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Mold and Mildew

Mold and Mildew

Molds in the home produce allergens that cause allergic reactions. These reactions can include sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, itchy eyes, and skin rashes. Mold can also trigger asthma episodes and respiratory problems. Mold and mildew thrive in dark and humid areas with poor ventilation. Mold reproduces by making spores, which can be inhaled. Mildew is mold that grows on fabric. See this

EPA estimates indicate that 50 to 100 common indoor mold types have the potential for creating health problems.

What are some common allergic reactions to mold and mildew?

  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Wheezing
  • Difficulty in Breathing
  • Nose and throat irritation
  • Nasal or sinus congestion
  • Watery, reddened, or burning eyes
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Skin rashes
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue

How do I prevent house molds?

Mold is typically caused by excess moisture, which in turn is frequently associated with problems like leaky plumbing or structural defects like rotting or lose windows or doors, or holes in walls or in roofing. What most of these problems share in common is that they violate the District’s housing regulations. Fixing these problems will help prevent mold.

What are some ways to destroy mold?

o Implement ozonelite bulbs

o Use exhaust fans when cooking or in the shower to help keep mold or mildew from growing.

o Clean the area with cleansers that contain bleach

o Use the air conditioner, do not use humidifiers

o Repair water leaks

o Clean dehumidifiers once a week

Lead Poisoning

What is lead?

Lead is a metal found in small amounts in the earth’s crust. Lead has many different uses. It is used in the production of batteries, ammunition, metal products (solder and pipes), and devices to shield X-rays. Because of health concerns, lead from paints and ceramic products, caulking, and pipe solder has been dramatically reduced in recent years. It was banned for use in US household paint by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, beginning in March 1978. The use of lead as an additive to gasoline has been banned in the United States for many years. Lead itself does not break down, but lead compounds are changed by sunlight, air, and water. Old lead paint that is exposed to the sun will chalk, producing toxic and very harmful lead dust. Old lead pipes that carry water to homes can corrode, with the lead ending up in household water.

How can lead affect my health?

The effects of lead are the same whether it enters the body through breathing or swallowing. Lead can affect almost every organ and system in the body. Lead is a neurotoxin. The main target for lead toxicity is the brain and the nervous system, both in adults and in children. Long-term exposure of adults can result in decreased performance in some tests that measure functions of the nervous system. It may also cause weakness in fingers, wrists, or ankles. Lead exposure also causes small increases in blood pressure, particularly in middle-aged and older people, and can cause anemia. Exposure to high lead levels can severely damage the brain and kidneys in adults or children and ultimately can cause death. In pregnant women, high levels of exposure to lead may cause miscarriage. High-level exposure in men can damage the organs responsible for sperm production.

Lead poisoning: A major problem for children

If your home is older than 1978, it very likely has lead paint inside – even if that paint has been covered by newer paint or enclosed behind new walls. Anything that disrupts the paint can make your home extremely hazardous to your child. Small children can be exposed by eating lead-based paint chips, chewing on objects painted with lead-based paint, or swallowing house dust or soil that contains lead. Swallowing dust occurs more easily than one might think. When a young child gets dust on their fingers, those fingers often end up in their mouth, and the lead enters the child’s blood stream from there.

Children are more vulnerable to lead poisoning than adults. A child who swallows large amounts of lead may develop blood anemia, a painful stomach-ache, muscle weakness, and/or severe brain damage. If a child swallows smaller amounts of lead, which is typically what occurs in most cases of lead poisoning seen today, lead can not only affect a child’s mental and physical growth, it can also cause loss of IQ points, learning disabilities and behavior problems.

Exposure to lead is most dangerous for young children and for fetuses. Fetuses can be exposed to lead through their mothers, because lead crosses the placenta. Harmful effects include premature births, smaller babies, decreased mental ability in the infant, learning difficulties, and reduced growth in young children. These effects are more common if the mother or baby was exposed to high levels of lead. Even if the mother was exposed to lead only as a child, that lead was stored in her bones and is released during pregnancy, causing harm to the fetus. Young children who are exposed to lead, even in small amounts, are almost always subject to harmful health effects, as described above. Some of these may be subtle, such as reduced IQ level.

Testing your home for lead

Have a professional check your home for lead hazards. Home lead tests are available, but they are not always reliable.

Lead inspection. A lead inspection checks for lead presence in painted surfaces in your home, but it doesn’t determine whether the home presents an imminent health threat to its occupants.

Risk assessment. A risk assessment is more comprehensive and tells you if your home contains dangerous lead sources, such as lead-contaminated dust, and tells you how to reduce or control the hazards.

Once lead-based paint hazards have been identified, the best practice is to hire a certified lead abatement professional who can safely eliminate those hazards. The District Department of the Environment has a list of certified lead professionals that it updates every few weeks.

