As I mentioned in my previous blog post, asthma is a worldwide problem. Up to 20% of people in the industrialized countries suffer from this malady, and this number just keeps growing. Development of new asthma treatments can’t keep up with the rates of this pandemic. Old fashioned aerosol inhalers are still the only hope of an asthmatic. An alternative, of course, is not to let the disease to enter your home in the first place. Like with any other health related problem, prevention is the most efficient strategy. It is vital that it you who takes control over the wellbeing of your family.
How does asthma enter your home? Why do perfectly healthy people suddenly and unexpectedly develop severe cough and shortness of breath?
To answer these questions, let’s first look at how human respiration works. Our lungs are made up of hundreds of thousands of air passageways, called the bronchi. It is through these pathways that lungs are capable of bringing sufficient quantity of oxygen into the blood. Bronchi can vary in size, but all of them are lined with microscopic hairs called cilia. Cilia keep the lungs clean of dust and microbes by pushing all of this “garbage” out. At times when the surrounding air is dirtier than usual, the cilia can become overburdened, and may not be able to do their job completely. Mother Nature, however, took this into account as well. When the workload on the cilia is too great, our bodies constrict the bronchi, reducing the amount of incoming air, and activate the cough reflex. In normal conditions, this response is sufficient to clean the lungs out and help cilia catch up with their cleaning job.
For thousands of years these natural responses were sufficient to keep humans healthy. But with the advent of modern technology came a serious challenge – severe air pollution. Industrial plants fill our environment with various toxic substances, including carbon oxides, metal particles and products of oil combustion. Many of our houses are made of “economic” materials, which are often strong allergens. At the same time, the design of a well functioning ventilation system is rarely a priority for a house builder. These “dust collector” passageways increase the problem by concentrating pollutants from the outside within your home.
Think of the following scenario. Every summer you turn your air conditioner on, allowing for condensate to form on the cooled metal surfaces of your air ducts. Pools of condensate water create perfect breeding conditions for various microorganisms. It has been shown that it only takes 72 hours for spores of mould to appear in such conditions. As soon as you turn your air conditioning off, your air duct becomes an incubator for mould colonies.
Unfortunately, mould is not the only thing that occupies your ventilation passageways. You will be surprised by the things we have pulled out of air ducts in some houses. In one such example, we have removed close to 30 plastic coffee cups from a single vent system. It turned out that the construction crew frequented a nearby coffee house, but never took the time to take their garbage out with them.
Another shocking thing that we commonly find in ventilation ducts is glass fiber. Normally used for insulation within walls and other isolated places, working with glass fiber requires special protective equipment, such as hazard-suits and respirators. The tiny bits of glass that it is made up off can puncture, shred and seriously damage you your lung’s passageways. It seems that some homeowners do not realize that this material is not suitable for insulation of airways.
Sick buildings make Sick residents
“Sick building syndrome” is a term that has been around for more than a decade. It first appeared when people realized that residents of certain buildings can share similar health issues. The symptoms typically include various respiration issues, pain in the joints, and overall weakened immune system. Obviously, this is not due to any coincidence. The reason, lies in the shared environment, or the “climate” of the building. It is a well known fact that air within buildings can be up to 10 times more polluted than the air in the surrounding environment.
How do you avoid “the syndrome”? While it is impossible to completely avoid exposure to allergens, it is not too difficult to ensure that your house does not provide allergens with perfect breeding conditions. Here are some recommendations to keep your house healthy.
- Keep your air ducts clean. Have them emptied out and disinfected by proper truck-mounted equipment at least once every three years.
- Change your air filters. Remember, these need to be replaced every two months. Also make sure that you get proper filters, approved by an appropriate authority, such as the Lung Association. Our recommendation – filters from 3M Canada.
- Make sure that your humidifier is working properly. Ensure that you set it to a season-appropriate mode. Close the humidifier flap in the summer, and open it in the winter.
- Make sure that your clothes drier is clean and not full of accumulating lint.
- Check your kitchen vents and chimneys. Birds often build their nests in such places, filling your house with microbes and viruses. In such cases allergy and tularemia can have very serious consequences.
- Clean your fabrics and furniture. Your carpets and sofas need to be thoroughly cleaned every year. Also make sure not to place any of your house plants on to the carpet. The humidity from the plant will make your carpet very welcoming to mould.
- Never buy used couches and mattresses. Your health is more expensive than the small savings you make when buying these “germ factories”.
- For the summer season, invest into a dehumidifier. You will be surprised how much damaging moisture it can save you from.
These suggestions might be simple, but following them will have a significant effect on your health. Reduction in the risk of asthma and allergies for your family will be dramatic.
Unfortunately, the future paints a dreadful picture. Some specialists predict that within the next ten years, up to 50% of world’s population will suffer from allergies. These odds are not worth gambling with. Air pollution is a mighty foe, that cannot be underestimated. But don’t despair! One important factor that these predictions don’t take into account, is that we, the Comfort Clean team, are here to help you win the battle! For more than 30 years, we have been your secret weapon in the war with asthma, allergies and illness. Together, vent by vent, carpet by carpet, we will reclaim our health back!