What is Alternaria?

Alternaria is one of the most important allergenic molds found in the US. It is most common as an outdoor mold, as it thrives on various types of vegetation. Alternaria spores can be detected from Spring through late Fall in most temperate areas, and can reach levels of thousands of spores per cubic meter of air. While one usually thinks of molds as a problem in damp or even wet conditions, Alternaria spores can be at their highest concentrations during dry, windy conditions that are ideal for the spores to become airborne.

Alternaria is one of the most common outdoor molds, but also has been found in the indoor environment. The National Survey of Lead and Allergens in Housing conducted a study looking at house dust samples from 831 homes in 75 different locations throughout the US. Alternaria was found in over 90% of those dust samples. While much of that allergenic load was probably due to outdoor Alternaria finding its way inside, Alternaria is known to grow on moist surfaces in the home as well.

Alternaria is known to be a problem in allergic disease. In patients who show allergy to molds, up to 70% of those patients demonstrate allergy to Alternaria, and Alternaria is known to be a risk factor for asthma. Dampness and mold problems have been reported to occur in 20 – 50% of modern homes. Additionally, keep in mind that mold spores often outnumber pollen spores by 1,000 to one, and mold can produce spores for months on end, versus the weeks of pollen production by many allergenic plants.

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Mold Exposure Causing Hair Loss

People who are allergic to mold are at higher risk of suffering hair loss when exposed to this allergen. Allergic reactions, causing hair loss, can be triggered by both black “toxic” mold or other molds found in the house. Allergic reactions cause the body to produce histamine, an inflammation-causing substance that results in the disruption of blood flow to the capillaries. The capillaries in the scalp nourish the hair follicles. Hair loss may result when blood flow to these capillaries is disturbed as a result of an allergic reaction to mold. Hair loss, in this case, will be diffuse over the entire head

Hair loss can also result from fungal infections in the scalp, caused by constant exposure to mold spores in the house. In this case the mold infects the out layer of the skin, leading to rashes, scaling, small sores and other visible symptoms, which in turn can lead to patches of hair loss. To reverse the hair loss, the first step is to remove mold from the house. If the exposure to mold has been limited and has not resulted in the death of the hair follicles, the hair loss caused by allergies to mold, or by fungal infections on the scalp, can be reversed.

It’s not just mold that causes hair loss. Being around any substance that you’re allergic to for long enough can also make you lose hair. Besides mold spores, some other common indoor allergens that could be causing you hair loss are dust mite excretion, animal dander from pets, chemicals in laundry powder and also biological enzymes in laundry powder.

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Molds in Fall – Part 2

The pollen from ragweed causes allergy symptoms in many people. These symptoms include sneezing, runny or stuffy nose, and itchy throat. This is often called hay fever or by its medical term, seasonal allergic rhinitis.

Reducing Ragweed Exposure

Here’s a few simple precautions can dramatically reduce your pollen exposure:

  • As much as possible, stay indoors when pollen counts are highest. Typically, that’s between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Tracking the pollen count in your area can help you take special precautions on high-pollen days.
  • At home and in your car, keep the windows closed and the air conditioner on. Air conditioners filter the air as well as cool it. Just make sure to change or clean the filters every three months or so.
  • Change your clothes after spending time outdoors. Dry clothes in the dryer — not outdoors on a line, where they might get dusted with pollen.
  • Shower before bed to remove pollen, especially from your face and hair.
  • Try nasal irrigation. Rinsing out your nostrils with a salt water solution once or twice a day, using a neti pot or a bottle system, such as the one made by Neil-Med. Your doctor should be able to explain how and give you a recipe for the solution.
  • Equip your home with HEPA air filters. A filter in each room works best. At the very least, you should have a filter running continuously in your bedroom. HEPA vacuum cleaners can also help.

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15 Worst Cities For Ragweed 2015

Fall is officially here, and so are fall allergies. Ragweed usually starts releasing its pollen in late August, but that pollen can linger into the late fall. According to the Centers for Disease Control, about three-quarters of people who are allergic to spring plants are allergic to ragweed. Plus, let’s not forget mold. Mold spores love wet areas, which means piles of wet leaves can be its breeding ground. Dust is also a major allergy trigger. Turn on your heater and you stir them up. Those tiny bugs are in almost every home. According to The Weather Channel, Oklahoma City and Tulsa are two of America’s worst cities for fall allergies in 2015.

The top 15 worst cities for allergies are:

  1. Wichita, Kan.
  2. Jackson, Miss.
  3. Knoxville, Tenn.
  4. Louisville, Ky.
  5. Memphis, Tenn.
  6. McAllen, Texas
  7. Baton Rouge, La.
  8. Dayton, Ohio
  9. Chattanooga, Tenn.
  10. Oklahoma City, Okla.
  11. New Orleans
  12. Madison, Wis.
  13. Omaha, Neb.
  14. Little Rock, Ark.
  15. Tulsa, Okla.

