Deciding Whether or Not to Have Your Air Ducts Cleaned

Knowledge about the potential benefits and possible problems of air duct cleaning is limited. Since conditions in every home are different, it is impossible to generalize about whether or not air duct cleaning in your home would be beneficial.

If no one in your household suffers from allergies or unexplained symptoms or illnesses and if, after a visual inspection of the inside of the ducts, you see no indication that your air ducts are contaminated with large deposits of dust or mold (no musty odor or visible mold growth), having your air ducts cleaned is probably unnecessary. It is normal for the return registers to get dusty as dust-laden air is pulled through the grate. This does not indicate that your air ducts are contaminated with heavy deposits of dust or debris; the registers can be easily vacuumed or removed and cleaned.

On the other hand, if family members are experiencing unusual or unexplained symptoms or illnesses that you think might be related to your home environment, you should discuss the situation with your doctor. EPA has published the following publications for guidance on identifying possible indoor air quality problems and ways to prevent or fix them.

You may consider having your air ducts cleaned simply because it seems logical that air ducts will get dirty over time and should occasionally be cleaned. While the debate about the value of periodic duct cleaning continues, no evidence suggests that such cleaning would be detrimental, provided that it is done properly.

On the other hand, if a service provider fails to follow proper duct cleaning procedures, duct cleaning can cause indoor air problems. For example, an inadequate vacuum collection system can release more dust, dirt and other contaminants than if you had left the ducts alone. A careless or inadequately trained service provider can damage your ducts or heating and cooling system, possibly increasing your heating and air conditioning costs or forcing you to undertake difficult and costly repairs or replacements.

You should consider having the air ducts in your home cleaned if:

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There is substantial visible mold growth inside hard surface (e.g., sheet metal) ducts or on other components of your heating and cooling system. There are several important points to understand concerning mold detection in heating and cooling systems:

  • Many sections of your heating and cooling system may not be accessible for a visible inspection, so ask the service provider to show you any mold they say exists.
  • You should be aware that although a substance may look like mold, a positive determination of whether it is mold or not can be made only by an expert and may require laboratory analysis for final confirmation. For about $50, some microbiology laboratories can tell you whether a sample sent to them on a clear strip of sticky household tape is mold or simply a substance that resembles it.
  • If you have insulated air ducts and the insulation gets wet or moldy it cannot be effectively cleaned and should be removed and replaced.
  • If the conditions causing the mold growth in the first place are not corrected, mold growth will recur.
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Ducts are infested with vermin, e.g. (rodents or insects)

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Ducts are clogged with excessive amounts of dust and debris and/or particles are actually released into the home from your supply registers.

Original Article Source:https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/should-you-have-air-ducts-your-home-cleaned

Need to clean up ash from the Woolsey fire? Follow these guidelines for safety

Ash from the Woolsey and Hill fires can have a far reach, raining down on communities many miles away.

Areas of California have not only been completely devastated by the recent wildfires in Northern California and the Malibu area, but many far away from the flames have been impacted in other ways with power outages or debris from the fires.

The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department sent out tips via social media on Wednesday on how to safely discard of ash and food that may have been impacted.

Wash off the ash

Ash may look like fun snowflakes to children, but make sure they don’t play in it – especially when it’s wet or damp.  And make sure any toys they play with are washed.

Don’t forget to also wash your pets that may have gotten ash on their fur.

Always wear gloves during clean up, along with long-sleeved shirts and long pants to avoid skin contact. Wash ash off as soon as possible if it gets on your skin.

If you eat vegetable or fruits from the garden, make sure you wash them before eating.

Don’t spread it around

Don’t use leaf blowers — they will push ash into the air and spread it out.

“Instead, gently sweep indoor and outdoor surfaces, followed by wet mopping,” the post reads. “A solution of bleach and water may be used to disinfect an area.”

Your regular home vacuum won’t cut it, and even shop vacuums can’t filter out small particles. Instead, they blow small particles into the air where they can be breathed in. However, HEPA-filter vacuums can filter out small particles.

Use a disposable mask, an easy item to find at home or hardware stores, when cleaning up. Make sure it has a rating of N-95 or better.

Avoid washing ash into the storm drains whenever possible. Ash and soot can become very slippery when combined with water.

“Walk carefully, wear boots with good soles, and use as little water as possible when cleaning an area of ash,” the post reads.

Throw it out

If ash has gotten onto plastic bottles, toss them.

“It is not enough to rinse off the bottles as these particles contaminate the caps, making them very difficult to decontaminate,” the advisory reads

Food that has not been stored in waterproof or airtight containers and has been covered with ash should be discarded. This includes products that have been stored in cardboard or other soft packaging, according to the sheriff’s department.

Food stored in sealed, previously unopened glass or metal cans or jars, such as baby food, should be safe for use, but the containers should be cleaned before they are opened and contents transferred to another container before being eaten.

