We all know pollution is something to avoid, but to many, it’s a concept that only applies to big cities and the outdoors. Indoor air pollution is a real problem – and it affects as many as half of the homes across the United States! As we spend more time in our homes, we may get the feeling of needing to step outside for fresh air or a resurgence in allergy symptoms like sneezing. These may be signs of pollutants in your home, reducing the air quality and affecting your long-term health!
You wake up with a stuffy nose, again. You rub your itchy eyes, drag yourself through your morning routine and head out the door. By the time you get to work you feel better and have a great day. You sing along with the radio as you drive home. You walk in the door, put your keys down, and kick off your shoes. As you walk over to look through the mail, you make a quick stop to get a tissue because you feel a sneeze coming on. Your rub your eyes which are beginning to itch again. You wonder: What’s going on? Am I allergic to my house?
You look for quality in life: quality time, quality sleep, quality food, but what about quality air? Have you thought about the indoor air quality in your home and how it can affect you and your loved ones? When the quality of air in your home is poor, you can experience health problems. How can you get quality in life and improve your quality of life? One simple step is improving your indoor air quality.
But how do you know which molds are dangerous and which are benign? It starts with knowing the properties of mold and understanding the symptoms they can cause. Read on and learn about house molds that could be affecting your family right now!
Stachybotrys Atra: Infamously Known as the “Black Mold”
Stachybotrys atra, or Stachybotyrs chartroom, is a specific type of toxic mold. This is what most people refer to when they say, “black mold.” While sometimes found in grain or soil, it’s much more frequently found in building materials that are rich in cellulose – often following water damage. High moisture content is a requirement for black mold to grow, so it is unlikely to be found in homes that are properly inspected and have been protected through waterproofing services.
This species of mold appears black or dark green, and has a unique shiny looking surface. Some would describe it as slimy-looking, but if it dries it often becomes gray and powder-like. The problem is when it comes to black mold identification, the only real way to confirm if it’s the dangerous, toxic species is with a microscope. Many different molds have similar appearance to Stachybotrys atra. Only with careful examination by an expert, practicing caution, can the species be accurately identified.
Low levels of Stachybotrys atra tend not to have any effect, though if you’re immuno-compromised it’s more likely to cause symptoms. Larger volumes of the mold lead to higher exposure, which can cause a variety of symptoms sometimes referred to as Toxic Mold Syndrome:
- Chronic coughing or sneezing
- Throat irritation
- Asthmatic Attacks
- Chronic Fatigue
- Persistent Headaches
These symptoms usually diminish or clear completely soon after removing the mold and its source.
Black mold affects animals too. While you may not notice a small spot of mold growing in that dark corner of your basement, you can be sure your pet will! Their curious nature may lead them to direct contact with the mold, causing illness or other reactions. If you have pets, keep an eye out for symptoms and take them to the vet immediately! Then,
contact a professional to inspect and locate the source of your mold problems.
That means you need to allergy proof your basement, and you’ll need to know where to start. EverDry Toledo can help! Read this list to learn the steps you can take to reduce your chances developing mold in the basement.
#1. Use a Dehumidifier
Excessive moisture creates the ideal environment for mold in the basement and dust mites. By reducing the moisture levels, you can make it difficult for them to thrive in your basement. When using your dehumidifier, you’ll want to aim for 35-45% relative humidity. Higher humidity is what promotes molds and dust mites, but if the humidity is too low it can promote viruses.
#2. Improve Ventiliation with the E-Z Breathe System
The E-Z- Breathe System can improve your air quality with no regular maintenance required. Once installed, this unit protects your home from poor air quality, as well as molds, toxins, and allergies. Learn more about improving your home’s atmosphere with the E-Z- Breathe System.
#3. Immediately Remove Mold in the Basement
This may seem obvious, but even the tiniest bit of mold needs to be removed as soon as possible. Never let the problem get out of hand and you can save yourself a lot of trouble down the road.
While some people believe musty smells are typical for basements, they’re not – they’re only a strong indicator of mold or mildew. Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there! The moment you think you notice the smell of mildew or mold in the basement, identify the source and remove it.
#4. Replace Carpeting
Wall-to-wall carpeting may look nice in your basement, but it can absorb a lot of moisture over time. To prevent allergens, consider basement floor options like cement, slate, or linoleum. There are plenty of ways to keep your floor looking great without the need for carpet – and almost any other option reduces your risk of promoting mold in the basement.
#5. Fix Plumbing Leaks as Soon as Possible
Small leaks can be dealt with on your own with the right DIY knowledge, but sometimes the small problems are indicators of a bigger issue. It’s always best to call a professional to safely deal with any plumbing issues before they become disasters. Take every leak or break seriously, as water can quickly cause damage that requires costly repairs.
