The Truth about Mold: Preventing Summertime Risks and Beyond

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.

Household plants:

  • 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.

Bathroom:

  • 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.

Kitchen:

  • Any appliances that require water are common places for leaks and mold growth. Be sure to inspect under refrigerators, icemakers, dishwashers, coffee makers, etc.

Pipes/ Drainage:

  • 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.

Pool toys:

  • 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.

Pool garments:

  • 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.

Bath toys:

  • 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:

  • 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:

Sippy cups:

  • 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.

Water bottles:

  • 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).

Asbestos exposure at West Los Angeles apartment complex leaves 15 people displaced

 

Exposing Indoor Air Quality: Monitoring And Energy Efficiency Are Helping

Harmful pollutants are spewing everywhere, including indoors. And while the focus is on those external emissions created by power plants, industrial facilities and automobiles, there is solid reason to turn inward: The level of volatile organic compounds — gases from solids and liquids — is 10 times greater indoors than it is outdoors.

That’s according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which adds that dirty air, generally, inside of commercial and residential buildings is two-to-five times greater than what is outside. And that is leading to health problems. In extreme cases, think of burning coal or wood for indoor cooking and heating in developing countries. The good news is that the technologies exist to monitor air quality and to improve energy efficiencies.

“As we learn to live a healthier lifestyle by eating better, we can also live a healthier lifestyle by breathing better,” Vasileios Nasis, chief executive of the Netronix Group in Philadelphia told this writer. In doing so, he adds that “You can also contribute to energy savings.”

As for Netronix, its relatively inexpensive instruments are installed within a business or home that gather data associated with air quality, all in real time. That information is then stored in the company’s cloud software, which it monitors for a monthly fee. At the appropriate times, managers or consumers are notified to shift their usage patterns. That not only cuts down on electricity bills and pollutant levels but it can also improve the performance of existing equipment.

Green schools, for instance, say that they use a third less energy than conventionally-constructed schools, which cuts down on their utility costs and improves the air that students breathe. Ditto for hospitals, which must have sterile environments. By installing devices that can measure air quality, managers are notified of problems before they happen.

The Payback

There’s a range of solutions with quick paybacks. Creating real change means controlling demand at large plants and commercial buildings. Experts can study a facility’s technologies and operating protocols and determine where the pitfalls lie. They can then provide a good range of retrofits and the potential savings that those innovations will produce.

The World Health Organization is actively addressing air pollution. Worldwide, it says that a third of cardiovascular diseases can be linked to indoor and outdoor pollution while 29% of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease deaths are tied to poor indoor air quality.

William J. Fisk, with the Indoor Environment Department at Lawrence Berkeley National Labs, writes that the annual savings and productivity gains would be greater than $200 billion. That includes everything from reduced respiratory disease to improvements in worker performance. 

“It is very difficult to control air quality outside,” says Netronix’s Nasis, “but we can control it inside. In the process, we can save tons of energy while we also save money and preserve the environment.” 

One of the most common pursuits today is for buildings to get LEED certified to ensure that commercial construction meets modern standards. Such standards look at how buildings are fueled as well as water efficiency and indoor air quality.

According to the Green Building Council, offices consume 70% of the electricity load in the United States. They also account for roughly 38% of all greenhouse gas emissions and over the next 25 years, CO2 emissions from those structures are projected to grow faster than any other sector, at 1.8% a year.

The companies that occupy those structures are going green to improve their brands. But they are also doing so because they can save money. One of the easiest ways to achieve environmental and energy savings is through lighting retrofits.

Consider Nissan Motor Co., which is allocating more capital to energy efficiency: Altogether, the company says that it has implemented $2.6 million worth of energy efficiency projects since 2012 while saving $2.1 million a year and preventing tons of carbon releases.

Hilton Hotels and Amazon’s Whole Foods, furthermore, are helping out each other. Hilton, for example, suggested to Whole Foods that it use more natural lighting whereas Whole Foods thought Hilton ought to use more advanced lighting that dims when no one is around.

