ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH

Indoor Air Quality and Toxins

Enjoy a Healthy Home

Indoor air quality can have a significant effect on your health. Studies show that people spend 65 to 90 percent of their time indoors, and indoor air can be two to five times more polluted than outdoor air. The young, elderly, chronically ill, and those with respiratory or cardiovascular disease are often the most impacted by poor indoor air quality.

Mold

Molds are simple, microscopic organisms that are found everywhere. They reproduce by forming spores, which are very small and lightweight, making it easy for them to travel through the air. Mold spores are almost always present in outdoor and indoor air. The only things that mold needs to grow and produce spores are a food source (leaves, wood, paper, dirt), a surface to grow on, and moisture. Of these, moisture is the most important. Without moisture, mold can’t grow. Standing water isn’t necessary for mold to grow; the humidity in the air can provide enough moisture for growth.

If there is mold growth in your home, you must clean up the mold and fix the water problem. If you clean up the mold, but don’t fix the water problem, then, most likely, the mold problem will come back.

Mercury

Mercury is a naturally occurring metallic element that exists in a variety of forms. It is found in soil, water, rocks, and living organisms. It can also exist as a gas, liquid, or solid. Because it remains liquid at room temperature, mercury is used in many consumer products – barometers, blood pressure instruments, thermometers, and other pressure-sensing instruments.

Exposure to even small amounts of mercury over a long period may cause negative health effects including damage to the brain, kidneys, lungs, and the developing fetus. Brief contact with high levels of mercury can cause immediate health effects including loss of appetite, fatigue, insomnia, and changes in behavior or personality. Depending on the length or degree of exposure, additional symptoms such as nausea, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, eye irritation, weight loss, skin rashes, and muscle tremors may occur.

When exposure to mercury stops, most symptoms usually go away; however, effects on the brain and nervous system may be permanent. Once mercury has entered the body, it can take months before it is eliminated, mainly through the urine and feces.

Lead

Lead is a naturally occurring element found in small amounts in the earth’s crust. While it has some beneficial uses, it can be toxic to humans and animals, causing health effects.

Lead can be found in all parts of our environment –air, soil, water, and even inside our homes. Much of our exposure comes from activities such as using fossil fuels like past use of leaded gasoline and lead-based paint some in industrial facilities and homes. Lead and lead compounds have been used in a wide variety of products found in and around our homes, including paint, ceramics, pipes and plumbing materials, solders, gasoline, batteries, ammunition, and cosmetics.

At HDNW, we work with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) and other agencies on lead awareness, exposure prevention, and safe removal practices. We also offer the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, which operates under a federal grant and supports our local efforts for lead education, prevention, and the screening of children for lead poisoning.