Question

Can a 100 year old house cause allergy-like symptions?

Asked by doug golenski
New Bedford, MA

Is there anything in a 100 year old house that can cause allergy like symptoms during the winter in the north east??

Answer

Lucas Johnson

Answered by Lucas Johnson

Seattle, WA

Cascadia Consulting Group

September 16, 2013

Yes, it is entirely possible, and very likely, that a 100 year old house can cause allergies.

  • In fact, there is even something called "sick building syndrome" when someone has chronic health issues caused by chemicals, mold, or other pollutants in their home.
  • It is important to note that the allergy issues are not likely caused by the core elements of your home (wood, plaster, etc.), but rather from items such as insulation, furniture off-gassing, and household chemicals.
  • That being said, the most common reason to experience indoor allergies is exposure to mold spores.

However, what all these potential sources have in common is the pathway required to cause health issues. Namely, air leakage.

Air leakage

Older homes have a much higher rate of air leakage, especially between the living space and the attic or crawl space.

Air leakage can move water vapor and mold spores into your home, which can lead to mold growth. It can also pull insulation fibers, rat droppings, or other pollutants into your home.

Find a good energy auditor

The good news is that it is typically a relatively easy fix.

  • I would recommend researching local home energy auditors or contractors, especially those certified by the Building Performance Institute (www.bpi.org).
  • You should also research local utility or government rebate programs to see if any incentives exist to air seal your home.

Another piece of good news is that in addition to improving air quality, you are almost guaranteed to improve comfort while also reducing your energy bills!

The auditor could provide a 3rd party diagnosis while the contractor will be able to develop a bid to fix the problem. Most likely the contractor will need to air seal your attic and your crawl space to limit the air transfer.

Lastly, since you mentioned experiencing the allergy issues during winter, it is also likely that you need to air seal the ductwork for any existing central heating system.

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