7 Ways Your House Is Making You Sick
and What You Can Do About It
Without a doubt, everyone at one point or another has experienced a severe illness. Flu in summer? Colds? Pneumonia? Bronchitis? Breathing disorders and diseases? It’s frustrating and inconvenient, but what about when they won’t go away? Could it be that our own homes are not only making us sick but keeping us sick? This article gives a broad overview of seven ways in which our homes can both make us ill and perpetuate the cycle of sickness in the home.
7. Mold, Mildew & Fungus
Headaches? Sore throat? Coughing? Sneezing? Watery eyes? Fatigue? Have you checked your corners closets, cupboards, basement, attic, and ductwork for mold, mildew, and fungus? Moisture breeds mold and mildew, and if there’s one thing Southern Illinois is world-renowned for, it’s our humidity. Dark and damp provides the perfect environment for fungus to breed.
Most people either don’t have their heating and cooling system set up correctly to manage humidity, or the system isn’t capable of handling it successfully. When humidity is continually above 60%, moisture begins to gather in your ductwork and dark places that don’t receive much traffic. Universally, that moisture will produce mold.
Mildew vs. Mold vs. Fungus
Mold and mildew are both types of fungus and hold similarly toxic properties. Both thrive in humid environments. Whereas mold tends to be slimy and wet, mildew is generally dry and powdery. Both mold and mildew are commonly mistaken for each other. What distinguishes mold from mildew is that mold is significantly more penetrating than mildew, which tends to sit on the surface. Mildew is relatively easy to control with regular cleaning, but mold is much more pervasive.
Virtually everyone is familiar with black mold and the fact that it’s both toxic and lethal. We’ve all known at least one person that has dealt with this in their home, but did you know there are many different types and colors, each with their own danger?
- White Mold: frequently confused with salt deposits on plumbing pipes and fixtures, this musty odored mold can grow on almost any material, but is most commonly seen on certain types of food, rotting wood in basements and attics, and can grow on virtually any surface, including the inside of your ductwork
- Pink Mold: bathroom mold thrives in the dampest room of the house, and is frequently found on shower curtains, running down walls that we don’t clean regularly, and building up in the corners of your sinks. This mold feeds on soap and shower product residue.
- Green Mold: the most commonly recognized mold, green mold, is found on most foods, and thrives in cold environments, like your air conditioning registers.
- Yellow Mold: this extremely toxic mold is found mainly in wood paneling and hardwood flooring. Over time it will break down the structure of wood, causing it to soften and shred.
- Black Mold: most commonly found around plumbing fixtures and in any area affected by damp, black mold is fatally toxic, and infestations are challenging to kill.
The bacterial infection is one of the most common causes of illness in the United States, producing tens of millions of infections per year. More than 2 million of those bacterial infections are antibiotic-resistant, with more than 23,000 deaths annually as a result of these infections.
A University of Colorado study found that household dust contains an average of 9,000 different species of bacteria, including staphylococcus and streptococcus, which can cause severe respiratory and immune system diseases. The bathroom and kitchen in a home contain the largest concentration of bacteria.
Most bacteria can be killed by regular sanitizing of every surface, but it can be almost impossible to clean walls, ceilings, and carpets thoroughly.
Seasonal allergies affect more than fifty million people in the United States, with most concentrated in states that suffer a humid, but windy climate, like Southern Illinois. Short of making your home airtight, installing an airlock, and forcing your visitors to undergo a chemical spray bath before entering, it’s impossible to prevent pollen from entering your home.
Allergies can produce a vast range of symptoms, from sniffling and sneezing, to fatal anaphylactic shock. Most are an annoyance, but many can seriously affect the quality of life, forcing sufferers to remain indoors through the most pleasant weather of the year.
Because of the small size of pollen particles, most air conditioner filters aren’t able to capture them and recirculate them repeatedly throughout the home. Disposable filters capable of catching pollen are costly in the long run and require regular replacement.
Hundreds of millions of homes in the United States have pets. We welcome them in and make them a part of our family, loving them like
our own children. Unfortunately, with pets comes pet dander – hair and skin particles that pets and farm animals shed. Pet allergies are common, and almost exclusively a reaction to dander, and not the pet itself.
Once pet dander gets pulled into your air conditioning system, it can settle in ductwork, providing the perfect breeding ground for bacteria, mold, and mildew, which is then circulated back through the home, producing even more aggressive reactions. Many who are forced to give up their beloved pets continue to feel the effects of dander allergies long after the pets are gone, because of their homes heating and cooling systems recirculating dander.
