Poor air quality is harmful and can even become life-threatening. Mold, asbestos and carbon monoxide can all contribute to unhealthy indoor air quality (IAQ) in an apartment. It is important to take the proper precautions when managing IAQ to ensure a safe and healthy living environment.
Here are the health effects of hazardous toxins and what to do if they are present.
Mold is one of the most common toxins found in an apartment, impacting residents' health. It grows in areas with excess moisture and inadequate ventilation, such as:
Unsanitary conditions or improperly kept living spaces can also contribute to the growth of mold spores. Because it tends to develop in wooden fixtures, carpet, fabric and other upholstery, it's important to keep these items clean and in good condition. Use fans, turn on vents, open windows and wipe up spills to reduce the likelihood of mold growth.
Three of the most dangerous types of mold that could develop in an apartment building are Stachybotrys (black mold), Chaetomium and Aspergillus.
Stachybotrys is a dark green or black mold that grows in damp places around an apartment. While ground floor or sub-level apartments are prone to this type, it is fair to say that regardless of where a resident is in the apartment complex, it's important to know the signs of Stachybotrys. It gives off a musty odor and causes respiratory issues, flu-like symptoms, headaches and even memory loss.
Chaetorium is similar to black mold as it too develops in damp conditions but is most common in water-damaged areas or materials. Along with allergy-like symptoms, this mold can also cause respiratory issues and severe neurological problems with prolonged exposure.
The air we breathe every day contains Aspergillus. While it normally has no effect on those without immune deficiency or certain respiratory diseases, aspergillus has also been known to cause allergic reactions, lung infections and a specific condition called aspergillosis.
There are a few ways to prevent the threat of mold:
Asbestos was a popular additive used in construction materials, such as:
Products that have asbestos are referred to as asbestos-containing materials (ACMs). Until the U.S. partially banned asbestos in the 1980s due to the discovery of its health risks, ACMs were widely used in the construction and renovation of apartment buildings. Many buildings across the country still contain asbestos today.
If ACMs begin to break down, asbestos could become airborne, infiltrate your apartment, and corrupt its air quality. During renovations, it is common to remove walls, replace tile and occasionally add insulation. Throughout this process, debris and dust release into the air and these particles and fibrous materials can work their way into the HVAC system with the potential to pollute the entire apartment.
When inhaled, asbestos can become trapped in the respiratory system and cause a variety of symptoms. Excess fluid build-up in the chest cavity, also known as pleural effusion is a common precursor to mesothelioma cancer. The identification and removal of ACMs are crucial for residents to sustain a healthy living environment.
If you suspect there are ACMs in your apartment, it is best to hire a professional to inspect and test the materials in question. It is often the landlord's responsibility to carry out hiring these professionals so ask for documentation of the previous inspection.
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a toxic gas that has no odor or color. Since CO often goes undetected, it can cause severe health problems and even kill those exposed to it. According to the National Safety Council, over 400 people die each year from CO exposure, and thousands of others are hospitalized. Appliances like ranges, water heaters and heating systems produce CO in the combustion process. Improper installation or a lack of proper maintenance can cause incorrect venting which can release CO into the living space.
CO can travel through the apartment and affect more than one room, too. Signs of exposure can manifest as:
Because CO will replace the oxygen in your bloodstream, extended exposure can lead to organ failure and even death. In order to prevent exposure to CO, one must have gas-based appliances regularly maintained by a professional to ensure they are functioning properly and sufficient ventilation is available. Carbon monoxide detectors will also monitor CO levels in the apartment
With proper education and the ability to manage one's apartment, these hazards can be avoided. Preventing mold growth, ensuring ACMs have not deteriorated and installing CO detectors are just a few ways that residents of an apartment building can take charge of their air quality and maintain a healthy living space.