Mold is a common household nuisance and is found both inside and outside in varying amounts. For some people, mold and its spores cause very few problems, while for others it can be devastating—even life threatening. In the U.S., there are over two million children with chronic and other serious conditions that are at higher risk for the dangers that mold in their homes and schools can cause. This is due to their weakened immune systems that leave them more susceptible to infection and allow mold to have a more harmful impact. As many as one-third of the children in the U.S., including those who are considered to be “healthy,” are at risk for allergic reactions to mold. Babies that have been exposed to mold, even without incident, may be at a higher risk for developing allergies and even asthma as they get older, which is why mold exposure can be damaging even if no negative symptoms are immediately detected.
Symptoms of mold allergies are typically similar to those of other allergies, which can make it harder to determine the cause. These include sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes, wheezing, and coughing. However, symptoms can escalate to more serious problems such as respiratory and circulatory issues. Mold flourishes in warm, damp environments, which is why warm summer temperatures frequently stir up mold allergies. Make sure to stock the medicine cabinet with the appropriate tools and treatments for babies and small children in order to be prepared to treat any symptoms.
t is important for local health departments to take steps to educate families in their area on this issue to prevent easily avoidable dangers. The remainder of this blog include valuable tips and resources on mitigating health risks related to mold exposure.
Stopping Mold Before It Grows
Prevention is always easier than treatment, especially with mold. Once it gets started, some molds are more difficult to control and may require additional treatments and work. Local health departments should educate their community members on taking the following preventative measures to reduce health risks associated with mold exposure.
Reduce humidity in the home:
- Because mold thrives in warm and wet conditions, try to keep dampness to a minimum. Install a dehumidifier if necessary. Open windows for ventilation, but close them when there are reports of higher humidity levels.
- Keep houseplants to a minimum in rooms that may be at higher risk of mold growth, such as rooms with high moisture levels and low ventilation.
- This is especially important in rooms that do not get visited often, such as the basement, where signs of mold growth can go undetected for longer periods of time.
- Do not use carpeting in the bathroom, especially with children. Use washable mats or a towel on the floor instead. Dry the floor as soon as possible.
- Bathrooms are particularly vulnerable to mold growth, because they often do not have windows, which makes ventilating the damp area more difficult. If there is a window, open it often to dry out the bathroom.
- If there is an exhaust fan in the bathroom, turn it on as soon as the bath is done so that the room gets dried up quickly.
- Other common areas for mold growth include the shower curtain and around the bathtub and the sinks.
- Any appliances that require water are common places for leaks and mold growth. Be sure to inspect under refrigerators, icemakers, dishwashers, coffee makers, etc.
- Repair any leaking pipes. Clean up any water immediately and use a fan to make sure that any moisture is dried.
- Increase the drainage away from the house to protect against leaks.
Summer Toys: The Perfect Hiding Spot for Mold
Pool, bath, and teething toys are breeding grounds for mold, because they can hold a lot of moisture and harbor mold growth undetected for long periods of time. Local health departments should provide the following prevention and treatment tips to limit mold exposure for children engaging in summertime activities and during bath time.
- During summer months, kids are playing with many moisture-laden toys to keep cool such as pool noodles, water guns, absorbent animals and balls, and all sorts of inflatable pool toys. Make sure these and other water-friendly toys are squeezed out and left out to dry before storing them after use.
- Eliminate the risk by using alternative toys such as measuring cups, stacking blocks, and other items without places for water to hide. The advantage of these toys is the ability to toss them directly in the dishwasher after swimming or a bath.
- Swimsuits and towels are also used and re-used frequently in the summertime. Do not leave either of these sitting in a ball somewhere. It is important to pick them up and spread them out in a ventilated or breeze spot so they can completely dry out before use.
- Be sure to regularly wash suits, towels, and any other damp clothing.
- For regular bath toys, one option is to plug the small holes with water-resistant glue. This keeps them from squeaking and/or shooting water but keeps them mold free.
- Boil bath toys about once a week, and allow them to air dry completely.
- Soak toys in white vinegar overnight to clean them. The vinegar odor will dissipate as it dries.
- Teething toys can also harbor moisture for mold to grow. Squeeze all of the water or drool out of rubber or mesh teething toys and clean them using a damp cloth.
- Teething and bath toys can be run through the sanitize cycle on the dishwasher and then allowed to air dry.
