Air Quality Assessors Blog

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Air Quality Assessors Blog


Natalie Thibault
Natalie Thibault

Natalie


Combat Seasonal Allergies
Combat Seasonal Allergies


Spring is in the air! Unfortunately, that doesn't bring warm and fuzzy feelings to everybody. If you're someone who suffers from allergies in the spring time, you know how these conflicting emotions come into play. We're here with some information on why this happens and how to lessen the impact this spring.


Causes Of Allergy Symptoms

What causes allergy symptoms to rise in the spring, anyway? The most common trigger for these symptoms is the rise of pollen in the air. If you weren't aware, plants in the environment release these small particles into the air to fertilize other plants. When someone is allergic to pollen, breathing it in triggers the release of histamines in the body to protect against the perceived attack to the immune system. This is precisely what gives you those annoying common allergy symptoms such as sniffling, rash, sneezing, eye and throat irritation.


Indoor/Outdoor Air Quality 

Did you know that indoor and outdoor air quality have an effect on the severity of allergy symptoms? For example, there are other factors that have a negative impact on outdoor air quality such as smoke, emissions, dust, and ozone in the atmosphere. When these combine with high pollen, you're looking at a pretty miserable time for allergy sufferers. This is why you see an increased rate of allergy sufferers in busy city environments with high pollution. It's important for allergy sufferers to reduce their exposure to pollutants, particularly indoors. Since there isn't as much circulation indoors as there is outdoors, improving your indoor air quality should be a top priority if you suffer from allergies.


Where Mold Comes In

Mold can also be a cause for allergies. The respiratory irritation that we associate with spring time allergies is another symptom of mold exposure. If there is increased humidity and insufficient circulation of air in your house, it's a good idea to diligently check for mold. It thrives in damp conditions that come with the spring time. There are other possible causes for an increase in symptoms, too. Dust mites are another common indoor allergen that can cause trouble for allergy sufferers!


How To Tackle Your Symptoms

You don't have to continue suffering through allergy season every year! We all know to keep the windows closed when those high pollen days roll around, but there are also different treatments and ways to prevent it from becoming too intense. Be sure to keep an eye on the pollen count with your favorite weather channel so you're never taken by surprise. Spring cleaning is another way you can tackle indoor allergens head on! Be sure to clean from top to bottom to ensure you're getting all the allergens and dust that escape from surfaces as you're cleaning. Be sure to replace the filters on your furnace, air conditioners, and air purifiers if you have them. It's also a good idea to team up with a local air quality assessor, like AQA, to ensure that you're doing all you can to keep your house free of indoor allergens.


Spring Into Cleaning!
Spring Into Cleaning!


Spring is the perfect time to start off with a fresh slate by ensuring that the surroundings in your home are as clean as possible. But, spring is also a suitable season for mold growth when you consider the increased moisture in the environment. Are you ready to make sure your home is both immaculate and hygienic with the arrival of the new season? Get a head start on your spring cleaning with some of the following information and tips!

 

Areas To Look Out For

 

It becomes easier to guard yourself against mold and mildew when you're informed about the common areas where mold and mildew occur around the home. Mold and mildew thrive in humid and damp conditions found in basements, kitchens, and bathrooms. It's also important to pay attention to areas that often go overlooked such as ventilation ducts, areas around HVAC systems, crawl spaces, and underneath surfaces like carpet.


Mold v. Mildew 


Are you aware of the difference between mold and mildew? You can tell mold and mildew apart by how it looks, where it grows, and the effects that the two substances have. Mildew has a powdery or fluffy appearance that forms on the surface of an area, while mold tends to have a fuzzy or slimy appearance that is often green or black. Mildew can damage the surface of whatever it grows on, but it's not known to be quite as harmful to health when compared to mold. Mildew is also easier to remove than mold, as it only requires a cleaner and a scrubbing utensil as opposed to a professional remediation team.


Best Cleaning Products 


It's helpful to be informed about the best cleaning products to use, especially for the indoor air quality of your home. If you're cleaning mildew, consider using a gentler cleaner that doesn't contain harsh chemicals that affect indoor air quality. You can use simple cleaning ingredients found around the house such as vinegar or carefully diluted bleach. If you have a mold issue in your home, it's best to consult the professionals to remediate the problem. Otherwise, you could make the issue worse by spreading mold spores to new surfaces.


Why Spring Clean?