#6. Fix Cracks in the Foundation Immediately
It’s critical that you keep the foundation secure. A small crack inside of the foundation often means more cracks on the outside – and these all lead to water seepage that can not only foster basement allergens, but also cause severe damage to your home or property. If you notice cracks, contact us and we may be able to help prevent further leaks with
foundation crack injections
Lead in Your Drinking Water
Recent headlines about the Flint Water Crisis have people wondering if lead could be a problem in their home. The answer is, maybe. Aging infrastructures, including municipal pipe and plumbing system component, are the main contributors of trace amounts of lead in the water supply today. Some major U.S. cities still have lead piping bringing water to homes and businesses. The pipes are coated with copper, zinc, or lead, which forms a coating that prevents the lead from leaching into the water.
Nearly all homes built prior to the 1980s still have lead solder connecting copper pipes. However, most studies show that exposure to lead-contaminated water alone would not be likely to elevate blood lead levels in most adults. Risks will vary, however, depending on the individual, the circumstances, and the amount of water consumed. For example, infants who drink formula prepared with lead-contaminated water may be at a higher risk because of the large volume of water they consume relative to their body size.
What you can do about it – Short of replacing your plumbing (even then, the source of lead may be in the pipes coming to your house), you can invest in a water purifying unit for your drinking water. Or before using any tap water for drinking or cooking, flush your water system by running the kitchen tap (or any other tap you take drinking or cooking water from) on COLD for 1–2 minutes before using it for drinking or cooking.
Colorless and odorless, carbon monoxide (CO) is truly a hidden danger. According to the CDC, more than 400 people in the United States die every year from accidental non-fire related CO poisoning. Products that can produce deadly CO levels include generators and faulty, improperly-used or incorrectly-vented fuel-burning appliances such as furnaces, stoves, water heaters, and fireplaces.
What you can do about it – The easiest precaution to take to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning is to install CO detectors on every level of a home. Additionally, have your furnace inspected annually by a licensed HVAC professional.
Dryer lint – it doesn’t sound dangerous at all, does it? But it can be, if it collects in your dryer vent. More than 15,000 fires are sparked every year by clothes dryers. Lint and other debris can build up in your dryer vent, reducing air flow to the dryer, backing up dryer exhaust gases, and creating a fire hazard.
Here are some of the signs that it’s time to clean your vent:
- Clothing does not dry completely after a normal drying cycle.
- It takes longer than 35 to 40 minutes to dry your clothes.
- You smell a musty odor when you use the drying cycle.
- Clothing seems unusually hot to the touch after they’ve been dried.
- The dryer vent hood flap does not properly.
- You notice debris on the outside dryer vent opening.
- Your laundry area seems excessively hot.
- Large amounts of lint accumulate in the lint trap for the dryer during operation.
- Lint collects around the edge of the lint filter.
What you can do about it – You can clean the dryer vent out yourself (an annual cleaning is recommended). Check your local hardware store or online for tools to make the job easier. Our you can hire a professional to do it for you; a cleaning done by a professional usually runs $100-$150.
Faulty Electrical Outlets or Switches
Light switches and electrical outlets can wear out over time, creating an unseen fire hazard within the walls of a home. Your first clue might be a crackling sound or an unusual odor when you use the outlet or switch. Another clue would be an outlet or switch that suddenly seems loose.
What you can do about it – If you notice any unusual sound or smell coming from the switch or outlet– or if you can wiggle it – it’s time to replace it. Putting in a new switch or outlet is a relatively easy task (you can find instructions online), but always remember to turn of the circuit breaker! If you’re unsure, hire an electrician.
Mold is everywhere – in the air you breathe, in the food you eat, and in the home you love. Most of the time, mold doesn’t pose much of a health threat, unless you’re allergic to it. When you breathe in mold spores your immune systems responds by creating allergic reactions. Quite often, the more exposure you have to mold, the more sensitive to it you’ll become. Symptoms of a mold allergy are similar to other allergy symptoms and include coughing, sneezing, sore throat, itching, wheezing, or even hives.
That being said, there is a type of mold known as Stachybotrys chartarum – or (toxic) black mold – which can pose serious threat to your health. Symptoms of exposure to black mold are serious, and include:
- Brain fog
- Shortened attention span
- Difficulty concentrating and paying attention
- Slowed reflexes
- Memory loss and memory problems
- Impaired learning ability
- Aggression and other personality changes
What you can do about it – Left unchecked, mold can damage your belongings, your home, and even your health. The best way to prevent mold in the home is to control the indoor humidity. Make sure plumbing leaks are promptly repaired. If there is water damage in the home, it should be cleaned and dried within 24-48 hours. Use an air conditioner and/or a dehumidifier during humid weather to reduce moisture buildup.
If you suspect that mold may be invading your home, Team EverDry is here to help! Contact us online or give us a call at (419) 469-5833 to schedule
a free 20-point basement inspection
Jennifer greets Sarah at the door and leads her down the stairs to the semi-finished basement of her two-story home. Four other girls in her class wait on an area rug tucked away in the corner. The basement was dark, dank, and kind of creepy.
