If you suffer from constant sniffles, itchy eyes, asthma, headaches or fatigue that just won’t go away, experts are now agreeing that your house may literally be making you sick.
Sometimes your home can become a toxic cocktail of fumes and microscopic spores that can make you feel lousy. And scrubbing your place from top to bottom this weekend won’t necessarily make the problem go away.
Many sources of indoor pollution are less well known, but health problems have been traced to mould spores caused by rising damp or poorly maintained air-conditioning units, carbon monoxide from fireplaces, and products that are used to kill household pests. Even your new carpet can make you feel sick.
Recent research indicates that pollution levels inside our homes may be five times higher than outside. Since many of us spend 75 to 90 percent of our time indoors, we may be reacting adversely to indoor pollutants without even realising they may be the cause of our discomfort.
Many have long suspected that household mould that could be growing on your bathroom ceiling or inhabiting a damp terrace without proper damp coursing can make you sick. It may appear like a smudge, a discolouration or a stain and quite often you can smell its mustiness -“ just like mouldy bread.
Mould is simply a fungus and when it sends out its spores into the air, you can simply inhale the particles. Fortunately, most people aren’t allergic to mould. But the immune system of those who are often releases histamines, resulting in a range of adverse reactions, including breathing difficulty, stuffy nose, sneezing, including irritation of the eyes and skin. More severe allergic reactions can include headaches, nausea, fatigue, asthma and an inability to concentrate.
If you have a mould allergy, the best cure is to remove the mould from your home. Mould’s most important requirement is moisture and the bathroom or basement is usually the ideal home for mould. In living rooms, look behind a sofa pressing against a cold exterior wall or even your carpets on ground level that can trap moisture and provide the perfect breeding ground for mould.
If you find mould, in 95 percent of cases you can easily get rid of it yourself by disinfecting the area using a solution of one part household bleach to four parts water. Remember to wear rubber gloves and open the windows for ventilation. However, if your upholstered furniture or carpet has mould you may have to discard it. If in doubt, call in the professionals to deal with the cause, particularly with rising damp and poor ventilation.
But there are other problems.
Other indoor pollutants that can be making you sick are generated from sources such as fireplaces, wood stoves, smoking, some cleaning products, pesticides, pet dander, furnishings, certain building materials, and even the carpet in your house which contains formaldehyde in its adhesives, resins and preservatives used in its manufacturing.
To address many of these concerns, some key tips to consider are:
– a dry basement, with no mould or mildew problems
– no back-drafting from fireplaces
– no un-vented gas or kerosene appliances
– humidity levels maintained between 35 to 55 percent
– pesticides applied carefully
– kitchen, bathroom and sometimes laundry exhaust vented to the outside
– avoid the excessive use of building products known to emit formaldehydes and other gases, including plywood, particle board, carpet underlay, paints and other finishes.