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Your Home Environment Resource - University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension in Lancaster County

Household Hints & HELP!

Asthma & Mold Awareness Week
submitted by Lorene Bartos, Extension Educator

This article appears in the October 2, 2005 Lincoln Journal Star Newspaper.

October is Indoor Air Quality Awareness month. October 2-8 is Asthma and Mold Awareness Week. Do you know how healthy your home is? The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency gives information on pollutants which can effect the air and take steps to prevent these pollutants in the home.

Molds, mildew, fungi, bacteria and dust mites are some of the main biological pollutants inside the house. Some, such as pollen, are generated outside the home. Mold and mildew are generated in the home and release spores into the air. Mold, mildew, fungi and bacteria are often found in areas of the home having high humidity levels, 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 textiles are disturbed.

When mold spores land on a damp spot indoors, they may begin growing and digesting whatever they are growing on in order to survive. Molds can grow on wood, paper, carpet and foods. When excessive moisture or water accumulates indoors, mold growth will often occur, particularly if the moisture problem remains undiscovered or un-addressed.

There is no practical way to eliminate all mold and mold spores in the indoor environment; the way to control indoor mold growth is to control moisture. It is important to dry water damaged areas and items within 24-48 hours to prevent mold growth.

If mold is a problem in your home, clean up the mold and get rid of the excess water and moisture. Wash mold off hard surfaces with detergent, water and a disinfectant, and dry completely. Absorbent materials, such as ceiling tiles and carpets, can become moldy and may have to be replaced.

There are many ways to control moisture in your home:

Fix leaks and seepage. If water is entering the house from the outside, your options range from simple landscaping to extensive excavation and waterproofing. The ground should slope away from the house. Water in the basement can result from the lack of gutters or a water flow toward the house. Water leaks from pipes or around tubs and sinks can provide a place for biological pollutants to grow.

Put a plastic cover over dirt in crawlspaces to prevent moisture from coming in from the ground. Be sure crawlspaces are well-ventilated.

Keeping basements, bathrooms and other rooms clean and dry. Use a detergent, water and a disinfectant to clean surfaces having mold on them. If carpeting or furnishings become wet, they must be quickly and thoroughly dried or discarded. Use exhaust fans in bathrooms and kitchens to remove moisture to the outside, not into the attic. Vent your clothes dryer to the outside.

Turn off certain appliances, such as humidifiers or kerosene heaters, if you notice moisture on windows and other surfaces.

Use dehumidifiers and air conditioners, especially in hot, humid climates, to reduce moisture in the air, but be sure the appliances themselves don't become a source of biological pollutants. Humidifiers, dehumidifiers and air conditioning condensing units should be regularly cleaned with a disinfectant such as chlorine bleach.

Keep humidity at acceptable levels (less than 50 percent) and make sure there's plenty of ventilation, especially in areas where moisture tends to build up. Raise the temperature of cold surfaces where moisture condenses. Use insulation or storm windows. Storm windows installed on the inside works better than ones installed on the outside. Open doors between rooms, especially doors to closets which may be colder than the rooms, to increase circulation. Circulation carries heat to the cold surfaces. Increase air circulation by using fans and by moving furniture from wall corners to promote air and heat circulation. Be sure your house has a source of fresh air and can expel excessive moisture from the home.

Pay special attention to carpet on concrete floors. Carpet can absorb moisture and serve as a place for biological pollutants to grow.

Molds can trigger asthma episodes in sensitive individual. People with asthma should avoid contact or exposure to molds. To reduce asthma attacks keep homes, schools and child care centers clean. Use dust-proof, zippered bedding covers, keep pets away from sensitive people, reduce mold-inducing moisture and prevent cockroach infestation. Vacuums with high efficiency filters or central vacuum systems can help reduce the airborne dust generated by vacuuming.

Check your home and take steps to keep it free of biological pollutants. Being aware of possible problems will help keep your family healthy.

House Dust Mites

Asthma & Children

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