Biofouling: Can It Trigger Allergies From Drinking Water?

One of the most common physical occurrences in marine science is the accumulation of   microorganisms, algae, mussels, seaweed, plants and other water-related growth that is attached to the hull of ships or on the posts of a pier. Such undesirable growth decreases the performance of a ship and increases fuel consumption. This accumulation is called biofouling or microbiological fouling. Biofouling consists of biofilms, which under normal circumstances are harmless, but can be problematic when they produce build-up on pipes and wells, or completely clog water filtration systems.

Waterborne bacteria and other contaminants can trigger allergic reactions, but you can do something to thwart these harmful pollutants from infiltrating your drinking water supply. Water test kits are available to easily check for waterborne contaminants in your drinking water. If you are in an area where you experience more comprehensive problems with your drinking water, then you will probably need an expert to test your water and advise accordingly. Often water-related allergies associated with biofouling result from improperly maintained water filtration systems, cartridges, filters or membranes that are long overdue for replacement.

Cooling towers, water distribution networks and membranes are not immune to biofouling. If membrane filtration or reverse osmosis systems contain the presence of a huge amount of phosphate, this could reduce production of your system, decrease the life of the membrane for your water filter system and increase maintenance costs. In a cooling tower, the presence of biofouling can lead to an excessive amount of harmful bacteria growth and migration. Biocides are used to prevent biofouling in cooling towers, but could create an environmental concern.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) established enforceable standards to apply to public water systems called National Primary Drinking Water Regulations (NPDWR). According to the EPA, primary standards protect public health by limiting the levels of contaminants in drinking water. The typical agents for microbiological fouling include iron, sulfur-reducing and slime producing organisms, although many others exist. Your drinking water will contain some type of sediment, rust, scale or other waterborne pollutants that could create an environment for biofouling in the walls and membrane of your filtration system. This could lead to water-related allergies or diseases if precautions and proper maintenance are not taken ahead of time.

Mold Awareness – Stop the Spread and Protect Your Home

Cleaning mold

Cleaning mold – from epa.gov

Did you know that the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) declared September as Mold Awareness Month? While the month draws to a close, mold is still a problem that many Americans face and awareness is quite important.

The EPA teaches us that “Molds live in the soil, on plants, and on dead or decaying matter…[they] produce tiny spores to reproduce, just as some plants produce seeds.   These mold spores can be found in both indoor and outdoor air, and settled on indoor and outdoor surfaces. When mold spores land on a damp spot, they may begin growing and digesting whatever they are growing on in order to survive…molds gradually destroy the things they grow on, you can prevent damage to building materials and furnishings and save money by eliminating mold growth.”

The spread of mold can be a serious health risk, causing symptoms such as allergic reactions, asthma, and various respiratory problems. The major source of mold spread is moisture and humidity. Whether it’s excessive rainfall or the recent influx of storms, mold is a threat with higher humidity.

While removing mold from your home can sometimes be a difficult task, there are several steps you can take to combat the threat:

  • Reduce humidity in your home by 30-60%. Your options include “venting bathrooms, dryers, and other moisture-generating sources to the outside; using air conditioners and de-humidifiers; increasing ventilation; and using exhaust fans whenever cooking, dishwashing, and cleaning.”
  • Clean up any sources of mold and moisture. Plug any sources of water leaks.
  • Immediately clean up or dry any damp or wet areas in your home.
  • Add insulation in order to reduce or prevent condensation.

 

Don’t wait for mold to infect your home. Be proactive and buy ED Lab Indoor Air Home Mold Test Kit to screen your indoor for mold and fungus. Or replace your current air filters with the Filters Fast Air & Furnace Filters – MERV 11, which reduce mold spores and improve your indoor air quality.

Is Your Building Sick?

Sick building syndrome or SBS refers to situations where “building occupants experience acute health and comfort effects that appear to be linked to time spent in a building, but no specific illness or cause can be identified,” according to the EPA’s Indoor Air Quality website. This can occur either in a specific room or area, or throughout the building.

Symptoms can include:

  • headache
  • eye, nose, or throat  irritation
  • dry cough
  • dry or itchy skin
  • dizziness and nausea
  • difficulty in concentrating
  • fatigue
  • sensitivity to odors

Although the cause of the symptoms is usually not known, sufferers usually report feeling better soon after they leave the building. Poor ventilation, as well as heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) not effectively distributing air throughout the building, seems to be a major contributing factor in SBS.

Indoor and outdoor pollution sources can also contribute to SBS. Indoor air pollution sources include:

  • adhesives
  • carpeting
  • upholstery
  • manufactured wood products
  • copy machines
  • pesticides
  • cleaning agents

These sources can emit Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) such as formaldehyde.  Tobacco smoke emits high levels of VOCs, as well as other toxic compounds, and breathable particulate matter. The products of combustion, such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and breathable particles come from burning sources like unvented kerosene and gas space heaters, woodstoves, fireplaces and gas stoves.

Outdoor pollution sources such as motor vehicle exhausts, plumbing vents, and bathroom and kitchen exhausts can contribute to indoor air pollution. Also, biological contaminants including bacteria, molds, pollens, and viruses may breed in standing or stagnant water in various locations throughout a building.

Removing or modifying the pollutant source when it is known and controllable is perhaps the best way to resolve an Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) problem. Also increasing ventilation and air distribution can help the problem.  Another method is to use air cleaners. Finally, using furnace or air filters, especially high performance filters that capture smaller, breathable particles is a great way to alleviate SBS.