|Air Purifiers - Most Often Asked Questions|
We have just added new Euphoria Organic 100% Cotton Dust Mite Mattress Covers & Pillow Encasings that will help achieve a perfect night's sleep without the disruption of dust mite allergies. They are truly soft as a cloud and have a luxurious natural sheen to them for refined simplicity. Starting at $216 for the twin sized cover and $110 for the pillow encasing.
In addition, we now feature a whole new line of Euphoria organic wool and natural rubber pillows that are both hypoallergenic and provide ample support and comfort. The Euphoria natural rubber pillow (available in contour and standard shape) starts at $108 and the organic wool at $156.
We also have some brand new 100% . The silk pillows are available in standard size with a white silk habotai pillowcase or in boudoir size with a jacquard design silk sham. Starting at $39.00 for silk pillow and sham.
Air Purifiers - Our Most Often Asked Questions
by Bob Cobe
Editor's note; Bob has been training some new staff recently, and we thought we would share his expertise with all of you.
Q) What will a HEPA air purifier do?
A) By government definition it must remove 99.97% of all particles 0.3 microns in size, which would include pollen, mold spores, most pet dander, and fine particle dust.
Q) Will I have to dust after I install a good HEPA air purifier?
A) Unfortunately, yes. Only a minor % of the visible dust is removed. These units are designed to remove the extremely fine, invisible particles of dust that affect our lungs and seem to float in the air forever. The larger dust particles that we see on our furniture and window blinds will mostly land on a surface before they are pulled into the air purifier because they have weight and gravity is pulling them downward
Q) What is a HEPA filter? (High Efficiency Particle Accumulator)
A) An extremely fine filter that is designed to take out particles down to 0.3 microns that is 1/75,000 th of an inch. You can put about 1400 of these 0.3 micron particles on a period in the newspaper. Some will take out particles down to 0.1 microns (4200 on a period) and some will take out down to 0.01 (42,000 on a period).
Q) What is a prefilter?
A) A filter designed to take out larger particles so that the HEPA filter can work at it's best since it won't be clogged with these larger pieces.
Q) What is a carbon filter?
A) A filter made out of carbon to remove odors and gasses. In a home these could be formaldehyde from carpets, plywood, compressed wood furniture; cleaning fluids and polishes; food odors; nail polish and remover; paint; etc. (some carbon filters may have added chemicals for specific chemical removal such as formaldehyde)
Q) What is a HEGA filter? (High Efficiency Gas Accumulator) ?
A) A filter of the Austin company that was designed for the British military for their gas masks and is quite good for tobacco smoke removal in addition to everyday household odors and gasses.
Q) Can a carbon filter remove carbon monoxide or radon?
A) They cannot remove carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, or propane. Possibly some will remove up to 20% of radon, but the best solution for radon is to vent it to the outside.
Q) Can a filter remove bacteria and viruses?
A) Most bacteria will be removed, but only a few air purifiers will remove viruses (like the IQAir air purifiers).
Q) What does VOC stand for in a carbon type filter?
A) A Volatile Organic Compound is a carbon base (petrochemical) liquid that can evaporate at room temperature. Ie: paint or thinner, nail polish and remover, turpentine, gasoline, benzene, cleaning fluids, etc. An example of what is not a VOC would be water and chlorine (bleach) that will evaporate at room temperature, but does not contain carbon.
Q) Will UV (ultra violet) kill mold, bacteria, and viruses?
A) Ultra violet does not kill mold but it attacks the DNA so that it can't reproduce. Most bacteria will be caught in the HEPA filter, but those getting through would be killed (as would viruses which will get through) if the UV bulb is strong enough, and the particles passed the bulb slowly enough and close enough to the bulb. It could be a good choice for people trying to control mold, bacteria., or viruses but there is no 100% guarantee.
Q) How come Consumer Reports doesn't rate many of the brands that you carry?
A) Consumer Reports seems to test those units that have the largest sales figures, which are usually nowhere as good as the high quality brands that we carry. They also are testing for between 6 and 24 hours. We really don't care what happens in 24 hours. Our testing is over periods of time up to 1 year. What good is a filter that works very well for 24 hours but has its efficiency reduced tremendously over a few weeks or months? We sell products for long term-sustained usage. At least one of the brands that we carry is suing them for not including them in their tests because this brand feels that their quality will make the brands they continue to test look substantially inferior, or in some cases like toys.
Q) Can I have my windows open?