A Surprising Source of Mold
One of the most surprising sources of mold problems can be found in children’s sippy cups/water bottles, used increasingly often during summer months as a source of hydration. Many people do not completely disassemble sippy cups when they are cleaning them, greatly increasing the potential for mold growth. Local health departments should provide the following cleaning steps for sippy cups/ water bottles to minimize and eliminate mold growth:
- If there is a rubber or plastic ring on the lid of the sippy cup, make sure to pull it out and rinse under it carefully.
- Look for sippy cups with solid, one-piece lids, but make sure to clean the spout or drinking straw as well.
- All of the cups and parts can be washed in the dishwasher. Make sure that everything is completely dry before reassembling them.
- Disposable water bottles should not be reused, not only because of the risk of mold but because the plastic can leach into the water and can be harmful to a child’s health.
- Metal water bottles are good because they keep drinks cooler and are easy to sanitize in the dishwasher.
- Whenever in doubt over whether mold was completely cleaned from a toy, it is best to be safe and throw it out.
The Critical Role of Local Health Departments
Families with young children should be able to enjoy cooling off in the summer heat risk-free. Unfortunately, many parents and guardians are unaware of the hidden dangers that lurk in the nooks and crannies of their child’s toys. As a result, it is vital that local health departments provide ongoing and visible guidance to highlight the various health risks associated with mold and how to protect their child from exposure. For example, local health officials can disseminate the facts and tips included in this blog via their websites and social media pages, or by engaging in traditional community outreach (e.g., distributing pamphlets, one-pagers).
WEST LOS ANGELES (KABC) —
At least 15 residents in a West Los Angeles apartment complex were forced out of their homes after asbestos exposure.
The incident happened around 9:48 p.m. in the 1800 block of Prosser Avenue, when authorities determined that 11 of 12 units in the complex were exposed to asbestos. A county hazmat team was sent to the complex and the residents were evacuated.
The residents were decontaminated by Los Angeles Fire Department crews. Officials said no one showed or mentioned signs of illness or injury from the possible exposure.
Residents living in the complex said it all could have been prevented. They said management had been doing some renovations after a tenant moved out and that the contractor doing work did not remove the popcorn ceiling properly, resulting in the health scare.
“Most property owners know that when you’re doing construction you have to do it properly and dispose of it properly. Unfortunately, they just hired whoever. They took it off and disposed of it in our dumpster and exposed us all for the last few weeks to asbestos,” Shannon Streger said.
The hazmat team will determine if the building should be red-tagged. Any vehicles parked in the complex were also taped off and could not be removed.
Residents were provided temporary lodging by the American Red Cross. They thanked the organization for the help and also the city for its prompt response to the situation.
It’s the season for summer vacations — or at least planning one. You’ve hoarded your days off and have been eyeing some free time in the sun. Or, maybe a new city. Actually, what about getting away from it all and embracing the great outdoors?
If you’re as indecisive as we are after typing that paragraph, we don’t blame you. There are so many great summer destinations out there, confidently picking one to spend your summer vacation is half the battle. Then you have to worry about finding the best hotels and looking up things to do in each destination.
Fear not! We’re here to help. You see, the benefit of being a travel magazine is that we’re constantly reading up on some of the most exciting destinations out there and we can piece together for you, dear reader, what might be the summer vacation you’re looking for.
Below, we’ve included our picks for the best summer vacation spots of 2018. Whether you’re looking for your next city break, all-inclusive resort, outdoor adventure, romantic getaway, you’re traveling with the family, or you’re like us and travel for the hotel — we’ve got something for you.
Summer Vacation Ideas for 2018
Idaho: Adventure Awaits in the Gem State
Photo courtesy of Idaho Tourism
Idaho is known for its famous potato farms, but there’s far more to the Gem State than carbs. Writer Melynda Harrison takes us through some of the best weekend getaways in Idaho that will drop you off in front of rugged mountains, placid lakes, and canyons that’ll give you a new appreciation for Idaho and its pristine outdoors.
Ohio: Amish Ambiance and Hippy Haunts
When you hear “Ohio,” a rather plain, homogeneous image probably comes to mind. (Though if you’re from the Buckeye State, you know better.) If that’s you, then you’re sorely mistaken. Fact is, Ohio is an incredibly diverse state from its urban hubs of Cleveland Cincinnati to its Amish towns and hippy headquarters in Yellow Springs. Find out more about the heart of it all in our weekend getaways in Ohio guide.
