If you're like us, you probably spend a lot of time at home, and while you keep the house clean and tidy, often it's what you can't see that can be the biggest problems.
This is particularly true of indoor air quality, so here, we would like to address some common hazards that can affect the quality of your indoor air and where they may be lurking.
A better question to ask yourself may be: "How clean is your air?"Heating and Cooling Systems (HVAC)
HVAC Systems are designed to circulate air through the home, and in the process can accumulate debris and moisture in the system. Over time, this can create a breeding ground for Mold, bacteria, and viruses that can then be introduced back into the living spaces. This all boils down to a potential for contaminants being circulated through your home that could trigger allergies, asthmatic reactions, and even result in illness!
What to look for: Maybe yourself or a family member hasn't been feeling well, or has had repeated or chronic bouts of illness? Have you noticed dust collecting around registers? These are all signs of a system that could be circulating mold, bacteria, or viruses through your home.
How to resolve it: Having your ductwork cleaned by a professional service can resolve issues caused by a dirty HVAC System and dramatically improve the indoor air quality. Ductwork should be cleaned every 3 to 5 years (or as needed), so feel free to mark your calendars! If you have dogs or cats living in the home or have recently had to deal with a rodent or insect infestation, you may need to have the ductwork cleaned closer to the three year mark.Indoor Leaks
Though many homeowners believe that a water issue needs to be big to cause big problems, leaks of any kind, regardless of how small, can lead to a Mold problem in your home. Moisture issues, such as roof leaks, leaky pipes, and condensation can result in significant mold contamination within wall and ceiling cavities, attic spaces, and under flooring. Leaks within these cavities often go unnoticed causing more damage than may be evident on the surface of walls or ceilings.
What to look for: Signs of Water Damage and leaks can be hard to notice if hidden in wall cavities or in areas other than living spaces, such as attics and basements. It's always recommended to conduct a regular walkthrough of your home looking for any small leaks under sinks, slow drips from connections, or moisture condensing on pipes. Bathroom exhaust fans that are vented into the attic should be rerouted to the exterior by a professional. The moisture in the air from these fans is enough to cause mold to grow in your attic over time. Any signs of water damage or staining should be investigated and addressed immediately. Be alert to musty or unpleasant odors. Often a water leak within a wall or ceiling cavity will not be visible and the first sign of a problem may be the odor.
How to resolve it: When you do discover a leak, prompt and professional mitigation and drying is necessary to prevent further damage and potential (or worsened) mold contamination. The longer mold is permitted to grow and flourish, the more likely it is to spread to adjoining or nearby areas or to other parts of the house. Moisture wants to wick from wet areas to dry so if it is not addressed, it will become a larger problem. Professional Indoor Environmental companies have specialized equipment and training allowing them to properly locate and address hidden moisture.Radon Issues
While a relatively new health concern, education campaigns on the part of the Pennsylvania DEP and others have attempted to shine a light on the effects of this radioactive gas. Radon is a gas that enters the home through the foundation and is the second leading cause of lung cancer behind smoking. If you are a smoker and are also regularly exposed to radon gas at home or work, your chances of developing lung cancer is multiplied drastically.
What to look for: Being an odorless, colorless, and tasteless gas, special testing must be performed to determine the Radon level in a property. Many home inspectors are properly licensed to conduct this testing, and home tests are also available.
How to resolve it: Homeowners that discover higher than acceptable levels in their homes can have Radon Mitigation Systems installed by properly licensed professionals that reduce the level inside the home by venting it above the roof line. These mitigation systems are usually inexpensive especially when compared to the medical expenses and other concerns associated with lung cancer.Asbestos Building Materials
Though once considered a miracle product due to its strength, durability, and resistance to heat and flame, we soon learned that this naturally occurring mineral also caused serious health issues. While not commonly used today, many building materials containing Asbestos are still found in older homes. Though Asbestos containing materials are considered relatively safe when in excellent repair, this often isn't the case. Asbestos containing materials in poor condition, or that have suffered water or condensation damage, can release fibers into the air, representing a serious health hazard.
What to look for: Asbestos was included in a number of building components over the years, making it difficult to outline every product that may contain Asbestos here. Common Asbestos containing materials include, but are not limited to, pipe wrap insulation, heat resistant concrete and compounds, floor tile, siding, and some roofing materials. When conducting an inspection of your property, be particularly watchful for materials that you believe may contain Asbestos that are showing signs of damage, fraying, crumbling, or wear & tear. These are materials that have the potential and likelihood of releasing fibers into the air. It is these unseen, microscopic fibers that are the primary hazard.
How to resolve it: Due to the health concerns that Asbestos represents, it is recommended not to attempt to resolve Asbestos issues yourself. Asbestos Abatement services are available from firms that have been properly licensed by The State of Pennsylvania and who have met various training and regulatory requirements.The Vacuum Cleaner
What if we told you that the trusty vacuum cleaner you've been using to clean the carpet and between the cushions of the sofa might be throwing much of that dust back into the air? Unfortunately, this is more common than many homeowners realize.
What to look for: When selecting a vacuum cleaner, you may know to look for something with a HEPA Filter, which traps more than 99 percent of dust in the machine and prevents it from getting into the air, but not all HEPA Filters are the same. Some vacuum cleaners market "HEPA-like" filters or make claims about the efficiency of the filter without specifically advertising it as a HEPA Filter. Filters should be labeled as HEPA Filters, and should warrant an efficiency rating of above 99%.
While there are many things that can impact your home's indoor air quality, they are things that can be resolved. After all, it's your home, and you should feel comfortable and healthy there.
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*This story originally appeared in the August 2017 issue of Connections Magazine, as part of a monthly contribution made by Disaster Blaster, Inc. Please check out the current issue of Connections Magazine for this month's story!
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