When it comes to cutting emissions, most of the focus is on external sources such as power plants. But it is also imperative that commercial and residential structures become more energy efficient, which will have an equally profound impact on the environment and on workers’ health.  

Article Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/kensilverstein/2018/05/14/exposing-indoor-air-quality-monitoring-and-energy-efficiency-are-helping/#77ad216f6eb0

12 Maintenance Tips to Get Your Home Ready for Spring

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.

Clean Gutters

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 Filters

Tom DiPace/AP Images

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.

Clean Out the Dryer Vent

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.

Wash Exterior Windows

Hire a window-cleaning service to clean all exterior windows.

Keep Allergens Away

Photos: Christopher Shane/Styling: Elizabeth Demos

Keep dust, mold and pollen at bay by decluttering your home, checking pipes for leaks and keeping the air clean. Follow these 5 steps to an allergy-free home>>

Check Foundation Vents

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.

Clean the Grill

Frank Murray

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.

Prep Your Garden

Julie Forney

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

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.

Clean Outdoor Furniture

Emilee Ramsier

Outdoor entertaining season is just around the corner. Learn the best ways to clean all outdoor furniture (recipes included), from plastic to canvas.

https://www.diynetwork.com/made-and-remade/fix-it/12-maintenance-tips-to-get-your-home-ready-for-spring

Living Sustainably: Standards help make spaces more healthy

When designing a building, most architects consider the functions of the building to determine the building structure and materials. However, the WELL Building Standard rating system v1.0, launched in 2014, has increased the consideration of human health in design and construction strategies.

Seven years of development helped formulate seven wellness concepts included in the WELL Building Standard. A WELL building certification must demonstrate specific thresholds of compliance within each of those concepts: air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mind. The International Building Institute, which administers the voluntary WELL standard, is committed to balancing occupant health benefits with profitability.

Each concept in the WELL Building Standard has many features that focus on specific aspects of occupant health, comfort or knowledge. It also identifies specific aspects of human health it will impact.

As an example, consider the following about the first feature, Air Quality Standards.

Air pollution contributes to 50,000 annual premature deaths in the United States and about 7 million annual premature deaths worldwide. Indoor air quality is particularly important since the average person spends more than 90 percent of their time indoors.

Indoor air quality can suffer from a variety of sources, including material off-gassing, decreased outdoor air ventilation, indoor combustion sources, and surfaces that can accumulate airborne germs.

These conditions can contribute to negative health effects such as asthma, upper respiratory illnesses, allergies, headaches, and decreased work productivity.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulates indoor pollutant exposure and pollutant concentrations with the National Ambient Air Quality Standards. These standards limit exposure to six major pollutants: carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, particular matter, and sulfur dioxide.

The WELL Building Standard incorporates these U.S. standards, as well as the World Health Organization requirements.

Those compliance requirements also limit exposure levels for formaldehyde and radon. A radon kit can be purchased for testing and then mailed in to obtain free results. Formaldehyde, a carcinogenic, can be released into the interior spaces from adhesives in new materials, called off-gassing.

    • There are three easy ways to remove indoor air pollutants.
    • Increase outdoor ventilation by opening windows and/or doors as well as turning on exhaust fans.
    • Purchase High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters that have different diameters of fibers that can retain smaller airborne pollutants.
    • Avoid materials and products that might contain chemicals or produce chemicals such as those for which the National Ambient Air Quality Standards recommends limited exposure.

Another option is that certain plants can absorb chemicals. The gerbera daisy and chrysanthemums are most effective at removing formaldehyde. Spider plants are best for removing carbon monoxide.

Good indoor air quality is important for everyone’s health. It is helps occupants live longer, feel better and be more productive.

— Morna Hallsaxton has degrees in interior design and environmental design and operates EcoCreative Design, an interior design business with an emphasis on healthy environments. Her work has included reviewing LEED projects, auditing BIFMA Furniture Sustainability Standard compliance and certifying products for environmental volatile organic compound emissions.

Article Source: http://www.hollandsentinel.com/news/20170716/living-sustainably-standards-help-make-spaces-more-healthy