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.
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.