Is Poor Air Quality Affecting your Health?

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, health problems associated with poor indoor air quality include eye irritation, allergies, headaches, and respiratory problems such as asthma. These problems can be directly related to the presence of mold and dust mite infestation in the home. One of the recognized solutions to addressing these health issues is effective moisture control or de-humidification.

 Dehumidifiers help reduce the risk of serious health issues by controlling moisture levels in the home.

Since we spend 90% of our time inside, no home or family is immune to issues with poor indoor air quality. Whether you have an old colonial or a new construction you are still at risk.  Older homes have more years of “character” behind them and have housed many generations of families.  Newly constructed homes are built so tightly, poor air flow restricts air quality.  New construction is also prone to pollutants that are in building materials, wood, new carpet, flooring, pipes, etc.  The Journal of the American Medical Association stated that the risk of respiratory infection is 45% higher among occupants of new energy efficient buildings.   Relative humidity affects the rate of off-gassing of formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds from indoor building materials and furniture. Chemicals will off-gas more under warmer conditions with high humidity.

Several organizations, including the Environmental Protection Agency, American Lung Association, and American Medical Association all recommend using dehumidifiers in basements and crawl spaces to maintain humidity levels of 50% or less in the home.

Dust is also an irritant. The average home collects more than 40 pounds of dust each year, and can make life miserable.  Your allergies get worse and you’re tired from lack of clean air that may impair breathing or even lead to respiratory irritation and severe problems.  No amount of cleaning can make a home impervious to these issues.  Chemical contaminants are also a factor that can cause health and respiratory problems.  A few examples are burning candles, smoke from tobacco and woodstoves, household cleaners, common fumes & air fresheners.

We should also become aware of biological contaminants in the home.  The amount and range of these contaminants vary, depending on the age of the home, habits of previous owners and the time of year.  Typical biological contaminants include, but are not limited to, plant pollen, mold, mildew, dander, Common household dust mites and viruses.

Research has found that dust mites may be a factor in as many as 80% of asthmas, hay fevers and other allergic ailments. Along with respiratory symptoms, high levels of dust mite allergens have also been correlated with atopic dermatitis (AD), characterized by itchy, irritated skin.

Dust mites are microscopic creatures that live and multiply in warm, humid places. They thrive at temperatures at or above 70°F with a relative humidity of 75% to 80%. They die when the humidity falls below 50%. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, to reduce dust mites, it is important to keep humidity below 50% throughout the home.

Mold is a fungus that feeds on organic substances and survives in moist conditions. Besides causing allergies, they produce harmful chemicals such as VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) and mycotoxins. Health hazards related to mold are coughing, wheezing, running eyes/nose, skin rashes and muscular aches, loss of appetite, inability to concentrate, and fatigue. Keeping the relative humidity levels low is the only way to actually reduce mold growth in a home.