.

2. Painting should be done at least a month before the baby is due, and it can be cured by using a room space heater.

3. Stay away from new carpeting. Better to just leave whatever flooring is already there and clean it well. If you have to put down new flooring, consider natural linoleum.

4. Your baby will spend many hours sleeping, and at times will need the room to be dark and peaceful during the day. Consider wooden shutters (with a nontoxic paint or finish) or aluminium mini-blinds that will allow you to adjust the light as needed.

5. The crib is your baby's "home" and needs to be as pure as possible in every way. Choose real wood, natural finishes, and untreated pure cotton and wool, preferably organically grown.

6. Most toys sold in major toy stores are made from plastics. Plastic is a major contributor to indoor air pollution. There are many natural cloth and wood toys available on the Internet.

7. Be sure to provide good ventilation in the nursery, and at the same time watch out for drafts. Newborns need to be kept warm, but they also need fresh air (added - A Pure home will do precisely this).

8. Once you have a nontoxic nursery, keep it safe by using only natural and nontoxic cleaning products and pest controls

9. It may not always be possible to determine what materials are used in nursery products, or how safe those materials are, but there is one tool you can rely on to evaluate any product— your nose. If the smell bothers you, it will bother your baby, so don't put it in the nursery

(Source:Debra Lynn Dadd)
The emerging medical science of pediatric environmental health is finding that children are more susceptible to environmental hazards than adults. You can reduce the risks your children face with careful attention to their nursery's design, materials, and maintenance.
(Interview with Leonardo Trasande, MD, MPP, assistant director of the Mount Sinai Center for Children's Health and the Environment, the nation's first academic research and policy center to examine the links between exposure to toxic pollutants and childhood illness.)

Pediatric environmental health is an emerging specialty—can you give us some background on the field?

Though the public is concerned about environmental threats to children's health, and patients frequently ask their physicians about the health effects of environmental exposures, physicians have little training in environmental health. In a study of Georgia pediatricians, 53.5 percent of the doctors reported seeing patients who were seriously affected by environmental exposures, but only one in five had received specific training in environmental pediatrics. Pediatricians who do ask about environmental exposures usually limit their inquiry to lead and tobacco smoke.

To bridge the gap in training, a national network of Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units (PEHSUs) was established by the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry in 1998; it now includes 12 sites across the United States. The PEHSUs are designed to diagnose and treat children with diseases of toxic environmental origin, to reduce environmental health threats to children, and to improve access to expertise in pediatric environmental medicine.

In addition, the Ambulatory Pediatric Association sponsors a fellowship training program in pediatric environmental health at three sites: Children's Hospital in Boston, the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, and Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. The program's goal is to produce pediatricians who excel at community-based and primary care research addressing environmental health problems that affect children and who will become leaders in the field.

How does a home's environmental quality affect children's health?

Children are uniquely vulnerable to the home environment. They drink more water, eat more food, and breathe more air per pound of body weight than adults. For example, children in the first six months of life drink seven times as much water, and children 1 through 5 years old eat three to four times as much food on a body-weight basis than the average adult. The air intake of a resting infant is twice that of an adult. Two additional characteristics of children further magnify their exposures: their hand-to-mouth behavior and their play close to the ground.

While other sources of lead poisoning can be significant, lead-based paint in older housing remains the most important source of lead exposure. According to the 2000 National Survey of Lead and Allergens in Housing, Lead-based paint hazards were especially prevalent in housing built before 1978, and over 30 percent of housing units with lead-based paint contained hazards even when the paint was in good condition. 

Mold is another significant environmental hazard that can affect a child's health—it can worsen a child's asthma. Pesticides have also been proven to affect neurological and cognitive development. Solvents often stored in the home can be equally toxic to the developing brain. Cigarette smoke is another significant home environmental threat—it can affect lung and brain development.

(*A PURE Home's ventilation system coupled with its Build Technologies Synergy™ will automatically prevent the growth of mold by maintaining near perfect humidity levels all year round, allowing your family to breathe air fresher than Mother Nature's™).

Many parents remodel their home as they prepare for a new child's arrival. How does remodeling affect pediatric health?

It is common for families to race to paint the nursery so that a beautiful environment awaits their new baby. However, the odors that are commonly associated with new remodeling can provide a false sense of safety. These odors often represent volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can cause harm to the developing brain.

Remodeling, especially in older homes, can also expose children and families to chemical residues in dust. This is a common way for children to be exposed to lead, but it can also expose children to a wide array of other chemicals, such as pesticides, as well as to mold and asbestos. A useful book that can provide guidance on these matters is Raising Healthy Children in a Toxic World: 101 Smart Solutions for Every Family, by Philip Landrigan, Herbert Needleman, and Mary Landrigan.

