Environmental Testing

Biological Pollutants

Biological Pollutants

Biological Pollutants in Your Home

1. Biological pollutants, like mold, dander, pollen, dust mites, and bacteria
2. Chemical pollutants, which include volatile organic compounds (VOCs) like formaldehyde, and the other chemical pollutants lead and radon
3. Combustion pollutants, like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke (incidentally, VOCs and other chemical pollutants may result from combustion)
Biological Pollutants in Your Home

According to the EPA, some biological pollutants cause allergic reactions, which include: hypersensitivity pneumonitis, allergic rhinitis, and some types of asthma. Viruses and toxins from microorganisms that are spread through the air can also cause disease. Symptoms of health problems could be sneezing, watery eyes, coughing, shortness of breath, and dizziness.

Our contamination testing experts provide a strategic response to resolving a contamination incident, which incorporates both a stringent risk assessment methodology and investigational insight, with focus on accurate identification of the nature of the contaminant, determination of its source and on swift resolution via key techniques including spectroscopy and microscopy.

We detect, isolate and identify suspected contaminants down to trace and ultra-trace levels, to quickly understand the contamination problem and are typically experienced in dealing with various sample types such as liquids, solids, gases, surfaces, powders & particles, metals, polymers, formulated chemical products, silicones, greases, lubricants, cleaning agents, organic and inorganic materials.

We understand that time is critical in any contamination situation that you face, and as such, we specialise in rapid response problem solving, lasting solutions and client support via contamination control and decontamination across many manufacturing sectors, products and markets.

Our laboratories are staffed by industry-experienced personnel who provide an independent, specialist resource using a wide range of proven and advanced analytical techniques, guiding you through the issues which you may be facing.


Biological Pollutants

What Are Biological Pollutants?

Biological pollutants are or were living organisms. They promote poor indoor air quality and may be a major cause of days lost from work or school, and of doctor and hospital visits. Some can even damage surfaces inside and outside your house. Biological pollutants can travel through the air and are often invisible.

Some common indoor biological pollutants are:

  • Animal Dander (minute scales from hair, feathers, or skin)
  • Dust Mite and Cockroach parts
  • Infectious agents (bacteria or viruses)
  • Pollen

Some of these substances are in every home. It is impossible to get rid of them all. Even a spotless home may permit the growth of biological pollutants. Two conditions are essential to support biological growth nutrients and moisture. These conditions can be found in many locations, such as bathrooms, damp or flooded basements, wet appliances (such as humidifiers or air conditioners), and even some carpets and furniture.

Modern materials and construction techniques may reduce the amount of outside air brought into buildings which may result in high moisture levels inside. Using humidifiers, unvented heaters, and air conditioners in our homes has increased the chances of moisture forming on interior surfaces. This encourages the growth of certain biological pollutants.


Mold Air Quality Testing

Biological Pollutants: Mold

For more than a decade, mold has been in the news. People are talking about the effect on overall health and damage to the building. But what are the risks and issues related to mold?

The available science on the different types of mold and their potential health effects remains under study, but considerable progress has been made in the last decade.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Institute of Medicine of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the World Health Organization (WHO) and Health Canada all agree that living or working in a building with mold damage results in increased risk of respiratory disease.

Although there are several guidance documents available, there are no accepted national or international standards for mold investigation, evaluation or remediation.

However, the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA), has worked to translate the advice from the previously mentioned government agencies into state-of-the-art inspection and sampling protocols. If properly used, these methods are suitable for assessing hidden contamination and directing essential visual inspections. For health outcomes, there are no available exposure assessment methods that can provide useful information for individuals. This is primarily due to the fact that each person’s response to mold exposure is unique.


Indoor Air Quality Testing for Biological Pollutants Dust Mites

Biological Pollutants: Dust Mites

Dust mites are tiny microscopic relatives of the spider and live on mattresses, bedding, upholstered furniture, carpets and curtains.

These tiny creatures feed on the flakes of skin that people and pets shed daily and they thrive in warm and humid environments.

No matter how clean a home is, dust mites cannot be totally eliminated. However, the number of mites can be reduced by following the suggestions below.

