“You may not be aware of it, but possibly lurking in your home are a variety of unhealthy elements of which you should be aware,” said Dimension Inc. president and CEO David Kallie, MCR, CKBR, CAPS. “So, while you are doing your spring cleaning of carpets, floors, windows, and the like, consider some of these hidden dangers.”
Mold is a fungus that comes in various colors (black, white, green, or gray) and shapes. While some molds are visible and even odorous, mold can also grow between walls, under floors and ceilings, or in less accessible spots, such as basements and attics.
A runny nose, watery eyes, headaches, and scratchy throat are some of the physical signs that your body is telling you there is mold in the air. While some people may experience mild allergic-type symptoms, some may not be bothered at all. However, those with asthma and other respiratory conditions may be seriously affected.
If you have inordinate levels of moisture, whether it is bulk water, humidity, or dew point condensation on any organic material for a period of time, you are going to have mold.
Actions to prevent condensation include keeping indoor humidity between 30% and 50%; increasing ventilation or air movement by opening doors and/or windows, when practical; use fans as needed; cover cold surfaces, such as cold water pipes, with insulation; and increase air temperature.
In many instances mold can be removed from hard surfaces with thorough cleaning although soft materials such as drywall, ceiling tiles, and carpet may have to be replaced. When mold grows inside a wall, which can be found by pulling back a baseboard or cutting a small hole in the wallboard or paneling, the entire room may have to be taken down to the studs.
The best way to prevent mold is to not have a condition that causes it. A homeowner must find the source of moisture, or the mold will return.
The EPA has written guidelines and it recommends that if there has been excessive water damage and/or mold growth covers more than 10 square feet, you should consult a professional.
Nearly one out of every 15 homes in the United States has radon, an odorless, tasteless, radioactive gas, and any home can have it — new and old homes, well-insulated and drafty homes, and homes with and without basements. It is the number one cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers, according to the EPA, and the three factors that most impact a person’s risk of getting lung cancer from radon exposure are how much radon is in the home, the amount of time spent in the home, and whether or not a person smokes or has ever smoked.
Radon is a radioactive gas that comes from the natural decay of uranium found in nearly all soils. Radon in the ground moves upward into the home through foundation cracks, construction joints or gaps around pipes, sumps, drains, and other openings. The amount of radon in the soil depends on soil chemistry, which varies from one house to the next. The amount of radon that escapes from the soil to enter the house depends on the weather, soil porosity, soil moisture, and the suction within the house.
Radon gas is responsible for approximately 21,000 deaths in the U.S., and it is estimated more than eight million U.S. homes have dangerous levels of radon gas. Therefore, it’s important to test for radon levels.
Radon is typically measured by pCi/L or picocuries per liter of air. A picocurie measures the rate of radioactive decay of radon and is one trillionth of a curie (“curie” means unit of radioactivity). Just one picocurie is about six times smaller than the thickness of a human hair, so this very small unit of measure packs a very large punch.
Having a radon reading of 4 pCi/L or higher is considered hazardous. Even if a test reads less than 4, it can still pose a health risk so reducing the level of radon to as low as possible is not only necessary, but easy. Remediation options will reduce a home’s radon levels to below 4 pCi/L, ensuring healthier indoor air.
Volatile Organic Compounds
Indoor air pollution is a major issue in many homes thanks to VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds), which include chemical vapors from cleaning supplies, paints, and solvents, plus other sources, such as insulation, paneling, carpeting, and furniture, which may emit formaldehyde unless properly aired out.
Poor air quality can cause health problems such as headache, fatigue, shortness of breath, sinus congestion, cough, sneezing, eye, nose and throat irritation, skin irritation, dizziness, and nausea, plus aggravate allergies and asthma.
VOCs can be reduced or eliminated with proper ventilation, for example air exchange with a whole house ventilator. Whole house ventilators are generally sold as heat-recovery ventilators (HRVs), with an HRV bringing in fresh air year-round. Ducted into the heating system, it warms the air before it circulates, and in the summer, mixes it with conditioned air. It exhausts stale air out of the house and helps to prevent moisture problems.
When undertaking a DIY project, look for products that are labeled low VOC or no VOC. Most major manufacturers have developed these products.
Did you know … keeping indoor plants in every room in your home helps reduce indoor air pollution by pulling VOCs from the air!
Pesticides are substances designed to kill, repel, or mitigate pests. They include a number of chemical and biological agents commonly used in and around the home to control a broad range of pests: insecticides (for insects, including cockroaches, ants, and termites), rodenticides (for mice and rats), fungicides (for mold and fungi), herbicides (for plants), and antimicrobials (for bacteria and viruses). Pesticides are also commonly used on store-bought fruits and vegetables.
Pesticides can cause a wide range of health problems, including acute and persistent injury to the nervous system, injury to reproductive systems, birth defects, and cancer.
Of the 28 pesticides estimated by EPA to be most widely used in agriculture, in and around U.S. homes, and by commercial pesticide applicators, more than 40% are classified by EPA as likely, probable, or possible carcinogens.
If you use pesticide products at home or elsewhere: (1) use products such as horticultural oils and diatomaceous earth or non-broadcast products such as baits or traps; (2) read and follow all label instructions, including instructions regarding the proper use of the pesticide product, the location for application, the quantity to be applied, the frequency of application, the method of application; and (3) remove food, dishes, toys, and other objects before treating indoors.
Use natural pest control methods for your lawn and garden. There are non-toxic weed killers and grub control products available today. Ensure that pesticide products are stored in safe containers and in places where children do not have access to them.
Buy organic and wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating them. Remove shoes at the door so that soil and dust with pesticide residues are not tracked into the house.
At Dimension Design-Build-Remodel, Inc., we are dedicated to building and remodeling homes that are healthy and safe for its residents. To learn more about our healthy homes, call us at 262-402-6602 or complete our contact form to get your renovation project started.