Fw: *~Spiritually Speaking~* Can Spring Cleaning Make You Sick?
Can Spring Cleaning Make You Sick?
by Beth Jarrett
Now that its warm outside it is time to put up the winter clothes and pull out the mop and broom. Spring is here and that means spring cleaning. But as good as the final results might be, there are some precautions you should take. Sweeping and pulling things off of shelves can stir up dust and mold particles, and many household chemicals need proper ventilation as well.
For many Atlantans, spring cleaning could mean increasing allergy and asthma attacks or experiencing the side effects of exposure to toxic household chemicals. To prevent problems from chemical exposure, make sure that there is adequate ventilation in the areas that you will be working. If you are treating mold or mildew in a bathroom, be sure to open doors and windows and turn on the fan to ventilate the room. Leave the fan running for several hours if possible.
Wear a dust mask if you are going to be doing a lot of sweeping, especially if you are working in basements where there is a higher risk of stirring up mold spores. Stop working if you experience dizziness, headaches or respiratory problems. If the problems persist or get worse, see a doctor.
Perform an Inspection
You may also want to use spring cleaning as a time to perform routine maintenance for your home. With Atlantas hot weather and high pollen counts, it is a good idea to check your HVAC filters to ensure your system is operating efficiently. Do a visual inspection around your home for signs of leaks or water damage. Clean out gutters and inspect around the foundation of the home for any sign of water intrusion.
As the temperatures climb, energy-efficient homes can become breeding grounds for mold and mildew. Homes are being built tighter now to reduce energy loss, but because of their efficiency, the quality of the indoor air may be compromised. According to the EPA, the air inside our homes may be more than five times as polluted as the air outside. Increasing the amount of fresh air inside the home will dilute any buildup of toxins from volatile organic compounds (VOCs), but bringing in hot and humid air can increase the amount of mold found inside the home.
Signs of mold inside the home include a persistent musty odor, excessive dust or airborne particles and a gray or black coating on wood or wood-based building materials such as drywall. Other signs include water stains on walls, ceilings or under carpet pads.
Tackling the Cleanup
If your home has visible signs of mold, it is possible to clean it yourself if you take the correct precautions. According to the EPA, if the affected area is less than 10 square feet, you may be able to clean it yourself. If you choose to clean it yourself, you will need to wear long rubber gloves and clothing that covers your arms and legs completely. Be sure to use a respirator-type dust mask, such as an N-95 respirator, available at hardware stores. Cleaning mold can send potentially harmful mold spores into the air, so follow EPA recommended guidelines carefully to minimize your exposure. For complete guidelines on how to clean mold, call the EPA Indoor Air Quality Information Clearinghouse at (800) 438-4318, or visit www.epa.gov/mold/mold remediation.html
Hiring a Professional
If you decide to hire a contractor to clean the mold in your home, make sure to check his or her references. Ask for an exact plan that follows the EPA guidelines for mold remediation. Get more than one estimate before embarking on any mold related home repair.
Keeping a Healthy Home
Cleaning around the home and removing any mold that you find is a good start, but problems will recur if the home is not properly maintained. If the humidity levels in your home are rising above 45%, mold canand willreappear. Mold colonies hiding behind walls can produce mycotoxins that penetrate drywall and may affect your health. To dilute mycotoxins and other VOCs, the EPA recommends bringing in fresh air from outdoors. The American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) recommends exchanging the air in your home with outdoor air eight times a day. If you are considering purchasing a whole-house air system, be sure to ask about both filtration and ventilation. By filtering and exchanging the air and maintaining the proper level of humidity, you can create an environment that is optimum for your health.
Clean Air Isnt Just for People
Optimizing your home environment can be beneficial to the residents, but it doesnt stop there. According to Stephen Andrews, of HealthyAir in Atlanta, some of his newest customers are not people. We have begun installing our systems in kennels and in homes with sensitive pets including exotic birds, says Andrews. The owners are amazed at how well both they and the animals have responded to an environment with cleaner air. We are excited about the results we are seeing. By adding fresh, filtered, drier air to these environments, everyone including the animals is getting healthier.
For more information on mold and indoor air quality, go to:
Beth Jarrett speaks on a variety of health concerns related to indoor air quality through public awareness programs sponsored by HealthyAir. For more information, contact HealthyAir at