When it comes to assessing your family’s indoor air environment during lockdown there are 5 categories of concern to consider! South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs is not concerned with residential indoor air quality! As a result, we need to learn what indoor air quality is from America’s Environmental Protection Agency. They have identified 5 danger levels of indoor air quality. Indoor air quality is a major human health issue worldwide under normal conditions. However, indoor air quality and possible incidents of asthma attacks are worsened during Lockdown when you and your family are spending most of your time indoors.
Homes with windows and doors closed have a lack of adequate ventilation. In addition, the lack of airbricks increased insulation and better-sealing windows and doors make new homes much more energy-efficient than older houses. As a result, in new homes, it is even more difficult to get fresh clean air into the home.
Mould can occur in your home and workplace anywhere in South Africa. If a room or cupboard smells musty it means it has!
Potential health effects and symptoms associated with exposure to mould include allergic reactions, asthma, and other respiratory complaints. It is impossible to eliminate all moulds and spores indoors. All moulds can be found on any surface where moisture is present, e.g. on wood, paper, carpet, and foods. Mould growth is best controlled by controlling moisture.
Clean and eliminate sources of moisture.
Repair all leaks.
Reduce indoor humidity to between 30-50% by venting bathrooms, dryers, and other moisture-generating sources to the outside.
Increase ventilation by using air-conditioners, dehumidifiers, exhaust fans and open windows whenever cooking, dishwashing, and cleaning.
Clean and dry any damp or wet bedding and furnishings within 24 hours.
Clean mould off hard surfaces with water and specialised detergents, and dry completely.
Replace damp or wet absorbent materials, e.g. mouldy ceiling tiles, carpeting, insulation etc.
Reduce condensation on cold surfaces (i.e. metal roofing, under-tile membranes, water piping, exterior walls, roof, or floors) by adding insulation.
Prevent condensation on windows in living rooms and bedrooms by keeping the windows slightly open during cold spells and at night in winter. In humid climates keep windows open 24/7.
Do not install carpets or other types of flooring that is not water-resistant in areas with a frequent condensation or perpetual moisture problems, e.g. bathrooms, kitchens, laundries, sculleries, at drinking fountains, or areas that may be exposed to the elements.
What is mould?
It is the common word for any fungus that grows on food or damp surfaces. In addition, it can be any colour but is often black or white.
Some often look like a stain or smudge, and they may smell musty. They can enter the home through windows, vents, and open doorways, heating and air-conditioning systems. Moreover, it can attach itself to clothes, shoes, linen, bags and pets.
You might find it in:
Leaky roofs, windows or pipes
Wall and floor tiles
Built-in units and cupboards
Is mould harmful?
Often reports about the effectsof some moulds include the term “toxic”. However, experts say this term can be misleading, since only certain spores produce toxins, and only under certain conditions.
According to researchers in the Lung Disorders Special Report: 9 Common Mould Myths, moulds can produce toxins. However, that doesn’t mean it will. Furthermore, it is highly unlikely that you could inhale enough in your home or office to receive a toxic dose.
Although, only toxic under exceptional conditions, it can still adversely affect your health. In addition, if you suffer a pre-existing respiratory condition, e.g. asthma, mould can aggravate the condition.
Some people are especially sensitive to some moulds and may display symptoms that include:
Eye, nose and throat irritation
Coughing and phlegm build-up
Wheezing and shortness of breath
Symptoms of asthma and any number of allergic reactions
It is mostly found indoors in kitchens and bathrooms, where humidity levels are high. However, who should do the cleanup depends on a number of factors. One is the size of the affected area. If the mouldy area is less than about 1m² you can handle the job yourself. You can simply remove it with over the counter products. However, if there has been a lot of water damage, and/or mould growth covers more than 1m², it is advisable to hire a specialist contractor.
The following measures can help:
During humid months, use an air conditioner or a dehumidifier.
Ensure there is adequate ventilation, especially in your bathrooms.
