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Environmental Illness - Toxic Chemicals in Our Environment

Bacteria, molds, viruses, and other biological contaminants continued...

Some viruses can survive on household surfaces, such as counters or floors, or they can get spread through the air when an infected person sneezes or coughs. You can help control viruses by:

  • Cleaning household surfaces with a disinfectant.
  • Having adequate ventilation in your house.
  • Having anyone with a viral infection, such as a cold or the flu, cough or sneeze into the bend of the elbow or into a tissue.

Pet dander, pollen, dust mites, molds, and rat and mouse urine are allergens that can cause asthma attacks, allergic rhinitis, and other lung problems. Symptoms of illness caused by biological contaminants include sneezing, watery eyes, shortness of breath, lethargy, dizziness, and digestive problems.

Exposure early in life to indoor allergens such as molds may increase the risk of allergies or asthma.5 Allergies to molds can also make asthma attacks worse or cause other breathing problems.

Keep your home clean and as free from dust as possible to help reduce allergens. There are many ways to control dust and dust mites in your home, such as washing bedding in hot water to kill dust mites and eliminating furnishings, such as drapes, that collect dust. Also, there are many steps you can take to control animal dander and other pet allergens.

Exhaust fans that vent to the outdoors and are installed in kitchens and bathrooms can help get rid of moisture that allows microorganisms, including molds, to grow. When modern building materials get wet, they provide an ideal place for the growth of molds, which can make asthma attacks worse and may cause other respiratory symptoms. Ventilating attic and crawl spaces and keeping humidity levels below 50% can help prevent moisture buildup in building materials. There are other ways to control indoor molds, such as preventing leaks, removing wet materials, storing fireplace wood outside the home, and using a dehumidifier during humid weather.

Keep humidifiers clean and refill them daily with fresh water. Frequently clean evaporation trays in air conditioners, dehumidifiers, and refrigerators. Water-damaged carpets and building materials can also have molds and bacteria in them. It is difficult to get rid of bacteria or molds. So, if possible, replace or remove water-damaged items from your home.

You can also:

  • Remove carpets and replace them with hardwood or tile floor.
  • Have sofas with covers that can be removed and washed.
  • Use blinds instead of drapes, because they collect less dust.
  • Have air filters in some rooms, especially in the bedrooms.

For more information, see:

actionset.gif Allergies: Avoiding Indoor Triggers.

Household products

Many of the products you use to clean your home or use for hobbies and home improvement projects contain potentially hazardous chemicals. Some can be toxic and in sufficient doses can cause eye and respiratory problems, headaches, dizziness, visual problems, and memory impairment. One of the most important ways you can protect yourself is by following the instructions on the label. When you use cleaning or other products, be sure to open windows or use an exhaust fan to provide good ventilation. Never mix household chemicals, such as chlorine bleach and ammonia. Some mixtures can create toxic fumes that can be fatal.

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