Importance of Indoor Air
i. The US EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) states indoor air pollution is one of the top five environmental risks to public health. EPA statistics show levels of indoor pollutants 2 to 5 and up to 100 times more concentrated indoors than outdoors.ii. Indoor air pollution is a risk to health because indoor air quality can cause health issues, make existing health issues worse, and in some extreme cases, like carbon monoxide, cause death.iii. Indoor air pollution ultimately comes from substances like gases or mold, but there are multiple factors that impact the amount of pollution, such as ventilation, temperature, humidity, building design, etc. This makes understanding indoor air quality and solving indoor air problems more complicated.iv. Because of how impactful indoor air quality can be, it is very important to take a proactive approach to impact the indoor air in a positive way. Similar to a healthy diet and exercise, improving the indoor air in your home or office can make a healthy impact on your health.v. There are many sources of indoor air pollution, some example can include:1. Fuel-burning combustion appliances2. Tobacco products3. Building materials and furnishings as diverse as:a. Deteriorated asbestos-containing insulationb. Newly installed flooring, upholstery or carpetc. Cabinetry or furniture made of certain pressed wood products4. Products for household cleaning and maintenance, personal care, or hobbies5. Central heating and cooling systems and humidification devices6. Excess moisture and mold7. Outdoor sources such as:a. Radonb. Pesticidesc. Outdoor air pollution.
Education-seminars and CE
i. EcoPure offers seminars specific to your industry and CE credit can be available.ii. Available seminars1. Mold is in every house! Understanding the challenges of discovering mold during the inspection process.2. Radon education-The National Radon Action Plan3. The importance of a mold inspection for investors and real estate transactions4. Facilities Maintenance-proactive IAQ5. General Contractors a. When to hire professional help
Inspections and Assessments
i. The most effective first step in addressing an indoor air concern is an indoor air inspection and/or assessment.ii. A mold inspection is a paid-for service to determine the presence of mold greater than normal conditions and (possibly) determine the source of the mold. The inspection includes diagnostic tools such as a moisture meter and infrared technology.iii. The inspection with our professional expertise, may be able to identify the issue without testing.iv. Mold inspections are based off the size of the building and the scope. A single-family home inspection is $119. Please inquire for commercial space and multi-family housing.v. An indoor air assessment is to provide a baseline assessment of the condition of the indoor air. An assessment can be specific to an indoor toxin, such as a concern of formaldehyde from newly installed flooring, or a broad overview of the indoor air because there have been numerous allergy-like symptoms.vi. An assessment can include diagnostic tools such as a moisture meter, infrared technology, CO2 meter, particle counter, etc. to help aid in the detection of issues.vii. Assessment are priced based off the size of the space and if there is one specific concern or multiple. Assessments start at $119 for a single-family home for one issue throughout the home or a concern of a specific area in a home, such as a basement.
i. Testing is not recommended as the first course of action for most indoor air concerns. In fact, the US EPA states that testing is often not necessary when there is visible mold present.ii. However, testing is an important tool available and is best used for the following circumstances:1. For Radon-the only way to know about radon levels is to test.2. During real estate transactions where a decision to purchase needs to be made quickly.3. To determine the level of contamination or type of mold present before remediation.4. To demonstrate successful remediation.5. As one part of an indoor air investigation, along with a visual inspection and baseline measurements.iii. Pricing1. Pricing is dependent on what type of testing and how many tests are necessary.2. Radona. Tests are $125 for a real estate transaction.b. Home inspector programs are available.c. Commercial radon tests are dependent upon quantity.3. Molda. Spore trap analysis are $78 per test. (Minimum necessary to test is usually three)b. Tape lift, swab or bulk samples are $71c. MVOC test are $309 per test.d. Other tests are available as needed4. Formaldehydea. $99 per test.5. VOCSa. TVOC-$310 per test. (bulk rate)b. Individual VOCs, dependent on substance6. Allergens/specific chemical/combustibles-please inquire
Indoor Air Improvement Programs
i. Like all else, what gets measured, gets improved. If you evaluate your indoor air, you will likely improve upon it, which will reflect in the health of the individuals occupying the space.ii. Like all else, often the simple things done repeatedly make large differences. For instance, maintaining proper humidity levels is one of the most important but often overlooked component of indoor air. Cleanliness is a second, large component, that if neglected, can cause large indoor air concerns.iii. Indoor air improvement programs are specific to your concerns. Because each home or building and its occupants are unique, indoor air improvement programs are also unique.iv. The improvement programs have specific realistic action items and are an investment in human health and of the building.
