Why Test Your Indoor Air for Allergens & Toxins?

According to the National Center for Environmental Health (NCEH), U.S. CDC, 1999, over half of an estimated 20 million Americans suffering from asthma are more specifically cases of “allergic-asthma.” Allergic asthmatic symptoms occur as a result of inhaling allergens such as mold spores, pollen and dust mites.

It is estimated that 90% of childhood asthma symptoms occurs as a result of exposure to allergens.

Allergic rhinitis is an allergic inflammation of the nasal airways. It occurs when allergens such as mold spores, pollen, dust, skin fragments, or insulation are inhaled. It is estimated that Allergic Rhinitis affects approximately 60 million people in the United States.

According to the EPA, most Americans spend over 90% of their time indoors. 

Environmental testing indicates that pollutants within homes are 2-5 times levels in the outside air. 

What's In Your Air?

Just about everything that you can think of is either a solid, a liquid, or a gas. The stuff in your indoor air that can make you sick is a combination of solids and gases. Liquids have a hard time floating in the air.

In this section we'll cover the types of microscopic solids or particulates that commonly build up within a home. 

Particulate (solids)

The most common types of solids or microscopic particles that are found in the air of homes are:

Mold Spores, Mold Body Parts, Soil, Carbon, Cellulose, Skin Fragments, Dust Mites, Insulation, Glass-like fiber, Gypsum Board (drywall dust), Talcum, Other Building Material Debris, Insect Body Parts, and Insect Feces.

Mold

Mold (mould, mildew) is a term used to refer to fungi that grow in the form of multicellular thread-like structures called hyphae.

Food Sources For Mold

Mold needs a food source in order to grow. A food source for mold is anything that is organic in nature. There are numerous food sources in a home.

Common food sources for mold in a home include the following:

Cardboard, Paper, Upholstery, Fabrics/Clothes, Drywall, Plaster, Wooden framing such Wall Studs, Base Plates, Sub-flooring, Joists, Rafters, and Dirt within carpet and padding.

Mold cannot eat brick, block, tile, stone or metal; however mold can grow on the surface of any material if there is the slightest amount of food source such as dust or dirt on the surface.

Growing Conditions for Mold

When the relative humidity (moisture in the air) increases above 50% percent or when materials are wet due to a plumbing leak, rainwater leak, or some other water source, mold can become active.

Spore Production

When active, molds produce microscopic mold spores. Spores are released into the air and land on other surfaces. Mold spores are similar to seeds in that when conditions are favorable, spores grow more mold just as seeds grow more plants.

Outside Spores

It is common for there to be tens of thousands of mold spores per cubic meter in the outside air and it's likely that we breathe millions of molds spores while outside in our lifetime. The types of mold organisms that we most commonly breathe in the outside air are typically not harmful to anyone, otherwise we'd all be sick.

Spores from mold activity outdoors can enter a home through open doors and windows or on clothing and shoes.  

Indoor Spores

Unfortunately, the types of organisms that commonly grow within homes are harmful. Aspergillus/Penicillium variety molds can become active in homes during periods when the relative humidity is elevated and become dormant when humidity decreases, only to become active again when humidity levels are favorable for growth. For this reason it's important to maintain the relative humidity below fifty percent within a building.  We'll discuss relative humidity in greater detail later on.

Some species of Aspergillus and Penicillium are considered to be high probability allergen organisms. Many people are sensitive to Aspergillus/Penicillium spores, particularly the very young whose immune system is not fully developed, an older person whose immune system has grown tired, and those whose immune system is compromised by medication or disease. Some species of Aspergillus/Penicillium create mycotoxins, which can adversely affect everyone.

Aspergillus/Penicillium is often the source of the musty odor associated with mold, which is caused by gases released as mold metabolizes what it’s growing on. Elevated levels of Aspergillus/Penicillium are most often associated with moisture damage or elevated humidity.

Stachybotrys (black mold) is unique in that it requires high levels of moisture for extended periods. It is slimy when growing and tends to hold its spores until it dries. 

Stachybotrys is thought to play a role in the development of sick building syndrome. The presence of this fungus can be significant due to its ability to produce mycotoxins. Exposure to the toxins can occur through inhalation, ingestion, or skin exposure. Symptoms of exposure to mycotoxins include coughing, wheezing, runny nose, irritated eyes or throat and skin rash.

Black Mold has become a trigger word that induces fear and panic in those who believe they have been exposed. Though black mold or Stachybotrys is a health concern, it's likely that Aspergillus/Penicillium impacts the health of many more people than black mold because Aspergillus/Penicillium occurs more frequently within homes.

Soil

Microscopic soil particles are almost always found in the indoor air of homes. Soil in the indoor air enters the home through doors and windows or on clothing and shoes. Potted plants is another sources for soil in the indoor air. 

Carbon

Carbon originates from anything that is burning. Automobile exhaust is an example of an outdoor source of carbon. Indoor sources of carbon include burning candles, cooking, and smoking. 

Cellulose 

Cellulose is the main constituent of plant cell walls. Indoor and outdoor plants both contribute to cellulose in the air. Plant-based insulation within attics is a source for cellulose in the indoor air.

 Glass-like Particles

Glass-like particles in the indoor air of homes typically originates from areas with fiberglass insulation such as attics, unfinished areas of basement, crawlspaces, ceiling cavities, and wall cavities.

Gypsum Board

Gypsum board (drywall dust) originates from wall and ceiling materials. Drywall dust can enter the living areas of a building from areas with unfinished drywall. Drywall dust in the indoor air commonly occurs due to demolition and remodeling.

Skin Fragments

It's very common for human skin fragments to build up in the indoor air of homes. The source is dead, flaking skin from our bodies.

Dust Mites

Dust mites feed on human skin and typically occur in areas with elevated humidity. Dust mite body parts and feces are considered to be allergy/asthma triggers.

The allergens and toxins referred to above are all commonly found in homes, and of sizes and quantities sufficient to result in a myriad of health symptoms.

It’s typical for elevated levels of combined soil, carbon, cellulose, and skin fragments to be present in a building that tests positive for elevated levels of high probability allergen molds.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCS)

VOC's in the indoor air result from off-gassing of chemicals stored in the home, off-gassing from building materials, and gasses that are released from the earth and enter the home/building through the foundation.

Household Products

Common types of products that contribute to VOC's in the indoor air are as follows: Cleaning Products, Solvents, Paints, Perfumes, Cosmetics, Insect Poisons, Scented Candles, Fragrance Aerosols, and Fragrance Plugins.

Radon

Radon is a colorless, odorless gas that is found naturally in the soil. Long term exposure to elevated levels of Radon that gets trapped within a home can result in Cancer. According to Cancer.org, about 20,000 lung cancer deaths per year are caused by exposure to Radon.

Natural Gas

Common sources of natural gas leaks are: Stoves, Water Heaters, Furnaces, and Gas Fire Places. 

Microbial Volatile Organic Compounds (MVOC'S)

MVOC's are gases that are produced from microbiological growth. Common sources of MVOC's in a home include:

Mold growth due to elevated humidity, rainwater leaks, plumbing leaks, sewage gas leaks, and growth in areas where moisture can accumulate such as a furnace drip pan.

Call Indoor Air Quality Services at 770-363-2670 to discuss your situation and concerns or to schedule an appointment for testing.

Click the link below to learn about pricing options and the scope of work associated with inspection, testing, reporting, and consultation services.

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