The Downside of Air Sealing: Sealing in Toxic Chemicals?

The Downside of Air Sealing: Sealing in Toxic Chemicals?

Cambria Bold
Jun 21, 2011

We advocate air sealing as one of the most cost effective ways to increase energy efficiency. But a recent report from FOX News states that by making buildings more airtight, building owners increase "indoor-air contaminant concentrations and indoor-air humidity," and "stir up hazardous material ranging from asbestos to harmful caulking." Now, before you praise or dismiss FOX's news credentials, it's worth noting that even TreeHugger argued there's some validity to this concern: while air sealing will save you money and increase your energy efficiency, could it also adversely affect your health?

Climate Progress takes issue with Fox's report, and states that due to ASHRAE Standard 62.1 and the LEED rating system—both of which prioritize indoor air quality and human health—indoor environmental quality is not being sacrificed in our pursuit of better energy efficiency.

But Lloyd Alter of TreeHugger writes that while, yes, in an ideal world that might be true, he hypothesizes that the "vast majority of the builders and owners of tightly sealed energy efficient houses have no idea what ASHRAE Standard 62.1 is, and are not going for LEED certification. Their idea of 'green' is that it saves energy, period." But unless the home or apartment is new construction or has undergone a green retrofit, it's likely that many homes are still filled with toxic materials, like "formaldehyde-leaching particle board... phthalate-filled vinyl or fire-retardant-filled styrofoam," and preventing air flow only increases their risk.

Read FOX's report here, Climate Progress' response here, and TreeHugger's assessment here.

What do you think?

(Image: Spray Foam Homes)

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