If you suffer from symptoms such as headaches, congestion, difficulty breathing or an allergic reaction that is quickly relieved when you leave your home, it’s very possible that these symptoms are caused or worsened by indoor allergens. Among these allergens, dust mite waste and mold spores (along with pollen and pet dander) are some of the worst. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reported that the indoor levels of many airborne pollutants are often 2-5 times (and as much as 100 times) higher than the same levels outdoors. With 90% of your time spent indoors, it’s time to start thinking about how you can keep that air clean.
In recent years, it’s become increasingly evident that indoor airborne pollutants are a present and growing problem in the home. Good Housekeeping reports that 54 million Americans suffer from allergies, and ICS Cleaning Specialist cites an increase of 75% in asthma and asthma-related health problems between 1980 and 2001 alone! Indoor air pollutants can worsen the effects of allergies and asthma. Additionally, airborne pollutants create an unhealthy and very uncomfortable environment for all who live with them.
According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, 50% of all respiratory illnesses are caused or aggravated by polluted indoor air. In fact, the EPA ranks indoor air pollution as one of the top five environmental risks to public health, and with mold and dust mites growing year-round in every home, they’re a constant threat. As Glenn Fellman, Indoor Air Quality Association’s executive director states, “If you are reacting to a problem because somebody’s been sick, you’ve waited way too long to address indoor air quality.”
Dust mites are small relatives of the spider that are able to grow and reproduce at an alarming rate. Regardless of how clean the household is, they find dust and other materials on which they can grow, feed and reproduce. During a single dust mite’s 30-100 day lifetime, a female can produce as many as 270 eggs. During this lifetime, they will create 200 times their weight in fecal material, which they release into the air. This waste, according to National Wildlife Magazine, amounts to 80-90% of the allergic components of household dust.
According to Larry Arlian of Wright State University, Ohio, dust mite feces contains more than 15 potent allergens that will sensitize and trigger allergic reactions in predisposed people. Allergies most commonly develop from ages 6-26 and are the most chronic disease among children. 10% of the general population and 90% of asthmatic individuals show sensitivity to this household allergen.
American Family Physician states that controlling dust mites is the most important thing you can do in the house to help asthma and allergies. A home air cleaner can significantly reduce the count of dust mite feces in a home and lower exposure, often decreasing or eliminating symptoms. Air Quality Engineering’s residential air cleaners are perfect for this job, with hospital grade home air filtration that’s capable or removing dust mite waste from the air with 99.97% efficiency! With a coarse pre-filter installed to remove larger airborne particles, their home air cleaners preserve long-lasting filter life to ensure a healthier, cleaner, and more comfortable home environment.
A typical mold is 10 microns in size, with spores as small as a single micron. Mold is able to grow in any environment where there is warmth, organic material, and enough humidity to absorb from the air. Dust, fabric, wallpaper, wood, leather and paint are all more than nourishing enough to keep mold healthy and growing. The Journal of Property Management reports that a single square inch of drywall can hold between 1-10 million spores! Even less fortunately, a report from Time magazine states that hundreds of thousands of mold spores can exist in a single meter of indoor air, with a single person inhaling between 10 and 12 cubic meters each day.
These spores can be inhaled, ingested or contacted by the skin and can result in a variety of adverse health effects can occur, including a runny nose, watery eyes, allergic reactions, a scratchy throat, fatigue and difficulty breathing. Some molds are even toxic, with the Journal of Property Management reporting tens of thousands of lawsuits that have been filed this decade against landlords, developers, and insurance companies due to mold-related issues.
With 50% of American households having at least one resident with allergies, asthma or another respiratory ailment, mold is too significant a problem to ignore. The best way to remove mold spores from the air in the home is to install a reliable residential home air purifier. With more than 30 years in the home air quality business, Air Quality Engineering provides residential home air cleaners that not only filter mold spores and dust mites but also pollen, pet dander, tobacco smoke, allergens from cockroaches, bacteria, viruses, materials from household plants, harmful gases and vapors, carcinogens, sensitizers and mutagens from the air. With a proper home air purifier, you can truly breathe easily!
Even if you remove mold spores from the air, however, you will still have the mold that created them in your home. A large portion of the mold and dust mites in the house begin their lives in the basement and crawlspace area. As moisture from the soil around the foundation absorbs through dirt and porous concrete, these subterranean spaces become perfect environment.
In your home’s below grade spaces, mold and dust mites will have everything they need: warmth, a damp environment and an abundance of wood, drywall, carpeting, boxes, stored clothing, furniture, books and other materials on which the mold and dust mites feed. In time, they establish themselves on the wood structure of the home, slowly dealing extensive damage to the floor boards and support beams. Installing a sump pump and interior French drain to remove water leaks is an important first step to preventing these problems. A reliable crawl space or basement dehumidifier that can lower the humidity below 60% will also create an environment in the area where mold and dust mites cannot thrive. And in a crawl space, sealing all vents and installing a tough 20mil thick vapor barrier on the walls and floors will both keep humidity out and insulate the space to make a more energy-efficient home. Additionally, a moist, moldy crawl space rots and attracts termites, which leads to unpleasant and expensive.
If you’ve ever noticed a smell coming from the basement or crawl space, then you’re already acutely aware of how air moves in the home – a condition known in the industry as the “stack effect”. As air warms and rises, it naturally exits the home through the attic and upper levels. This creates a vacuum in the lower level, sucking the air up from the basement and crawl space. As this air is pulled up, anything in it- including dust mite waste, mold spores, and allergens- will rise with it to enter the main living space.
Basement Systems offers a variety of basement waterproofing products that will create a barrier between your living space and the cold, moist concrete of the basement floors and walls. Our basement waterproofing products stand on more than 20 years of service across the United States, Canada, Ireland and the United Kingdom. We also encapsulate crawl spaces to transform them from cold, dank, musty areas to clean, energy-efficient and mold-free storage spaces. All estimates are free and come at no obligations.
This article was written by Jacques Bouchard with Basement Systems.