A) No. An air purifier works by drawing the same air through it over and over making it cleaner on every pass and if you have windows open you will constantly be adding new allergens. *If you are one who cannot sleep without a window open, you could use a purifier that blew the clean air out of only one side, so that even if the room were full of allergens, you could position it so that the clean air blew over the air space from which you would be breathing. (the BlueAir 402 or 301, Allerair, AustinAir, and Hamilton Beach TrueAir are examples)
Q) Q) How come I can buy Hepa filter air purifiers from discount stores for under $100?
A) Generally with an air purifier you get what you pay for. Store units often use a sheet of hepa like a drumhead; some of our units have up to 80 square feet of Hepa paper. Store units usually have about 2 ounces of charcoal sprayed on a polypropylene mesh; our units have up to 21 lbs
Store units have frequent model changes and discontinued models making filter replacement questionable.
The units we sell are from companies that have been in business for years and years. The cases on the store units use a plastic that gives of gasses (called off-gassing).
Q) Are there air purifiers that don't require filter changes?
A) Yes, there are ionizers such as the Sharper Image that require only that you wipe down the metal collection plates. BUT, they produce ozone that is a known respiratory irritant (and we are in the business of helping lungs and not irritating them) and quoting an article in Consumer Reports, Oct 2003 "Sharper Image, Honeywell, and Hoover precipitators are quiet and cost little to run. However our tests show that they are not effective".
Q) Is ozone harmful?
A) In small quantities, probably not, but there is a crossover point at which it is harmful especially to people with asthma or emphysema (see below).
According to the website of the US Environmental Protection Agency www.epa.gov
What are the health effects of ozone?
Ozone can irritate the respiratory system, causing coughing, throat irritation, and/or an uncomfortable sensation in the chest.
Ozone can reduce lung function and make it more difficult to breathe deeply and vigorously. Breathing may become more rapid and shallow than normal. This may limit a person's ability to engage in vigorous activities.
Ozone can aggravate asthma. When ozone levels are high, more people with asthma have attacks that require a doctor's attention or use of medication. One reason this happens is that ozone makes people more sensitive to allergens, the most common triggers of asthma attacks.
Ozone can increase susceptibility to respiratory infections.
Ozone can inflame and damage the lining of the lungs. Within a few days, the damaged cells are shed and replaced much like the skin peels after a sunburn. Animal studies suggest that if this type of inflammation happens repeatedly over a long time period (months, years, a lifetime), lung tissue may become permanently scarred, resulting in permanent loss of lung function, and a lower quality of life". And according to the American Lung Association www.lungusa.org
Ozone (O 3) is a highly reactive gas that is a form of oxygen. It results primarily from the action of sunlight on hydrocarbon vapors and nitrogen oxides emitted in fuel combustion. Ozone reacts chemically ("oxidizes") with internal body tissues that it comes in contact with, such as those in the lung. It also reacts with other materials such as rubber compounds, breaking them down.
Ozone acts as a powerful respiratory irritant at the levels frequently found in most of the nation's urban areas during summer months. Ozone exposure may lead to:
shortness of breath
chest pain when inhaling deeply
wheezing and coughing
Long-term, repeated exposure to high levels of ozone may lead to reductions in lung function, inflammation of the lung lining and increased respiratory discomfort.
Exposure to elevated levels of ozone greatly increases the risk of asthma attacks, need for medical treatment and for hospitalization in persons with asthma.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates one out of every three people in the United States is at a higher risk of experiencing problems from ground-level ozone. Five groups of people are at particular risk:
people with pre-existing respiratory disease; those already afflicted with lung disease such as asthma, chronic bronchitis and emphysema
people who work or exercise outdoors
children, because their airways are smaller, their respiratory defenses are not fully formed, and their higher breathing rates increase their exposure
"responders" - otherwise healthy individuals who experience health effects at lower levels of exposure than the average person.
Ozone levels typically rise between May and October when higher temperatures, an increased amount of sunlight, and stagnant atmospheric conditions promote transformation of air pollutants into ozone.
For almost two decades prior to 1997, the federal air quality standard for ozone had been 0.12 parts per million (ppm) averaged over one hour, but tests carried out on healthy adults and children undergoing moderate exercise while exposed to lower levels of ozone showed a decrease in subjects' breathing ability.
Q) Will an air purifier remove a mildew or moldy smell? Or a pet odor?