i. Molds are organisms that are found both indoors and outdoors. They are part of the natural environment and play an important role in the environment by breaking down organic material, such as dead leaves. Also called fungi or mildew, molds are neither plants nor animals; they are part of the kingdom Fungi.ii. Molds can multiply by producing microscopic spores (2 – 100 microns [μm] in diameter), similar to the seeds produced by plants. Many spores are so small they easily float through the air and can be carried for great distances by even the gentlest breezes. The number of mold spores suspended in indoor and outdoor air fluctuates seasonally, daily, and even hourly.iii. Mold spores cannot be completely eliminated from indoor environments. Normally, some mold spores will be found floating through the air and in settled dust and not usually a problem as the spores will not grow if moisture is not present. If mold spores land on a wet or damp spot, they can begin growing. As molds grow they digest whatever they are growing on. Mold growth can damage buildings and furnishings; molds can rot wood, damage drywall, and eventually cause structural damage to buildings. Mold can also cause cosmetic damage, such as stains, to furnishings.iv. To grow indoors, mold needs moisture and food. Moisture is the most important factor influencing mold growth indoors. Moisture control is the key to mold control. Mold does not need a lot of water to grow. A little condensation, in a bathroom or around a window sill, for example, can be enough.v. Common sites for indoor mold growth include bathroom tile and grout, basement walls, and areas around windows, near leaky water fountains, and around sinks. Common sources of water or moisture include roof leaks, condensation due to high humidity or cold spots in a building, slow leaks in plumbing fixtures, humidification systems, sprinkler systems, and floods.vi. Besides moisture, mold needs nutrients, or food, to grow. Mold can grow on virtually any organic substance. Most buildings are full of organic materials that mold can use as food, including paper, cloth, wood, plant material, and even soil. In most cases, temperature is not an issue; some molds grow in warm areas, while others prefer cool locations such as bread stored in a refrigerator. Often, more than one type of mold can be found growing in the same area, although conditions such as moisture, light, and temperature may favor one species of mold over another.vii. In addition to the structural and cosmetic damage, mold can also impact human health. Health effects of mold spores include:1. Allergic reactions-Molds produce allergens, irritants, and, in some cases, potentially toxic substances or chemicals (mycotoxins). Inhaling or touching mold or mold spores may cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. Mold does not have to be alive to cause an allergic reaction. Dead or alive, mold can cause allergic reactions in some people. Allergic reactions to mold are common and can be immediate or delayed. Repeated or single exposure to mold, mold spores, or mold fragments may cause non-sensitive individuals to become sensitive to mold, and repeated exposure has the potential to increase sensitivity. Allergic responses include hay fever-like symptoms such as headache, sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, and skin rash (dermatitis). Molds can cause asthma attacks in people with asthma who are allergic to mold. In addition, molds can irritate the eyes, skin, nose, throat, and lungs of individuals whether or not they are allergic to mold.2. Other health issues-a. Breathing in mold may also cause hypersensitivity pneumonitis, an uncommon disease that resembles bacterial pneumonia. In addition, mold exposure may result in opportunistic infections in persons whose immune systems are weakened or suppressed.b. When mold grows indoors, the occupants of a building may begin to report odors and a variety of symptoms including headaches, difficulty breathing, skin irritation, allergic reactions, and aggravated asthma symptoms.3. It is important to note all of these symptoms could be caused by other exposures or conditions unrelated to mold growth. Therefore, it is