Indoor Air Quality

Clearing The Air

indoor air and asthma
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When it comes to assessing your family’s indoor air environment during lockdown there are 5 categories of concern to consider! South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs is not concerned with residential indoor air quality! As a result, we need to learn what indoor air quality is from America’s Environmental Protection Agency. They have identified 5 danger levels of indoor air quality. Indoor air quality is a major human health issue worldwide under normal conditions. However, indoor air quality and possible incidents of asthma attacks are worsened during Lockdown when you and your family are spending most of your time indoors.

Homes with windows and doors closed have a lack of adequate ventilation. In addition, the lack of airbricks, increased insulation and better-sealing windows and doors make new homes much more energy-efficient than older houses. As a result, in new homes, it is even more difficult to get fresh clean air into the home.

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Mould and Sleep Loss

Health Risks of Mould in the Home: Sleep Loss

sleep loss

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Do you suffer from sleep loss?

Did you know that one way to identify a mould problem in your home is watching your water bill? Leaks and damp surfaces are primed for mould growth, especially in areas that are prone to collection surfaces and warmth—think your bathrooms, kitchen and basement.

In addition to leaky pipes, many people don’t realize that mould can form in other disguised areas of your home such as on your mattress. Whether you sleep in a damp room, spill a glass of water that is absorbed into your mattress, or sweat a lot at night, your mattress may be primed for mould growth. Mattresses can include soft, porous materials such as cotton covers or foam comfort layers, any of which can absorb moisture both inside and outside of your mattress.

So, while you may know to check your pipes or understand that your basement, kitchen, and bathrooms are often culprits of leaks and potential areas of mould growth, keep in mind that places such as your bedroom may hide a serious mould problem.

Here are five ways indoor mould causes sleep loss

Sleep Loss

Mould impacts the air quality in your house by releasing glucans which can cause an inflammatory response to your respiratory system. In turn, it affects your ability to breathe effectively by prompting your body to go into a fix-it mode such as an increase in mucus production which builds up and makes it difficult to breathe.

Sleep Apnea

It is estimated that nearly 22-million people are affected by sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a dangerous and potentially deadly problem wherein a person momentarily stops breathing. The result is gasping or snoring as the person’s brain tries to readjust breathing. Sleep apnea is caused by the blockage or narrowing of the airways that is often the result of congestion associated with mould.

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Stormwater

Homes without Gutters 

stormwater

 

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If you are like many homeowners, you have probably wondered why some houses have no gutters to provide protection against stormwater. You may have wished your own home had none because of the cleaning and maintenance issues.

Gutters are not required by law on a sloping roof. Many modern homes have none, even in instances where they would benefit by having them. There are alternatives that architects sometimes prefer such as concrete paving around the perimeter of your house.

In order to decide for yourself whether rainwater gutters are necessary for your home, it is best to first learn what the building regulations require.

The Building Regulations do not require roof gutters and downpipes if another suitable means of drainage has been provided to remove or disperse rainwater from the roof away from your home.

However, the Building Regulations do require that any stormwater that flows from your roof or any area that is in the immediate vicinity of your home must not cause damage to the interior of the building, its structure or its structural elements. The regulations require steps to be taken to ensure that stormwater does not accumulate in a way that“unduly inconveniences” you as the occupant of your home.

Furthermore, the system used must:

    1. not undercut the foundations by erosion or flooding
    2. drain stormwater away from your home
    3. not allow stormwater to accumulate against or close to the external walls
    4. make provision for the drainage of any areas on the property where water pools
    5. be capable of being easily maintained and cleaned

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Leaks at Window Sills

Moisture Intrusion at Window Sills

window sills

During many property inspections, I keep coming across moisture problems associated with water leaking into window sills and at windows.

Moisture absorbed into brickwork and plasterwork causes them to expand slightly. When the brickwork and plasterwork dry they contract slightly. The water absorbed by the bricks and plasterwork usually causes a slight vertical crack at the edges of the internal window sills. The paint then starts to bubble along the vertical crack. This crack may continue around the length of the window sill before you notice it. What started out as a small vertical crack then becomes a horizontal crack along the bottom of the window sill on the interior face of the sill wall.

The cracks are usually not significant unless allowed to continue unabated.

Rising Damp

Sometimes the moisture intrusion at sills are mistaken for rising damp! Water leaking in at the window sill may bypass the damp proof course (DPC) built in under the window sill as a water-resistant barrier. The moisture may then appear as bubbling paint or crazing cracking of plasterwork, or both, below the window, extending down to floor level.