If a power outage has impacted your area for a short time, your food should be safe. But if your power has been out for several hours, it’s best to throw away perishable foods such as meat, dairy products and eggs.

Items that have thawed in the freezer should be thrown away — do not re-freeze thawed food.

“Remember, if in doubt, throw it out.”

Original Article Source:https://www.dailynews.com/2018/11/14/need-to-clean-up-ash-from-the-woolsey-fire-follow-these-guidelines-for-safety/

Health Risks Associated with Smoke, Soot, and Mold

House fires are terrifying because the flames can cause intense bodily harm that results in serious injury and even death.  Once the fire is put out, many homeowners are relieved in the sense that the threat to their life or health has ended.  However, the flames themselves are not the only potential source of health issues.  Many of the byproducts of a fire are toxic.  Fires leave behind smoke, soot, corrosive byproducts, and even mold that negatively affects your health.  It is important to know the health risks caused by the byproducts of a fire to keep yourself and your family safe in the aftermath.

Smoke

All fires involve smoke and everyone knows that smoke inhalation is extremely dangerous because of the chemicals it contains.  Smoke is the byproduct of incomplete combustion and contains the following toxins:

  • Carbon Monoxide (CO) and Hydrogen Cyanide (HCN): The potential health effects of carbon monoxide are well known as many homes have carbon monoxide detectors for safety. Less people know about the risks of the other major chemical in smoke, hydrogen cyanide.  Hydrogen cyanide is over 30 times more toxic than carbon monoxide and inhaling a combination of both can be deadly.  Smoke inhalation is the leading cause of fire related deaths.
  • Chemicals from Burnt Materials: When materials such as wood, drywall, and flooring are burned in a fire, they release hundreds of chemicals in the smoke that are harmful to your health. Some of the dangerous chemicals released by burning household materials include hydrogen sulfide, hydrogen chloride, carboxylic acids, nitrogen oxides, acid gases, sulfur dioxide, and much more.

Soot

After the fire and smoke have cleared, there is still a substance present that can spread throughout the home and cause health issues as well as property damage; soot.  Soot is dangerous because it spreads and settles everywhere including the air ducts where it can get redistributed into the air.  Most health problems caused by soot result from inhalation but soot can also get absorbed in the skin and eyes.  The main health effects from soot include lung irritation and respiratory issues such as bronchitis and asthma as well as more serious issues including heart attack, stroke, and even cancer.

Mold

Few people associate mold growth with house fires but if a house fire is extinguished with water, this excess moisture can quickly lead to mold growth.  Moisture is the main cause of mold growth and organic materials that are wet from putting out the fire can become contaminated with mold within 48 hours.  Mold not only adds to the health risks already present after a fire, but also causes even more property damage that makes the restoration process longer and more expensive.

If a fire breaks out in your home, make sure that everyone evacuates safely and do not return to your home until it has been restored and deemed safe.  The byproducts of a fire are just as dangerous as the fire itself and can cause serious health effects long after the fire has been put out.  It is of extreme importance to begin the fire damage restoration as soon as possible by hiring professionals that can safely remove dangerous byproducts from soot and smoke.  These professionals have effective cleaning products and personal protective equipment to keep themselves safe during the restoration process

 

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About 

Expert in emergency fire and water restoration services, fire cleanup and water damage cleanup, mold removal, as well as carpet and upholstery cleaning services. Contributor to several restoration and cleaning blogs.

Why is indoor air quality important to all of us?

Indoor air quality is important to government agencies, schools, businesses, building staff, and occupants because it can impact both positively and negatively the health, comfort, well being, and productivity of building occupants.

Studies have shown that the growth of microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi in and around a building serves as a source of indoor bio-pollutant. World Health Organization (WHO Guidelines for Indoor Air Quality, 2009) concluded

Microbial infested HVAC system
Microbial infested HVAC system

that the most important effect is increased prevalence of respiratory symptoms, allergies and asthma, as well as perturbation of the immunological systems. According to the report building dampness (supporting factor for microbial growth in buildings) varies widely from country to country and climatic zone. Dampness is estimated to affect 10-50% of all indoor environments in North America, Australia, Europe, India, and Japan.

According to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) most Americans spend up to 90% of their time indoors and many spend most of their working hours in an office environment. Environmental studies conducted by the independent scientific groups, EPA and others have shown that indoor air pollutants levels are greater than levels found outside.

What are some types of indoor air pollutants that may affect my building?

