Do LEED Standards Neglect Indoor Air Quality?

When it comes to building, what does “green” really mean?

According to a recent report from Connecticut-based Environment and Human Health Inc. (EHHI), LEED standards are being adopted by many levels of government as law but are not sufficient to protect human health. The LEED rating system was developed by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) – a trade association for the building industry. According to the EHHI report, there is no federal regulation standard for what makes a building “green” and the USGBC has little expertise in environmental health.

LEED standards place an emphasis on energy efficiency (35 possible points) over indoor air quality and its effects on health (8 possible points). Since LEED stands for “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design,” this comes as no surprise. Regardless, people should know what they are really getting with a LEED certification, and according to EHHI, it’s not a healthier indoor environment.

In order to increase energy efficiency and lessen negative environmental impact, buildings are being constructed in such a way as to decrease the flow of air between the inside and outside. Tighter buildings increase human exposure to harmful chemicals and contaminants that become concentrated indoors over time. Building materials, furnishings and cleaning products often contain toxic chemicals, as LEED standards do not require otherwise. These chemicals are released into indoor environments and may be inhaled, ingested or absorbed through the skin. LEED also neglects drinking water quality. Pesticides may be used in buildings and on grounds, with no regard to groundwater contamination.

Green building is a growing trend, and many commercial and residential environments are jumping on board the eco-friendly train. However, since humans today spend most of their time indoors, indoor air quality is just as important as energy efficiency, and any green lifestyle should have human health as a top priority. Your home or office building may be LEED certified, but is it truly “green”? Take our IAQ quiz and find out!

Water Park Installs UV Filters in Pools

Wild Island Family Adventure Park in Sparks, Nevada is proud to be the first outdoor water park to have all its pools equipped with UV filtration. Though many water parks are beginning to implement UV filters, they are not installed in all pools, because this type of filtration is significantly more expensive than the traditional chlorine method. For the officials at Wild Island Park, however, the system is worth the high investment.

UV filtration eliminates parasites and microorganisms that are resistant to chlorine, such as cryptosporidium and giardia. Chlorine reacts with microorganisms in the water resulting in dangerous byproducts like chloramines and trihalomethanes which can cause allergies and other, more serious respiratory problems. Chlorine itself is also harsh on skin and eyes. The UV system destroys all bacteria in the water that passes through it, preventing microbes from re-entering the pool. Moreover, UV light has a photo-oxidation effect that destroys chloramines and other harmful byproducts of chlorine without the addition of more chemicals. Thus, the UV system cuts down on the use of chlorine as a disinfectant. Water park visitors have claimed that they could “feel the difference” upon exiting the pool.

Chlorine is not just a problem in swimming pools. Since it is a common disinfecting method used by municipal water treatment plants, chlorine is often present in the water you drink and use for bathing. Chlorine in drinking water often causes water to have an undesirable taste and odor and can be toxic in large amounts. Many refrigerator filters, faucet water filters and undersink filters reduce or remove chlorine. Showering in chlorinated water can also result in dry, itchy skin and upper respiratory problems, especially when the water is hot and you breathe in the vapors. Shower water filters can also cut down on water chlorine levels. For healthy drinking water that is not treated with chlorine, or that is contaminated with parasites that are resistant to chlorine, Filters Fast carries several UV water filters to suit your needs.

Boomerang Water Bottling System

Clearwater Manufacturing, a company in Huntersville, NC has created a mini-water bottling machine that sanitizes, fills and caps aluminum and glass bottles on site. The company plans to lease or sell the machines to hospitals, universities, companies, military bases, theme parks and cruise lines.

The invention, which is called the Boomerang Water Bottling System, makes six bottles a minute. The bottles can be kept as souvenirs or returned and reused. This eco-friendly solution eliminates the need for trucks to deliver bottled water, cutting down on vehicle emissions. Obtaining a fresh bottle of water is as simple as pressing the start button: first, bottles are disinfected, rinsed and drained; then FDA-approved municipal tap water is filtered through a series of processes and used to fill the bottles; special caps are sanitized and pressed onto the bottles which are then ready to be displayed for sale. All of this occurs on-site, inside of a  machine that is no bigger than a commercial-sized ice maker.

The name “Boomerang” indicates that the return and reuse of bottles is the overall goal, and so far it has been relatively successful. This is more than we can say for the recycling of plastic water bottles. Perhaps one day these machines will be able to bottle soda and other flavored drinks on-site, eliminating the need for the manufacturing and transport of plastic bottled drinks altogether. Look out Coca-Cola. Clearwater is on a mission to save the planet!