Air pollution isn’t limited to the outdoors. Moisture, odors, gases, dust and a host of other irritants can affect air quality indoors, too. Try these tactics to help freshen your home’s air so you and your family can breathe easy.
- Open windows. Most heating and cooling systems recirculate inside air. When weather permits, give your system a break and let fresh air in. Open windows and place fans strategically to help direct fresh air through.
- Use exhaust fans. Turn on the kitchen fan to vent cooking pollutants, and the bathroom fan to curb mold-promoting wetness and cleaning-product fumes. Leave it running for about 45 minutes.
- Do doormats. They help prevent dirt and other outdoor pollutants from making it inside. Get two natural-fiber mats, one for inside and the other for outside your main entrance. Keep a shoe-free home, too.
- Test for mold & radon. The naturally occurring gas is colorless and odorless. It’s also the second-leading cause of lung cancer, after smoking. DIY test kits, available online and at your local home improvement store, are inexpensive and easy to use. Mold can linger in a home without you even knowing it. Having your home professionally tested could indicate whether or not you may have a mold problem.
- Don’t mask odors. Scented candles and sprays can irritate lungs, too. Find the source of the smell, get rid of it, then ventilate well until it’s gone.
- Use a dehumidifier. Stay under 50 percent humidity to keep mold growth at bay. Clean your dehumidifier regularly, too, so it doesn’t switch from humidity-reducing friend to mold-harboring foe.
- Vacuum regularly. You’ll reduce the amount dust and other pollutants released when you walk around. Invest in a quality vacuum with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter, especially good at trapping even tiny bits of dust and dirt.
- Take it outside. Painting, sanding, gluing — anything that generates particles, gases or other pollutants. If outside isn’t an option, open a nearby window and add a fan blowing air out. Clean up after your project quickly and well.
Many companies will show you before and after photos of mold with the after usually just in white. But is the mold really cleaned? Here is a before and after of a basement joist covered in mold, and prior to any encapsulation. This photo shows why we always apply clear encapsulates and only use white as per the customer request.
The type and severity of health effects that result from mold exposure is widely variable among different locations, from person to person and over time. Although difficult to predict, exposure to molds growing indoors is most often associated with the following allergy symptoms:
- Nasal and sinus congestion
- Cough/sore throat
- Chest tightness
- Dyspnea (breathing difficulty)
- Asthma (or exacerbation of it)
- Epistaxis (nosebleed)
- Upper respiratory tract infections
- Skin and eye irritation
Long-term exposure to indoor molds is certainly unhealthy to anyone, but some groups will develop more severe symptoms sooner than others, including:
- Infants and children
- Elderly people
- Individuals with respiratory conditions, allergies and/or asthma
Some indoor molds are capable of producing extremely potent toxins (mycotoxins) that are lipid-soluble and readily absorbed by the intestinal lining, airways, and skin. These agents, usually contained in the fungal spores, have toxic effects ranging from short-term irritation to immunosuppression and cancer.
More severe symptoms that could result from continuous human exposure to indoor mycotoxigenic molds include:
- Cancer (aflatoxin best characterized as potential human carcinogen)
- Hypersensitivity pneumonitis/pulmonary fibrosis
- Pulmonary injury/hemosiderosis (bleeding)
- Hematologic and immunologic disorders
- Hepatic, endocrine and/or renal toxicities
- Pregnancy, gastrointestinal and/or cardiac conditions
It is important to notice that the clinical relevance of mycotoxins under realistic airborne exposure levels is not fully established. Further, some or much of the supporting evidence for these other health effects is based on case studies rather than controlled studies, studies that have not yet been reproduced or involve symptoms that are subjective.
There are many different types of inspections a mold inspector can perform on your home or business. The two most common types of inspections are: Air Sampling & Surface Sampling. Air Sampling is designed to capture and quantify a broad spectrum of fungal spores (both culturable and non-culturable) present in the air, and to assess whether the levels present suggest a fungal problem in the indoor locations. Surface Sampling is designed to determine whether the suspected surface (visible stain, discoloration, etc.) sampled is indicative of mold growth on the sample location, and to determine and identify molds actually growing on the surface sampled, as opposed to the mere presence of mold spores. But what do these services generally cost?
Different mold inspection companies charge different prices for many reasons. The sampling material may be one, and the associated lab charges they send them to is another. Some companies perform moisture mapping and thermal imaging while they sample, and others do a full visual inspection while the equipment is collecting air. But here as some of the most common charges for both air and surface sampling.