Upstate New York: Nature and Historic Charm
Photo courtesy of I Love NY
More than enough has been said on New York City, so get out of town and see what’s going on upstate with our friends at Compass + Twine. From Buffalo to Ithaca, they share their favorite weekend getaways in New Yorkfeaturing recently-renovated inns and delectable farm-to-table restaurants surrounded by incredible outdoor adventures.
Summer Family Vacations
Tech-Free Family Vacation Ideas
Edward Cisneros, Unsplash
You don’t need a study to tell us that we’re spending too much time on technology these days. (But if you do, research confirms.) That means both you and your family could stand for some time away from the devices and out enjoying your natural surroundings. That’s why we hooked up with 12 family bloggers to share their tips on where to go for a family vacation away from the screens. From Helen, Georgia and Key West to Oceanside, California and Medora, North Dakota, your next family vacation might be closer than you think.
Moms Know Best: The 19 Best Family-Friendly Hotels
London Scout, Unsplash
There’s never been a shortage of parenting advice. Even people without kids chime in these days to give their two cents. To give you the best advice out there, we went straight to the experts themselves — the moms. Nineteen family bloggers shared their favorite family-friendly hotels of 2018 where you can comfortably book your stay and know that you’ll be surrounded by a slew of family-friendly activities.
Detroit: A City Untapped
Beyond the post-apocalyptic ruins and “most dangerous city” moniker, Detroit is a city untapped. Here we took a look at the 7 coolest hotels in Detroit that are reshaping the Motor City’s beguiling past into its exciting future. Near these hotels, you’ll find all kinds of things to do in Detroit from rocking out to local music to enjoying a pint of local craft beer.
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Denver: “Create, Drink and Be Merry”
Evan Simon, Visit Denver
There’s really never a bad time to visit Denver — one of the sunniest cities in the United States. Sure, it gets a little toasty in the summer with the average high reaching the upper 80s in July and August, but it cools right back down to the 50s at night. In our Art of the City look at Denver, writer Lauren Monitz dove in further beyond what’s already known in the Mile High City to show off the indie music scene, outdoor art, and some of the best places to eat.
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Kansas City: The Paris of the Plains
As Kansas City-native and writer Laura Watilo Blake put it, Kansas City is on a roll. That’s not just because of the new streetcar rolling up and down Main Street. It’s also thanks to the new hospitality options popping up in the city that undeniably make this so-called ‘Paris of the Plains’ decidedly cool. Follow Laura through her return to KC as she visits the coolest hotels in town and reexplores her favorite hotspots.
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Hotel Tips from the World’s Happiest Couples
Toa Heftiba, Unsplash
Every couple travels differently, so it’s hard to say precisely what the best romantic getaway is for your and your significant other. But, if we were to source couples from around the world, odds are we’ll be that much closer to hitting the nail on the head. That’s exactly what we did when we sought out hotel tips from some of the world’s happiest couples. Whether you’re eyeing something in Europe, Central America, or you’re looking to stay Stateside, there’s a romantic hotel (and getaway) waiting for you.
Sip and Savor Texas Wine Country
We’re not sure about the exact math, but we’d estimate that 99 percent of wine travelers have had a, let’s say, successful romantic getaway. If you’re looking for something you might not expect — that is, away from the familiarity of Napa — then think about planning a trip to some Texas wineries. Writer Elaine N. Schoch shares her favorite stops for wine in Texas Hill Country as well as where to stay to make the most of your romantic getaway.
Snuggle Up In Georgia
Okay, summer might not be the ideal temperature for a trip through Georgia, but have a glass of sweet tea and you’ll cool off in no time. Besides, you simply can’t beat the slew of romantic getaways in Georgia. From the rolling hills and lush meadows to the charming cobbled streets — you and yours will feel that southern welcome as soon as you step outside and breathe that fresh Dixie air.
Adults Only All-Inclusive Resorts
Costa Rica: Adults Only in the Land of Pura Vida
People know about Costa Rica through its reputation for natural splendor from the lush tropical forests to the rolling surf along the Guanacasteco Pacific coast. With that in mind, we fixated our eye on the best all-inclusive resorts in Costa Rica with a nod to those with an adults-only spin. Start planning and enjoy your taste of the pura vida.
