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Is Your Facility Asthma-Friendly?

With the constant application of cleaning chemicals, businesses need to ensure that they are providing a healthy workplace for their employees as well as providing a healthy place for their customers, particularly those with asthma.  Children and the elderly with pre-existing lung conditions such as asthma are highly susceptible to irritants.  Statistics show that 1 in 10 children and 1 in 12 adults in Florida currently have asthma.

Asthma is one of the most common chronic diseases in children, and cases in Florida of adults with asthma are on the rise.  During an asthma attack, the person may experience wheezing, chest tightness, and difficulty breathing requiring a visit to an emergency room.  Although there is no cure for asthma, it can be controlled and exacerbations can be avoided by eliminating or avoiding asthma triggers, using medication properly, and following medical advice from healthcare providers.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) designates many different “asthma triggers” that could exacerbate asthma in both children and adults.  Some of those triggers come from chemicals used for cleaning and disinfecting purposes.  These chemicals produce volatile organic compounds (VOCs).  With improper air flow or ventilation, the vapors from these chemicals can accumulate in indoor spaces and subsequently trigger an asthma attack. Building owners, such as nursing homes, assisted living facilities, schools, learning facilities, and daycare centers should make certain that their facilities implement a management plan to reduce or eliminate those asthma triggers to ensure they are providing a healthy indoor environment.

Some of the ways building owners can implement a plan to be an asthma-friendly facility are as follows:

  • Ensure the building is free from pests, pest droppings, and heavy dust/debris accumulation
  • Make sure the heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are functioning properly and the air filters are installed correctly
  • Repair any water leaks and water damage immediately to prevent mold formation
  • Clean up areas with visible mold growth
  • Limit exposure to VOCs by minimizing product use
  • Only use cleaning and disinfectant products that are EPA approved

During this pandemic, the overuse of cleaning chemicals is not uncommon.  Therefore, building owners need to be vigilant in ensuring they are providing a healthy place for guests, employees, residents, students, and other building occupants who may have asthma.  With the help of a qualified indoor air quality specialist, such as a Certified Industrial Hygienist, building owners are able to provide an asthma-friendly facility.

To Help Prevent Mold Growth, Some Things to Remember When Your House Suffers From A Water Intrusion During A Hurricane

The 2020 hurricane season is here, and we hope none will ever make landfall in any of the countries including the United States. But when one does make landfall in the United States, it is inevitable that homes will suffer from water damage due to the hurricane.

There are many ways water can enter your home during a hurricane. Some of the ways include wind driven rain through cracks or gaps, water seepage from flooding, water through damaged roofs, and water through improperly installed or defective construction of windows.

Depending on the amount of water that enters your home, you will most likely see evidence of the damage, such as actual water dripping from the ceiling or walls, or presence of water on the floors.  When building materials inside your home get wet, mold will start to form on these materials when they are not effectively dried. Ideally, when your home suffers from a significant amount of water damage, such as during a hurricane, you would want the help of a reputable water damage restoration contractor to dry out wet building materials in a timely manner. However, during a hurricane, these companies may be stretched as they will be responding to so many damaged homes. So, here are some things to remember when you notice water intrusion inside your home until you get some help from a professional drying company

  • Generally, the first thing to do when your home suffers from water intrusion is to stop the source of the moisture before you begin the drying process, but during a hurricane, this may not be an option
  • Immediately after the hurricane has passed and it is safe to do so, it is important to assess your home for any water damaged affected areas
  • Wet items that cannot be salvaged, such as paper products with no sentimental value, should be discarded immediately
  • Dry any water on the concrete or tile floor
  • If carpet floor covering is saturated, it should be removed and discarded including the padding
  • Carefully remove the baseboards to avoid damaging the wall paint on wet walls or where water had seeped through from the outside.  Removing the baseboards will help prevent trapped moisture between drywall and baseboards
  • Significant water seepage into hardwood floor covering may be impossible to effectively remove or dry
  • Use fans to dry wet walls. Care should be taken when doing this if you or others in the house have allergies or asthma.  Fans will stir up dust and debris and other allergens that could potentially trigger these conditions

Typically, mold will start to grow on suitable materials or substrates within 24-48 hours of being wet.  So, doing what you can to dry any affected building materials within this time frame will help minimize mold-related damage. It is important to remember though that some wet building materials can only be dried effectively with the help of a professional restoration company.  So, the sooner you can get a company to help you with your water intrusion, the better it is in helping to prevent mold growth inside your home as a result of water intrusion during a hurricane.