A clean home is important for your health. Not only are mold and mildew unsightly and unpleasant to smell, but they can also cause serious health problems if not taken care of. Exposure to mold over a prolonged period of time can induce asthma-like symptoms in the form of respiratory irritation. Have you noticed that yourself or the people in your household have unexplained symptoms like sneezing, coughing, eye irritation, skin irritation or chronic headaches? Your bodies could very well be reacting to mold and mildew in the household.

The best way to stay on top of the mold and mildew in your home is to stay vigilant. When you make sure that moisture and humidity are in check throughout the household while spring cleaning, you will enjoy having a healthy environment free of mold and mildew.

Household Triggers For Poor Air Quality
Household Triggers For Poor Air Quality

 

While you might think of the outdoors when the topic of air pollution comes up, that's certainly not the only place where it can occur. The air quality inside of your home can suffer when there are certain triggers inside of the household. We are here to talk about the signs of low air quality and the most common things that can trigger this. When you should bring in a professional and how to prevent it from happening in the future? Find these answers below!

 

Common Health Symptoms

 

Given how concentrated the air is inside of a home, it's common to experience unpleasant health symptoms when the air quality is low. Some health symptoms of low air quality in the household include respiratory irritation like coughing and sneezing as well as congestion and shortness of breath. If you have poor air quality in your home, you could experience fatigue, asthma symptoms, allergies, and general hypersensitivity. It's not uncommon to experience dizziness and chronic headaches when exposed to poor air quality. If you notice stale and stuffy air inside the home and lingering unpleasant smells along with some of these health issues, you could very well be dealing with indoor air pollution.

 

Triggers In The Home

 

What is causing the decreased air quality in your home? There are common household items and practices that can trigger bad air quality. For example, if somebody is smoking cigarettes inside the home, you probably don't have the best air quality. This is especially true if your home doesn't have proper circulation. Household building materials and substances like cleaning products can include pollutants like asbestos, formaldehyde, radon, and other chemicals that reduce air quality. If you do not have proper ventilation and circulation in a home or issues with humidity levels, you could be dealing with poor air quality.

 

Call The Professionals 

 

There are some air quality issues that only a professional can solve. When you're dealing with health concerns associated with poor air quality, or your home has recently experienced water damage that reduces air quality, professionals should be brought in. They can accurately diagnose and treat mold, bacterial issues, humidity issues, and excessive allergens in the home. Companies such as Air Quality Assessors can help solve these concerns by thoroughly testing the quality of the air and coming up with a unique plan of action to tackle the problem that is causing the concern so you will not have to deal with the issue in the future.

 

Future Tips

 

There are some tricks to prevent future household air quality problems. Keeping your house clean will cut down on dust and debris that can make its way into the air and reduce air quality. Stay on top of changing the filters in your household systems as well as investing in a quality air purifier. Avoid using strong chemicals in the house, or make sure there is proper circulation when you do. Following this plan of action is sure to make sure you're on top of your household air quality.


Mold In The Workplace
Mold In The Workplace


Mold in the workplace is no laughing matter! After all, we spend a considerable amount of time at our jobs. If employees are being exposed to mold in the workplace, it can have a negative effect on their finances, health, and overall stress level. No one should have to put their health at risk at the benefit of their employer. It is smart to be vigilant if you believe there might be mold in the workplace, whether you are an employee or the employer.


Signs of Mold

 

Do you think there might be a risk of mold exposure in the workplace? Mold thrives in warm, damp spaces without proper air flow. If the business recently experienced water damage, does not have proper ventilation, has a high level of humidity or the building is in general disrepair, mold could be growing. There are some signs that you can look for to see if there is a clear mold issue. Keep in mind that only a professional mold remediation company can make an accurate assessment.


Do you notice a leak in the roof or a busted pipe? Is it very humid in the workplace, or have you noticed discoloration anywhere on the walls? Is there a musty smell, or have you noticed condensation forming in the building? These are all signs that the conditions are right for mold to be growing.

 

Are you only experiencing symptoms while you're at work? Sick Building Syndrome is a phenomenon in which people experience health issues while inside of a building, but are relieved after leaving. Some common signs of mold exposure in a work place include respiratory irritation or allergy symptoms such as nasal and eye irritation, and asthma symptoms such as wheezing and shortness of breath. Repeated exposure to mold can also result in brain fog which has the ability to affect the employees performance at work.


Action Steps

 

It's important to take charge of your health if you think you are being exposed to mold in the workplace. See a doctor if you're experiencing discomfort that can't be traced back to another irritant in your daily life, especially if it gets noticeably worse when you're on the clock. The only way to get an accurate diagnosis of the problem is to bring in a mold remediation company. This should be done at the very first sign of mold in the building. Otherwise, the problem will continue to get worse as time progresses, as well as the health symptoms.