Before painting, add mould inhibitors to the paint.
Use mould killingproducts to clean your bathroom and kitchen.
Don’t carpet your bathrooms and toilets.
Remove or replace wet carpets and upholstery.
If there are musty smells in your cupboards, bedrooms, bathrooms or in your kitchen you have mould in your home! It will only grow in areas where damp conditions exist! I can identify the source of the damp condition for you. Furthermore, I can perform a Mould Inspection and advise you on the best manner in which to remove the mould.
Biological pollutants can be a problem in your home, causing considerable health problems! They include bacteria, viruses, animal dander, cat saliva, house dust, mites, cockroaches and pollen.
Sources of biological pollutants can be reduced by controlling the humidity level in your home. Therefore, the relative humidity should be kept between 30-50%. Significantly, standing water, water-damaged materials or wet surfaces serve as a breeding ground for moulds, mildews, bacteria and insects. Furthermore, house dust mites, the source of one of the most powerful biological allergens, grow in damp, warm environments.
Biological Pollutants are:
Pollens, from plants.
Viruses are transmitted by people and animals.
Bacteria are carried by people, animals, and soil and plant debris.
Household pets, which are sources of saliva and animal dander (skin flakes)
Droppings and body parts from cockroaches, birds, rodents and other pests or insects.
The protein in urine from rats and mice is a potent allergen. When it dries, it becomes airborne.
Contaminated central air handling systems can become breeding grounds for mould, mildew and other sources of biological contaminants.
Many of these biological contaminants are inhaled.
Locations that facilitate its growth, e.g. moisture, water etc. These include:
Damp or wet areas, e.g. cooling coils, humidifiers, condensate pans or unvented bathrooms facilitate mould growth.
Draperies, bedding, carpet and other areas where dust collects facilitates the growth of biological pollutants.
Health Effects of Biological Pollution
Some trigger allergic reactions, including:
Some types of asthma.
Moulds and mildews release disease-causing toxins. Symptoms include:
shortness of breath,
and digestive problems,
Allergic reactions occur only after repeated exposure to a specific biological allergen. In addition, the reaction may occur immediately on re-exposure. Therefore, if you have mild allergic reactions or no reactions at all, this may suddenly change to highly sensitive to particular allergens.
Humidifier fever is the exposure to toxins from microorganisms that can grow in large building ventilation systems. Furthermore, humidifier fever can also occur in home heating and cooling systems, and humidifiers.
Children, elderly people and people with breathing problems, allergies, and lung disease are particularly susceptible to disease-causing biological agents.
Good housekeeping and maintenance of heating and air conditioning equipment are imperative. Moreover, adequate ventilation and good air distribution are important.
The key to mould control is moisture control. Therefore, if mould is a problem, clean up the mould and get rid of excess water or moisture. In addition, maintain relative humidity between 30% – 60%, to help control mould, dust mites and cockroaches.
Use exhaust fans to vent kitchens and bathrooms. Especially vent clothes dryers outdoors. Consequently, this will reduce moisture build-up from everyday activities.
Ventilate ceiling space to prevent moisture build-up. Keeping humidity levels in these areas below 50% can prevent water condensation on building materials.
If using cool mist or ultrasonic humidifiers, clean appliances according to the manufacturer’s instructions and also refill with fresh water daily. In addition, clean evaporation trays in air conditioners, dehumidifiers and refrigerators frequently.
Thoroughly clean and dry water-damaged carpets and building materials. However, replacement may be preferable. Furthermore, it is difficult to completely rid carpets and building materials of biological pollutants.
Keep the house clean! Obviously, regular cleaning will reduce house dust mites, pollens, animal dander and other allergy-causing agents.
If you are allergic you may choose to use allergen-proof mattress encasements.
Wash bedding in hot (50°C) water and also avoid room furnishings that accumulate dust.
Vacuuming can increase airborne levels of mite allergens and other biological pollutants. Therefore, using vacuums with high-efficiency filters may help.