When we think about air pollution inside buildings and homes, we likely assume that chemicals are to blame and we would partly be right. However, there are natural things in our environment that we cannot often see which can make the air in our private spaces contain more pollution than the air outside. These are generally referred to as biological pollutants and it is important to be aware of them and keep a sharp eye out for symptoms of their presence.
We have probably had experiences with mold and mildew and we are aware that mold can make us sick, but do we really understand what mold is? Mold is a fungal growth that occurs when moisture gets trapped in a warm place and requires only about 48 hours to make an appearance if the conditions are just right. Once mold appears, it can easily spread to other parts of your home, creating serious problems with your respiration—especially if you have asthma. One thing that you should know is that there are mold spores in your home all the time. These mold spores in themselves, are fairly harmless and if you take the necessary precautions, you can keep them from developing into mold.
The easiest way to detect mold is, of course, by sight. However, if you find yourself getting sick all the time and there seems to be no clear cause, then your home may have a mold problem.
When we hear someone say that they are allergic to dogs or to cats, what they are really saying is that they are allergic to their dander. Pet dander is a fact of life that you must live with if you have any type of animal in your home that is considered warm blooded. It is essentially small pieces of dried skin that continuously fall off of the animal(s), through our petting of the animal or through natural shedding, and end up in the air around us. Because dander is dried skin, it contains proteins within it which can cause you to have breathing issues. There are some breeds, such as poodles, which are considered hypoallergenic, because they do not shed, keeping the amount of pet dander down.
Even if you are conscientious about regularly washing your pet(s), there is still a certain amount of dander around you. Some animals produce more than others, hence the tell-tale white flakes that can be seen on darker colored animals. Also, it is possible to be allergic to cat dander but have no problems with dogs’ dander and vice versa.
For those of us that clean our homes on a weekly basis, washing the bed linens, vacuuming, and dusting, it comes as a shock that our clean looking homes can actually be housing dust mites, but the fact is that they are. Dust mites are microscopic creatures that live in pillows, bedding, mattresses, chairs, carpet, and even your curtains. Their main source of food is dry skin cells, which we shed on a regular basis, and they can multiply rather quickly. It is estimated that a mattress can have anywhere from 100,000 to about 10 million dust mites inside it.
These small creatures have a short lifespan of about three months once they reach adulthood, but can cause allergic reactions in people even after they have died. Unfortunately, every house has a certain amount of dust mites in it but there are things that you can do keep the numbers down to a minimum. Experts recommend wrapping pillows and mattresses in dust mite preventative covers, washing bedding every week with the hottest water possible, and replacing pillows every two years. If you have had your pillow for a while and think that it seems heavier, you are not imagining it. Dust mites have accumulated inside the pillow, thus giving it the extra weight.
Even during those times of the year when flus are not prevalent, it is important to be aware of bacteria and viruses that can still be present in your home. Therefore you want to make sure that you keep your surfaces clean and use an anti-disinfectant and other air purifying methods all year long to lower the risk of getting sick. If you have someone who brings home a cold or the chickenpox, you should understand that these illnesses are often transported in the air. Therefore, you want to keep that person isolated and the home well ventilated.
Being aware of the biological pollutants that reside in our homes can help us properly prevent and decrease the chances of health problems occurring.
Lauren Hill is a freelance writer, wife and mother of two. She spends her free time gardening and finding new ways to live a healthier lifestyle. She is a contributing author for Rabbit Air, an air purification company offering a wide selection of air purification systems for all your needs and decorating styles.