How To Prevent Mold

 

The good news is that mold in the workplace is very preventable. When you prevent moisture intrusion, you also prevent mold. Make sure the building is in good condition with no leaks coming from the roof, walls, or pipes with regular inspections. Be sure that the humidity of the building is in check, as high humidity means more moisture is in the air. Remember, if there are signs of moisture, it's vital to correct the problem as soon as possible.

 


At Risk Areas of Your Home
At Risk Areas of Your Home

Not all rooms in your home are created equal! This is definitely true when it comes to areas of the home that are highly impacted by excess moisture, leaks, and mold. So, how do you know which rooms to keep an eye on and what extra precautions to take to make sure your home is free from excess moisture? We've provided you with some helpful tips to ensure that every square inch of your home is as dry and clean as possible for you to live your healthiest life.

 

Rooms At High Risk

So, which rooms of your house are at the highest risk for moisture and mold growth? Any room that is consistently exposed to moisture is higher at risk for mold exposure. This is because those are the conditions that mold thrives in. So, as you can imagine, rooms like the bathroom and basement have the highest risk for excess humidity and mold growth. Bathrooms are especially prone to mold due to the amount of plumbing present and how much humidity occurs daily with bathing. But, mold can grow in any room where there is excess moisture in the form of a household leak, high humidity from the climate, improper ventilation or improper insulation within the home. Mold can even grow on your mattress over time if you tend to excessively sweat at night!


Signs To Look Out For

If you're worried about mold sneaking up on you, there are signs to look out for. You should be especially vigilant if you know that there is excess moisture recently within the home. If you happen to notice visible spots on the surfaces of your home which could be fuzzy or flat, that's a sign that there is mold growing. Mold often has a distinguishable musty and earthy odor, which is another thing to look out for. Finally, listen to your body! Mold impacts the air quality by saturating it with spores that contain mycotoxins. If you're displaying unexplained allergy symptoms such as respiratory irritation, headaches, or dizziness, you could be exposing yourself to mold within the home.


Steps To Take

If you notice excess moisture in any of the rooms in your home, there are steps you can take to solve the problem. Make sure rooms are ventilated properly, use a dehumidifier where needed, and check for excess moisture where plumbing is present. You can also take advantage of products like mold resistant paint for areas such as the basement and bathroom. It's also a good idea to get your HVAC systems maintained to ensure they're working. A professional mold remediation company can help you if you're looking to make sure the room is completely free of moisture, or if you need a mold problem remediated. Professionals have years of experience and first-hand knowledge on how to remedy excess moisture and mold within the home. With these tools at your disposal, you're well on your way to having a perfectly balanced and healthy home that's free from excess moisture.

Steps Towards a Healthier Home – After a Major Storm
Steps Towards a Healthier Home – After a Major Storm

Has your home recently been affected by a major weather event such as a hurricane or tornado? Perhaps you're anticipating a big storm and want to be sure you're protecting your household as much as possible. It can be a scary thing to experience an intense weather episode no matter how many times you've been through it before. Each storm is different and has the potential to damage your home.


Impacts of a Major Storm

Your house is one of your biggest financial assets, and it's also a sanctuary for all who inhabit it, so it's natural to want to make sure it is in the best condition possible. For those living in a climate that has unpredictable storms or a predictable storm season, there's a lot to think about when it comes to securing your home against damage during a weather episode. Intense storms can seriously take their toll on the structural integrity of a home if proper steps aren't taken after damage occurs. It's easy to get overwhelmed with damage to your home after a storm, after all, it can get pretty costly. However, when all is said and done, the most important thing is that your home is still a healthy environment to live in after a storm.


Common Household Damages

So, what type of damage can happen to a home after a storm? Of course, the more intense a storm is, the more potential it has to cause damage to structures in the area. The most common damage you will find to a home will be due to water from precipitation getting into the house along with damage from high winds that often accompany a storm.


High winds most commonly cause damage to the roof including the shingles and gutters, siding, windows, garages/sheds. Powerful wind can uproot trees, bring down power lines, and even turn a seemingly lightweight object into an airborne danger. When the high-velocity wind picks up an item in the middle a storm, there's no predicting what route it will take or what damage it will cause! Water damage can quickly turn into a mold remediation issue if you do not take steps to get rid of the water in the home as soon as possible. Mold resulting from water damage can seriously affect the health of those who live in the household!

