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Secret Allergen Attacks - Part 2

This is the final excerpt from E Magazine, March/April 2009, a noteworthy article about protecting our precious little ones by learning about the more unrecognized allergen sources and where they are located, with simple solutions that can help reduce those indoor asthma triggers.

Where to Find Indoor Allergy and Asthma Triggers, and How to Stop Them

by Jeffrey C. May

Last time we learned about some obvious and some not-so-obvious sources of indoor allergens, such as Dog Beds, Fish Aquariums, Feathers and Jar Candles. This time we'll discover a few more that just may surprise you.

Kitchens and Laundry Areas

Kitchens and laundry areas can contain allergen sources. Always vent a dryer to the exterior, because lint or excess moisture can build up indoors, leading to condensation and mold growth on cool surfaces. And if your dryer hose is leaky, lint containing potentially irritating laundry chemicals can build up behind the appliance and enter the home on dryer airflows.

Solution: Check the hose for leaks and also vacuum the lint collector area. Lots of lint collects in the slot where the catcher is located.

If your refrigerator has a drip tray that hasn't been cleaned for a while, it may be full of mold, yeast and bacteria.

Solution: Remove the tray once or twice a year for cleaning. If the tray is plastic, add three tablespoons of salt to inhibit microbial growth.


Basements are prone to elevated relative humidity and mold growth. In the winter, up to a third of the air in a house rises from the basement, so basement mold is a potential health concern.

It's not always easy to see surface mold growth. Shine a bright flashlight parallel to a surface to look for oval mold colonies. In an unfinished basement, mold can grow on the bottom of a shelf or workbench, on the ceiling joists or on dust captured in exposed fiberglass insulation. In finished basements, mold can grow on the lower foot of wooden furniture legs, on furniture surfaces facing cooler floors or walls, and in dust captured in a basement carpet.

Solution: Control the moisture that leads to mold by dehumidifying a finished or unfinished basement in the humid season. Measure the relative humidity (RH) with a hygrometer, and keep the RH at or below 50%. [I use a Digital Pen-Type Hygrometer Model DTH10&91; And whether in use or not, finished basements must also be consistently heated in the cooler season, with the thermostat set no lower than 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

Air-to-Air Heat Exchanger

An air-to-air heat exchanger helps flush out a home's stale air and lets the fresh air in, but because cool air and warm, mist air flow by each other inside the heat exchanger, condensation can occur. Most air-to-air heat exchangers have inadequate filtration and fill with dust, dead bugs and pollen, leading to mold growth. By-products of this biological growth - including unpleasant smells - are carried into the house on the incoming air stream.

Solution: If you have an air-to-air heat exchanger in your home, install a supplemental MERV-8 (minimum efficiency rating value) filter on both the intake duct for the house air and the intake duct for the exterior air. And clean the heat exchanger at least twice a year to avoid dust build-up.

Real vigilance against household allergens may result in increased energy use, but preventing mold growth and keeping a home's indoor air clean is essential to protecting your family's health. And properly maintaining appliances and filters is always energy-wise in the long run.

Surprise, surprise for me; I learned a great deal. I hope this was helpful for you. Let me know.

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