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Florida: An Adults Only Playground
Angelina Litvin, Unsplash
We know what you’re thinking. “Florida? In the summer? Will I ever not sweat again?” Yes, summer in Florida sends the mercury bursting out of the thermometer, but nobody is suggesting you roast yourself on the side of Jacksonville sidewalk. Instead, head to an adults only, all-inclusive resort where you can camp out by the pool, dip in whenever you’re hot, then retreat back under the shade when the sun gets to be a bit much. You’ll thank us later.
Caribbean: Check Off The Beach Boys’ Bucket List
The Caribbean is once again open for business after fighting to recover from last year’s tropical storms. Of course, you can continue to donate to charities like the American Redcross and GlobalGiving, who have facilitated hurricane relief efforts in the region, but another way you can contribute is by giving them your tourist dollars. With our list of Caribbean adults only, all-inclusive resorts, you can feel good about your summer vacation.
*Feature image courtesy of Thiago Cerqueira
Maintaining a healthy home goes beyond dusting and vacuuming. When is the last time you checked your smoke alarms? How about the last time you cleaned out your dryer vent? Follow the tips below to make sure your family and home are ready for a happy, clean spring season.
Grab a ladder, and check your gutters for debris. Remove as much as you can with your hands (Don’t forget to wear gloves!). Remove any leftover gunk with a garden hose. Take off any nozzle and have a helper turn on the water when you’re ready. Shove the hose into the downspout to power out of gooseneck bends. Make sure your downspouts channel water at least five feet from foundation walls.
Scrub Walls, Baseboards and Outlets
Scrub all the walls — in the bathroom, kitchen, bedrooms and living areas — with a sponge or brush and mild soap and water. This includes baseboards and outlets. Make sure to completely dry outlet covers before replacing.
Replace all filters including water, range hood and air vent filters. You should replace these filters every 3-6 months depending on the type of filter you have.
Clean Faucets and Showerheads
Unscrew the faucet aerators, sink sprayers and showerheads, and soak them in equal parts vinegar and water solution. Let them soak for an hour, then rinse with warm water.
Sarah Wilson / Getty Images
A clogged dryer vent can be a fire hazard. To clean it, disconnect the vent from the back of the machine and use a dryer vent brush to remove lint. Outside your house, remove the dryer vent cover and use the brush to remove lint from the other end of the vent line. Make sure the vent cover flap moves freely.
Hire a window-cleaning service to clean all exterior windows.
Photos: Christopher Shane/Styling: Elizabeth Demos
A house with a crawl space has vents along the foundation walls. The vents provide air circulation that helps prevent excess moisture and mold growth, and they prevent critters from taking up residence underneath your home. The screens collect leaves and other debris from fall and winter. Spring is a great time to clean them out and check for damage. Clean the vents by hand or use a shop vacuum. Repair any damaged screens — critters can get through even the smallest holes.
Your grill has most likely collected dust during fall and winter. Help your grill live a long life with these maintenance tips, whether you have a charcoal or gas grill.
You can’t have a successful garden without good soil. Follow these tips on how to prepare your soil to help you grow a lush garden.
Test smoke alarms and CO detectors, and change out batteries as needed. It’s cheap, only takes a few minutes and can save your family’s lives.
A new survey has found office workers who don’t clean up their workspace put everyone’s health at risk, according to an article on the TechTimes website.
Printerland, a reseller of printers in the UK, surveyed more than 1,000 office workers and found two-thirds of them didn’t clean up their workspace regularly. One in 10 workers said they cleaned their desk once a month, while another 9 percent said they never cleaned their space.
By not cleaning, office workers in messy environments are at risk from harmful bacteria, including Helicobacter pylori, Staphylococcus aureus, E-coli, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
The messy office showed that bugs are present on office chairs (21,000 germs per square inch) and desks, desktops (20,961 germs per square inch), keyboards (3,295 germs per square inch), computer mice (1,676 germs per square inch), and office phones (25,127 germs per square inch), according to the article.
Plus, at least 90 percent of office mugs contain harmful germs on their surface, which 20 percent of them carry fecal bacteria. Charles Gerba, a professor of environmental microbiology at the University of Arizona, recommended employees take their coffee mugs and dishes home every night to clean.
Proper cleaning and disinfecting commonly touched objects and areas reduces the spread of viruses by 80 to 90 percent. Gerba suggests cleaning office items, such as phones and desks with antibacterial spray at least once a week. In addition, office chairs should be vacuumed.
