Studies have shown that people are healthier, more comfortable and more productive in structures with good indoor air quality (IAQ). The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers defines acceptable indoor air quality as air in which there are no known contaminants at harmful concentrations as determined by cognizant authorities and with which a substantial majority (80%) of the people exposed do not express dissatisfaction. Happiness is directly related to a sense of purpose and a sense of contentment or wellness and self-awareness is related to longevity.
These indoor air contaminants could be particulates, vapours and gases generated by occupants and their activities. They can also come from building materials, furniture, equipment and appliances present in indoor space, operations and maintenance activities, or brought in from outside. Indoor pollutants include certain gases such as radon, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide; volatile organic...
Have you ever thought about what grows on your towels after a few days? Dampness left behind plus skin cells we shed naturally allow germs to grow and could cause them to smell. Bacteria and fungi are capable of surviving on fabrics for months. This can result in clothing and bed linen, as well as towels, becoming sources of infection for others.
Textile contamination and laundering have been extensively researched, especially with regard to the SARS-CoV-2 virus pandemic. Studies have shown that the SARS-CoV-2 virus can remain infectious between 5 minutes and 24 hours on cotton. It’s not difficult to see how this can be important in the current pandemic.
Looking at typical fungi, like Aspergillus, Fusarium, Mucor, and the yeast Candida, they can survive from 1 to 30 days on cotton, terry towelling, and even spandex. Studies have also shown that Staphylococcus aureus can survive on cotton for 3 weeks, faecal coliforms can survive for up to 4-months on cotton, and cotton fabrics...
Prevention, they say, is better than cure. And that forms the basis of preventive medicine, a proactive approach aimed at getting ahead of the potential causes of diseases by promoting healthy behaviours and screening for diseases with the aim to keep people from becoming sick in the first place rather than treating diseases when they eventually occur.
Disease and disability are affected by environmental factors, genetic predisposition, disease agents, and lifestyle choices and are dynamic processes that begin before individuals realize they are affected (source: Wikipedia).
Preventive medicine can be practiced by governmental agencies, primary care
physicians and the individual himself, according to E. A. Clarke, an assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biometrics at the School of Hygiene, University of Toronto, Canada.
“In the past, many diseases have been conquered by doing things for the individual. The present challenge of preventive medicine is...
Do you know that the most humid parts of the world are Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia; Jakarta, Indonesia; and Singapore, all in South and Southeast Asia as well as Darwin in Australia? Do you also know that, on average, people in Hong Kong stay indoors for over 80 percent of their day because of their humid climate?
This underscores the need to maintain an indoor living environment that is free of mould because of the huge challenges of living in a humid climate.
So, it's important to realize that the potential for mould is higher in humid climates. This is because the water vapour from the air can condense out onto surfaces and provide a water source for mould to grow.
In case you don’t know the meaning of mould, biologists define it as a fungus that grows in the form of multicellular filaments called hyphae that form a mycelium. This is a network that might also give rise to a fruiting body, which is the familiar mushroom stage for some fungi. Fungi are everywhere, and a...
Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS) is a very serious, often overlooked condition. About one in four people with the disease cannot work or participate in normal day-to-day activities. It is a disease that affects people of all ages or gender, but one funny thing about it is that it is often unrecognized and possibly remains undiagnosed in many cases.
MCAS is a group of diseases involving the immune system. When the triggers occur, antigens are raised inside the body, which might result in itchiness, for example. But this also leads to a histamine cascade, which causes contraction of the respiratory vessels. Then blood vessels dilate and result in gastric acid secretion.
Many people with MCAS can have very serious life-threatening reactions such as anaphylaxis. Typical symptoms include itching, headaches, brain fog, fatigue, heart palpitations, hives, shortness of breath, gastrointestinal problems, wheezing, low blood pressure, anxiety and, very typically, a flushing or a swelling,...
According to statistics, about 90 percent of our time is spent indoors. The number could be much higher in recent times due to COVID-19 which has caused many governments around the world to impose lockdowns and forced people, including children, to stay home in order to avoid contracting the virus and halt its spread.
But more worrisome is the fact that these kids are also exposed to other dangers – like the threat from airborne allergen exposure in their early lives.
The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology defines an allergen as a usually harmless substance capable of triggering a response that starts in the immune system and results in an allergic reaction, like sneezing or itching. For instance, if you have an allergy to pollen, your immune system identifies pollen as an invader or allergen. But the reaction event can turn serious and also be overlooked.
How then does the indoor living environment affect children? A recent study in environmental...
Allergens are all around us. It seems like a fairly straightforward concept, though how they find their way to us can be extremely surprising. Take for example, animal allergens. If you learned that your child had a dog allergy, what steps would you take to avoid issues for them?
The most common response to this would likely be some variation of not having a pet dog and limiting visits to places where dogs live. After all, kids spend most of their time at school or at home so you may think there is little risk of exposure in these controlled environments.
This is, however, not the case. Studies have found that children will be exposed to dog and cat allergens just by attending school. During a 1998 study conducted in a Swedish school it was discovered that allergens were present on the clothes worn by all pet owning students. Despite preventative measures we may take against them, allergens still find a way to infiltrate places we believe are safe.
Allergens are definitely a...
COVID-19 has reshaped how we think about public health and the practical steps we take every day to keep ourselves safe and healthy. Today more than ever, we share a heightened responsibility surrounding our environmental hygiene, as well as the potential harm that poor cleaning habits can cause.
Something we encounter every day is dust. It’s synonymous with being untidy, old, and causing us to sneeze. But perhaps in our post-COVID world, we will see dust a little differently.
Dust is an organic material, a combination of microbial vegetable or animal materials. Often, household dust is comprised of skin cells from human inhabitants and pets. As it is biological, dust can contain viruses, bacteria, fungi, algae, insects, mites, and even antibiotics. Moreover, dust contributes to bioaerosols, which when disturbed, become airborne and can cause respiratory issues. This forms part of the background bioburden to the home and the subsequent risks from...
Bathtime wouldn’t be the same without a rubber duck. For children, and maybe some adults too, the main attraction of a scrub in the tub is the chance to play with rubber or plastic bath toys, watching them bob amongst the bubbles and submerge amongst the suds. But beneath the cheery exterior of bright wide eyes and chirpy beak exists a hidden danger - one that could make you or your children very unwell.
The best way to investigate this is to chop them open (sorry, ducky), revealing the microbial growths that manifest inside. The initial findings are startling, showing a significant build-up of dark, murky slime, known as a biofilm. Biofilms are, in fact, a whole host of different microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi and moulds, that stick to each other and form a slimy substance to help them survive and multiply.
What’s shocking is that this is not just a one-off or a particularly old toy. Research found that 70% of bath toys contained the same black, slimy...
Pathogen. Germ. Bug. Infection. Virus. Plague. Today, more than ever, it seems like we are constantly surrounded by an invisible world of hidden dangers. These words are synonymous with our times, but we are not the first generation who have had to contend with a dangerous pathogen. So, what is a pathogen, and how has history shaped the relationship between them and humans?
Pathogens, defined as an organism that causes a disease to its host, are spread across our planet on an unbelievably vast scope. They occupy every known environment, from nuclear waste sites to rocks buried thousands of metres beneath the surface of the Earth. Moreover, they are numerous as well as widespread. Scientists estimate the number of viruses on earth to be about 1031. That’s 10 billion times the number of stars in the universe.
For over 1.5 billion years, viruses and other microorganisms have been seeking biological hosts in which they can manifest, and humans have been in an evolutionary...