Weatherization plus moisture add up to health hazard
sponsored byA program aims to create rules for weatherization pros on addressing indoor air problems.
By TUX TURKEL, Staff Writer
December 17, 2009
PORTLAND — Weatherizing a home can make its occupants sick, experts in indoor air quality are warning.
Sealing air leaks and adding insulation can cause or increase health threats that include mold, radon and carbon monoxide.
The answer isn't to live in a drafty, hard-to-heat house. The solution is to take steps to reduce moisture, install proper ventilation and control contamination as part of the weatherization process.
"When you're weatherizing, don't do any harm," said Bill Turner, president of Turner Building Science & Design LLC of Harrison.
Maine has some of the oldest homes and highest heating bills in the nation. Earlier this year, the Legislature passed a law that includes the goal of weatherizing every home and half of all businesses by 2030.
The federal government, meanwhile, is pumping millions of dollars of economic stimulus money into the state, earmarked for weatherization. Government officials recognized Maine this week for running one of the strongest weatherization programs in the country.
Maine is a complicated place, however, when it comes to weatherization.
Maine's older homes typically lack exhaust fans that pull moist air from bathrooms and kitchens, where it can contribute to mold and mildew growth.
The stone foundations, dirt floors and high water tables that are common here have caused problems for generations. The trouble gets worse when caulk, weatherstripping and insulation seal the pathways for moisture and hazardous gases to escape.
"Maine basements, in general, are a mess," said Christine Crocker, the Indoor Air Quality Council's executive director. "If people have a wet basement, they need to deal with the moisture issue before they undertake weatherization."