On external face-brick walls, this may appear as efflorescence (a white powder).

Internally, this may appear as bubbling paint above the skirting or discolouration of the skirting itself.

How do you prevent the moisture intrusion into window sills?

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Mould and Moisture

mould

Mould & Moisture

mould and musty smells
If it smells musty it is mould. It can adversely affect your health. If you suffer a pre-existing respiratory condition such as asthma, mould can aggravate the condition.

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Ten Things You Should Know:

Mould can occur in your home and workplace anywhere in South Africa. If a room or cupboard smells musty it means it has!

Potential health effects and symptoms associated with exposure to mould include allergic reactions, asthma, and other respiratory complaints. It is impossible to eliminate all moulds and spores indoors. All moulds can be found on any surface where moisture is present, e.g. on wood, paper, carpet, and foods. Mould growth is best controlled by controlling moisture.

  • Clean and eliminate sources of moisture.
  • Repair all leaks.
  • Reduce indoor humidity to between 30-50% by venting bathrooms, dryers, and other moisture-generating sources to the outside.
  • Increase ventilation by using air-conditioners, dehumidifiers, exhaust fans and open windows whenever cooking, dishwashing, and cleaning.
  • Clean and dry any damp or wet bedding and furnishings within 24 hours.
  • Clean mould off hard surfaces with water and specialised detergents, and dry completely.
  • Replace damp or wet absorbent materials, e.g. mouldy ceiling tiles, carpeting, insulation etc.
  • Reduce condensation on cold surfaces (i.e. metal roofing, under-tile membranes, water piping, exterior walls, roof, or floors) by adding insulation.
  • Prevent condensation on windows in living rooms and bedrooms by keeping the windows slightly open during cold spells and at night in winter. In humid climates keep windows open 24/7.
  • Do not install carpets or other types of flooring that is not water-resistant in areas with a frequent condensation or perpetual moisture problems, e.g. bathrooms, kitchens, laundries, sculleries, at drinking fountains, or areas that may be exposed to the elements.

What is mould?

It is the common word for any fungus that grows on food or damp surfaces. In addition, it can be any colour but is often black or white.

Some often look like a stain or smudge, and they may smell musty. They can enter the home through windows, vents, and open doorways, heating and air-conditioning systems. Moreover, it can attach itself to clothes, shoes, linen, bags and pets.

You might find it in:

  • Leaky roofs, windows or pipes
  • Ceilings
  • Brick walls
  • Wood products
  • Dust
  • Paints
  • Wallpaper
  • Insulation
  • Drywall
  • Carpets
  • Upholstery
  • Mattresses
  • Wall and floor tiles
  • Built-in units and cupboards
  • Shower enclosures

Is mould harmful?

Often reports about the effects of some moulds include the term “toxic”. However, experts say this term can be misleading, since only certain spores produce toxins, and only under certain conditions.

According to researchers in the Lung Disorders Special Report: 9 Common Mould Myths, moulds can produce toxins. However, that doesn’t mean it will. Furthermore, it is highly unlikely that you could inhale enough in your home or office to receive a toxic dose.

Although, only toxic under exceptional conditions, it can still adversely affect your health. In addition, if you suffer a pre-existing respiratory condition, e.g. asthma, mould can aggravate the condition.

Some people are especially sensitive to some moulds and may display symptoms that include:

  • Eye, nose and throat irritation
  • Coughing and phlegm build-up
  • Wheezing and shortness of breath
  • Symptoms of asthma and any number of allergic reactions
  • Sleep loss

Tackling moulds at home

It is mostly found indoors in kitchens and bathrooms, where humidity levels are high. However, who should do the cleanup depends on a number of factors. One is the size of the affected area. If the mouldy area is less than about 1m² you can handle the job yourself. You can simply remove it with over the counter products. However, if there has been a lot of water damage, and/or mould growth covers more than 1m², it is advisable to hire a specialist contractor.

The following measures can help:

  • During humid months, use an air conditioner or a dehumidifier.
  • Ensure there is adequate ventilation, especially in your bathrooms.
  • Before painting, add mould inhibitors to the paint.
  • Use mould killing products to clean your bathroom and kitchen.
  • Don’t carpet your bathrooms and toilets.
  • Remove or replace wet carpets and upholstery.
mould

If there are musty smells in your cupboards, bedrooms, bathrooms or in your kitchen you have mould in your home! It will only grow in areas where damp conditions exist! I can identify the source of the damp condition for you. Furthermore, I can perform a Mould Inspection and advise you on the best manner in which to remove the mould.

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