Did you know that 75% of Americans live with someone who suffers from asthma, allergies, or other respiratory illnesses? Or that Asthma accounts for 14 million missed school days annually.
What are Biological Pollutants?
Biological contaminants include bacteria, molds, mildew, viruses, animal dander and cat saliva, house dust, mites, cockroaches, and pollen. There are many sources of these pollutants. Pollens originate from plants; viruses are transmitted by people and animals; bacteria are carried by people, animals, and soil and plant debris; and household pets are sources of saliva and animal dander. The protein in urine from rats and mice is a potent allergen. When it dries, it can become airborne. Contaminated central air handling systems can become breeding grounds for mold, mildew, and other sources of biological contaminants and can then distribute these contaminants through the home.
How do you control or remove them?
By controlling the relative humidity level in a home, the growth of some sources of biologicals can be minimized. A relative humidity of 30-50 percent is generally recommended for homes. Standing water, water-damaged materials, or wet surfaces also serve as a breeding ground for molds, mildews, bacteria, and insects. House dust mites, the source of one of the most powerful biological allergens, grow in damp, warm environments.
Why do they matter?
Some biological contaminants trigger allergic reactions, including hypersensitivity pneumonitis, allergic rhinitis, and some types of asthma. Infectious illnesses, such as influenza, measles, and chicken pox are transmitted through the air. Molds and mildews release disease-causing toxins. Symptoms of health problems caused by biological pollutants include sneezing, watery eyes, coughing, shortness of breath, dizziness, lethargy, fever, and digestive problems.
Allergic reactions occur only after repeated exposure to a specific biological allergen. However, that reaction may occur immediately upon re-exposure or after multiple exposures over time. As a result, people who have noticed only mild allergic reactions, or no reactions at all, may suddenly find themselves very sensitive to particular allergens.
Some diseases, like humidifier fever, are associated with exposure to toxins from microorganisms that can grow in large building ventilation systems. However, these diseases can also be traced to microorganisms that grow in home heating and cooling systems and humidifiers. Children, elderly people, and people with breathing problems, allergies, and lung diseases are particularly susceptible to disease-causing biological agents in the indoor air.
Mold, dust mites, pet dander, and pest droppings or body parts can trigger asthma. Biological contaminants, including molds and pollens can cause allergic reactions for a significant portion of the population. Tuberculosis, measles, staphylococcus infections, Legionella and influenza are known to be transmitted by air.
Facts about indoor air pollutants:
- Indoor air quality is one of the top five of the EPA’s environmental risks to public health.
- Common indoor air pollutants include pollen, mold, dust mites, carbon monoxide, excessive carbon dioxide, radon, and other chemical fumes.
- Indoor pollution is typically two to five times worse than the air outdoors. Sometimes up to 100 times worse.
- Secondhand smoke from tobacco is a major indoor air pollutant. It contains about 4,000 chemicals, including 200 known poisons.
- Secondhand smoke causes over 150,000 respiratory problems in infants and 38,000 deaths annually.
- 10% of Americans have never changed the filter on their heating and air conditioning unit.
- Poor indoor air quality can cause or contribute to asthma, headaches, dry eyes, nasal congestion, nausea and fatigue.
- One out of 15 American homes has a dangerously high radon level. Radon naturally emits from the earth and enters the home through cracks in the foundation floor and walls, drains, and other openings. Indoor radon exposure is estimated to be the second leading cause of lung cancer.
- Only 27% of Americans have carbon monoxide detectors at home. Carbon monoxide is a gas that can stop coordination, worsen heart conditions, and at very high levels, can cause death.
- Health effects from indoor air pollutants may be experienced soon after or, possible, years later.(Environment Protection Agency)
- Heating and cooling systems are the largest single consumers of energy in buildings. (Energy Star – EPA / DOE)
- A dirty evaporator coil or condenser coil will reduce cooling capacity and degrade equipment energy efficiency. (U.S. Department of Energy)
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