Indoor pollution: how to improve the air quality at home?

Sometimes, pollution is more important in the house than outside! What are the main sources of indoor pollution? What risks does it expose us to? What are the right things to do to improve the air quality at home?

Improving indoor air quality is a health priority

Knowing that we spend more than 80% of our time in closed places (home, work, school, transportation, etc.), the quality of the indoor air we breathe is a major factor that determines our health. Exposure to indoor pollution can lead to a variety of symptoms and conditions: respiratory irritation, headaches, poisoning, etc.

What are the main sources of indoor air pollution?

Tobacco is the first indoor pollutant … and one on which it is easiest to act! Then we find cleaning products (household products, home perfumes, incense), DIY products (paints, glues, solvents, gardening products), building materials (glass wool, rock wool), products used for the manufacture of furniture (formaldehyde for example), radon, etc.

The right things to do at home to fight against indoor pollution

Air regularly your home Our homes are becoming increasingly isolated, which translates into less energy expenditure. But this isolation hinders the  renewal of our inner air. It is therefore necessary to ventilate all the rooms every day by opening the windows for at least 10 minutes. Even if it is cold, and even during a period of peak outdoor pollution, it is essential to ventilate in order to renew and mix the air, dilute and evacuate indoor pollutants.Be careful, some activities require even more ventilation: cleaning, do-it-yourself, decoration work, renovation, etc.Equip your home with a suitable ventilation system Ventilation systems (VMC, controlled mechanical ventilation) installed in the housing provide air circulation, general and permanent. Their installation and the verification of their operation must be carried out by a specialist.Make sure air inlets, grills and exhaust vents are not obstructed and clean as often as necessary to keep them efficient.

What measures to adopt for each pollutant?

Reduce indoor pollution by tobacco Do not smoke indoors or even at the window. Also, have your guests smoke outside. With 3,000 toxic substances, tobacco is the number one pollutant in housing, causing cancer through active and passive smoking, asthma, allergies, cardiovascular disease, etc. Every year, some 5,000 people die from second-hand smoke.

Reduce indoor pollution with household products and home fragrancesVentilate when using household products, avoid spray products, do not mix the products with each other (especially with bleach), follow the directions for use, doses and safety instructions, limit the number of products you use, prefer products certified as protecting the environment.Avoid scented candles, incense and indoor perfumes, great purveyors of indoor pollution. Also beware of stain removers or to remove nail polish.Reduce indoor pollution by DIY products and building materials Many building materials and DIY products (paints, glues, solvents, varnishes, vitrifiers, waxes, paint removers, thinners, lacquers, etc.) emit toxic substances such as fibers or volatile organic compounds or VOCs (formaldehyde, organic solvents glycol ethers, hydrocarbons).

When you tinker:

always wear the appropriate protections (filter mask, gloves, glasses),close the products well after use,keep them in an airy place out of the reach of children.If the work is indoors, take regular breaks outdoors and ventilate. Choose products that contain the least amount of pollutants as soon as possible: read the VOC labels, choose European eco-labels and consult the pictograms.Be careful, some new furniture (in particular chipboard) release some chemical substances for a certain time. Ideally, leave them for a few days in a very ventilated place before installing them in your bedroom or living room.

Reduce indoor pollution with radon

Radon is a radioactive natural gas emitted by the soil that causes lung cancer (2nd cause after tobacco). The presence of radon depends on the nature of the soil and the degree of containment. If you live in a region with a high concentration of radon (Auvergne, Limousin, Franche Comté, Corsica, Brittany), work to increase the ventilation of your home may be necessary.

Housing and asbestos: what do you need to know?

Asbestos has been incorporated in the composition of many building materials but, because of the dangerous nature of its fibers for health, its use was totally banned in France in 1997. How to know if there is asbestos in a building ? What precautions should be taken ? Here are some information and tips to prevent asbestos-related health risks.

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a fibrous material resistant to the action of fire. Due to its properties in terms of thermal and acoustic insulation, mechanical resistance and fire protection, it has been incorporated into the composition of many building materials. Asbestos fibers are made of very fine filaments fragile and invisible in dust.

Why is asbestos dangerous?

When asbestos fibers are inhaled, they are deposited in the lungs and are very difficult to remove by the body. Repeated exposures can cause respiratory diseases that usually occur 20 to 40 years after exposure begins.

Is there still asbestos in buildings in France?

Because of the danger of its fibers to health, the use of asbestos was completely banned in France in 1997. Thus, in principle, the buildings of which the building permit was filed after 1 st July 1997 did contain more asbestos. However, this material is still present in many buildings built before that date.

How do I know if there is asbestos in my building?

For residential buildings whose construction permit was filed before 1 st July 1997 there is a risk of asbestos. This is why homeowners have obligations in terms of asbestos diagnosis.

Is it dangerous if my building was built with asbestos?

As long as materials and products containing asbestos are in good condition, the risk of inhalation by humans is very low. However, in the event of wear or during operations degrading the material in particular following a disaster (drilling, sanding, cutting …), these materials and products can release asbestos fibers and lead to risks of exposure if precautionary measures are not taken.

What precautions should I take when tinkering at home?