Specific advice for reducing or eliminating exposures depends on a family's particular remodeling plan—couples with children and couples who are planning a pregnancy should consult with a physician before pursuing home remodeling or other improvement projects because many chemicals can cross the placenta and cause harm to the developing child, women who are pregnant or contemplating pregnancy should take special precautions. They should find an alternate place to stay before the remodeling starts, and make sure that they do not return until floor surfaces are well cleaned and rooms are aired out for at least 1 or 2 days.

Is there scientific evidence for these health impacts? Is this subject being sufficiently researched?

Lead, mercury, pesticides, tobacco smoke, alcohol, dioxins, and polychlorinated biphenyls are among the chemicals that have been found to be especially toxic to children. Progress in understanding the role of the environment in disease has been slow and incremental, however. Almost nothing is known about the interrelationships between chemicals and other environmental hazards, and between the chemical and physical environment and social environments.

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), in conjunction with the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is planning the National Children's Study, a large, multiyear epidemiologic study of environmental influences—physical, chemical, biological, and psychosocial—on children's health and development.

(Leonardo Trasande, MD, MPP)


This section examines various indoor environments and the likely pollutants to which occupants may be exposed. The divisions are in some cases a little arbitrary, as many pollutants and sources are common to a range of indoor environments and have little to do with the purpose for which the building is used. A case in point is formaldehyde emissions from the use of pressed-wood panels in mobile homes. This applies equally to mobile offices of similar construction and design.

Pollutants may originate from outdoor air, building construction materials, furnishings, appliances and equipment, and from the activities of the occupants. The relative contribution of the various sources of indoor air pollutants will be unique to any particular building.

Indoor air quality in the home

Indoor air quality in the home is of special importance because it is where we spend the greatest proportion of our time. The home is also the indoor environment in which occupants are most likely to be able to address at least some of the causes of poor indoor air quality.

Conversely, people are less likely to be able to control the ingress of pollutants from the outdoor air than they are in other buildings. Homes mostly rely on natural ventilation, while larger buildings are more likely to have mechanical ventilation systems that can filter out some pollutants.

VOCs and formaldehyde are significant indoor air pollutants in the home because they occur in a wide range of building products, such as pressed-wood panels, paints, adhesives and sealants. Studies have found that occupants are exposed to much higher levels of VOCs and formaldehyde for 6–12 months after building construction or renovation.

A recent CSIRO study of 27 Melbourne homes (Brown 2001) found that VOC concentrations in established homes were approximately four times higher than outdoor levels, and considerably higher still in new homes. About 150 000 new houses and other residential buildings are constructed each year in Australia, so many occupants are exposed to these very high levels of VOCs (volatile organic compounds).

Percentages are for total time spent in that environment, which may include an outdoor component. Common pollutants relate to indoor environments only.

House dust mites, a major source of allergens, are of greatest significance in the home, where they live in mattresses, furniture and carpets. House dust mite faeces, which readily become airborne, contain an allergen that affects humans. In Australia, house dust mite allergen concentrations have been found to be 20–40 times higher in homes than in public buildings (Mahmic and Tovey 1998).

Pets are a common source of allergens in the home. In particular, allergens from cats can produce a strong allergic reaction. Allergens are found in cat saliva and are transferred to the fur during grooming. When the saliva dries and falls off the hairs, these allergens readily become airborne. Cat hair itself is also an allergen source.

Overseas studies have shown cockroach allergy to be very common, but little is known about the relative importance of cockroach allergens in Australia.

Exposure to pesticides in the home may arise from the infiltration of termiticides used to treat foundations, from pesticide treatments applied inside the house, in roof cavities or in subfloor areas, or through the use of consumer pesticide products inside the home. Residues from the past use of organochlorine termiticides such as chlordane may persist in the soil beneath buildings for many years.

Environmental tobacco smoke is of particular importance in the home, which is one of the diminishing number of indoor environments where smoking is permitted without specified ventilation requirements or other restrictions.

Carpets are recognised as a major contributor to indoor particulate pollution in homes and office buildings. Dust in carpets is usually controlled by the use of vacuum cleaners, but conventional vacuum cleaners can reduce indoor air quality.

This is because they rely on bag filters, which allow smaller, more harmful particles to escape into the air. If their drawing capacity is inadequate, they can also lead to dust particles accumulating in carpets. The efficiency of a vacuum cleaner depends on the design of its motor and the type of filter it uses.