What You Can Do To Help Lower Your Risk Of Getting Food-borne Illnesses From Dining At Restaurants After The Pandemic

The stay-at-home order has been lifted. Restaurants are open and allowed to have dining room seating. After many weeks of quarantine, most people cannot wait to get back to their “normal” including eating at their favorite restaurants.

Many of you who have gone out to eat at a restaurant may have noticed everyone who works at the restaurant including the waiters and waitresses, is wearing gloves. Before the pandemic, only employees who prepare food or who handle food wore gloves. Now, everyone is wearing them. While wearing gloves may seem like a good idea in preventing the spread of germs, it can also give a false sense of security. This happens when a restaurant worker does not change the gloves after touching a potentially contaminated material or surface.

While most restaurant workers are very diligent in ensuring they keep a healthy and clean environment for their patrons, there are those who fail to understand proper cleanliness and germ control. So, what can you do to protect you and your loved ones from becoming sick from food-borne illnesses? Ask yourself the following when dining out:

  • Is your server showing any outward signs and symptoms of upper respiratory infection, such as sneezing, coughing, watery eyes, or itchy nose?
  • Is your server wearing the recommended mask covering his/her nose and mouth?
  • Is your female server’s long hair pulled back securely so that it is not dangling around and potentially making contact with your food?
  • Does your male server have a beard? If so, do you see any white particulates on his chest that could be evident of dry flaky skin under his beard?
  • Is your server wearing gloves?
  • Is your server’s work attire clean, neat, and free from any visible dirt or stains?
  • Does your server constantly touch his or her face, hair or adjust the mask with his or her gloved hands?
  • Is your server helping other patrons who show outward signs and symptoms of upper respiratory infection?
  • What other tasks is your server doing simultaneously while serving you?
  • Is he or she using a recycled wet rag to wipe down tables and other surfaces?
  • Does your server use his/her personal cell phone in between customers?
  • Does your server have any open wounds on his or her arms or hands?

If you notice your server is not practicing proper germ control, such as failing to change his or her gloves after touching a potentially contaminated surface or item, do not hesitate to let him or her or management on duty know immediately and in a polite way, of course. Depending on the type of training they have had, the server may not fully understand how not to spread germs. Although we cannot fully eliminate all the germs we encounter, we can certainly minimize our exposure to them by being aware and cognizant of our surroundings. Knowing how to minimize our risks will allow us to continue to enjoy dining at our favorite restaurants and most importantly, prevent us from experiencing the discomfort of food poisoning.

Helpful Tips To Prevent Work-Related Injury After Being Away from Your Job

Unfortunately, most people lost their jobs due to the unprecedented closures of most business operations due to the corona virus infectious disease-2019 (COVID-19). While some who lost their jobs continued to be physically active or acquired new physical hobbies, there are those who continued to lead sedentary lives due to many personal reasons.

Now that stay-at-home orders have been lifted and businesses are allowed to resume their operations, many people will be returning to work.  It is time to start thinking about how to remain safe at work while performing your job and prevent work-related injuries.  It is important to remember that the muscles you normally used before to do your job will need to get slowly reconditioned to avoid or prevent any musculoskeletal injuries.

