Jeff May’s Healthy Home Tips, a new paperback book, provides many hundreds of tips on how to detect the source of these indoor air quality problems and then eliminate them. His wife, Connie, a former English teacher, provides practical comments and true short stories throughout the book, adding some humor and making her Harvard graduate husband’s science more palatable. Jeff is probably the most experienced indoor air quality expert in the United States, and certainly the most widely published. This is Jeff’s fourth book on the topic, but my favorite remains My House Is Killing Me, published in 2001, when I began working on indoor air quality projects for the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
If you have an allergic nose or allergic asthma (or both), you will find dozens of practical ideas for sleuthing inside and outside your sick home, apartment, or office. Most people who’ve become sensitized to aero-allergens are allergic to both outdoor allergens (such as pollens) and indoor allergens, such as molds, house dust mites, cockroaches, and perhaps cats or dogs. Molds, mites, and roaches proliferate in moist buildings, so Healthy Home Tips concentrates on finding and fixing the sources of moisture in your indoor environments. An expensive book from the National Academy of Sciences in 2004 exhaustively reviewed the evidence that “damp indoor spaces” often worsens nasal allergies, sinusitis, and asthma, so Jeff and Connie don’t spend much time discussing the “cause and effect” relationships – they assume that you bought the book because you are suffering from the effects.
Much of the book is devoted to handy guys who enjoy weekly trips to the Home Depot or Lowe’s, and many of the solutions and repairs (aka remediations) are expensive, such as adding a layer of concrete to a basement or crawl space floor which is currently covered in dirt. Some are inexpensive, such as buying a better quality of air filter; many are free, such as always running the exhaust fan in the bathroom when you take a shower; and a few save you money, like “don’t buy electrostatic or electronic room air cleaners” and don’t pay to have your air ducts “sanitized.”
The diagrams provided by Mr. Fix-It (Tom Fezia) were superb, and I would like dozens more. All of the case-studies were fascinating, such as the stinking dead squirrel in the hot water heater vent pipe of a gourmet cook. However, I found the workbook style formatting difficult to read. There are “Do” and “Don’t” checklists on most pages, and redundancy within and between chapters. Candid reviews of the resources, supplies, equipment, other books, and websites would have been a great addition. Perhaps Jeff can add these to his website.
In summary, if your nose gets congested, you develop a sinus headache, or your asthma often gets worse after an hour or two at home or at work, buy one of Jeff’s books to find the cause and a way fix it (and he didn’t pay me to say this).