Dust mite allergens are one of the most powerful of the biological allergens and can be an asthma trigger. Asthma triggers in general may cause symptoms like coughing, tightness in the chest, wheezing, and breathing problems.

Dust Mites: Preventive Strategies
  • Use a dehumidifier or air conditioner to maintain relative humidity at about 50% or below.
  • Encase your mattress and pillows in dust-proof or allergen impermeable covers (available from specialty supply mail order companies, bedding and some department stores).
  • Wash all bedding and blankets once a week in hot water (at least 130 – 140°F) to kill dust mites. Non-washable bedding can be frozen overnight to kill dust mites.
  • Replace wool or feather bedding with synthetic materials and traditional stuffed animals with washable ones.
  • If possible, replace wall-to-wall carpets in bedrooms with bare floors (linoleum, tile or wood) and remove fabric curtains and upholstered furniture.
  • Use a damp mop or rag to remove dust. Never use a dry cloth since this just stirs up mite allergens.
  • Use a vacuum cleaner with either a double-layered microfilter bag or a HEPA filter to trap allergens that pass through a vacuum exhaust.
  • Wear a mask while vacuuming to avoid inhaling allergens, and stay out of the vacuumed area for 20 minutes to allow any dust and allergens to settle after vacuuming.


Indoor air quality testing for pollen

Biological Pollutants: Pollen

Pollen is one of the most common allergens around the world. In the United States alone, over 67 million people suffer from allergies, and of those 67 million, 81% say they are allergic to pollen.

As you may know, pollen is an airborne allergen, which is picked up and carried by the wind. Various trees, grasses and weeds create pollen, which can cause hay fever, irritate your sinus passages, cause rhinitis and irritate your eyes and skin.

The immune system normally defends the body against harmful invaders — such as viruses and bacteria — to ward off illnesses.

In people with pollen allergies, the immune system mistakenly identifies the harmless pollen as a dangerous intruder. It begins to produce chemicals to fight against the pollen.

This is known as an allergic reaction, and the specific type of pollen that causes it is known as an allergen. The reaction leads to numerous irritating symptoms, such as:

  • sneezing
  • stuffy nose
  • watery eyes
  • nasal congestion
  • sinus pressure, which may cause facial pain
  • runny nose
  • itchy, watery eyes
  • scratchy throat
  • cough
  • swollen, bluish-colored skin beneath the eyes
  • decreased sense of taste or smell
  • increased asthmatic reactions

Scope of the problem

The Scope Of The Problem

Most information about sources and health effects of biological pollutants is based on studies of large office buildings and two surveys of homes in northern U.S. and Canada. These surveys show that 30% to 50% of all structures have damp conditions which may encourage the growth and buildup of biological pollutants. This percentage is likely to be higher in warm, moist climates.

Some diseases or illnesses have been linked with biological pollutants in the indoor environment. However, many of them also have causes unrelated to the indoor environment. Therefore, we don’t know how many health problems relate only to poor indoor air.

Health Effects Of Biological Pollutants

Health Effects Of Biological Pollutants

All of us are exposed to biological pollutants. However, the effects on our health depend upon the type and amount of biological pollution and the individual person. Some people do not experience health reactions from certain biological pollutants, while others may experience one or more of the following reactions:

  • Allergic
  • Infectious
  • Toxic
health effects of mold

Except for the spread of infections indoors, allergic reactions may be the most common health problem with indoor air quality in homes. They are often connected with animal dander, with house dust mites, and with pollen. Allergic reactions can range from mildly uncomfortable to life-threatening, as in a severe asthma attack.

Some common signs and symptoms of common Biological Pollutants are:

  • Watery eyes
  • Runny nose and sneezing
  • Nasal congestion
  • Itching
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing and difficulty breathing
  • Headache
  • Fatigue

Health experts are especially concerned about people with asthma. People with asthma have very sensitive airways that can react to various irritants, making breathing difficult.

The number of people who have asthma has greatly increased in recent years. The number of people with asthma has gone up by 59 percent since 1970, to a total of 9.6 million people. Asthma in children under 15 years of age has increased 41 percent in the same period, to a total of 2.6 million children. The number of deaths from asthma is up by 68 percent since 1979, to a total of almost 4,400 deaths per year.