Na et al (2000) tested eight vacuum cleaners for emissions of total suspended particles. The study found that a high-performance vacuum cleaner using a HEPA filter in combination with a cyclonic design motor was the best performing of the models used. It removed more than 70%, or 8.48 g/m², of dust from the carpet surface (twice as much as the others tested). This model also had the lowest exhaust emission, averaging around the levels of total suspended particles found in the surrounding air (35 µg/m³ compared with 34 µg/m³), five times less than the highest-emitting vacuum cleaner (172 µg/m³).

The growth of fungi, in particular molds, is favoured by the presence of damp surfaces, which are commonly found in poorly ventilated bathrooms and other wet areas in the home. Molds produce large numbers of spores which are allergens and may also cause lung infections or be toxic.
(Environment Australia)
A new coat of paint or stain can make a room feel fresh again, but it often has the opposite effect on the air quality in your home. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, paints, stains, and other architectural coatings produce about 9 percent of the volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions from consumer and commercial products, making them the second-largest source of VOC emissions after automobiles.
The most common allergens for people with allergic rhinitis are pollens, house dust mite, pets, molds and cockroaches. Seasonal allergic rhinitis (hay fever) is usually triggered by wind-borne pollen from grasses, weeds or trees. Symptoms are most common in spring and summer, but can occur at different times depending on the region and rainfall. In tropical northern regions, pollens can be in the air all year round. The amount of pollen in the air is highest:
A chemical cocktail of more than 400 man-made substances is polluting homes with many accumulating in humans, scientists have warned. Formaldehyde, benzene, xylene, toulene and chloroform are only a few of the pollutants we are absorbing. Many are known to cause cancer, asthma, bronchitis, headaches, fatigue, nausea, and fertility problems and other illnesses
It doesn't matter if you live in Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra, Hobart, Perth, Darwin or Adelaide: Hay Fever and allergies hit Aussies hard in the summer.

If your nose starts itching every time you go close to a flower in summer, you probably are allergic to pollen and will fall prey to hay fever. It attacks during the spring and summer months when trees, flowers and grass start releasing pollen into the air. The symptoms are easy enough to identify: Inflamed eyes, Runny nose, Fever, Headache, Sinus.

Treatments usually include antihistamine tablets, nose sprays or, in the very worst cases, steroids. For extended hay fever symptoms, one can often undergo allergen treatment as well.

In Australia, hay fever hits most hard during spring and summer. The worst hit regions in the whole country would be the south, and especially the south-eastern regions. This means that one third of Australia falls prey to hay fever. If you are allergic to pollen, then avoid Melbourne and Canberra like the plague during spring time. These two cities are hubs of pollen allergy. Melbourne can be difficult for hay fever sufferers because of the grass pollen getting blown into the city from the Northern grasslands. The winds in spring bring it. However, it is very difficult to determine which places are the worst hits since it differs from person to person.

Interestingly, most of the pollen does not come from any native Australian plants, but rather from the exotic grass which are imported into the country. These can be found all over. Some of the common culprits include perennial ryegrass and couch or Bermuda grass. One tree that produces some really potent pollen is the White Cypress Murray Pine. It grows all over the western mountains to the plains in the east. This tree flowers around late July.

One of the ways to avoid getting exposed to pollen is by avoiding any trips to the countryside, mowing the lawn, etc. According to doctors, pollen release peaks during 7 to 9 am and 4 to 6 pm. This is the time you should stay away from grass.

The problem with Australia is that it suffers from a long hay fever season because of the variety of plants that pollinate at different times of the year. Some of the trees start as early as late winter and early spring. Grasses release pollen in spring and summer while weeds do so later. You can head for the east coast for some respite as pollen count is lower there. The Great Dividing Range protects it from the westerly winds which bring in pollen.

Try and stay away from grasses and pollen as much as you can. This means no picnics or day trips on hot windy days or rolling in the hay shed. Another way of preventing pollen from entering the nose and wreaking havoc is by coating your nostrils with Vaseline. Also, wear sunglasses during the day if you are out and about during the warmer weather (especially if it is windy) to reduce eye exposure to allergens, pollen and dust.

(Source: thanks to All rights reserved)
When you're trying to create a sustainable new home or renovation then using building materials with low VOC is important.

While not currently regulated in houses, indoor air quality is another healthy home measure on the horizon. US architect Anthony Bernheim has specialised in designing buildings with better air quality and occupant health for the last 20 years.

He says that to create healthy buildings the "first and best thing you can do is take the pollutants out, then you do good ventilation, because obviously people breathe out carbon dioxide and that's a fact of life, so you have to ventilate."

Maximum limits

CSIRO estimates that occupants of new homes may be exposed to many times the maximum allowable limits of some indoor air pollutants. One of the contributors to poor indoor air quality is the use of synthetic building materials, finishes and furnishings which release outgas pollutants.