 

Steps Toward a Healthier Home

Here are some quick steps you can take to protect your home after a major storm like a hurricane:

  • Create airflow through the house and ventilate the area by opening doors and windows
  • Dry any wet items that you find as soon as possible, and throw away anything that was damaged too badly for use in the future
  • Ensure any mold remediation is done by a licensed professional in the field
  • Deep clean the entire home to make sure there isn't any moisture lurking around
  • Take precautions to prevent future water intrusion with home repairs both indoors and outdoors
  • Create a structured plan for cleaning, drying, and remediation so you aren't scrambling if it happens again

 


When Humidity Rears Its Ugly Head
When Humidity Rears Its Ugly Head


What is Humidity? 

Humidity is described as the amount of water vapor or water molecules that are currently present in the air. So, what causes humidity in the air to begin with? It can all be traced back to the water cycle and wind patterns on the planet. When it rains and water reaches the ground, it evaporates back into the atmosphere when it reaches a certain temperature. When you hear meteorologists talking about humidity, they are referring to "relative humidity". What does that mean? This term simply compares the current amount of moisture in the air to the total amount of moisture that the air can hold.


Where Humidity is Most Common

Warm air can hold more water than cold air, which is why you experience those unbearably hot and humid days during the summer months. So, it's safe to say that you can usually expect higher levels of humidity in warm climates, especially if they are by a large body of water or experience a lot of rainfall. Humidity is often pushed up from wind currents originating from humid places around the world. This is exactly what causes changes in weather.


Indoor Humidity 

Humidity outside is one thing to deal with, and humidity indoors is another. The level of humidity in your home can impact the concentration of indoor air pollutants, which relates to the overall air quality. Having excess moisture in your house creates the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to form. Mold in the home can cause a variety of health disturbances, and it can affect the structural integrity of your home if it goes unchecked. Headaches, dizziness, respiratory issues, and asthma symptoms are some of the health dangers that mold in the household can bring. Mold caused by high humidity levels can wreak havoc on your health, emotional state, and bank account if you have to resort to remediation! This is why it is important to control the level of humidity in your home, especially in unfavorable weather conditions.


Controlling Humidity in the Home

You might be wondering, "How do I keep the humidity of my house in check in a climate like Florida?", and we're here to give you some tips. It is recommended to consistently use a dehumidifier in your house if you are experiencing excess humidity indoors, even in the cool winter months. Depending on the weather, you may need to adjust the dehumidifier when it does cool down a bit. You can also get a hygrometer, which is a small tool that measures the relative humidity level in a room. You generally want the relative humidity level to be between 35 and 45 percent, depending on your household. When using a dehumidifier, you'll want to be certain you're replacing the filters and cleaning it as needed. If you're using a dehumidifier with a dirty filter, mold and bacteria can grow quite easily, and those spores will go right into the air.

Mold Awareness Month
Mold Awareness Month


September is Mold Awareness Month! This month of awareness aims to educate and raise awareness about the different effects that mold can have on your health and home. Exposure to mold and the subsequent mycotoxins produced can wreak havoc on your families health. The more knowledge that you have, the less chance you have of suffering from mold in your home.


Why Does Mold Grow?

In order to understand mold, it's important to know how and why it grows. Mold occurs naturally and can grow pretty much anywhere where there is moisture present. In fact, mold loves damp, warm environments, and this is where it thrives. Mold spores are carried through the air, and when they find a suitable surface, they reproduce rapidly. There can be mold present even if there is no visual evidence. Make sure you are vigilant if you've recently had excess moisture in your home.

Types of Mold

It's true that some types of mold are a lot more dangerous than others. This is why you don't need a hazmat suit to take care of moldy leftovers in your fridge! Some of the most common types of mold found within a household include aspergillus, stachybotrys atra (or black mold), and cladosporium. Aspergillus is most often found on food and within systems of the house like air ducts and HVAC systems. Cladosporium is usually green or dark brown with a pepper like appearance commonly found in bathroom areas. Black mold is the most harmful type of mold to have in your home. This type of mold often occurs after a household has experienced heavy flooding or water damage that was not taken care of in a timely manner.


Health Risks

Some of the most common health symptoms experienced from mold exposure are respiratory irritation and flu-like symptoms. Yet, the symptoms experienced can vary from one individual to the next. One person may experience a strange rash, while another can experience chronic fatigue and brain fog. Health risks can be as serious as nervous system damage or extreme asthma symptoms. This is why it is important to act fast when you have found mold in your household.


When Mold Is Spotted

Don't be alarmed! Be aware of the conditions that mold likes to grow in, and keep an eye out for any changes in the appearance and smell of your home, as well as the health of your family. If you find mold in your home, the best thing you can do is hire a professional mold remediation company as soon as possible. Attempting to clean the mold yourself could make matters worse by spreading the spores and exposing yourself to harmful mycotoxins. A professional company can take care of any mold issues you run into in the best way possible. The longer mold isn't taken care of, the more potential it has to wreak havoc on your house and health.


