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Air Quality Assessors Blog


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.

Sick Building Syndrome

Have you ever felt fatigue, coughing and sneezing, shortness of breath, nosebleeds, or increased asthma problems in your work place?  Normally one would not think that all these problems could be caused by a building…well they can. It is known as “Sick Building Syndrome”. Sick Building Syndrome is considered by some in the medical field to be an illness in people who have been exposed to undefined chemical, biological, or physical agents that are thought to be found in buildings. Indoor air quality testing is crucial in buildings and properties to determine if the structure is “sick” or healthy.

In the 1970s a movement was set in motion by builders and authorities to seal up buildings the best they could to save on fuels for air conditioning and heating.  Many buildings became air tight which left no room for clean air to filter in (inadequate ventilation), which in return set the building up for pollution. Examples of pollution that occurred: carbon monoxide build-ups, possibility of indoor combustion (heaters, ranges and smokers), and the release of inhalable particles (Volatile Organic Compounds, airborne allergens, and pathogens). As a way for buildings to have better Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) and minimize energy consumption, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) revised the standards of ventilation from 5 cfm(cubic feet per minute) per occupant to a minimum of  15 cfm provided of outdoor air per person (20 cfm/person in office spaces). ("Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) - Indoor Air Pollution Testing." Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) - Indoor Air Pollution Testing. N.p.)

There can be many factors that cause Sick Building Syndrome and one is biological contaminants (bacteria, molds, pollen and viruses). Biological pollutants can cause illness through three different  methods-: 1. Infection, 2. Allergy/Hypersensitivity, and 3.Toxicosis.  A  contaminant’s source could be from water(water is a breeding ground for mold) that has accummulated in places such as humidifers, a/c ducts, drain pans; or where water has been collected on carpeting, ceiling tiles or insulation.  Outside elements have an effect on biological contaminants such as temperature , humidity or lighting. Another factor could be a source that is already in the building like carpeting, upholstery, wood products, cleaning agents and copy machines.  Certain factors emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which research has shown can cause very serious health issues when at high concentrations.  VOCs that may be emitted from items like flooring, varnishes, and gasoline can contain: formaldehyde, acetone, ethylene glycol, benzene and tolune.

How does one know that their building is “sick”? For the most part, it is from complaints of the buildings occupants. Building occupants may have symptoms including: headaches, throat, nose, and eye irritation, dry cough, dry or itchy skin, dizziness, nausea; or more serious symptoms like fatigue, sensitivity to odors, and development of respiratory illness.  The source that is causing the occupants symptoms is unknown; however occupants have said to have felt relief once they exited the building. A good way to know that your building should be inspected is when a group of occupants have or show the same symptoms. Air Quality Assessors will walk through the suspected Sick Building and do a thorough inspection to try and locate the source that has been causing sickness. Testing will be done to see whether the indoor air quality levels reach the standard of safety or not. Once again is it not always known what causes Sick Building Syndrome and sometimes the source cannot be found. What can be done is an IAQ test to ensure that the occupants of the building are safe or to find out whether the building is actually sick.

 


Indoor Air Quality- Allergens

 

Indoor Air Quality- Allergens

 

Allergens are found all over the world both inside and out! More than 50 million people in America are allergic to something. Homes or businesses that have poor indoor air quality make people more susceptible to the development of infections, lung cancer, and asthma. The most common cause for allergic reactions are from airborne allergens. Airborne allergens include: Bacteria, Mold, Dust Mites, Pet Dander, Cockroaches/bugs, Smoke, Formaldehyde, and VOCs (volatile organic compound).

DID YOU KNOW?

Facts according to WebMD about allergens

  • -Number of people in the U.S. who have either allergy or asthma symptoms : 1 in 5

  • -Rank of allergies among other leading chronic diseases in the U.S. : 5th

  • -Degree by which levels of indoor pollution in U.S. homes exceed levels of outdoor pollution: 2 to 100 times, depending on factors such as whether the residents smoke

  • -7.7% of people in the U.S. have asthma

  • -Increase in the prevalence of asthma in U.S. children under age  5 between 1980 and 1994: 160%

  • -Number of deaths each year in the U.S. from asthma: about 4,000

“Allergens.” Indoor Air Quality RSS. N.p., n.d. Web 01 July 2015

 

Common Allergy & Asthma Symptoms

Allergy: Runny nose, itchy eyes, coughing, circles around the eye, and symptoms that seem to linger/not go away. Asthma: wheezing, difficulty breathing, tightness of chest and/or a whistle sound when you breathe.

 

People spend 90% of their time indoors, which makes it very important to have good indoor air quality in your home/business. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the average person receives 72% of their chemical exposure in the home. To know the quality of your homes air, have an Air Quality Assessor come perform an air quality assessment. The assessment will include a sampling method that will test for: mold, allergens, dust mites, pollen, cockroaches, cat, dog, bacteria and more. There are many different ways to reduce the amount of indoor allergens in your home. Some are listed below:

  • -Keep surfaces in your home clean and uncluttered to reduce dust mites

  • -Vacuum once or twice a week (vacuuming does put dust in the air so use a vacuum with a HEPA filter or special filter bags if possible)

  • -Keeping doors and windows closed will help prevent the entry of pollen

  • -Dehumidifiers help reduce the moisture in the home (moisture is a breeding ground for mold spores)

  • -Control cockroaches- don’t leave food or garbage uncovered. Use poison baits, boric acid and traps rather than chemical agents (chemical agents can increase allergic/asthmatic reactions)

 


Mr. Common Combative

Mr. Common Combative

 

Cladosporium is one of the most widespread molds because it can be found in nature as well as indoors. 


