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Does Air Quality Make a Difference?
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Minnesota Community Living May/June 2010

Does Air Quality Make a Difference?

By Joni Stulac,Servpro of Brooklyn Park/Champlin

What a relief – it’s warm outside!!! With warmth comes opening our windows and airing out our homes and then…. closing everything up again and the air conditioning. I wanted to pass onto you some information on air quality, what we all experience in our homes/buildings throughout the year, and how to make your space as healthy as it can be.

Sick Building Syndrome
Healthier Air Saves You Money

In the 1970s, sick building syndrome became apparent as groups of people displayed similar symptoms after having spent extended periods of time in buildings with poor air quality. Good judgment and immediate attention can correct the situation and also save you money in the event of litigation. People most at risk include:

  • Infants and children
  • Pregnant women
  • Elderly
  • People with compromised respiratory symptoms or asthma/allergies
  • People with weakened immune systems

While different types of molds are found naturally in the environment, excessive amounts found inside buildings are undesirable; some people can become ill. Experts disagree about the more controversial details of mold, but they all agree that if you have excessive mold inside a building, it needs to be remediated.

Clean Air in the Home/Building

  • Children in homes with high levels of mold show persistent, cold-like symptoms – 300% more than those in clean environments.
  • Every year about 40 pounds of dust is generated per 1,500 square feet in the average size home.
  • Roughly 80% of the particles you see floating in your home are dead human skin.

Causes of Indoor Air Pollution

  • Asbestos building products when no longer intact
  • Biological contaminants such as mold, dust, mites, viruses and pet dander
  • Carbon Monoxide
  • Formaldehyde found in pressure-treated wood
  • Lead (pre-1978 house paint)
  • Nitrogen dioxide
  • Particulates found in dust, pollen, cleaning sprays and poorly ventilated areas
  • Tobacco smoke
  • Volatile organic compounds including household cleaning products, pesticides and aerosol propellants.

Proper Maintenance Saves Money

  • Estimates made by the World Health Organization say that poor indoor air quality costs $60 billion in employee sick leave and lost production.
  • Part of your responsibility to the tenants who live, work, and play in your buildings includes proper maintenance and prompt response to any situation that could cause illness or health concerns.

Cleaner Air Means a Healthier Home
Improve the Air Quality of Your Home

When addressing air quality, inspecting the ductwork should be your first order of business. Dirty ducts can work to circulate odors and contaminants like mold and irritating dust throughout the home. Benefits of cleaning ducts and HVAC:

  • Lowers indoor air pollution
  • Reduces pet dander
  • Eliminates offensive odors
  • Restores peak operating conditions
  • Prolongs the life of your system

The Truth About Mold
From the Ordinary...

Fungi and mold naturally occur in our environment. In fact, over 100,000 kinds of fungi have been identified. Fungi produce some wonderful results. Yeast is a type of fungi used in preparing breads, baked goods and other food products, including some alcoholic beverages. The unique flavor of blue cheese is a result of mold. An edible mushroom is simply a type of fungi and lifesaving penicillin is a product of mold.

To the unhealthy

Intrusion of water into your home or building is an out of the ordinary event. This could result from water intrusion, long-standing leaks, or from poor humidity control. A water damage situation offers opportunities for mold spores that are normally present on surfaces to grow and multiply, since moisture and humidity levels are typically higher in such structures.

  • Mold spores are everywhere in our environment and can enter homes/buildings easily. Most types of mold grow quickly if they have a water source, an organic food source and temperatures between 60 and 86 Fahrenheit.
  • An Institute of Medicine study found excessive dampness indoors is a public health problem by encouraging growth of molds, dust mites and other organisms.

Control Moisture and Reduce Mold

  • Correct any water leaks or standing water
  • Remove standing water under cooling coils or air handling units.
  • Properly maintain humidifiers, if used.
  • Replace wet or visibly moldy insulation material.
  • Replace washing machine hoses with steel mesh lines.
  • Move large objects away from the walls to provide good air circulation.
  • Use exhaust fans in bathrooms, kitchens and laundry rooms.

It is imperative that if you experience water intrusion that it be remediated within the first 24-48 hours.

If you have experienced an ongoing moisture problem in the home or building, it is important to be alert to the following factors:

  • The presence of visible mold
  • Strong musty odors which may indicate mold is present
  • Any evidence of past moisture problems that might indicate previous mold growth
  • Excessive humidity.

These conditions may require the expertise of a qualified indoor air quality/environmental professional to inspect the building for mold growth. Indoor Air Quality/Environmental professionals evaluate the quality of the air inside a structure. Some specialize and are skilled in testing building for the presence of molds. Using various testing devices, these professionals collect air and surface samples to compare the indoor mold spore count to the outdoor environment.

Have a wonderful, healthy summer!

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