A) It is easy to assume that gas filters (carbon) are a cure-all for all gas and odor problems such as mold or smoke. Gas filters work best on "finite" odors; that is, odors that end. If someone wearing perfume walks into a room and eventually leaves or someone cooks food with an odor, those odors and gasses will only be reduced somewhat when occurring, and eliminated only when the perfumed person leaves the room or the cooking stops. But if you spill perfume on the carpeting, live above a restaurant, or have mold growing, you can only reduce these odors slightly. You cannot totally eliminate them because these odors and gasses are constantly present. You must remove the source.
The best way to eliminate a mold or mildew odor is to bring the humidity below 50 with a dehumidifier that will put the mold into a "hibernation" state. This humidity level does not kill the mold, but it stops it from growing and "breathing" that gives off the mycotoxins that we smell. The mold can start to "breathe" again if the humidity level goes above 50% for more than about 72 hours, so constant dehumidifying is necessary.
Even if mold has been stopped from "breathing" or is even killed, unless it is actually removed, the spores can still cause an allergic reaction and using an air purifier is advised. Use of an air purifier will help alleviate some of the symptoms of the mold by reducing the air born mold spores. Also, if it has an activated carbon gas filter it will adsorb some of the mycotoxins from the mold if it is toxic. Keep in mind, however, most carbon gas filters are going to be in the range of 70 to 90 percent efficient at removing the gases from the air. Therefore, as in the case of the mold spores, it will help alleviate some of the symptoms but is not a cure-all.
You will need to eliminate the source of the mold by cleaning and removing it in order to reduce the mold spores and possible mycotoxins they are emitting. We recommend the use of an air cleaner to help reduce some of the symptoms until the source is removed by cleaning. Furthermore, it's use afterwards is warranted if the end user is allergic to mold and wants to maintain a low mold particle count. AllergyBuyersClub.com has an extensive range of air purifiers with , reviews and ratings plus helpful articles on air purification.
Ozone: What Air Cleaner Advertisers Don't Tell You
Frank Hammes, President, IQAir North America
Santa Fe Springs, Calif
Every scientific discovery has its watershed moment. In indoor air quality, one of the great watershed moments in the awareness of indoor ozone came in 1983 when a student at the University of Colorado in Boulder wrote a paper for his science class about his summer job.
He titled it "Ozone Toxicity - How Copier Machines Made Me Sick". The student had worked in a small windowless room in the university library. His job was to run off copies for the school's professors. Soon, he developed headaches, a cough, irritated sinuses, and a myriad of other symptoms. Somehow, he got steered in the direction of what was making him sick. The copier machines were creating the lung irritant ozone, the main component of smog.
What no one could have expected was the domino effect that came next. The student took his paper to the local copy shop to have copies printed for his class. The copy shop workers saw the paper and made copies for themselves. Many of them had been experiencing the same problems, but they didn't know what had caused their symptoms.
Soon, copies of the paper started to circulate to other shops that were part of the same national chain of copier stores. As awareness of the issue grew, the copier machines were fitted with ozone filters, ventilation was added to the shops, and copier maintenance companies began to stress the need to maintain the filters properly. The problem was corrected quietly - very quietly.
Today, 21 full years later, it is air cleaners - of all things - that are producing ozone indoors. Last year, an estimated four million air cleaners sold in the United States. Ironically, nearly half of those machines produce ozone.
Ozone-producing air cleaners are being aggressively marketed in the United States. Rarely does a day go by when I do not receive a direct mail advertisement or hear a radio or television campaign for these products. They are being distributed by some of the most well-known and popular retailers of upscale products in the country. Due to the advertising dollars these retailers command, they have even enlisted the nation's leading radio personalities to hawk their wares, including popular stars who personally endorse the ozone-producing products.
The spin that these radio spots and infomercials put on ozone generating air cleaners would be laughable if it wasn't so frightening: "Smell that sweet fresh ozone in your home". "One unit is good for a whole house". "It's nature's way of freshening the air". "These machines are used by the Pentagon". Astonishingly, one ozone-producing air cleaner has even been able to convince a national allergy and asthma support organization into putting its seal of approval onto all of their advertising. A recent trend has been to drop the word "ozone" out of the ads for these machines completely.
This may be because the American Lung Association, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Food and Drug Administration, Health Canada, and just about every other respected health organization advises against using ozone-generating air cleaners. The company using the seal of approval stresses that it is an electrostatic air cleaner - not an ozone generator - and that it produces only small amounts of ozone as a byproduct.