Here are some tips to help you minimize your risk from getting injured during the early days of doing your job functions:

  • Properly stretch the muscle groups you will be using for a particular job
  • Maintain proper hydration
  • Know and maintain proper lifting techniques
  • Make sure your workstation is properly set up to ensure you maintain proper posture and body alignment when you’re sitting and doing computer work for prolonged periods of time.  It is important to take breaks so that you’re not in a static posture for prolonged periods of time
  • To prevent heat-related illness for outdoor workers, know the signs and symptoms of dehydration and follow OSHA’s recommendations: water, rest, and shade
  • If you will be required to wear a mask the entire time while doing your job and  depending on your job function, the physical demand of your job may require you to breathe harder and faster. Having a mask on may interfere with proper exhalation and inhalation so know your limits and how your body is adapting to these changes.  If you feel dizzy, take a break and if possible and if it is safe to do so, take off your mask until you are able to maintain a normal breathing pattern again and you no longer feel dizzy or short of breath.  If difficulty with breathing continues, call for emergency help right away
  • Know or re-acquaint yourself with your company’s policy for reporting work-related injury
  • Recognize job stress and know how to manage it

If despite your diligence in working safely you are injured at work, notify your immediate supervisor right away or follow your company’s policy on what to do when injured on the job. It is never a good idea to have a “wait and see approach” when it comes to work-related injury no matter how minor you think it is.  Prior to seeking medical treatment for work-related injuries, always let your employer know first.  If you’re injured on the job, your company’s Workers’ Compensation insurance will be responsible for any medical treatments you receive for the injury.  You will be responsible for any medical treatments you receive for any work-related injuries until you file a Workers’ Compensation claim.  Remember, your employer wants you to be safe and injury-free at work, so it is important to do your part in following your employer’s safety culture.

What Businesses Need to Know Before Hiring A Contractor to Clean and Disinfect

Businesses want to do their part in keeping their employees, as well as the public, safe by having their workplaces cleaned and disinfected amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Many water damage and mold remediation contractors are now offering cleaning and disinfection services. You see some of them promoting their services on television, and you might have noticed they are using a fogging machine to disinfect surfaces.

Prior to hiring a contractor, it is important to know their cleaning and disinfection protocol, who will be performing the job, the type of training they’ve had, and most importantly, the names of the cleaning agents they will be using.  It is important to know and list the cleaning agents to ensure they are EPA-approved disinfectant solutions.  This will also come in handy at a later time when workers return to the building, and they complain of irritation, malodor and other health-related issues.  Additionally, the list of the cleaning chemicals will serve as a starting point when trying to determine the cause of the complaints.  

Businesses need to know that any chemicals used to kill bacteria and viruses can also have many health-related implications to certain individuals.  These chemicals are irritants and can pose sensitivity issues to certain worker populations.  Many cleaning and disinfecting agents release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air. VOCs have short and long-term adverse health effects and depending on the level of exposure, VOCs can cause mucous membrane irritation, headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and fatigue just to name a few.  During the cleaning and disinfection process, the levels of VOCs inside the building will be exponentially higher than outdoors.

Below are some recommendations businesses can use to reduce worker exposure to VOCs and minimize worker complaints post cleaning and disinfection:

  • Make sure the areas are well ventilated
  • Make sure there is enough time between last application and building re-occupancy to ensure the levels of VOCs are no longer a threat
  • Make sure there is no noticeable odor in the building  prior to re-occupancy
  • Make sure the HVAC system is operating properly

If despite these efforts, building occupants still complain of  health-related issues that could be attributed to VOC exposure, it is wise to consult with a certified industrial hygienist (CIH) to assess the workplace and investigate the complaints.  Industrial hygienists are trained professionals in the anticipation, recognition, evaluation, and control of workplace conditions that may cause workers’ injury or illness.  Another option is to be proactive and consult with an industrial hygienist to assist with formulating a pre-occupancy plan to minimize further business interruption due to worker complaints.  

While cleaning and disinfecting workplaces is prudent, it could also result in secondary harm to employees.  Hopefully, by knowing this information beforehand, businesses are able to implement strategies after cleaning and disinfection of their workplaces and before workers return to work so that they can prevent or minimize worker complaints.