  • Biological contaminants: the biological contaminants can consist of bacteria, viruses, fungi (mold), dust mite allergen, animal dander, insect biodetritus, fibers and fiberglass, pollen, cockroach allergen, etc… and may result from inadequate maintenance and housekeeping, water spills, inadequate humidity control, condensation, or may be brought into the building by occupants, infiltration, or ventilation air. Allergic responses to indoor biological pollutant exposures cause symptoms in allergic individuals and also play a key role in triggering asthma episodes for an estimated 15 million Americans.
  • Chemical pollutants:  Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are organic chemicals.  VOCs are numerous, varied, and ubiquitous. They include both human-made and naturally occurring chemical compounds. Chemical pollutants can include tobacco smoke, emissions from products used in the building (e.g., office equipment; furniture, wall and floor coverings e.g. formaldehyde; and cleaning and consumer products) accidental spill of chemicals, and gases such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide, which are products of combustion.
  • Particles. Particles are solid or liquid substances which are light enough to be suspended in the air, the largest (8 microns and greater) of which may be visible in sunbeams streaming into a room are typically non respirable. However, the smaller particles (7 microns and smaller) that you cannot see are likely to be more harmful to health since these are considered respirable. Particles of dust, dirt, or other substances may be drawn into the building from outside and can also be produced by activities that occur in buildings e.g. operation and maintenance practices, housekeeping practices, printing, copying, operating equipment, construction, remodeling, people….

Is establishing baseline IAQ conditions in my building important?

Yes, as Yogi Berra once said “if you don’t know where you are going, you might not get there?”  Indoor air quality is no different.  If you don’t know the present IAQ conditions of your building are and you are having IAQ upgrades performed to enhance your buildings IAQ then how would you know that you improved those conditions if you didn’t have a baseline to start with?  You wouldn’t.

It is not practical to design a universal guideline fit for all in terms of exposure and health because immunity varies greatly from individual to individual. EDLab at Pure Air Control Services performed a 10 year study analyzing more than 7,000 buildings and over 25,000 environmental samples that were collected across the United States and abroad.  The building types included both commercial and residential.  The majority of samples analyzed were tested positive for bacteria and fungi.

In this study the average (normal baseline) concentration of air-borne culture-able (viable) bacteria was 175 CFU (Colony Forming Unit)/m3, and the fungal concentration in ambient air was recorded at 350 CFU/m3. The average concentration of non viable air-borne mold/fungal elements was estimated at approximately 1,000 cts (counts)/ m3. These baseline numbers are used as a reliable indicator for an expected average of disseminated microbial (bacteria/fungi only) concentrations in today’s modern buildings.

Article origin: http://pureaircontrols.com/why-indoor-air-quality-is-important-to-all-of-us/

With smoke from wildfires, valley air quality looks unpredictable for near future

With wildfires burning throughout the state, in addition to recent local grass fires, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District continues to warn the public about poor air quality, including incidents of severely bad air that may occur sporadically in the coming days.

For a few hours late Saturday, the amount of fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) in the air spiked in Bakersfield and all eight counties across the San Joaquin Valley air district, to a Level 5, the highest level, where all people are advised to remain indoors.

By the next day, Bakersfield had clearer skies and air quality was back down to a moderate range. District officials said winds temporarily pushed smoke into the valley during that several hour period.

“All that pollution literally just inundated the entire San Joaquin Valley,” said Cassandra Melching, outreach and communication representative for the air district.

Because the air can be safe at one point in the day and dangerous at another, depending upon wind flows, Melching said an air quality alert is standing for all areas.

On Saturday, regions farther north in close proximity to the fire were substantially affected, Melching said, with Oakhurst in Madera County reaching a PM 2.5 concentration of 246 micrograms per cubic meter. It takes only 75 micrograms to reach level five risk. Bakersfield hit 87 micrograms that same day.

“We can’t quite say who is going to be impacted the most and when…It doesn’t mean that every single day our air quality is bad,” Melching said.

Glen Stephens, air pollution control officer of the Eastern Kern Air Pollution Control District, said the district has not released any alerts, but is tracking the smoke levels. He said there is less of a concern in eastern Kern County and mountain areas compared to valley locations like Bakersfield, but that there is still poor air quality.

“It’s generally bad. Right now it’s bad because of ozone, not because of the fire,” Stephens said.

The best way to know whether it is safe to be outdoors is by tracking your location on the Valley Air app or online at valley air.org. It is especially important for sensitive groups such as the elderly and those with asthma to remain cautious and updated.

Melching said to also be aware of the potential for ash in the air, which is most likely when temperatures cool down and is not monitored in the air quality levels.

“If you smell smoke, or if you see ash falling, you are being impacted,” Melching said.

Ways to reduce your risk of being affected by the smoke are to limit outdoor exercise, stay hydrated, change your air air filters and keep windows shut.

Article source: www.bakersfield.com/news/with-smoke-from-wildfires-valley-air-quality-looks-unpredictable-for/article_ad179f8e-99d4-11e8-88fb-ff92b41270ae.html