Fall is the season of change: summer’s heat and dryness yields to cool, foggy dampness as the sun lowers its arc over the horizon. And with the changing weather comes a shift in the types of calls received by our Toxicology Information Center (TIC). As people seal up their homes and workplaces from the cold and wet, we begin to hear more about indoor air quality (IAQ) issues; in particular, ailments associated with stuffy air and mold growth.
Here are a few tips to avoid these problems: first, have your heating and air conditioning (HVAC) system checked and maintained annually by a qualified specialist. Clogged or dirty filters, standing water, and poorly functioning combustion units are a primary source for IAQ complaints. Moreover, poorly functioning HVAC systems can become a dangerous source of carbon monoxide, which is an insidious and far too common cause of serious illness, debility and death every Fall and Winter in the United States.
Second, now is a good time to check for structural problems that can lead to dampness and water intrusion into the home or workplace. Standing water in basements and subfloor areas, increased humidity from poor air exchange (kitchens and bathrooms in particular), and water-soaked structural materials are all good places for mold to grow. Mold is a problem of dampness, so correction of these problems will prevent ailments associated with indoor mold growth.
And finally, take care of your own health and well being during this time of decreasing daylight. Now is a good time to get your flu shot. And seasonal affective disorder is a common, but treatable ailment that reduces our happiness and productivity. Get adequate exercise, eat a healthy diet, make sure you get enough sleep, and if necessary, use a ‘happy light’ to increase your sense of well-being and reduce depression.
Do you have questions for our TIC or Occupational Health and Safety Information Center? Contact the TIC Director, Fred Berman, Ph.D. You can also submit questions directly though CROETweb or to Dede Montgomery.