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Is Your House Making You Sick?

Protect yourself from pollution and chemicals inside your house

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Headache? Got the sniffles? Is life getting you down?

You might have the flu, or... you could be suffering from the effects of air pollution inside your home or office.

Our buildings are filled with synthetic materials, and some of them can literally make you sick. Plywood, pressboard, and other manufactured woods emit formaldehyde. The stone used in concrete can release radon. Fiberglass insulation may be capable of causing lung cancer in the same way that asbestos does. Even your carpeting can make you feel lousy.

"Walking into a modern building can sometimes be compared to placing your head inside a plastic bag that is filled with toxic fumes," says John Bower, author of several books on healthy home construction. Just the sound of this chemical cocktail is enough to make your head spin: Acetonitrile, methyl methacrylate, styrene, aliphatic hydrocarbons, ketones, alkenes, esters...

The solution? Whether you are building a new home or remodeling an old one, Bower recommends that you follow three key principles:

Elimination

Remove the materials that emit toxic fumes. This is no easy matter, because everything from the floor to the roofing may contain harmful chemicals.

Separation

Some things just can't be eliminated, but you can still protect yourself. Use sealants or foilbacked drywall to separate living quarters from materials that contain harmful substances.

Ventilation

Controlled, filtered ventilation may be the only way to insure that the air we bring indoors is clean.

Ready to get started? For detailed information and construction advice, check out these resources >

Readers Respond: How do you make your home healthy?

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