Truth be told, I'm not able to comprehend any difference between ozone that is created by an ozone generator and ozone produced by an electrostatic air cleaner. The legal limit for both machines in occupied spaces is the same. Ozone is ozone.
The whole situation makes me feel like Howard Beale, Peter Finch's character in the movie "Network". Beale, a longtime television journalist and prestigious anchor of the evening news, makes an on-the-air plea urging viewers to "go to the window, open it, stick your head out and yell, 'I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore'".
Ozone is a lung irritant. Ozone is an asthma trigger. And yet these machines are being heavily advertised to parents of children who could die from an asthma attack. The manufacturers of these machines have worked hard to create a new concept: safe levels of ozone.
Well, guess what? Research has shown that there is no safe level of ozone that can be added to the air".Current evidence of the health effects of ozone suggests that there is no safe threshold concentration for the onset of health responses due to exposure above background ozone concentrations," H. Sterling Burnett wrote in 1994.
In the United States, 50 parts per billion is the designated acceptable limit for ozone production in the home. A recent University of Southern California study demonstrated that an increase of ozone by only 20 ppb increased school absences by 83 percent.
I'm interested to find out if anyone can demonstrate how 50 ppb is the safe level for indoor ozone exposure. It reminds me of the health recommendation that you shouldn't "smoke more than two packs of cigarettes a day". That was the health advice that was being commonly quoted just before the surgeon general's report on tobacco was issued in 1964.
Prior to that, there was considered to be a safe or even healthful level of smoking. Who thought it was safe and healthful to smoke? Well, primarily the advertisers who were trying to sell you cigarettes - that's who. It is the same situation today. The advertisers who are selling ozone producing air cleaners are spending millions and millions of dollars to convince you that ozone is safe and healthy in your home. They are dead wrong.
We know that asthma is increasing at an alarming rate. Asthma is at its worst in areas that have increased rates of asthma triggers. Ozone is a clearly established asthma trigger. There are daily ozone health watches on the news that warn parents of children with asthma that they should stay indoors on some days; these health watches look at the ozone levels outside. How can someone tell parents in good conscience that the asthma trigger they are putting in their children's bedroom is at a safe level? How has "safe" been established here? Is there a safe number of cigarettes you can have each day? Is there a safe level of secondhand smoke for you or your kids?
The Internet is the soapbox for the angry person with something to say. If you go to the allergy and asthma support Web sites, you are going to find a lot of angry men and women. Mothers and fathers of children with asthma are posting their experiences with ozone generating air cleaners on the support sites.
On one site for parents of children with asthma, a mother is encouraged by another woman to try one of the ozone-generating air cleaners that are popularly sold on infomercials. The mother responds, "Actually, we tried a [sic] air cleaner that did emit ozone and [daughter] Anaya flared so badly she ended up in the hospital". Another mother tells of getting ionizing air cleaners to help her three daughters with their asthma. All of the girls ended up getting headaches and their asthma situation worsened. A student reporter at Massachusetts Institute of Technology ended up having to go to urgent care after he took the assignment of reviewing an ozone producing air cleaner for the school paper.
Hopefully, awareness of the dangers of ozone producing air cleaners will grow, and changes will come. At press time, I am aware of four class-action lawsuits that have been filed recently against the manufacturers, distributors and retailers of ozone-producing air cleaners.
It's happening. People have gone to the window. They've opened it. They are sticking their heads out and shouting that they are mad as hell, and they aren't going to take it any more.
Frank Hammes is the director of research and development at The IQAir Group in Switzerland and president of IQAir North America in Santa Fe Springs, Calif. IQAir North America has partnered with the American Lung Association to educate the public on the importance of indoor air quality. Hammes has been involved in the development of affordable customized air cleaning solutions for residential, medical and commercial applications for nearly 20 years. After graduating with a master's degree in law from Trinity College, Cambridge University, England, he joined the then-35-year-old, family-owned air filtration business. He has been responsible for the development of air cleaning systems for automobiles, residential and medical applications. Hammes currently holds several patents relating to improving the design and performance of air cleaning systems. Living in Switzerland and California, Hammes has a unique insight into the IAQ issues both in Europe and the United States. He is a regular contributor to indoor air conferences and publications in Europe, the United States and Asia. He is the course leader for IQAir Air Cleaner College. He can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at (562) 903-7600.