important not to assume that, whenever any of these symptoms occurs, mold is the cause.viii. Health effects of mycotoxins- As molds grow, some (but not all) of them may produce potentially toxic byproducts called mycotoxins under some conditions. Some of these molds are commonly found in moisture-damaged buildings. More than 200 mycotoxins from common molds have been identified, and many more remain to be identified. The amount and types of mycotoxins produced by a particular mold depends on many environmental and genetic factors. No one can tell whether a mold is producing mycotoxins just by looking at it. Some mycotoxins are known to affect people, but for many mycotoxins little health information is available. Research on mycotoxins is ongoing. Exposure to mycotoxins can occur from inhalation, ingestion, and skin contact. It is prudent to avoid unnecessary inhalation exposure to mold.https://www.epa.gov/mold/brief-guide-mold-moisture-and-your-homeix. How do you know if you have mold?1. Typically, mold is found with eyes and noses. Musty smells and visible growth are the most common ways of finding mold. Molds grow in all shapes, sizes, colors and figurations, so it may be hard to tell if something is actually mold. Mold can be confused with dirt, efflorescence, soot, and other substances. Even a trained mold professional can’t always determine if the substance is actually mold. However, a trained professional by a thorough inspection will know if the conditions are favorable and determine if there is a need to test the substance.2. Hidden mold-there are times when mold is growing where it cannot be seen. A trained professional will use tools such as a moisture meter and/or infrared technology to determine if there is a moisture issue. If there is a moisture issue found, regardless if there is mold present, the issue will need corrected to prevent mold. There are other ways and tests trained professionals can use to look for signs of hidden mold.x. What do you do if you have mold? According to the US EPA1. The average person can clean up mold less than 10 square foot.2. If the mold is greater than 10 square feet and less than 100 square feet and you have experience in construction, you may be able to clean up the mold.3. If the mold is greater than 100 square feet, the space needs professional remediation.
i. Radon is a cancer-causing natural radioactive gas that you can’t see or smell. Radon comes from the natural (radioactive) breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water and gets into the air you breathe. Radon can be found all over the U.S. It can get into any type of building– homes, offices and schools– and can climb to high levels if it’s trapped indoors.ii. It’s the leading cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers and claims about 20,000 lives every year. Although some lung cancers can be treated, the survival rate is one of the lowest for those with cancer. Fortunately, many of the causes of lung cancer can be prevented– and this is especially true for radon.iii. The Office of the Surgeon General has issued a health advisory warning Americans about the risk from breathing radon in indoor air. Americans are urged to test their homes to find out how much radon they might be breathing.iv. For most Americans, the greatest exposure to radon is in their homes, whether those homes are old or new. Any home, any type, any location can have a radon problem. If your home has not been tested, now is a good time to take the test. This will help protect your family’s health and it’s easy to do.v. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends homes be fixed if the radon level is 4 picocuries per liter of air (4pCi/L) or above. While testing can be easy and inexpensive, millions of Americans have yet to take this first important step to protect their family.vi. Hamilton, Butler and Warren counties in Ohio are all in zone 1, which means that the average of all homes tested exceed 4pCi/L. All homes are recommended to be tested regardless of zone.
VOCs and Formaldehyde-Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids. VOCs include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short- and long-term adverse health effects.
