The number of Americans who are prone to some type of allergy is rising. In fact, according to statistics published by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), it is believed that nasal allergies now affect more than 50 million people. Unfortunately, many of these allergies are caused or worsened by bioaerosols found within the environment of the family home.
Where Are Bioaerosols Found in the Home?
A collective term, bioaerosols includes organisms or parts of microscopic organisms capable of being suspended in air. These include:
- molds, mildew and fungi
- dust mites
- bacteria and viruses
- pet and human dander
In addition to allergic reactions, bioaerosols can cause illnesses and infections, some of which are serious or even life threatening.
Because their small size makes them undetectable to the eye, bioaerosols can be harbored throughout the home, where they can be inhaled by human and animal occupants. Moist areas with high humidity provide the perfect climate for molds, mildew, fungi and some types of bacteria and spores. High-risk areas for these bioaerosols in most homes include:
- areas likely to have increased humidity levels, such as kitchens and bathrooms
- damp basements, attics or crawl spaces
- areas where cool air humidifiers are often used
- HVAC ducts
- any areas where there is or has been an active leak or moisture issue in the home
In addition, other types of bioaerosols, such as dander, dust mites and some type of viruses and bacteria are easily harbored on soft or rough surfaces, such as carpeting, upholstery and cracks or seams in wood flooring.
How Can Homeowners Reduce Risk From Bioaerosols?
Reducing the risk of all types of bioaerosols in the home is a two-step process. First, it is important to cure moisture issues, fix leaks and reduce the overall humidity level in the home through better ventilation and the use of a dehumidifier system, if necessary.
Once the humidity levels are reduced and leaks are cured, any materials that have been damaged by this moisture should be removed or, if salvageable, thoroughly sanitized to prevent regrowth of mold, mildew and fungi. This includes flooring, wallcoverings, drywall, subflooring, insulation and ceiling materials.
Remaining surfaces should be cleaned thoroughly, including upholstery, carpeting, bedding, window coverings, furnishings, walls and counters.
In addition, homeowners should consider having hidden or hard to access areas, such heating and air conditioning ducts professionally cleaned and sanitized to prevent them from re-contaminating the living spaces of the home. Air duct cleaning specialists can use pressure and specialized techniques to prevent bioaerosols from being released into the air of the home.