When you tinker at home, you risk being exposed to asbestos. It is therefore recommended to take certain precautions. Thus, the Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development, Transport and Housing advises you to take the following precautions: check if the materials concerned contain asbestos by referring to the documents relating to housing (ex: asbestos diagnosis). If in doubt, call in certified professionals to make a diagnosis;avoid any direct intervention on materials containing asbestos, especially on flocking and insulation;if you yourself are working on materials that may contain asbestos:keep away from those not involved in the work;wear appropriate protective equipment (overalls, masks, etc.);wet the material or fix it with special products (special gels to fix the fibers);work with care in order to release as little dust as possible: avoid damaging the material, do not use a quick-cutting tool (chainsaw, grinder), clean the room and tools carefully with a damp cloth;place all your waste (asbestos-containing materials, protective equipment and cleaning goods) in waterproof bags marked “asbestos” and dispose of them in the appropriate sectors, in accordance with the regulations;Once the work is finished, wash thoroughly in the shower without forgetting the hair.

New Home Warranty Act

The New Home Warranty Act (“NHWA”), La. R.S. 9:3141, sets out the exclusive remedies, warranties, and preemptive periods in relation to the rights of homeowners and builders in home construction projects in Louisiana.

The NHWA provides for two warranty periods. The first provides that the home will be free from any defect due to noncompliance with building standards or due to other defects in materials or workmanship for one year following the warranty commencement date. The second warranty provided within the NHWA provides that the home will be free from major structural defects due to noncompliance with building standards or due to other defects in materials or workmanship for five years following the warranty commencement date.The warranty commencement date is the date that legal title of a home is conveyed to the initial purchaser or the date the home is occupied, whichever is first.

This provides homeowners with two preemptive periods within which suit must be filed to recover damages for defects in their home. The Louisiana Supreme Court recently addressed the second warranty in the NHWA, those related to “major structural defects.” In Shaw v. Acadian Builders and Contractors, LLC, the Court defined what constitutes a “major structural defect.”Shaw v. Acadian Builders and Contractors, LLC, 2013-0397 (La. 12/10/13).

In Shaw, a home in Pelican Point subdivision was built by Acadian Builders and Contractors, LLC and sold on September 27, 2005. Barbara Shaw purchased the home from the initial homeowner in February of 2006. In 2008, Shaw began to notice signs of water damage, which led Shaw toretain a home inspector. The home inspector discovered water intrusion due to defects in the application of Tyvek paper, which is water-resistant material the homebuilder applied underneath the exterior stucco. The improper application of the Tyvek paper allowed water intrusion, causing deterioration of the particle board which was supporting and stabilizing the studs in the home.

In February of 2009, Shaw notified Acadian in writing of the water intrusion and alleged defects, which Acadian inspected. Acadian took the position that its obligations to repair the defects in the home had expired under the NHWA. Shaw filed suit in February of 2009, to which Acadian filed exceptions of prescription and peremption.

The district court determined that a “major structural defect” existed and awarded Shaw $115,380.68 plus legal interest, all costs of the proceeding and reasonable attorney fees. Acadian appealed, and the Court of Appeal reversed, finding that no “major structural defect” under the NHWA existed, determining Shaw’s action had prescribed. The Court of Appeal reasoned that even though the exterior stucco and Tyvek paper defects allowed water into the home, the defects were not “failure of the load-bearing portions,” and the one year prescriptive period was applicable, rendering Shaw’s suit untimely.

The Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeal and upheld the district court’s judgment, finding that the Court of Appeal misinterpreted La. R.S. 9:3143(5). The Court reasoned that whether the Tyvek paper or stucco is load bearing is irrelevant. The Court explained the pertinent question is whether actual physical damage to a load-bearing portion has been caused by a failure of that load-bearing portion.

The takeaway of the ruling is that the five year warranty period related to a “major structural defect” does not require homeowners to prove that the failed component of a load-bearing portion of a home is in and of itself load-bearing. Louisiana homeowners must only prove that defects in a component of a load-bearing portion of their home contributed to the structural defect. This provides homeowners with more latitude and time to file claims against homebuilders for defects which affect the structural integrity of homes, but do not appear within one year from sale and/or occupancy.

Construction Change Order

In Driver Pipeline Co., Inc. v. Cadeville Gas Storage, LLC, theSecond Circuit Court of Appeal heldthat a written construction contract may be modified by the parties through oral agreement or their conduct, even when the contract provides that change orders must be in writing.

In Driver, the contractor, Driver Pipeline Co., Inc., entered into a contract with Cadeville Gas Storage, LLC, as owner, to construct natural gas pipelines and facilities in connection with a storage facility. The contract price was $5,430,130. After extensive delays on the project, Driver submitted approximate $3 million dollars in construction change orders to Cadeville. Some of the work in the change orders had already been performed by Driver.

The Court found the trial court in error for granting Cadeville’s motion for summary judgment. The reasoning was based upon the Court’s opinion that the facts of Driver fit into previous jurisprudence allowing parol evidence to establish a contract had been changed through silence, inaction, or oral agreement. Specifically, the Court reviewed an email between Cadeville and Driver where Cadeville had instructed Driver to “proceed accordingly,” which established there were material facts precluding summary judgment.

The jurisprudence allowing for changes in construction contracts based upon the conduct of the parties was a primary focus of the Court in Driver. The decision should be a reminder to contractors that changes, despite adverse contractual provisions, may be upheld in court. Evidence establishing the changewas accepted, such as emails, letters, or discussions of the parties could allow for recovery of change orders in lieu of formal written authorization for the change.