Air Samples: $90 to $120 per sample collected/used.
Surface Sampling: $100 to $160 per sample collected/used
In mold testing, you do get what you pay for, so remember, cheaper isn’t always better. And where the mold inspector was certified means a lot when vetting the professional you intend on hiring.
Mold allergies are easily treatable when properly diagnosed, so it is important for individuals who suspect their symptoms may be related to mold to consult with an allergy specialist or a physician to determine an appropriate course of treatment. Taking steps such as repairing water leaks and installing dehumidifiers in the home can also help to hinder mold growth and relieve mold allergy symptoms. Understanding what causes mold allergies and taking preventative measures to avoid exposure are essential in managing symptoms.
Itching eyes are a common allergic symptom that can develop following exposure to mold spores, pet dander and seasonal pollens. Individuals who experience itching eyes during wet or humid weather or when moisture levels are high inside the home may be suffering from mold allergy symptoms.
Stuffy Nose & Post Nasal Drip
Nasal congestion is a common mold allergy symptom that is often triggered after periods of wet weather or when an individual is exposed to mold spores in the home. When nasal stuffiness occurs, it is often accompanied by postnasal drip, a condition in which nasal secretions run down the back of the throat. Additional symptoms of postnasal drip include bad breath and coughing.
Individuals with mold allergies may also experience an itching sensation in the throat. Itching throat symptoms are typically caused by postnasal drip, but can also be a symptom of a serious allergic reaction that can lead to throat swelling if left untreated. It is important for sufferers to seek medical attention if itching throat symptoms are present to ensure prompt treatment.
Mold spores can cause the sinuses to become congested, which in turn can trigger sinus headaches in individuals with mold allergies. Sinus headaches cause pain and pressure in the forehead and sinus cavities. In certain cases, sinus pressure can also cause tooth and ear pain. Sinus headaches tend to worsen when lying down.
Exacerbated Asthma Symptoms
Individuals with mold allergies who also suffer from asthma may experience exacerbated asthma symptoms when exposed to mold. Asthma symptoms include chest tightness, wheezing and coughing. Anyone experiencing a severe asthma attack following possible mold exposure should seek immediate medical attention.
HEPA (High‐Efficiency Particulate Air) vacuums differ from conventional vacuums in that they contain filters that are capable of trapping extremely small, micron‐sized particles. A true HEPA filter can trap 99.97 percent of all airborne particles larger than 0.3 microns. To illustrate how small this is, a human red blood cell is usually between 6 and 8 microns wide.
For Mold Remediation, these vacuums are a vital tool in removing loose particulate prior to any application of chemicals or demolition, as to minimize spread contamination. HEPA vacuums are also recommended for cleanup of dust that may have settled on surfaces outside the remediation area. Care must be taken to assure that the filter is properly seated in the vacuum so that all the air must pass through the filter. When changing the vacuum filter, remediators should wear PPE to prevent exposure to the mold that has been captured. The filter and contents of the HEPA vacuum must be disposed of in well-sealed plastic bags.
In situations where customers call us in regards to water damage on a wall, that later reveals extensive wood rot from the interior, they’re now dealt with a much more serious issue than they ever thought. As an example, we completed a water damage restoration job in a back bedroom of a row home in Center City Philadelphia. The home was only a few years old, and the rear was comprised of stucco. When the initial cut was made into the drywall, the rot was so bad that we could see the stucco from the interior of the room. This resulted in not only an extensive mold job, but also forced the customer to have the stucco completely pulled down and replaced, since it wasn’t properly installed by the builder.
In another example, we did a home where the siding was improperly installed and the same situation and result came about. So what can you do? If you’re a new home owner purchasing a brand new construction home, don’t get fooled into thinking that you’re not susceptible to these kinds of damages just because your home is “brand new.” Remember, a home built in the 1920’s was built out of stone and brick and meant to last. Most new construction homes today are built of wood and other cheap products and are meant to be a profit.
Another tip, is not to ignore an issue and allow it to fester into a major one. This is something I continually preach. Small water damage or mold growth problems will eventually become huge issues if left untreated and completely ignored. And if you’re planning on remodeling or upgrading, a lot of these issues start with poor choices of contractors, so it’s vital that your vetting process is very thorough.