"This article originally appears in Volume 5, Issue 7 (May 2004) of Indoor Environment Connections news paper and is reprinted with permission. For subscription information, visit www.ieconnections.com. Opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Indoor Environment Communications."
For more information on IQAir Products, see our .
Questions and Answers About Mold
by Thad Godish, PH.D, C.I.H.
WATER LEAKS AND MOLD
My husband has lived in the rental house for three years, and I moved in a year ago after we married. He has experienced increasingly worse asthma- like symptoms, and I have developed respiratory problems since moving to South Texas. Neither of us ever had asthma before. Our rental house had a "huge" water leak by the chimney, and we had it tested from mold. Results came back as Aspergillus/Penicillium- like spores 68,000,counts /cm 2 and Chaetomium 196,000 counts/ cm 2. My husband complains of chest pain and pressure. We have seen pulmonologists and cardiologists, and they say everything is normal.
Also, we're both having severe back muscle spasms and soreness. Mine was so bad I had thought I had a kidney stone and went into the emergency room. I am also experiencing slight mental confusion and memory loss. Can any of the symptoms be caused by mold poisoning? We are beginning to think we're crazy.- Amy, Texas
Exposure to airborne mold appears to be a common cause of asthma. The increase in the severity of asthmatic symptoms with time indicates that the causal agent for your husband's asthma is associated with your house. Supporting evidence is your development of respiratory problems as well.
You describe a huge water leak by the chimney and surface sampling results that are quite high. Such a water leak would be a major risk factor for mold infestation of building materials as confirmed by surface testing.
Both Aspergillus and Penicillium are commonly found growing in and on water damaged building materials. Exposure to airborne Penicillium spores has been shown to be epidemiologically associated with the development of asthma in children and it or Aspergillus may be the primary cause of asthma in this case.
Chaetomium is a species that readily grows on paper and paper products (such as the face paper on gypsum board). It produces large spores that are less likely to enter the respiratory tract to cause asthma compared to Aspergillus or Penicillium.
In this case no air sampling results are available. Such testing can indicate the magnitude of exposure and health risk. However, indoor air quality scientists have concluded that the presence of visible mold is a more reliable indicator of mold associated respiratory disease and airborne concentrations. This is primarily due to the fact that airborne mold concentrations vary so widely over the course of time. Such variability reduces the reliability of statistical analyses that support epidemiological investigations.
Muscle spasms/soreness and that have not been associated with mold exposures; nor has confusion and memory loss. If such relationships did exist they would be secondary to other symptoms produced a result of exposure to mold.
No you're not crazy. Such building- related health problems are very common; you're not suffering alone. I recommend that you request your landlord to remediate the water damage/mold problem. If not you should seek alternative housing at your earliest convenience.
(2000), Thad Godish Ph.D., C.I.H
Crawl Space and Mold
We have a crawlspace problem. We noticed that the insulation and wood is wet. The plumber detected no leaks and said it was due to condensation. We had two different mold removers tell to us two different remedies: (1) a house and crawlspace dehumidifier (Humidex) and (2) a new drainage system for removing moisture under the existing plastic vapor barrier. It seems they disagree about the source of the wetness (ventilation vs. drainage). We did not have any problems for 7 years in this home. I am confused as to how they seem to diagnose the problem and how do we trust that they know the source from just looking at the crawlspace ( which makes a big difference in the treatment once the mold is removed). We think that the excessive moisture is due to a leak in our dryer hose as a mouse chewed a hole in it under the house last year. In repairing it perhaps we did not connect it tightly enough.
The mold contractors do not agree. We want to remove the mold and prevent it from returning. The contractors seem to be interested in selling their remedy systems and dismiss our theory. Our concern: once we treat the mold, how dry does it need to be once the mold in the crawlspace has been removed/treated? If the dryer hose was the problem, and that is cured, do we need to make the crawlspace drier than it was before the mold occurred - or is it more mold -sensitive, that is, once mold has grown requiring even dryer conditions than before.
- Dawn, New Jersey.
If your theory is correct then there should be a very localized pattern of condensation and mold growth in the area of the dryer vent hose leak. The condensation should also come and go as you use the dryer. The problem could then be easily resolved without major expense and competing remediation theories.
Based on your description, however, I think the two remediators don't think that the damaged dryer vent could cause such extensive condensation and mold-related problems in your crawlspace. The fact that you didn't have a problem for seven years may or may not be significant. Many homeowners rarely go into their crawlspace and as such have little or no knowledge of its condition. Seven years could easily pass without a homeowner having a sense that he/she had a moisture problem in the crawlspace.
