8 Ways To Improve Indoor Air

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

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Average Mold Inspection Costs

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.

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When To Test For Mold

There are many reasons to get a mold inspection done on your home, but one important one would be when you have individuals living in the home that are having unexplained illnesses.  It may seem like that’s something that shouldn’t be explained, but many home owners and parents take a different approach when someone is continually having respiratory ailments.  The first step people take is usually to self medicate, then to a doctor whom starts a new round of medicine like antibiotics, and so on before they ever consider they may have a mold issue.  Even though mold may not be your problem, having a test done is another way of eliminating a possible cause, plus you’ll get peace of mind in knowing your home is safe.  If a mold test should reveal an issue, then the results can also be helpful to doctors or allergists since the test will have a detailed description of all molds present.

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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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Interpreting Mold Samples

A useful method for interpreting microbiological results is to compare the kinds and levels of organisms detected in different environments. Usual comparisons include indoors versus outdoors, or complaint areas versus non‐complaint areas. Specifically, in buildings without mold problems, the qualitative diversity (types) of airborne fungi indoors and outdoors should be similar. Conversely, the dominating presence of one or two kinds of fungi indoors, coupled with the absence of the same kind of fungi outdoors, may indicate a moisture problem and degraded air quality.

Also, the consistent presence of certain fungi, such as Stachybotrys chartarum, Aspergillus versicolor, or various Penicillium species, over and beyond background concentrations may indicate the occurrence of a moisture problem and a potential atypical exposure. Generally, indoor mold types should be similar to, and airborne concentrations should be no greater than, those found outdoors and in non-complaint areas. Analytical results from bulk material or dust samples may also be compared to results of similar samples collected from reasonable comparison areas.

Comparisons of total bacterial levels indoors versus outdoors may not be as useful as with fungi, since natural bacteria reservoirs exist in both places. Comparisons of the specific types of bacteria present, excluding those of known human origin, can help determine building-related sources.

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Don’t Trust, Always Check

A home owner was purchasing a new home and upon a walk through they noticed a small door leading to an attic was locked.  The seller said she locked it because she had family heirlooms and didn’t want them touched.  So, the perspective buyers took her word and respected her wishes and didn’t open the hatch.  During the inspections process, the inspector did the same.  A couple of weeks later, they finally did open the door and noticed mold growth all over the wood of the attic.  We were called out, provided an estimate and were hired to perform the remediation.  This particular attic cost just over six thousand dollars to clean, and because they didn’t have any proof that the previous home owner knew of the mold, and the fact that the inspector also didn’t check, there was nothing they could do, but take it as a life lesson.  Not everyone is deceptive, but when dealing with any form of transaction, especially large ones like a home, you should never trust anyone and always do everything within your power to know what you’re getting into.

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