 

Mr. Common Combative is one popular bad guy who loves to pick on humans who have allergies and asthma. He attends parties where the Respiratory Rival (Aspergillus) and his friends (Penicillium and Wallemia Sebi) will be since he is a secondary wall colonizer- aka a follower! Never underestimate Mr. Common Combative for he can be found in almost every nook and cranny of your property (bathroom, carpets, air ducts, attics, furniture and more).

 

Mr. Common Combat has around 40 different disguises (species) and each disguise has its own act (place to be found)! Listed below are his 4 most favorite disguises.

 

  • Cladiosporium herbarum- The most prominent mold is air-spora. It grows over a wide range of temperatures, and has been reported to cause spoilage of meat in cold storage.

Cladiosporium sphaerospermum- This frequently encountered species has been isolated from air, soil, gypsum board, acrylic painted walls, painted wood, wallpaper, carpet and mattress dust, HVAC fans, wet insulations in mechanical cooling units, foodstuffs, paint and textiles.

Cladiosporium Cladosporioides- A cosmopolitan species which has been isolated from meat, soil, air, textiles and paint.

Cladiosporium Macrocarpum- A cosmopolitan species which has been isolated from dead plants, soil, indoor air, apple juice concentrates and seeds.

 

What is most dangerous about Mr. Common Combative? As mentioned earlier, he loves to pick on humans that suffer from allergies and asthma. He has the ability to trigger allergic reactions in humans with compromised immune systems which can cause rashes, itchy eyes, sudden muscle spasms, breathing difficulty, congestion and more! Some humans can be immune to him if they do not have the certain sensitivities that other humans possess (Cladiosporium emits no toxins).

 

 

Having homes/properties assessed by a licensed Air Quality Assessor is always a great weapon to use, because they can tell how much of Mr. Common Combative is around or in the air. For humans suffering from asthma or allergies, it is very important to keep the home/property at a safe level to lower the chances of an allergic reaction or respiratory problems from occurring. Mr. Common Combative produces more than 10 types of antigens (any substance that causes your immune system to produce antibodies against it) which increases the risk of an asthma attack.  If a human notices an increase in his or her asthma symptoms and believes the reason to be Mr. Common Combative or his friends, contact an Air Quality Assessor to come in immediately! 



The Respiratory Rival

The Respiratory Rival

(Aspergillus)

Part 2 of the Mold-ifying Series

By: Amy Gallagher

 

Res·pi·ra·tion

ˌrespəˈrāSH(ə)n/

noun

1.    the action of breathing.

"opiates affect respiration"

o    MEDICINE

a single breath.

plural noun: respirations

o    BIOLOGY

a process in living organisms involving the production of energy, typically with the intake of oxygen and the release of carbon dioxide from the oxidation of complex organic substances

 

 

 

Itchy eyes, sore throat, coughing and runny nose are all common signs that the Respiratory Rival has entered your territory. She shows little to no mercy to humans that have weakened immune systems, allergies or damaged lungs. Her ability to sneak in through air vents, pets, and water-damaged properties makes her a fierce competitor! Once she has entered your territory, she settles down in places that favor mold growth (areas that provide warmth, moisture, high humidity) like your bathroom or kitchen.  The best way to know that she has entered the game is to have your territory assessed by an Air Quality Assessor! The Air Quality Assessor knows that she is a stealth competitor that doesn’t like to show her face all the time, so he takes samples of the air to catch some of the dangerous spores she radiates.

The Respiratory Rival has many different methods of attacking, but for the most part she targets your respiratory system. Aspergillus can have many different forms (species) and cause different diseases. Listed below are some of the most dangerous forms of your rival:

 

Aspergillus clavatus

Aspergillus flavus

Aspergillus fumigatus

Aspergillus glaucus

Aspergillus nidulans

Aspergillus niger

Aspergillus oryzae

Aspergillus terreus

Aspergillus ustus

Aspergillus versicolor


The group of diseases that Aspergillus exposure can cause is called Aspergillosis. The main types of Aspergillosis are: Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (can cause coughing of blood), Acute invasive aspergillosis (can cause infectious pneumonia) and Disseminated invasive aspergillosis (can spread through your entire body). Another disease to take note of before your battle against the rival is Chronic Pulmonary Aspergillosis which can infect your body and start to grow inside your lung cavities.  The Respiratory Rival can leave her spell on you in many different forms: Allergic reactions, fungal mass development, infections, fatigue, nosebleeds, wheezing and more.



If you think you are starting to show symptoms of the Rival, it is highly suggested that you see your doctor!  Sometimes you don’t know that she has even started the game until it’s too late! The best way to stop the Respiratory Rival before she takes things too far would be to have your home assessed by a licensed mold assessor (Air Quality Assessors); The assessor can let you know if she (the rival) has elevated her game (increased spore count) and invaded your home or if she never started the game to begin with!