Scientific evidence indicates the air within buildings can be more seriously polluted than outdoor air in even the largest and most industrialized cities. According to NADCA, “Studies conducted by the U.S. Government Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and others, show indoor pollutant levels may be 10 to 100 times higher than outdoor concentrations”.
This is of particular concern because it is estimated people spend upwards of 90% of their time indoors. Recently, comparative risk studies performed by the EPA and its Science Advisory Board (SAB) have consistently ranked indoor air pollution among the top five environmental risks to public health.
The American Medical Association (AMA) states 94% of all respiratory ailments are caused by polluted air, and reported that one-third of our national health bill is for causes directly attributable to indoor air pollution.
In addition, those exposed to indoor air pollutants for the longest periods are often the most susceptible. Children are especially affected because they breathe faster, inhale more air per unit of body weight and are closer to the ground where concentrations are higher. The elderly, asthmatics and the chronically ill, especially those with respiratory or cardiovascular disease, are likely to be much more sensitive to indoor pollutants.
The worst offenders of indoor environmental asthma triggers are predominately of the allergen category and include (but are not limited to): house dust, dust mites, cockroaches, molds, pets (any animals with fur or feathers), and pollen (tree, grass and weed). Irritants include (but again not limited to): second hand smoke, scented candles, air fresheners, ozone, and combustion by-products.
The EPA acknowledges house dust, dust mites, mold, mildew and other common indoor allergens trigger asthma episodes in sensitive individuals. Because Americans spend up to 90% of their time indoors, exposure to such indoor allergens (and irritants) plays a significant role in triggering asthma episodes.
House dust allergy is common even in clean homes. House dust is a major cause of year-round runny or stuffy nose, itchy, watery eyes and sneezing for allergy sufferers. Dust can also make people with asthma experience wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath. House dust is considered the worst offender of all the indoor environmental asthma triggers because it is a mixture of many substances. Its content varies from home to home, depending on the type of furniture, building materials, presence of pets, moisture and other factors.
A speck of dust may contain fabric fibers, human skin particles, animal dander, microscopic creatures called dust mites, bacteria, parts of cockroaches, mold spores, food particles and other debris. A person may be allergic to one or more of these substances, and, if exposed to the dust, will have an allergic reaction.
As many as 10 percent of the general population and 90 percent of people with allergy-induced asthma are sensitive to dust mites. Recent studies in the United States suggest that at least 45 percent of young people with asthma are allergic to dust mites. Dust mites don't bite, cannot spread diseases and usually do not live on people. They are harmful only to people who become allergic to them. While usual household insecticides have no effect on dust mites, there are ways to reduce exposure to dust mites in the home.
There are many different types of molds and, except for causing asthma symptoms in sensitive individuals, most molds are relatively harmless and easy to get rid of. However, there are some molds which are harmful to all individuals and an extreme case of contamination of even mild molds can cause symptoms in most people.
Finding mold contamination early is the key. Molds thrive particularly in dark, warm, damp places. Be especially observant of kitchens, bathrooms, closets, basements, and crawl spaces.
Contact a microbial remediation-certified service provider like MBM if you suspect you may have mold in your home.