June marked the first annual National Healthy Homes Month. This initiative of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) was launched to provide people with the opportunity to learn more about housing and its effects on health. The National Center for Healthy Housing estimates that approximately 35 million metropolitan U.S. homes have at least one health and safety hazard. As a means to tackle this issue, HUD set out eight healthy home principles that can be followed to make the home environment healthier.
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Heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are often described as the "lungs" of a building1. They can range in size from small stand-alone units serving a single room to large centrally controlled systems that serve multiple rooms in a building. HVAC systems in modern public and commercial buildings can provide heating, cooling, filtered outdoor air and humidity control to maintain comfort conditions in the building2. However, not all HVAC systems are designed to accomplish all of these functions. Some buildings rely only on natural ventilation while others lack mechanical cooling equipment (air conditioning, AC), and many function with little or no humidity control. Thermal comfort is commonly maintained with heated or cooled air that is mechanically distributed throughout the building.
Damp materials or high humidity environments contribute to preferential conditions for mould growth. Moulds are capable of colonising and persisting on a vast array of surfaces due to their role in nature in the decomposition and nutrient recycling process in the environment. After flooding or water damage has occurred, insufficient remediation of the affected buildings can lead to favourable conditions for mould/fungal growth, both visible and hidden. Floor coverings such as vinyl, laminate and carpets as well as underlying insulation should be replaced where necessary. Where not replaced or left untreated, flooring can act as a favourable substrate for microbial growth. Additionally, any underflooring materials such as chipboard or joists should be replaced without hesitation if damaged, while any modifications such as cracks, heaves or discolouration may be indicative of damage that needs to remediated.
Dr. Bruce Mitchell, CEO of airmid healthgroup, was delighted to present a talk entitled “Exposure to Indoor Air Contaminants in the Workplace” at the 22nd Annual Occupational Hygiene Society of Ireland conference held in Co. Limerick. In his talk Dr Mitchell addressed many of the key elements that need to be taken into account to ensure the quality of indoor air in offices.