Is Your Home Making Your Family Sick?
Most people are aware that outdoor air pollution can damage their health, but may not know that indoor air pollution can also have significant effects. The EPA studies of human exposure to air pollutants indicate that indoor air levels of many pollutants may be 5 times higher than outdoor levels. These levels of indoor air pollutants are of particular concern because it is estimated that most people spend as much as 80% of their time indoors.
Over the past several decades, our exposure to indoor air pollutants is believed to have increased due to a variety of factors, including the construction of more tightly sealed buildings, reduced ventilation rates to save energy, the use of synthetic building materials and furnishings, and the use of chemically formulated personal care products, pesticides, and household cleaners.
In recent years, comparative risk studies performed by EPA and its Science Advisory Board have consistently ranked indoor air pollution among the top five environmental risks to public health.
Poor indoor air quality is a leading cause of allergies in humans and pets. Allergies are an over reaction of the immune system to foreign substances. This over reaction weakens your immune system, draining your energy and leaving you more susceptible to infectious diseases caused by viruses and bacteria.
Allergic reactions can range from mildly uncomfortable to life threatening, as in a severe asthma attack. Health experts are especially concerned about people with asthma. These people have very sensitive airways that can react to various irritants, making breathing difficult. The estimated number of people with asthma has risen over 59 percent since 1970. The number of related deaths has also increased.
The largest source of indoor air pollution is from the common household dust mite. In February, 1993, John W. Maunder, Ph.D., Director of the Medical Entomology Center at the University of Cambridge, UK, published a paper entitled “Carpets, House Dust Mites and Asthma” in which he states, “There is no longer room for serious doubt about the dominant role of the house dust mite in both the initial induction of asthma and in the subsequent triggering of wheezy attacks”.
Asthmatics are not allergic to living mites but to the airborne feces of mites and, to a much lesser extent, to dead mites. Dr. Maunder states that although living mites are difficult to remove from carpet, their feces are readily removed from carpets by proper cleaning. “A carpet regularly cleaned will not and cannot contain enough allergen to affect people. The proper maintenance of carpet completely prevents trouble from that source”.
A recent study concludes that carpets may benefit indoor air quality by acting as a filter for indoor air, trapping and holding dust mites, pollutants, and allergens like pollen, pet dander and molds, which play an important role in allergic diseases. The key to maintaining good indoor air quality in a home is to remove these pollutants regularly.
As you can see, regular cleanings are important, not just to maintain the appearance of your carpets, but for hygienic reasons, as well; contaminants in your carpet that need to be removed on a regular basis.
Waiting until your carpet looks dirty is waiting too long. In fact, the EPA recommends having carpets and upholstery cleaned at least twice a year, more often if you have children or pets.
Properly cleaning your entire home can also go a long ways in the battle to control dust mites and other indoor pollutants. You cannot see a dust mite with the naked eye, (dozens of them will fit on the head of a pin) but you can help keep their favorite breeding grounds dry and clean.
Controlling dust is very important. Besides carpeting, dust mites also thrive in upholstered furniture and bedding. Vacuuming will not remove them, but will help to remove their waste by-products and other allergens. Make sure that you use a vacuum cleaner that filters the exhausted air. Get in the habit of vacuuming your carpets and furniture thoroughly, at least a couple of times a week.