i. Concentrations of many VOCs are consistently higher indoors (up to ten times higher) than outdoors. VOCs are emitted by a wide array of products numbering in the thousands.ii. Sources include:1. paints, paint strippers and other solvents2. wood preservatives3. aerosol sprays4. cleansers and disinfectants5. moth repellents and air fresheners6. stored fuels and automotive products7. hobby supplies8. dry-cleaned clothing9. pesticide10. building materials and furnishings11. office equipment such as copiers and printers, correction fluids and carbonless copy paper12. graphics and craft materials including glues and adhesives, permanent markers and photographic solutions.iii. All of these products can release organic compounds while you are using them, and, to some degree, when they are stored.iv. Health Effects include:1. Eye, nose and throat irritation2. Headaches, loss of coordination and nausea3. Damage to liver, kidney and central nervous system4. Some organics can cause cancer in animals, some are suspected or known to cause cancer in humans.v. Key signs or symptoms associated with exposure to VOCs include:1. Conjunctival irritation2. Nose and throat discomfort3. Headache4. Allergic skin reaction5. Dyspnea6. Declines in serum cholinesterase levels7. Nausea8. Emesis9. Epistaxis10. Fatigue11. Dizziness12. visual disorders and memory impairmentvi. The ability of organic chemicals to cause health effects varies greatly from those that are highly toxic, to those with no known health effect. As with other pollutants, the extent and nature of the health effect will depend on many factors including level of exposure and length of time exposed. https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/volatile-organic-compounds-impact-indoor-air-quality
Particulate Matter (PM)
i. Particulate matter is a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air. Some particles, such as dust, dirt, soot, or smoke, are large or dark enough to be seen with the naked eye. Others are so small they can only be detected using an electron microscope.ii. These particles come in many sizes and shapes and can be made up of hundreds of different chemicals.iii.iv. Particle pollution includes:1. PM10 : inhalable particles, with diameters that are generally 10 micrometers and smaller; and2. PM2.5 : fine inhalable particles, with diameters that are generally 2.5 micrometers and smaller. How small is 2.5 micrometers? Think about a single hair from your head. The average human hair is about 70 micrometers in diameter – making it 30 times larger than the largest fine particle.v. Particulate matter contains microscopic solids or liquid droplets that are so small that they can be inhaled and cause serious health problems. Particles less than 10 micrometers in diameter pose the greatest problems, because they can get deep into your lungs, and some may even get into your bloodstream.
i. The word allergy is defined in medical dictionaries as “a hypersensitive state”ii. The leading cause of non-atopic allergies in adults and children is overexposure according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.iii. An allergen or sensitizer is capable at very small concentrations of inducing excessive immune responses in a genetically predisposed individual. Allergy is in this way a heritable trait. Not everyone has the genetic predisposition toward the development of allergy antibody immune responses to sensitizing agents, or allergens.iv. A survey conducted by the National Survey of Lead and Allergens in Housing (NSLAH) found that exposure to multiple allergens was common in US homes. Of the surveyed homes, 51.5% had at least six detectable allergens and 45.8% had at least 3 allergens exceeding increased levels. The conclusion of the study found that increased allergen levels in the home are associated with asthma symptoms in allergic individuals.v. The number one allergen is dust mite. 23-30% of all Americans are allergic and 90% of those with allergies are allergic.vi. Allergies account for a significant amount of missed days of work and school and has tremendous impacts on the quality of life.vii. Indoor Allergens can be managed through indoor air improvement programs.
SBRI/NSBRI-Sick Building Syndrome
i. SBRI, or specific building related illness is the term used when symptoms of diagnosable illness are identified and can be attributed directly to building contaminants and exposures.ii. NSBRI or non-specific building related illness is (popularly called “sick building syndrome”) is used to describe situations in which building occupants experience acute health and comfort effects that appear to be linked to time spent in a building, but no specific illness or cause can be identified. The complaints may be localized in a particular room or zone, or may be widespread throughout the building.iii. Causes of NSBRI include inadequate ventilation, chemical contaminants from both indoor and outdoor sources, biological contaminants.iv. Building Investigation Procedures The goal of a building investigation is to identify and solve indoor air quality complaints in a way that prevents them from recurring and which avoids the creation of other problems. To achieve this goal, it is necessary for the investigator(s) to discover whether a complaint is actually related to indoor air quality, identify the cause of the complaint, and determine the most appropriate corrective actions.1. The investigation procedure is best characterized as a cycle of information gathering, hypothesis formation, and hypothesis testing. It generally begins with a walkthrough inspection of the problem area to provide information about the four basic factors that influence indoor air quality- the occupants, the