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Asthma and Mold

Submitted by Lorene Bartos, UNL Extension Educator

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How Healthy is your Home? October is National Home Indoor Air Quality Action & Awareness Month. October 1-6 is Asthma & Mold—Children’s Action & Awareness Week. This week is set aside to increase awareness of things in the home that can irritate asthma and other respiratory diseases in youth and adults.

According to estimates of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, some 4.8 million children and youth under the age of 18 have asthma, which has increased by 160% over the last 15 years. Some of the main pollutants which trigger asthma are molds and dust mites.

Molds and dust mites thrive in similar conditions. Mold grows on organic materials, such as paper, textiles, grease, dirt and soap scum. It requires moisture or high humidity. When a mold colony has been established (for example, on a bathroom wall), it generates mold spores that float through the air, land on other surfaces, and if conditions are right, form new colonies. Mold can also grow in standing water, such as in the reservoirs of humidifiers or dehumidifiers. Mist from some types of humidifiers can spread the mold throughout the house.

Dust mites need a food source of dead human skin cells and high humidity levels. They often thrive in soft textiles such as bedding, carpet and upholstery. When the textiles are disturbed (vacuuming, making beds, or walking across carpeting) dust mite particles become airborne. Cleaning surfaces where dust mite particles accumulate can help reduce concentration in the air. Dust mites have been identified as the single most important trigger for asthma attacks.

People affected with asthma need to identify their asthma triggers. Different things set off attacks in different people. Most of these triggers are also things causing allergies—things like dust, tobacco smoke and pet dander. Dust mites, microscopic creatures live mostly in mattresses, and cockroaches are among the most important triggers. Things not related to allergies cause some asthma attacks. These include cold weather, exercise and strong emotions.

Molds are found where there is excess moisture. Basements many times are the place where mold hides. Carpets on concrete floors should be checked as the carpet can absorb moisture and serve as a place for biological pollutants to grow. Mold spores are everywhere so it is important to take steps to reduce the opportunity for spores to grow. Reducing moisture and keeping the humidity in you home between 30 and 50% will reduce the environment for mold growth. Use exhaust fans or open windows in the kitchen or bathroom areas when taking showers, cooking or using the dishwasher. Make sure clothes dryers are vented to the outdoors and use a dehumidifier in the basement, if necessary. Water damaged areas and items need to be dried within 24 to 48 hours to prevent mold growth.

Make your home healthy by reducing the number of pollutants produced in your home daily.

For more information on house dust mites, visit http://lancaster.unl.edu/pest/resources/DustMites311.shtml.


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(This resource was added October 2007 and appeared in the Lincoln Journal Star Newspaper Sunday edition. For information on reproducing this article or using any photographs or graphics, read the Terms of Use statement)

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University of Nebraska-Lincoln in Lancaster County
Web site: lancaster.unl.edu
444 Cherrycreek Road, Suite A, Lincoln, NE 68528 | 402-441-7180