October 1, 2008 Industrial hygienists found that mold, rot, and corrosion are dangers that must be accounted for when builders construct energy-efficient homes. Recycled materials used in this type of construction are likely to absorb more water than new materials. Air quality can also become an issue because of a heightened focus on insulation which, in addition to reducing heating and cooling costs, can limit the movement of water vapor and potential pollutants.
Green building is a growing trend across the country. Eco-friendly homes are being built with recycled wood, solar panels and energy efficient appliances -- but what is healthy for the environment could hide a growing problem in its walls.
Amanda Keating is glowing about her new green home. "I'm really proud to live here, and I like to show off," says Keating.
But before you build green, you need to know that if you don't build these eco-friendly homes right, you could be facing a costly problem.
"You can very quickly get into mold, rot and corrosion kinds of problems," says Roger Morse, a green home consultant with Morse Zehnter Associates in Troy, N.Y. Morse says knowing where and how to go green is important. "Materials that are recycled, which take in water much easier than natural materials, end up in a place where they absorb water," he says.
Industrial hygienists who often solve mold problems say the materials most at risk for mold include recycled wood, oriented strand board and paper. The more recycled it is, the more risk of being damaged by water.
Keating's home is mold free -- since she used protected recycled wood for walls. She also used 40 percent more insulation than code, which cost about $5 thousand extra. Keating says her choice is paying off.
"I was pleasantly surprised by how much the house was appraised for," Keating says.
Building green increased the value of her home by 10 to 15 percent.
MOLD'S GOOD SIDE: Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin by accident in London in 1928, when he left plates of bacteria cultures unwashed in his lab for several weeks. When he returned, he found that mold had grown on one of the plates, and the bacteria were not growing around it.
DIFFICULT SOLUTIONS: Recycling is an excellent concept, but we often waste more energy reprocessing our recyclables than we gain. Furthermore, to date no one has found a cost-effective means of recycling used food containers into new food containers. More efficient processes will bring us closer to the goal of not wasting our resources. Although there is a demand for recycled bottle-grade plastic, the high cost of cleaning post-consumer beverage bottles, strict FDA requirements, and outmoded technology have favored the use of virgin plastic instead of recycled in the manufacturing of beverage bottles. Instead, most beverage bottles collected for recycling are reprocessed into non-food products such as fiber and strapping.
The American Industrial Hygiene Association contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.