Home filters can catch bigger particles, but most dander is circulated hundreds, if not thousands of times before it becomes large enough to be trapped permanently.
Dust is the most obvious, and commonly seen pollution within a home. No home is dust-free, and traditional dusting products do little more than push it back into the air to be recirculated through your ductwork and breathed in.
Most disturbingly, because of their relatively large size, most dust particles contain quantities of household cleaning chemicals and other VOCs that have been shown to cause severe respiratory disease, reproductive complications, and even cancer.
Contrary to popular belief, and despite the amount of dust usually found clogging a home’s air filters, most household dust is too large to be pulled into the air system without additional power and circulates through the rooms in a home without ever being gathered up. No surface in the home is safe from dust, and even when you cannot see the particles, they are often present. A study at George Washington University found that toothbrushes and food almost universally had dust contamination.
2. Volatile Organic Compounds
All homes are exposed daily to large quantities of VOCs, far more than homeowners realize. VOCs are chemicals released by household objects or outside contaminants that get pulled into the home through open windows and doors. These chemicals are up to ten times as toxic when trapped inside the home.
Common VOCs include:
- Acetone: one of the most common VOCs native to homes, acetone is an ingredient in nail polish remover, many cleaning products, and wallpaper
- Benzene: This is a primary ingredient in paint, glue, carpeting, and vehicle exhaust
- Butanal: most commonly emitted by charcoal and gas grills, burning candles, gas stoves, and cigarette smoke
- Carbon Disulfide: this is frequently found in tap water, and without a charcoal or carbon home filter, is in everything we eat and drink that involves tap water
- Dichlorobenzene: Put down that air freshener. Most deodorizing products include this cancer-causing chemical because it binds to other smaller particles, improving the smell of your home
- Ethanol: Ethanol is a byproduct of gasoline production and gets used in a great many cleaning products, including glass cleaners and detergents
- Formaldehyde: that lacquer to protect your hardwood floor might have seemed like a good idea, but you’re feeding formaldehyde to your lungs. Most molded plastics also contain this highly toxic poison
- Terpenes: most fragrant products, including detergents, air fresheners, and soaps contain these cancer-causing chemicals
- Toluene: fortunately, many paint manufacturers are wising up to the dangers of their chemical binders, offering formulas free of this deadly toxin
- Xylene: catalytic converters may have eliminated many of the toxins present in vehicle exhaust, but xylene remains the single most toxic emission from the tailpipe, and its small particle size makes it impossible for standard air filters to catch
By far, the most immediate and noticeable effect of air pollution within the home is the virus. There’s not a family in Southern Illinois that doesn’t regularly pass infections back and forth through the year, from common colds to flu and strep, viruses seem an impossible inconvenience. Aside from the toll viruses take on the body, they can also have far-reaching financial implications with lost earnings and expensive medical bills. For those whose immune systems are compromised, even the most straightforward virus can be potentially life-threatening.
When exhaled through sneezes, or spread through touch, viruses can live anywhere from 24 hours to hundreds of millions of years outside of a human host. Often the respiratory illness your doctor has diagnosed will have been picked up from the surfaces of your home or passed from one of your family members after they picked it up.
We’ve all experienced the unpleasantness of having to spray our doorknobs, counters, sinks, bed sheets, furniture, and curtains with Lysol in a desperate attempt to kill whatever keeps making us sick, but this is an often pointless exercise in futility because so much of your home is exposed.
What Can be Done?
Until fairly recently, there hasn’t been a practical solution for eliminating the air pollution within a home, and a great many people fall sick and die every year for want of clean air. At Service Detectives, we believe that indoor air pollution is an American crisis, and that’s why we launched the Breathe Better initiative.
Breathe Better uses cutting edge technology to offer an affordable six-step Air Pollution Solution to the families of Southern Illinois. Our technology, previously only available to the military, large hospitals, and larger schools, not only cleans the air in your home but also sanitizes every surface to prevent the build-up of contaminants and neutralize odors without resorting to unhealthy chemicals.
Breathe Better offers a better quality of life, using scientifically tested, and FDA, USFA, and FSIS approved technology to end this silent killer.
Call us today at 618.993.HELP , book online using the link at the top of this page, or use our contact page to reach out to one of our friendly, professional office staff to book your Breathe Better consultation with one of our highly trained service experts.