Phone: (585) 753-5075
Fax: (585) 753-5098
- Provide guidance and information regarding indoor air quality concerns and complaints.
- Initiate investigations where required.
- Evaluate health impacts and human exposure to chemicals.
Q. If I’m concerned about biological contaminants in my home, what can I do to deal with the problem?
There are no practical tests for biological contaminants for use by non-professionals. However there are signs to watch for. You can sometimes see and smell mold colonies growing on surfaces. Mold growth should be suspected wherever there are water stains, standing water or moist surfaces. Prevent mold growth by keeping basements, bathrooms, and other rooms clean and dry. Use a disinfectant to clean surfaces that have mold on them. If carpeting or furnishings become wet, they must be quickly and thoroughly dried or discarded.
Humidifiers, dehumidifiers and air conditioning condensing units should be regularly cleaned with a disinfectant such as chlorine bleach. Keep humidity at acceptable levels (between 30% and 50%) and make sure there’s plenty of ventilation, especially in area where moisture tends to build up. People who are sensitive to dust mites may need to replace carpeting in their homes with hard surfaced flooring and use area rugs that can be removed and cleaned.
Vacuums with high efficiency filters or central vacuum systems can help reduce the airborne dust generated by vacuuming.
Install and use exhaust fans that are vented to the outdoors in kitchens and bathrooms and vent clothes dryers outdoors. This can eliminate much of the moisture that builds up from everyday activities. Another benefit is that they can reduce the levels of organic pollutants released during cooking or vaporized from hot water used in showers and dishwashers.
Keep the house clean. House dust mites, pollen, animal dander and other allergy causing agents can be reduced, although not eliminated, through regular cleaning. People who are allergic to these pollutants should use allergy-proof mattress encasements, wash bedding in hot (130° F) water, and avoid room furnishings that accumulate dust, especially if they cannot be washed. Allergic individuals should also leave the house while it is being vacuumed because vacuuming can actually increase the airborne level of mite allergen and other biological contaminants.
Ventilate the attic and crawl spaces to prevent moisture buildup. Keeping humidity levels in these areas below 50% can prevent water condensation on building materials.
Thoroughly clean and dry water-damaged carpets and building materials (within 24 hours if possible) or consider removal or replacement.
Q. How are biological contaminants transported through the house?
Molds and dust mites thrive in areas of high humidity. Mold grows on organic materials such as paper, textiles, grease, dirt and soap scum. Mold spores float throughout the house, forming new colonies where they land.
Dust mites thrive on dead human skin cells and in textiles such as bedding, carpeting and upholstery. When these textiles are disturbed during vacuuming, making beds or walking on carpet, dust particles become airborne. Pollen, plant material can enter through windows or on pets while animal dander becomes airborne when disturbed.
Infectious diseases caused by bacteria and viruses are generally passed from person to person through physical contact, but some circulate through indoor ventilation systems.
Q. What are some of the health effects of mold?
Allergic reactions are the most common health problems associated with biological pollutants. Symptoms often include watery eyes, runny nose and sneezing, nasal congestion, itching, coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, headaches, and dizziness, lethargy and fatigue, fever and digestive problems. Dust mite residues have been identified as an important trigger for asthma attacks.
Some biological contaminants trigger allergic reactions including hypersensitivity pneumonitis, allergic rhinitis, and some types of asthma. Infectious illness such as influenza, measles, and chicken pox are transmitted through the air. Molds and mildew can also release disease-causing toxins.
Allergic reactions occur only after repeated exposure to a specific biological allergen. However that reaction may occur immediately upon re-exposure or after multiple exposures over time. As a result, people who have noticed only mild allergic reactions, or no reactions at all, may suddenly find themselves very sensitive to particular allergens.
Q. What biological problems with mold should I be concerned about?
Molds and mildew also known as fungi, bacteria and dust mites are some of the main biological pollutants inside the house. Some, such as pollen, are usually generated outside the home. Mold and mildew generated in the home may release volatile organic compounds and spores into the air. They are often found in areas of the home that have high humidity level, such as bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms or basements. Dust mites and animal dander are problematic when they become airborne during vacuuming, making beds or when carpeting or textiles are disturbed.
Biological contaminants include bacteria, molds and mildew, viruses, animal dander and cat saliva, house dust mites, cockroaches and pollen. There are many sources of these pollutants. Pollen originates from plants; people and animals transmit viruses; bacteria are carried by people, animals, soil and plant debris; and household pets are sources of saliva and animal dander. The protein in urine and feces from rats, mice, cockroaches and house dust mites is a potent allergen, and when dry, can easily become airborne. Contaminated central air handling systems can become breeding grounds for mold, mildew or other sources of biological contaminants and can then distribute these contaminants through the home.
By controlling the relative humidity level in the home, the growth of some sources of biologicals can be minimized. A relative humidity of 30% to 50% is generally recommended for homes. Standing water, water-damaged materials, or wet surfaces also serve as breeding ground for molds, mildew, bacteria and insects. House dust mites, the source of some the most powerful biological allergens, grow in moist and warm environments.
Healthy Neighborhood Program
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- Provide guidance, information and referrals to inquiries regarding radiation.
- Provide information and referrals to inquiries regarding Radon gas in indoor environments.