Testing for Mold

Testing for Mold and other Biological Pollutants

We must remember that blind testing for biological allergens is not recommended–it is best to have a hunch or at least a lineup of likely suspect contaminants as to which ones are contributing to your indoor air pollution.

After an initial walkthrough of your home or project site,  and taking preventive measures, if you have not experienced any relief in symptoms or are not convinced that your air is clean, indoor air quality testing is a good option.

StarLabs’s tests are specific for one or up to 14 common biological pollutants, from house dust mite allergens,  animal allergens, and pollens.

What can you do about mold?

What You Can Do About Mold and Biological Pollutants

Properly cleaning and maintaining your home can help reduce the problem and may avoid interrupting your normal routine. People who have health problems such as asthma, or are allergic, may need to do this and more. Discuss this with your doctor.

Moisture Control

Water in your home can come from many sources. Water can enter your home by leaking or by seeping through basement floors. Showers or even cooking can add moisture to the air in your home. The amount of moisture that the air in your home can hold depends on the temperature of the air. As the temperature goes down, the air is able to hold less moisture. This is why, in cold weather, moisture condenses on cold surfaces (for example, drops of water form on the inside of a window). This moisture can encourage biological pollutants to grow.

How to control moisture and reduce mold growth
  • Fix leaks and seepage. If water is entering the house from the outside, your options range from simple landscaping to extensive excavation and waterproofing. (The ground should slope away from the house). Water in the basement can result from the lack of gutters or a water flow toward the house. Water leaks in pipes or around tubs and sinks can provide a place for biological pollutants to grow.
  • Turn off certain appliances (such as humidifiers or kerosene heaters) if you notice moisture on windows and other surfaces.
  • Use dehumidifiers and air conditioners, especially in hot, humid climates, to reduce moisture in the air, but be sure that the appliances themselves don’t become sources of biological pollutants.
  • Raise the temperature of cold surfaces where moisture condenses.
    • Use insulation or storm windows. A storm window installed on the inside works better than one installed on the outside.
    • Increase circulation by opening doors between rooms, especially doors to closets which may be colder than the rooms.
    • Circulation carries heat to the cold surfaces. Increase air circulation by using fans and by moving furniture from wall corners to promote air and heat circulation.
    • Be sure that your house has a source of fresh air and can expel excessive moisture from the home.
  • Put a plastic cover over dirt crawl spaces to prevent moisture from coming in from the ground. Be sure crawlspaces are well-ventilated.
  • Pay special attention to carpet on concrete floors. Carpet can absorb moisture and serve as a place for biological pollutants to grow.
    • Use area rugs which can be taken up and washed often
    • In certain climates, if carpet is to be installed over a concrete floor, it maybe necessary to use a vapor barrier (plastic sheeting) over the concrete and cover that with sub-flooring (insulation covered with plywood) to prevent a moisture problem.
  • Use exhaust fans in bathrooms and kitchens to remove moisture to the outside (not into the attic) Vent your clothes dryer to the outside.
  • Moisture problems and their solutions differ from one climate to another.
    • The Northeast is cold and wet, the Southwest is hot and dry, the South is hot and wet, and the Western Mountain states are cold and dry.
    • All of these regions can have moisture problems. For example, evaporative coolers used in the Southwest can encourage the growth of biological pollutants.
    • In other hot regions, the use of air conditioners which cool the air too quickly may prevent the air conditioners from running long enough to remove excess moisture from the air.
    • The types of construction and weatherization for the different climates can lead to different problems and solutions.
Where mold and biological pollutants may be found
  • Dirty air conditioners
  • Dirty humidifiers and/or dehumidifiers
  • Bathroom without vents or windows
  • Kitchen without vents or windows
  • Dirty refrigerator drip pans
  • Laundry room with unvented dryer
  • Unventilated attic
  • Carpet on damp basement floor
  • Bedding
  • Closets
  • Dirty HVAC system
  • Dogs or cats
  • Water damage

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