If one does have a moisture problem in a crawlspace, it will typically require some combination of improved drainage and ventilation to resolve. Remediation will also require the treatment of the crawlspace timbers with a polyborate-containing paint to both inhibit mold growth and to "lock" mold spores in.
Mold requires high humidity of liquid water to grow. Scientific studies indicate that little or no mold growth occurs below relative humidities of 75%. As such, your goal should be to maintain humidities below 75% with values not to exceed 70% as your target.
Each individual remediator has some sense of the need to reduce humidity levels. They are suggesting different approaches. Each has some potential to work by itself but it is likely that a combination of drainage and ventilation will be needed. If your house is near a coastal area, the crawlspace problem may be even more complicated. In coastal areas, high crawlspace humidity may actually occur as a consequence of outdoor air moving into your crawlspace and then condensing. In such circumstances, one may not have a drainage problem and ventilation is a major part of the problem. In such cases closing crawlspace vents is recommended.
July 2, 2004
(2000), Thad Godish Ph.D., C.I.H
My aunt's home has a very strong musty/mold odor. It is so bad it clings to visitors' clothing and hair. If you cook in the house, even the food takes on the house's odor even after a very short time (bread even absorbs it and food in the refrigerator). I've tried talking to her, but she can't smell it. Her husband has finally acknowledged the situation, but doesn't know where to begin. The entire house and furnishings have been affected. The basement had flooded about 1.5 years ago. The cause of the flood has been taken care of. I've tried researching for a type of mold that attaches to everything°≠and I mean everything. What suggestions do you have for me to give her? I and other family members are concerned about what effect this is having on her and her husband's health. Any help would be appreciated.
- Cheryl, Michigan
Musty odors in houses and other buildings are not that uncommon. They are particularly prevalent in houses with wet basements, very old houses with basements, houses with wet crawlspaces and mold-infested floor joists, houses in which water gets into walls through brick veneer, poorly-caulked windows and doors, poorly-maintained siding, etc.
Mold odors are caused by volatile chemical compounds that are produced as the various fungal species grow on water-damaged or moisture-containing organic materials such as wood, paper, cotton, etc. These compounds are typically higher molecular weight alcohols or ketones. Scientists and mold experts refer to them as MVOCs (microbial volatile organic compounds).
These MVOCs may include up to a dozen or so different compounds depending on the type or organisms present, the material they are growing on, etc. Typically , a few compounds are responsible for most of the odor. Our noses, our olfactory sense, can detect these substances in very, very low concentrations, that is, in the low parts per billion (ppb) range. At such levels these compounds are not likely harmful to humans. There is some limited scientific information that suggests that they can ,at relatively high concentrations, cause upper respiratory irritation in humans. Such levels only occur in very heavily infested buildings. I recall in a flooded house I once investigated that "my nostrils and sinuses were singing " despite the fact that I had a very high quality respiratory designed to remove asbestos, lead and particles such as mold. It, of course, could not and did not remove MVOCs present.
MVOCs vary in their odor properties. Most smell "musty". Some such as Chaetomium smell "earthy". A number of wood-decay fungi smell "mushroomy.
MVOCs cling to surfaces such as clothing and possibly human skin. I smell them on people (especially students who live in off-campus housing that is often poorly maintained). I smell them on myself and in my car after I have conducted inspections of houses with very significant mold problems.
The reason that you aunt and uncle can't smell the mustiness is likely due to a combination of olfactory fatigue (one can not smell many odors even after a few minutes of exposure) and accommodation (or adaptation). After a while one gets used to it and does not notice anything out of the ordinary.
MVOCs do degas from the materials they cling to (that's why we can smell them). They may cling to some materials for a couple of hours and others for days depending on the exposure.
In your aunt's home the MVOCs are likely to be a symptom of a mold infestation problem, rather than a problem in themselves. The biggest health risks are exposures to mold spores associated with the infestation producing the musty odors. These risks include chronic allergy, chronic sinutisis and in many cases asthma.
The house should be inspected by a competent mold professional in order to identify infested materials and then recommend remediation measures. Once remediated, most if not all of the mustiness will be eliminated , as well as, potential health risks associated with exposures to mold spores.
(2000), Thad Godish Ph.D., C.I.H
See our for useful products in preventing and reducing mold to safe levels in your home or office.