Could Where You Live Be Making You Sick?
Could Where You Live Be Making You Sick?
When you're sick for any amount of time, you naturally want to narrow down the cause of your illness. Yet, not everyone knows that where you're living could be making you sick and contribute to long-term illnesses. For many, it's hard to fathom that the place they call home could cause harm to their health. There are many environmental factors that affect our well being, and some locations are better than others when it comes to air quality. If you're somebody who experiences chemical sensitivity or chronic illness, it's very important to know what is going on around you. Otherwise, you could continue to get ill from breathing in the air that's around you, even if you're doing everything else right!


Your Location

Each state in the US has its own level of air quality, and it varies wildly from one place to the next. States like California and New York have some of the highest levels of air pollution, due to large populations. Some localities have strict regulations on pollution, and others do not. Did you know that more than 4 out of 10 Americans live in a place that has air which is considered unhealthy? 

That's almost half of the entire country, which is alarming! Air pollution is especially common in cities where a lot of traffic and corporate entities emit pollutants into the air. That pollution has to go somewhere, and most times it's right into the air that you breathe. 


Climate change is another factor that contributes to pollution. The American Lung Institute has said that warmer temperatures can worsen the air quality and makes ozone damage harder to clean up. You can find air quality reports of your exact zip code by doing some research online.


Consequences of City Life

Living in a city, it can be hard to avoid pollution, even while you're in your own home. If you live in a building that is close in proximity to a business such as a nail salon, huge corporation with billowing smokestacks, or any entity that uses a lot of chemicals, your health could very well suffer. These chemicals can make their way into the air in your home and wreak havoc on your health! This is especially true if they're in the same building as you. Mixed-use buildings are extremely common in large city areas. If you are moving into one of these units, be sure to verify what type of businesses also occupy the structure.


Environmental Impacts

If you live in a place that is subject to forest fires such as California or Colorado, you have the potential to incur even more damage to your lungs. This is because wildfires produce microscopic particles that are unhealthy for your respiratory system, and can cause both short term and long term damage by lodging deep into your lungs. This can cause asthma symptoms, lung cancer, and even heart attacks and strokes.

What To Do After a Flood
What To Do After a Flood

 

Your home is a major investment, and as a homeowner, you naturally want to protect it from damage. This is why it can be very upsetting to deal with a flood in your home. Your house isn't just an investment, it's a major part of your daily life. Flooding can happen anywhere, it isn't only a regional issue. The potential for damage to your possessions and health is enough to become informed on how to deal with this issue if it arises. Flooding can damage your sentimental belongings and even create health issues for your family in the future if not taken care of in an efficient manner.

First Steps  

There are initial steps you can take if you notice signs of water intrusion in your home. Essentially, you'll want to dry the area as soon as possible. But before you do that, take pictures to fully document the issue for your insurance purposes, and turn off the electrical source to the room. Be sure to check over your insurance policy to ensure you're aware of the coverage that you have. Depending on your policy, certain items like the essential systems in the home and appliances could be the only things covered. Each policy is different, don't be surprised about what is and isn't covered when it is too late.

Don't Forget to Document 

Documentation is important before and after a flood! Always keep copies of your policies on hand along with contact information for the insurance company to review when needed. If you experience flooding, contact them as soon as possible. The longer the water stands, there is greater potential for property damage and mold growth, especially within the first 48 hours. This is why it is important to remove the water and ventilate the area to dry!

Avoid These Mistakes 

Besides the top mistake of waiting too long to remove water after a flood, there are other common mistakes to avoid. Many people decide to wade into the waters without thinking about what might be lurking underfoot. Depending on the severity and location of the flood, you could unknowingly walk into an electrical hazard, contaminated sewer water, unstable foundations, or sharp metal and glass objects. It is best to let a professional with the tools and experience to begin remediation. You might think your shop vac and household fans can resolve the issue, but this could actually make things worse. The peace of mind of knowing that mold isn't lurking and growing in unseen areas of a house is reason enough to call in the professionals.

Call the Professionals 

Begin your search for professional remediation immediately after experiencing flooding in your home. Ideally, look for a company that is licensed and insured for your protection. The issue is time sensitive, so they should have a flexible schedule to accommodate those with emergencies. If they aren't available within the next 24-48 hours to assess and begin remediation of the issues, it's wise to look for another company.