A Primer on Biological Pollutants: Know the Enemy
Indoors and out, we are surrounded by living creatures of diverse shapes and sizes. In most cases, we coexist happily with these organisms, but in some cases, they can produce material that can reduce indoor air quality or affect our health. These biological pollutants can make our indoor environments uncomfortable or actively harmful, depending on the type and severity of the contamination. Here is a brief primer on biological pollutants and how to deal with them in your work or home environment.
What Are Biological Pollutants?
The term “biological pollutants” sounds alarming, suggesting nightmare scenarios of plague or runaway disease. In truth, biological pollutants are usually just living organisms or the material those organisms leave behind. They can include:
- Animal or pet dander
- Fur, feathers or hair
- Feces and urine
- Body parts or whole bodies
- Mold and mold spores
- Bacteria and viruses
- Insects such as dust mites or cockroaches.
Biological pollutants are often too small to be seen, but it’s a good bet there are at least some forms of biological pollutants in almost every indoor environment.
The Effects of Biological Pollutants
Most biological pollutants won’t start a pandemic, but they can nonetheless be harmful to individuals. Biological contaminants can make indoor spaces uncomfortable or disagreeable for healthy persons, but they can be a genuine threat to anyone who’s already ill, or to the very young and the very old. Depending on the type of material involved, biological pollutants can cause or contribute to:
- Allergic reactions
- Asthma attacks
- Communicable diseases
- Skin irritation and itching
- Sneezing or coughing
- Watery, itchy eyes
- Respiratory congestion
Many of these conditions are mild but uncomfortable. Persons with health or respiratory issues may have serious reactions to exposure to biological pollutants. In the worst cases, biological pollutants can spread disease, infections and potentially harmful conditions.
Controlling Biological Pollutants
It would be impossible to avoid exposure to all biological pollutants, but you can take steps to ensure your home or workplace is as free of these materials as possible. Some things you can do include:
- Inspect the premises: Take a careful look around your home or office to identify places where biological contaminants could be present. Check all rooms, HVAC equipment and ducts, appliances and carpets. Be cautious of contaminants that could be brought into the home in grocery bags, packages, firewood and other common sources.
- Control moisture: Living organisms require moisture to grow and survive. If you control moisture indoors, living biological pollutants such as mold and insects will have less of a chance to establish a population. Clean up spills immediately. If there is a large spill or flood, remove objects that can’t be salvaged, such as wet insulation or mattresses. Dry out wet carpets, clothing and other items as quickly as possible. Dry off bathroom surfaces after showering and ensure ventilation fans are operating in kitchens, bathrooms and laundry rooms. Use a dehumidifier if necessary to reduce the amount of moisture in the air.
- Practice clean habits: Avoid leaving food items where they can attract rodents or insects. Clean and dust your living environment regularly, especially kitchens and bathrooms. Do not let wet towels, clothing or linens pile up; wash and dry them frequently. Use appropriately strong soaps and cleaning agents for washing, cleaning and disinfecting items.
- Ensure proper ventilation and filtration: Make sure your indoor spaces are properly ventilated and that the air filters in your HVAC system are changed regularly.
- Remove the worst: If you find mold or mildew, use a suitable cleaning product to remove it. Do not ignore it, paint or wallpaper over it, or give it a chance to spread further.
Our goal is to help educate our customers about Plumbing, HVACR, Fire Protection and Alarm Systems in Mechanical, Commercial and Residential settings. For more information on biological pollutants and how to control them, and to view projects we’ve worked on, visit our website!