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Bulk Sampling For Mold

Bulk Sampling is another technique used for direct examination. A direct exam allows for the immediate determination of the presence of fungal spores as well as what types of fungi are present. Direct examinations should only be used to sample visible mold growth in a contaminated area since most surfaces collect a mixture of fungal spores that are normally present in the environment.  Bulk Samples can be taking such as items as small pieces of drywall, plaster, paper, etc., that have suspect areas of growth and can be placed in a sterile container or new plastic bag to hold and properly transport to a lab for analysis.

Pros

  • The direct exam is inexpensive, and can be performed quickly.
  • A useful test for initial site sampling.
  • Direct examination of a surface indicates all mold present in a given area.
  • Direct sampling may reveal indoor reservoirs of spores that have not yet become airborne.

Bulk Sampling is very similar to all direct lift samples, except the suspect area itself is actually extracted from the area and placed into a bag whereas Surface or Tape/Swab sampling takes a lift of the suspect area onto a slide or the Swab itself and sent to a lab.

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Common Mold Tests

There are may forms of mold testing that can determine whether or not your home or office has mold, and the severity of issue if one exists.  The most common form of testing is Air Sampling, which basically traps spores in the air onto a sticky slide within a cassette that is mounted on top of a pump. The cassette is then detached, secured and sent off to a lab for analysis.  Another common type of test is Surface Sampling.  This form of testing is to take a direct lift of a suspect area, and place it onto a slide and then it too is sent for analysis.  Swab sampling is nearly the same as surface sampling, without the use of the slide, but it too is testing a suspect area with direct contact.  For the next few days we’ll discuss and detail each of the most common mold tests used today.

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Asbestos Operations

Jobsites where workers mine, handle or process asbestos often contaminate the outside air with airborne fibers. As a result, people in nearby communities may face environmental exposures that increase the risk for serious health complications.A 2009 study tested the effects of environmental exposure in a population living near an asbestos manufacturing plant. The study examined rates of malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) and other asbestos-related conditions in Shubra El-Kheima, Egypt, an industrial city containing the Sigwart Company asbestos plant. It compared disease rates in individuals working in the plant, those living near the plant and those in a control group with no known asbestos exposure. In total, the study had more than 4,000 participants.

The rate of MPM was highest in the group with environmental asbestos exposure, with 2.8 percent of this group having the cancer. The group with occupational exposure had a strikingly lower rate of only 0.8 percent. As expected, the control group had the fewest incidences, with a rate of 0.1 percent. These rates varied for other illnesses such as diffuse pleural thickening. Overall, the study found a slightly higher — but still comparable — rate of asbestos-related illnesses in asbestos workers than in nearby residents.

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Checking Toilets For Leaks

A constantly running toilet can waste thousands of gallons a water a year and drive up your utility bills. Check your toilets regularly, and replace any parts that are no longer functioning as they should. Most toilet repair jobs are fairly easy to do yourself.

To Check & Repair a Toilet

    • Adjust Water Level in Tank: If your toilet runs when it hasn’t been flushed, remove the lid and check the water level inside the tank. If it’s set too high, the water will spill into the overflow tube and cause the intake valve to keep running. To adjust the water level, turn the adjustment screw located either on top or at the base of the water intake mechanism in the tank. Set the water level so it stops filling 1/4″ or more below the top of the overflow tube. Many intake valves are marked with a recommended water level for maximum effectiveness with minimum waste.
    • Replace Flapper: Put a few drops of food coloring in the water in your toilet tank, and allow it to remain without flushing for a time. If the water in the toilet bowl changes color without being flushed, the rubber flapper valve at the bottom of the tank needs to be replaced. These are easy to replace by shutting off the water to the toilet, flushing the tank to empty it, and replacing the old flapper with a new one.
    • Replace Flushing Mechanism: If the above fixes don’t work, it may be time to replace the entire flushing mechanism. Look for a packaged replacement kit, so you’ll have all the parts as well as installationinstructions. Turn the water off at the shut-off valve and flush to empty the tank before removing and replacing the water intake tank mechanism.
    • Fix Toilet Floor Leak: If your toilet is leaking at the floor when flushed, first try gently tightening the bolts that hold the bowl to the floor. Be careful not to over tighten – you don’t want to crack the ceramic bowl! If this doesn’t stop the leak, you’ll need to remove the toilet and replace the wax ring around the drain pipe. Check out our article on How To Remove and Replace a Toilet for more info.
    • Fix Toilet Tank to Bowl Leak: Toilets can also leak between the tank and bowl when the toilet is flushed. To fix, turn off the water, drain the tank, remove the bolts in the bottom of the tank that attach the tank to the bowl, and replace the rubber gasket between the tank and bowl, as well as the bolts and gaskets which hold the tank and bowl together.

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