Ways to Promote Healthy Indoor Air

Many of us are staying at home more than usual due to the COVID-19 pandemic. More than ever, now it’s time to start thinking about the air we breathe inside our homes. Having healthy indoor air helps prevent exacerbation of certain pre-existing conditions, such as asthma or any other lung diseases. Because what we breathe in usually cannot be seen with our naked eye, we tend to not pay attention to it until we experience allergy-like symptoms or smell a bad odor. So, what can homeowners do to keep healthy indoor air? Here are a few things to consider:

HVAC System

HVAC stands for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. This system is what I call the main artery of your indoor air. Since the system distributes and circulates air throughout your home, it is very important to ensure it is functioning properly. Make sure the air filter you are using has an appropriate MERV rating and replaced regularly to ensure particulates are being captured. MERV stands for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value. It reports a filter’s ability to capture larger particles between 0.3 and 10 microns. Maintenance of the unit should be done by a NADCA certified technician. NADCA stands for National Air Duct Cleaners Association and provides certification to individuals performing inspection, cleaning, and restoration of HVAC. Keep the air vents and air return grills clean and free of any visible dust accumulation. Do not block the air return vent(s). Make sure there is no standing water in the drain pan. Inspect the drain line on a regular basis. Seek advice from an HVAC contractor on how to properly maintain the drain line to prevent clogging that results in subsequent water leak. Maintain the relative humidity (RH) levels inside your home between 30 and 60% to minimize growth of pathogenic or allergenic organisms. Beware of UV light and biocide application cleaning methodologies of the air ducts. The EPA does not recommend cleaning of air ducts to be done on a routine basis. Additionally, there are no chemical biocides currently registered by the EPA for use in internally-insulated air duct system. So, do your research before hiring a company who markets these types of services.


We know that smoking cigarettes can cause many health-related problems. Smoking indoors contributes to poor air quality and can exacerbates conditions like asthma. The byproducts of cigarette smoke have been shown to linger on surfaces months after smokers have moved out of the house. We are all aware of second hand smoke but third hand smoke has now become a concern as well. So, if quitting smoking is not something you are ready to pursue, refrain from smoking inside your home. If you smoke outside your home, make sure you wash your hands with soap and water immediately after and change your clothing immediately. It may be wise to keep a separate laundry basket for your contaminated clothes and launder separately.


Mold has gained notoriety over the past years from being connected to deaths of children and adults. The fact is mold spores are everywhere and in the air we breathe. Mold becomes a problem in your home if your home suffers from a water intrusion. Mold can affect your indoor air quality if there is significant visible mold growth on your walls or in and around your air handling unit and air return vents. Mold releases compounds known as microbial volatile organic compounds (MVOCs) if it is growing on constantly wet building materials, and these MVOCs can affect the air quality of your home. Homeowners may notice a musty or mildew-like odor in the presence of these compounds. So, make sure to repair any sources of moisture in your home immediately. For severe water intrusion, make sure you hire a reputable water damage restoration contractor who is licensed in the state you live in to immediately and effectively dry any wet building materials. In general, mold will start to grow on suitable wet building materials within 24-48 hours after being wet. For any visible mold that is extensive, and you need further guidance on how to address it, be sure to hire a licensed mold assessor in the state where you live (if it’s required). Beware of contractors who both perform mold remediation and mold testing/assessment. A remediation contractor is prohibited from performing mold assessments in the state of Florida. So check your state’s licensure requirements.


We don’t hear much about radon having an effect on your home air quality. The fact is radon is just as concerning, if not more concerning, as mold or cigarette smoke. Radon has been classified as a cancer-causing radioactive gas. Unfortunately, you cannot see, smell, or taste radon, and if it’s in the air you breathe in, it can increase your risk of having lung cancer. The EPA recommends having your home tested for radon as radon has been found in homes all over the United States. We get most of our radiation exposure at home since this is where we spend most of our time, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Candles and Incense

As much as we love burning our scented candles and incense, they also generate potential heath issues, unfortunately. Studies have shown that candles with lead wicks have the potential to generate lead concentrations that could be a health concern. In addition to lead, candles also emit other organic chemicals that impact your home air quality. Several studies have also found an association between exposure to incense smoke and many illnesses. So, be mindful when using candles and incense in you home and know where the candles were manufactured and whether it has a lead wick.

In conclusion, children, immune-compromised individuals, and those with lung disease are most vulnerable to the irritants found in the air we breathe. So pay extra close attention to these loved ones for any allergy-like symptoms, and do your own checklist of any potential contributing factors that contribute to poor indoor air quality. Mitigate the issues in a timely manner to promote a healthy indoor air.


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