Friday, August 1, 2008

Handling air quality inside your home

Lately, I have been involved in several cases of homes with poor indoor air quality. In each case, the owners have been coughing or have become ill repeatedly, but they have not tied their health concerns to problems with mold, dust, allergens, or other air contaminants. The worst offenders are mold spores and airborne dust. There are specialists to help identify sources of irritants and to give you do-it-yourself remedies or to carry out professional remediation. In the case of mold, I am in the process of assisting an elderly friend in 1. bagging & throwing out all of the moldy materials in his basement (using a proper respirator so that I won't get sick!), 2. identifying & bagging the things he wants to keep so that they can be properly sanitized later, 3. scheduling the mold remediator (in this case, RTS Environmental Services- certified & experienced) to safely kill the mold and coat surfaces so that it won't recur. Mold requires moisture (as do termites!), and my friend had not checked his house for leaks in many years. Our first item was to have a plumber go over the house, top to bottom. He found a leak in the hot water tank and most of the faucets and valves upstairs. The problem in the basement was so severe that we have found both mold and termites. So, the takeaway lesson is to be sure, first, that the moisture issues that started the mold blooms is corrected. That way, the remediation that kills the current mold (and the termite treatments) will not be wasted and the problem can be "solved." As for dust and allergens, consider a good filtration system on the furnace. We won't have to have the ducts and evaporator coils cleaned in this case, since the HVAC system is nearly new & doesn't show signs of mold blooms. Upstairs, we will be placing a few portable air purifying devices. I am avoiding any device that adds ozone, which can be a respiratory irritant. The best one I have found is the BlueAir 402 (sold at Bed, Bath, & Beyond for $399- your 20% off coupon will help), which will scrub the air and not add ozone. If you have these issues and your carpet is more than 15-20 years old, you should replace the carpeting, which, over time, becomes a haven for mold spores. Shampooing it can cause the mold to bloom. It is now possible to buy carpet with low VOC (volatile organic compounds, which can be hazardous) emissions. I can refer you to a good carpet company with "green" and low VOC options.

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