Biological Pollutants In the Home

Before You Move

Protect yourself by inspecting your potential new home. If you identify problems, have the landlord or seller correct them before you move in, or even consider moving elsewhere.

  • Have professionals check the heating and cooling system, including humidifiers and vents. Have duct lining and insulation checked for growth.
  • Check for exhaust fans in bathrooms and kitchens. If there are no vents, do the kitchen and bathrooms have at least one window apiece? Does the cooktop have a hood vented outside? Does the clothes dryer vent outside? Are all vents to the outside of the building, not into attics or crawlspaces?
  • Look for obvious mold growth throughout the house, including attics, basements, and crawlspaces, and around the foundation. See if there are many plants close to the house, particularly if they are damp and rotting. They are a potential source of biological pollutants. Downspouts from roof gutters should route water away from the building.
  • Look for stains on the walls, floor or carpet (including any carpet over concrete floors) as evidence of previous flooding or moisture problems. Is there moisture on windows and surfaces? Are there signs of leaks or seepage in the basement?
  • Look for rotted building materials which may suggest moisture or water damage.
  • If you or anyone else in the family has a pet allergy, ask if any pets have lived in the home.
  • Examine the design of the building. Remember that in cold climates, overhanging areas, rooms over unheated garages, and closets on outside walls may be prone to problems with biological pollutants.
  • Look for signs of cockroaches.

Where Biological Pollutants May Be Found In The Home

  1. Dirty air conditioners
  2. Dirty humidifiers and/or dehumidifiers
  3. Bathroom without vents or windows
  4. Kitchen without vents or windows
  5. Dirty refrigerator drip pans
  6. Laundry room with unvented dryer
  7. Unventilated attic
  8. Carpet on damp basement floor
  9. Bedding
  10. Closet on outside wall
  11. Dirty heating/air conditioning system
  12. dogs or cats
  13. Water damage (around windows, the roof, or the basement)

Warning! Carefully read instructions for use and any cautionary labeling on cleaning products before beginning cleaning procedures.

  • Do not mix any chemical products. Especially, never mix cleaners containing bleach with any product (such as ammonia) which does not have instructions for such mixing. When chemicals are combined, a dangerous gas can sometimes be formed.
  • Household chemicals may cause burning or irritation to skin and eyes.
  • Household chemicals may be harmful if swallowed, or inhaled.
  • Avoid contact with skin, eyes, mucous membranes and clothing.
  • Avoid breathing vapor. Open all windows and doors and use an exhaust fan that sends the air outside.
  • Keep household chemicals out of reach of children.
  • Rinse treated surface areas well to remove all traces of chemicals

    Correcting Water Damage

    What if damage is already done? Follow these guidelines for correcting water damage:

    • Throw out mattresses, wicker furniture, straw baskets and the like that have been water damaged or contain mold. These cannot be recovered.
    • Discard any water-damaged furnishings such as carpets, drapes, stuffed toys, upholstered furniture and ceiling tiles, unless they can be recovered by steam cleaning or hot water washing and thorough drying.
    • Remove and replace wet insulation to prevent conditions where biological pollutants can grow.

    Additional Sources of Information

    Contact your local American Lung Association for copies of: Indoor Air Pollution Fact Sheets, Air Pollution in Your Home? and other publications on indoor air pollution.

    Contact the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Washington, D.C. 20207, for copies of Humidifier Safety Alert.

    To report an unsafe consumer product or product-related health problem, consumers may call the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission at 1-800-638-2772. A teletypewriter for the hearing impaired is available at 1-800-638-8270; the Maryland TTY number is 1-800-492-8104.

    You may also contact EPA’s IAQ INFO Clearinghouse at 1-800-438-4318 (or (703) 356-4020) for more information on indoor air quality and to order publications from the list of IAQ publications.