As night descended upon them, the slumber party went from makeovers and chick flicks to something more adventurous. “Ever play Moldy Mary?” Jennifer asks Sarah with a devilish glint in her eyes. Sarah never played, in fact, she never even heard of the game.
Jennifer turns off all the lights in the basement with only a flashlight illuminating her face. She goes on to explain that about a year ago, a neighbor named Mary was left home alone, her husband was out-of-town, and her children were at a neighbor’s house for a sleepover – much like this one. No one knows exactly what happened, but Mary was found in a flooded basement surrounded by spiders. It was later reported that she suffered from shock and an undisclosed illness due to prolonged exposure to Black Mold.
Jennifer tells Sarah that she gets to play the game first. All the girls giggle with anticipation. Jennifer instructs Sarah to go into the small, pitch black bathroom on the opposite side of the basement. Once in the bathroom, she’s to chant “Moldy Mary” three times and wait to see what happens.
Sarah reluctantly makes her way to the bathroom and shuts the door behind her. The room is pitch black, and she can’t even find the mirror. Something doesn’t feel right to her, but she wants to impress Jennifer. Sarah feels along the wall until she finds a hard, cold surface – the mirror. She takes a deep breath and shouts three times:
Moldy Mary! Moldy Mary! Moldy Mary!
Suddenly, to Sarah’s horror, a woman appears in the mirror dripping wet. Her runny nose, skin rashes and obvious disorientation are so shocking, that Sarah flees from the bathroom, up the stairs, and out the front door!
What is Back Mold?
Sarah’s story is only fiction, but the effects that black mold has on the body are very real. Stachybotrys chartarum, or black mold, is a microscopic organism containing enzymes and spores that are in charge of digesting and decomposing organic materials, as well as, reproduction. Black mold is extremely toxic and causes serious symptoms and health issues. These symptoms include mental impairment, breathing problems, internal organ damage, and sometimes even death!
Mold needs to consume something to survive, and it’s perfectly happy eating your house if you let it. Some molds are found in the paper backing on drywall, insulation, and wallpaper. Others places you find mold include air-conditioning units, under carpeting, underneath kitchen and bathroom sinks, and around leaky windows. If left unchecked, mold eventually destroys any and every part of your home that it touches. (Check out our article: 5 Tips to Preventing Black Mold)
Dark, Dank & Moldy Basements
Believe it or not, your basement can be one of the most dangerous places in the home if not properly maintained. It’s not uncommon to find hundreds or even thousands of mold spores per cubic foot of indoor air. These spores are extremely small and can survive in even the harshest of environmental conditions. Black mold can live anywhere provided moisture and oxygen are present. (Is Mold Dangerous for Pets? Find out!)
Finished concrete basements that haven’t been thoroughly waterproofed are extremely problematic. When moisture migrates from the ground to non-waterproofed basement walls, mold can start to grow almost immediately. Foundation leaks, high interior humidity, overflowing washing machines, and sewage back-ups are common sources of moisture.
Mold loves damp, dark places, which is why your basement needs to be checked for
One of the biggest problems during the changing seasons is the exchange of fresh air circulating through your house in the warmer months for stale, polluted air circulating inside the home during the colder months. Based on a report by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, 90 percent of our time is spent indoors and indoor air quality can be up to 50 times more polluted than outdoor air. Even worse, poor air quality in the home accounts for more than 80 percent of people who are at risk for respiratory conditions.
Common Signs of Toxic House Syndrome
Often times, people associate the colder months with cold and flu season. But did you know that according to the Environmental Protection Agency, indoor air quality is one of the top five environmental risks to public health? Shutting the windows and breathing in the same stale air for months at a time can cause a whole host of health issues. Some common signs of poor air quality include:
- Watery eyes
You might think that you have a virus, but it might actually be something much more serious.
Is Your Basement the Culprit?
The area of your home that has the least amount of ventilation is your basement. Basements tend to have the highest levels of humidity in the home and is the perfect breeding ground for mold growth. Many suffer from severe allergic reactions to mold in the home and don’t even realize it. Other allergens that start in your basement include: fungus, bacteria, and dust mites.
Proper ventilation can control indoor humidity and air born contaminants, but most homes have a closed loop ventilation system that simply recirculates the same air in the home over and over again. The recirculation of air causes a buildup of contaminates that will eventually become hazardous and in some cases even deadly.
Team EverDry is here to help!
Don’t wait for your home to become toxic, call EverDry Toledo today and ask about our E-Z Breathe System. It’s a maintenance-free unit that helps protect your home and family from excess moisture, molds, toxins, allergies, and poor air quality. Schedule your free inspection or give us a call at (419) 841-6055 to get started!