Testing your child for lead

The only way to know for sure if a child has lead in their body is to have a qualified health professional conduct a lead screening (a blood test). In Washington D.C., lead screening for children is more than just a good idea — it’s the law. Because lead poisoning disproportionately affects those with less access to healthcare, it is critical to find ways to screen all children.

The District law stipulates that children must be tested twice by the time they are two years old, the first test occurring during well-child visits between months 6 and 14, and the second between months 22 and 26. Even if a child misses one or both of these screenings, the law still requires that children be tested twice before six years of age. Also, when additional risk factors so dictate, such as living in a pre-1978 home that has recently undergone renovation, or having a sibling with lead poisoning, children may need to be screened at additional moments in their lives, as further detailed in District regulations. And District law also requires that a parent or guardian be able to produce proof that a child was tested for lead, before they are admitted to any school or daycare in the nation’s capital.

Lead screening laws in the District of Columbia are designed to ensure the identification of children with elevated blood lead levels and to maximize opportunities for early intervention. It’s important that both parents and pediatricians understand and recognize these health-protective requirements.

What you can do to further protect your child

  • Make sure to keep all paint in your home in good repair – there should be no chipping, peeling or flaking paint.
  • Periodically clean horizontal surfaces like window sills, using a detergent and plenty of “elbow grease”?
  • Use lead-safe work practices* (En Español)* when disturbing paint during home repairs or maintenance.
  • Use a filter to remove lead from water you use for drinking or cooking.
  • Get your soil tested if you have a home vegetable garden.
  • Dispose of old electronics properly. Many of them contain lead.

Asthma Triggers

Asthma is a lung disease that causes difficulty in breathing and can sometimes lead to death. In the US, around 20 million people are affected by asthma, many of whom are children. When asthma is under control, the airways are clear and open. When asthma is not under control, the muscles around the airways inside the lungs tighten and the airways fill with mucus. This causes people with asthma to wheeze, cough, and suffer from a shortness of breath.

Many things can trigger an asthma attack – several of them can commonly be found in the home. Pet hair and fur, second-hand smoke, mold and mildew, roach and rodent droppings and excessive dust can all trigger asthma episodes (attacks).

While asthma has no cure, it is treatable. Effective medications, paired with environmental modifications to reduce exposure to common triggers, can enable most people living with asthma to lead normal, active lives. The home is an important front in the battle to control a person’s asthma.

Pet Dander

Animal dander from your pet may worsen your asthma. Pets produce dander that puts asthmatics at risk. These pets include dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, and rodents.

Pet dander is the protein in skin flakes, urine, feces, saliva, and hair, and it can trigger asthma symptoms. These proteins are miniscule. They travel through the air and land on a body part, make their way eventually to the nose or the mouth and are then inhaled. Symptoms may occur immediately, or they may not develop until 8 to 12 hours later.

Insect and Rodent Infestation

The saliva, droppings, and decomposing bodies of cockroaches and rodents contain proteins known to trigger allergies that can increase the severity of asthma symptoms, especially in children. Cockroaches are often found in warm climates and in city homes, but they also can be found in cooler climates because of the use of central heat. Rodents can be found in almost any climate. Eliminating roaches and rodents can be done safely through the use of integrated pest management techniques.

Second-Hand Smoke

Smoking in the home of a person with asthma can be a deadly habit. In addition to the significant risk of cancer for the smoker and those who breathe in the second-hand smoke, an asthma attack can be triggered by the smoke.

Mold and Mildew

Mold in the home produce allergens that cause allergic reactions. These reactions include sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, itchy eyes, and skin rashes. Mold therefore can trigger asthma episodes and respiratory problems. Mold and mildew thrive in dark and humid areas with poor ventilation. Mold reproduces by making spores, which can be inhaled. Mildew is mold growing on fabric.

EPA estimates indicate 50 to 100 common indoor mold types have the potential for creating health problems. Getting rid of mold can be difficult and even dangerous. DDOE suggests locating a certified contractor to evaluate serious mold problems before trying to remove mold on your own.

Managing Asthma in the home

Avoid these chores when someone with asthma is inside:

  • Sweeping, vacuuming and dusting
  • Painting
  • Using strong cleaners or bug sprays
  • Cooking strong-smelling foods
  • After completing any of these tasks, open the windows and/or use exhaust fans to “air out” your home

Maintain a tidy bedroom

  • Take out soft chairs, cushions and extra pillows
  • Consider removing carpets and rugs
  • Vacuum and wet mop twice a week
  • Do not let animals in the bedroom
  • Wash sheets and blankets in hot water.
  • Avoid pillows made with goose down
  • Take stuffed toys off the bed and keep them to a minimum in the home