Some problem materials and sources to avoid include volatile organise compounds (VOCs), which are a range of chemical substances that become airborne, or volatile, at room temperature. They are given off by most paints, paint strippers, wood preservatives, aerosol sprays, glues, cleansers and disinfectants, moth repellents, air fresheners, stored fuels and automotive products, hobby supplies, and dry-cleaned clothing. Biological pollutants including bacteria, molds and mildew can form part of household "dust", and be respirable.

What's behind the brick walls?

US architect Peter Pfeiffer says that it's "real problematic" not seeing what's going on behind a brick facade (cavity). (In a brick veneer home, moisture and condensation is meant to drain away via weepholes, but bricklayers leave the mortar dregs on or let it accumulate on the rebate between the brick and the timber stud wall. What happens in time with the moisture build up is a matter for debate.)

"Actually there's a neat little thing I can tell you about that," Pfeiffer explains. "Our second son had asthma, and the doctor suspected it was environmentally caused. Four months after moving into the new light weight cladding house, his symptoms are all gone. And that's great."

Engineering and Architecture academic Dr John Straube also has pertinent comments on the moisture-resistant properties of lightweight cladding construction. They allow "air circulation and don't inhibit drainage", he says.
Floors, walls, window sills, toys, pets, bedding, carpets, curtains, furniture, basements, attics, air ducts and garages can all be sources of asthma triggers.

Allergens - In many people with asthma, their asthma symptoms can be caused by exposure to certain triggers called "allergens." Household allergens can be found in mattresses, pillows, rugs, furniture, plush toys, bathrooms, basements, attics, air ducts, and more. Some common allergens in the home include:
Dust mites, Mold, Pet or animal dander, Cockroaches, Pollen

Irritants - Asthma symptoms can also be caused by exposure to some triggers called "irritants," a variety of particles that can pollute indoor air and disturb or irritate the airways in the lungs. Many household irritants can be found in certain types of paints, varnishes, waxes, solvents, cleaning products, pesticides, cosmetics, fuels, and more. Some common irritants that can be found in the home include:
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
o Tobacco smoke
o Fireplace smoke
o Strong fumes and odors
o Wood dust

*VOCs are gases from certain solids or liquids that can be found all around the house, many of which can trigger asthma symptoms if their levels are too high. Since the level of many VOCs can be higher indoors than outdoors – up to ten times higher – people with asthma should talk to their doctor to get more information on how to avoid VOCs. VOCs include a variety of chemicals. Common types of VOCs and a few select examples of where they may be found are:

Aldehyde (cleaning products, manufactured wood, plastics, resins)
Formeldehyde (Pressed wood products (hardwood plywood wall paneling, particleboard, fiberboard) and furniture made with these pressed wood products
Benzene (lubricants, detergents, polymers, adhesives, plastics)
Chlorobenzenes (pesticides, herbicides, rubber)
Polychlorinated biphenyl (paints, sealants, cement, flame retardants)
Toluene (paint thinners, inks, lacquers, disinfectants)
Trichloroethane (metal cleaners, aerosol propellants, paint solvents)
Xylene (fuels, varnishes, pesticides, paint thinners)
Hundreds of thousands of new homes across the country are not performing at their promised energy efficiency rating, forcing residents to use up to double the predicted energy required for heating and cooling, industry officials say. Research into air tightness of homes by Air Barriers Technology has shown air leakage in new homes is five to 10 times worse than expected under the star-rating scheme. About 40,000 homes are built in Victoria each year. All must meet the five-star standard. This will rise to six stars from May 2011. This means that an average five-star home is likely to perform only to a three-star level, potentially doubling expected energy bills for residents.

(added) According to ABT “many homes built since 2005 have been issued with a FirstRate 5-star or better energy efficiency rating. Despite their star rating they still waste huge amounts of energy - and your money. Only 5% of star-rated homes tested so far actually provide the energy efficiency that their owners paid for. Air leakage testing has been part of the landscape in most European and North American countries for many years”.

With the millions of taxpayer dollars being thrown at often dubious green schemes by this government, you have to ask why they have not mandated that a home is tested to ensure it delivers its rated performance pre handover? The Victorian Building Commissioner(ex)Tony Arnell says “builders who deliver homes that have not been properly sealed or insulated to meet the set star rating could be sued by buyers”. A group of industry players who have been lobbying state and federal government and building regulators to crack down on the air leakage problem, say unless more action is taken, customers cannot be confident their homes meet the stated star rating. The question of builder liability was raised in a meeting with the Federal Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency and the Australian Building Codes Board in April last year.

