A little leak isn't something to ignore. Although you might not notice immediate water damage, mold growth and bacterial growth can begin within 24 - 48 hours of a moisture intrusion. Damp houses have been proven beyond any doubt to cause respiratory illnesses, and a host of other illnesses, too. "Moisture in homes has been identified again and again to be associated with respiratory problems and other detrimental health to people within homes," said Dr. Richard Shaugnessy, director of the Clean Air Program at the University of Tulsa. "There's mold, there's bacteria, and the dampness is more conducive to having more pests in the home.
Along with that, dust mites are more inclined to be in a home with higher humidity and moisture. There's a whole host of agents that may be responsible for the health effects related to moisture," he said.
Here are the top 4 reasons to nip moisture and dampness in your home in the bud:
- Bacteria: Moisture is the prime breeding ground of bacteria. No amount of anti-bacterial cleaning products can compensate for a damp house. Bacterial colonies grow on damp organic matter, like wall boards and floorboards.
- Pests: Dr. Patrick Breysse, Director Industrial Hygiene Program at Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health, said, "When there's a lot of water damage in a home, there's higher mouse allergens, there's higher cockroach allergens. We find that these types of homes in general are not healthy environments for asthmatic kids." Cockroach and rat waste material is a known trigger of asthma, and these pests flourish in damp environments.
- Dust mites: If you're allergic to dust mites, you're all too familiar with the stuffy nose, sneezing, itchy eyes, respiratory problems and even asthmatic symptoms that they cause. Dust mites thrive in warm, moist environments. According to a University of Nebraska fact sheet, dust mites thrive in temperatures around 80 degrees F, and humidity levels above 60%. Keep your house at below 50% humidity to stop dust mite growth. Air conditioning has proven to be helpful to people with dust mite allergies, as it simultaneously cools and dehumidifies the air.
- Mold: "The underlying public health message is that we know that people get sick from living and working in damp spaces. The things that make them sick all relate to dampness. Mold -- the smell, the visibility of mold -- becomes an indicator," said Dr. Harriet Amman, a toxicologist and affiliate professor at the University of Washington. An emerging body of data suggests that mold itself can cause respiratory illnesses and allergic reactions. However, "Whether the illness is directly a result of mold and exposure to mold, or whether it is a result of mold and other biota that are encouraged to grow because there's water is not as straightforward to answer," said Paula Schenk, a Clinical Instructor in the UCHC Department of Community Medicine and Health Care. Mold might be making you sick, or it might just be an indication of a moisture problem.
Often we look to quick fixes for moisture problems. There's no silver bullet for moisture removal. If you see mold growth, you need to eliminate the source of moisture and remove the damp material. The best way to prevent damp walls and floorboards is to avoid condensation. Vent your bathroom, vent your kitchen, and vent your dryer to the outside. If you can't afford a venting system, open a window until all the steam disappears. If you notice a leak or water intrusion, fix the problem and dry the wet material immediately. You can take a stand against respiratory illnesses by stopping moisture in its tracks.