HVAC system, possible pollutant pathways, and possible contaminant sources.2. Preparation for a walkthrough should include documenting easily obtainable information about the history of the building and of the complaints; identifying known HVAC zones and complaint areas; notifying occupants of the upcoming investigation; and, identifying key individuals needed for information and access. The walkthrough itself entails visual inspection of critical building areas and consultation with occupants and staff.3. The walkthrough should allow the investigator to develop some possible explanations for the complaint. At this point, the investigator may have sufficient information to formulate a hypothesis, test the hypothesis, and see if the problem is solved. If it is, steps should be taken to ensure that it does not recur. However, if insufficient information is obtained from the walk through to construct a hypothesis, or if initial tests fail to reveal the problem, the investigator should move on to collect additional information to allow formulation of additional hypotheses. The process of formulating hypotheses, testing them, and evaluating them continues until the problem is solved.v. Air sampling for contaminants might seem to be the logical response to occupant complaints, it seldom provides information about possible causes. While certain basic measurements, e.g., temperature, relative humidity, CO2, and air movement, can provide a useful “snapshot” of current building conditions, sampling for specific pollutant concentrations is often not required to solve the problem and can even be misleading. Contaminant concentration levels rarely exceed existing standards and guidelines even when occupants continue to report health complaints. Air sampling should not be undertaken until considerable information on the factors listed above has been collected, and any sampling strategy should be based on a comprehensive understanding of how the building operates and the nature of the complaints.vi. Solutions1. Pollutant source removal or modification is an effective approach to resolving an IAQ problem when sources are known and control is feasible. Examples include routine maintenance of HVAC systems, e.g., periodic cleaning or replacement of filters; replacement of water-stained ceiling tile and carpeting; institution of smoking restrictions; venting contaminant source emissions to the outdoors; storage and use of paints, adhesives, solvents, and pesticides in well ventilated areas, and use of these pollutant sources during periods of non-occupancy; and allowing time for building materials in new or remodeled areas to off-gas pollutants before occupancy. Several of these options may be exercised at one time.2. Increasing ventilation rates and air distribution often can be a cost effective means of reducing indoor pollutant levels. HVAC systems should be designed, at a minimum, to meet ventilation standards in local building codes; however, many systems are not operated or maintained to ensure that these design ventilation rates are provided. In many buildings, IAQ can be improved by operating the HVAC system to at least its design standard, and to current ASHRAE Standard. When there are strong pollutant sources, local exhaust ventilation may be appropriate to exhaust contaminated air directly from the building. Local exhaust ventilation is particularly recommended to remove pollutants that accumulate in specific areas such as rest rooms, copy rooms, and printing facilities.3. Air cleaning can be a useful adjunct to source control and ventilation but has certain limitations.4. Education and communication are important elements in both remedial and preventive indoor air quality management programs. When building occupants, management, and maintenance personnel fully communicate and understand the causes and consequences of IAQ problems, they can work more effectively together to prevent problems from occurring.
OSHA and General Duty Clause
i. Under the OSH law, employers have a responsibility to provide a safe workplace.ii. A short summary of key employer responsibilities: can be found at: https://www.osha.gov/as/opa/worker/employer-responsibility.htmliii. The General Duty clause states, “Employers must provide a workplace free from serious recognized hazards and comply with standards, rules and regulations issued under the OSH Act.”1. Employee complaints of illness should be taken seriously to comply with the general duty clause.2. Approaching a situation with the goal to assure workplace safety is key to a successful outcome.
Real Estate Transactions
i. Due to the nature of the transactions, operating with the following principles provide the most optimal outcome:1. Quick response time-we will work to get to a property as soon as possible, which is most often the same or next business day. We will also provide reports and tests as soon as feasible.2. Ethics-we operate with human health as a top priority. The person that pays our fees is our client and we will thoroughly explain each situation how this is applicable.3. Clear communication-indoor air issues are complicated. We work to make sure you understand the issue and the severity of the issues in order to make the most informed decision at the time.4. Rational and calm-There is mold in every home. There is no need to evoke additional emotions in a real estate transaction.5. Collaboration-With our client’s permission, we will explain our inspections, test results and conclusions to the other party or agent(s).6. Solving the issues-we can provide choices for radon mitigation and/or mold remediation referrals if desired. We can provide mold remediation oversight and/or post remediation testing