To reduce cross-contamination, cleaning personnel should make sure restroom are stocked with soap and towels. However, since restrooms may be taxed, hand sanitizer should also be made available. Setting up hand sanitizer stations in common areas, such as lobbies and breakrooms, as well as frequently used collaborative spaces, will encourage use, especially by occupants who feel they are too busy to visit the restrooms to wash hands when needed.
In its 16th year now, National Healthy Schools Day seeks to inform the public of health risks that can affect children in educational and child care settings
April 3, 2018, Clearwater FL — The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reported that 50% of all schools have problems with indoor air quality (IAQ). IAQ issues can be comprised of a complex mix of sources including aging facility infrastructure, deferred maintenance, fouled HVAC systems, dirty ducts, and the use of toxic products for cleaning, among other contributing factors. Every year since 2002, National Healthy Schools Day mission is to inform the administrators and public on these vital issues in an effort to bring awareness and change to the maintenance and safety of educational institutions across the country. The EPA urges schools to “Use the day to take the necessary steps to effectively manage the indoor air quality in your schools, ensuring you are providing your students and staff with a healthy learning environment.”
The focus of National Healthy Schools Day 2018is lead. According to the EPA, Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the American Academy of Pediatrics there is no safe level of lead for any child. Like many other indoor environmental hazards common to schools, lead has long been ignored. However, more schools and child care facilities are becoming more proactive on lead, especially in drinking water. But the fact remains that lead is ubiquitous throughout an educational environment such as in building and instructional materials, as well as other products and even the soil on the property’s grounds.
“It is time to put children first and end lead and other risks to all children in school and child care,” said Claire Barnett, Executive Director of Healthy Schools Network, the national not-for-profit that co-founded and hosts Healthy Schools Day. She added, “For the 16th annual Day, we thank all the education and health leaders and staff in the states who have recognized the high cost of lead and other toxics to the future of children and are taking action to find and to reduce risks in school and child care settings.”
The good news is more and more people are becoming aware of the importance of optimal IAQ in the learning environment. This year a record number of 59 NGOs nationwide are engaged in the event.
Who is most affected?
Across the U.S. over 55 million children and 7 million adults occupy 130,000 public and private schools. Add to that another 11 million children in child care facilities. All totaled, over 1/5 of the U.S. population is in one of these institutions on a daily basis. Today there are fewer public schools than in year’s past, but more children in them and with less federal and state funding. Schools in disadvantaged communities are often in the worst condition from an architectural and infrastructure standpoint. This can likely correlate to these facilities having the most lead in their buildings’ paint and water systems.
What can be done to improve IAQ?
The first step to finding and fixing IAQ issues is to have a proactive administrative and facilities team willing to invest in the building health of their education institutions. This means having their facilities regularly tested, not just for lead but for the myriad of factors that can deteriorate the health of the indoor environment.
“One of our main focuses has been creating healthy learning environments so students can achieve higher academic learning in healthy buildings,” says Alan Wozniak, President of Pure Air Control Services, Inc., “Our Building Sciences team is constantly working with both k-12 and higher education institutions to proactively test and report on the IAQ in their facilities. If issues are found, the detailed reports provided are integral in the remediation process to get the building back to an optimal state of operations and a healthy learning environment.”
IAQ testing can encompass the entire building envelope or concentrate on a specific area on interest in a forensic level investigation of an issue. In the case of lead, water, surface and air samples can be taken from the indoor environment and sent to a laboratory for in-depth analysis. The lab can then qualify and quantify what is in the samples to help determine the severity of the issue in the specific locations where the samples were collected. Of course if concentrations are found and report the proper corrective remediation actions must be taken.
IAQ testing can also be conducted for other issues that can affect the health of a building and its occupants. Things like bacteria, dust mites, fungi (mold) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can all proliferate in the indoor environment. They often act as allergy and asthma triggers which can affect student performance and attendance. Dust and debris built up inside of the HVAC system not only contributes to these allergen triggers, but also can decrease the performance of the equipment which can lead higher humidity and CO2 levels within a building. Not to mention higher energy costs.
National Healthy Schools Day is an important advocacy event that helps bring awareness to the importance of good IAQ for educational institutions throughout the U.S. With this in mind, more schools should be encouraged to take a proactive approach to their indoor environment to ensure healthy facilities for their students and staff all year long.