Modern, more efficient construction methods are wonderful for making our lives more comfortable and our electricity bills cheaper. But they can pose a challenge when it comes to air quality. The air in our homes and buildings remains in a virtually closed system with little fresh, outdoor air coming in. With cooler temperatures arriving across the country, most people will be spending more time indoors. This means that fall and winter are critical times to make sure the quality of air in your home is the absolute best it can be.
Science continues to show a connection between health problems and indoor air. These problems can be the result of pet dander or allergens, but often, mold is implicated. Mold can cause or exacerbate respiratory problems, but its toxic effects aren’t relegated to those with breathing problems. Doug Kaufmann has published an extensive volume of material on the effects fungi––including air-contaminating, indoor mold––can have on human health.
Even the cleanest homes are at some risk for mold and mildew contamination. Mold thrives in warm, damp, dark environments. This means kitchens and bathrooms can be at risk for mold growth. Construction materials such as drywall and wood can provide a habitat for opportunistic mold and mildew, particularly if those materials are exposed to moisture on a regular basis or have been subject to a flood.
Mold is ubiquitous and inescapable, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some things you can do to fight its growth or mitigate its effects in your home and subsequently the indoor air you breathe.
1. Test your air quality with a mold test kit.
These are readily available and can give you a good idea about whether you have a mold or mold spore problem, and whether professional remediation may be necessary.
2. Change the filters in your heating and air conditioning systems.
This is important for air quality. Switch to high quality HEPA air filters if possible.
3. Clean at-risk areas.
Keeping bathrooms, kitchens and other areas with regular exposure to moisture clean. It may be smart to opt for non-toxic cleaners, such as citrus based cleaners, dilute apple cider vinegar, tea tree oil or grapefruit seed extract cleaners. Many of these will effectively kill mold and mildew, but aren’t as toxic as other cleaners. In some instances, it may wise to use bleach, but use with caution.
4. Check for leaks or water damage.
This is important for the integrity of your home, as well as the air quality. Repairing any areas that may put your home at risk for water damage is important for protection against a subsequent mold problem.
5. Consider an air purifier.
Look for high quality air purifiers that remove contaminants out of the air. Fan driven units only have so much effect on the overall quality of air.