The cause of Napoleon Bonaparte’s death has plagued curious historians and history buffs since the day his coffin was lowered. One popular theory is that he was slowly poisoned by poor indoor air quality caused from noxious arsenic fumes given off by wallpaper. Longwood House on St. Helena’s Island where the emperor was imprisoned, was papered in the fashion of those days with bright green wallpaper, the pigment of which was created with arsenic. In a damp, hot room, the pigment would have entered the indoor air quality and been breathed in as a toxic vapour.
Thankfully, poisonous arsenic is no longer used to make wallpaper, but a new study from the National Veterinary School of Toulouse, France, suggests that wallpaper may be contributing to sick building syndrome.
Sick building syndrome is a term used to describe a building in which the occupants experience health effects that are linked to their residence – health effects can range from headaches to fatigue to nausea. People generally feel better once they leave a sick building, but the symptoms from this poor indoor air quality can have lingering effects.
The French study found that toxins from molds growing on wallpaper could easily become airborne and effect indoor air quality. In the course of their research, scientists recreated the home indoor air quality environment, simulating air flow and temperature found in most homes. They contaminated a piece of wallpaper containing three common types of mold that affect indoor air quality: Penicillium brevicompactum, Aspergillus versicolor, and Stachybotrys chartarum (the so called ‘toxic black mold’). These molds release tiny spores that are released into your indoor air quality where they can be easily breathed in. These spores have a deleterious effect on human health and with repeated exposure can be harmful to your health.
Modern homes are often so tightly sealed from the outdoors that they can become ideal spaces for indoor air quality issues. While you may save on your energy bill, a house that cannot breathe, coupled with the humidity our daily lives make (showering, boiling a pot of water, washing the floor) may create the optimal conditions for mold growth or other indoor air quality problems.
If you are experiencing any ill health effects at home that seem to improve once you leave, it might be a good idea to have an indoor air quality test done to determine if your ill health could be caused by something hidden within your home. At SafeAir, we take your health and your home’s comfort and safety seriously. Your indoor air quality can be affected by many factors: mold growth, your HVAC system, or water damage are a few. A typical indoor air quality test from SafeAir will include a visual assessment for water damage and mold growth, tests to assess airborne particles, temperature, humidity, carbon monoxide and dioxide, as well as a reading for VOCs. Your indoor air quality report will include a detailed assessment covering concerns as well as recommendations for remediating any problems we find in your home.