Following that meeting, Terry Mahoney, president of the Air Infiltration and Ventilation Association of Australia, emailed other attendees, as well as federal government ministers and senior public servants, criticising officials for failing to respond to the issues discussed.''It became apparent that no amount of scientific evidence, poor global best practice comparisons or safety and health risk concerns raised by the visiting group, would engender any action or urgency,'' he wrote. He noted the attendees' view that there is ''overwhelming evidence'' that the current star rating method ''proves grossly inaccurate when constructed homes are performance tested''. Housing Industry Association building and environment director Kristin Brookfield said the association was not aware of specific research on air leakage, but said energy efficiency was affected by poor sealing. Victorian Building Commissioner Tony Arnel said an auditing process had consistently demonstrated that new homes complied with regulations but admitted that research had shown more work needed to be done with the industry on ''draughts and gaps''(added - but how would the consumer and the Building Commission know when no pre-handover test is done?) Michael Green, The Age, February 6, 2011

A recent study by the University of South Australia on steady state R-values (basically the effectiveness of insulation installed) of foil backed glass wool building blanket has found that the R-values were found t o be 41%-60% less than the certified R-values of the blanket. The report conclded that this effectively meant a 24 to 56 percent reduction in overall R-values of the entire roof. AFIA president Brian Tikey says that AS4859.1 clearly recognises the correlation between compression and R-value reduction for bulk insulation yet there is still no requirement for bulk insulation to take compression into consideration when calculating and promoting R-values.

AIR-CELL MD Scott Gibson said “Both building professionals and homeowners should demand third party independent certification to ensure that they are getting what they paid for (in R-value insulation effect). PURE comment: it seems clear that owners are simply not getting the home R-value performance level they have paid for and if govt. won't do anything it must be up to the consumer to demand it.
1. By cutting down on draughts you can save up to 25 per cent of your heating and cooling bills.
2. Half of the energy we use to heat or cool our homes can simply leak out without insulation.
3. Australia's renewable energy target aims to ensure that 20 per cent of our electricity comes from renewable sources like solar, wind and geothermal by 2020 (in a UN emissions agreement).
4. Insulation acts as a barrier to heat loss and heat gain, particularly in roofs and ceilings, walls and floors. It helps to keep your home warm in winter and cool in summer.
5. An extra 1 degree Celsius difference between outside and inside temperatures can add around 10 per cent to heating and cooling costs. You can save money and energy by setting the thermostat to 18-20 degrees in winter and 25-27 degrees in summer.
6. Every degree lower a fridge or freezer is set needs 5 per cent more energy. Ideal is fridge between 3 to 4 degrees C and freezer between -15 to -18 degrees C.
7. Up to 10 per cent of the electricity used in your home is consumed by gadgets plugged in but not in use, like your TV, mobile phone charger, MP3 docks and    stereos.
8. Water heating is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions from the average Australian home.
9. A large screen TV used 6 hours a day can generate around half a tonne of greenhouse gases a year more than a family fridge.
10. Washing clothes in cold water can reduce Greenhouse Gas emissions from washing by up to 80 per cent.
11. About 30 per cent of the energy used to heat water in a storage system is wasted due to heat loss from the tank and associated pipe work.
12. A tap leaking at the rate of one drip a second could waste more than 12,000 litres of water a year.
13. For every old style incandescent globe you replace with a compact fluorescent light you can save about $40 in electricity costs.
14. Many appliances use electricity even when they appear to be turned off. Switch them off at the power point to save energy.
15. When you turn on a hot tap, the first litre or so was hot but has cooled. If you have an electric system and use the hot tap 10 times a day, you could be generating 200 kg of greenhouse gas each year.
16. The average home produces around 80 litres of reusable greywater a day.
17. Many plastics can be recycled again and again without losing their quality. Using recycled materials to make new products decreases Australia's demand on natural resources, and reduces both energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.
18. Up to 40 per cent of all waste that goes into landfill is building waste.
19. Up to 90 per cent of the materials used in a mobile phone can be recycled.
20. For every litre of petrol used in a motor vehicle, 2.3 kilograms of carbon dioxide (C02) are emitted from the exhaust. Short car trips are the least fuel efficient. You can save fuel and pollution by combining trips.
21. A water efficient showerhead can save about 14,500 litres per home, per year.
22. Keeping a traditional lawn green can use up to 90 per cent of your gardening water.
23. On average Australians throw away around 20 million tonnes of waste per year.
24. The most efficient dishwashers use half the water of average models.
25. Gas hot water heaters produce only 25 to 33 per cent of the greenhouse gas emissions produced Water heating is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions from the average Australian home.
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