2005 School Healthy Air Guide:
Simple Steps to Prevent Problems
Currently many laws for Florida are being reviewed for problems occurring in most schools. It is better to have ethically healthy air in schools before laws mandate the change.
- All vacuum cleaners must be HEPA vacuum cleaners that remove fine dust and mold chemicals. Regular vacuums blow out billions of moldy dust particles and do not remove them from a floor. Canister type HEPA's are messy and only disposable HEPA bags are useful. They are not expensive and are available at Sears, Wal-Mart and other stores. They are available for about $130.00.
- If staff smell earthy or musty odors or see mold, the EPA has ruled this must be remediated and fixed. Romanticizing old musty buildings is unwise.
- All intake filters must be disposable MERV 11 filters. The MERV rating is the degree of filtration. The higher the number the higher the filtration. A MERV 8 filters spores but not dust, and MERV 15 does not allow enough air to pass. The MERV 15 is for industrial computer rooms with very strong machines to force the air through its minute openings. The MERV 11's must be changed every month unless the structure is SPOTLESS. Any filter unchanged after 8 weeks is allowing stagnant air to stay in the room. You change tissue paper and do not recycle it, and air filters are much more toxic. Never use "permanent" filters of any type in HVAC system. They "permanently" hold in junk.
- Filters must be bagged right in their holders and not shaken. If they are simply dropped from the ceiling they will release a millions of spores.
- Consider all remediations failed, until testing shows it was successful. Most well-intentioned mold remediations are unsuccessful. Indoor Aspergillus and Penicillium and other key molds in post remediation post-testing should be a fraction of outdoor levels. Any inspector who says "acceptable" mold levels are achieved when "indoor mold levels equal outdoor mold levels," ignores that filters are supposed to remove 80-90% of indoor mold spores!
- Painting, spackling or plastering over moldy ceilings, walls, wood, or concrete merely hides mold. It will return.
- Leaving moist ceiling tiles with watermarks in the ceiling is a breach on indoor health standards.
- All chronically moist or moldy carpets, ceiling tiles or wallboard must be bagged and tossed out the windows and not carried through the school.
- Consider using Sklar's Fungicide to clean moldy areas. But mold ALWAYS returns if the cause of the mold is not fixed.
- Anyone "looking" for the source of the mold should be using a thermagram and laser particle pointer. The thermagram will find let you see like Superman–you can see moisture right behind a wall. In a school every wall can be scanned in a short time without damaging the walls.
- All AC meters should also have inexpensive humidistats. If the humidity is over 65%, the school will start to decay and be harmed by indoor mold. Dust mites grow at 56%. But we are talking about mold. The humidistat must be set to no higher than 65% or you will grow mold. (Portable humidistats are inexpensive and very educational. The first time I saw my post shower bathroom humidity reading "80," I realized why exhaust fans were very important).
- Set the AC fan to ON. Some sincere Air conditioning people tell maintenance staff to set it to AUTO. I explain why this is an error in my second mold book. Two sample reasons for keeping the fan on the ON position are:
- When the fan is off, MERV 11 filters are not scrubbing the air.
- Constant air movement in the ducts and building helps prevent any single area from collecting excess humidity and that prevents mold.
- In very poor schools, extra mold cleaning can be helped by:
- Decreasing dust since mold lives on dust.
- No dirt should be in air ducts. This is a sign the HVAC filters have been poorly maintained and the ducts will make mold. Clean them out and use MERV 11 filters if a problem.
- Air Handlers must be serviced every six months and cleaned with strong alkaline cleaners. The drain tube must be clean and allow condenser water dripping off the air handler to drain away.
- Want an effective $15.00 air-cleaning machine? First, buy a WAL-MART $10.00 20 inch box fan. Tape a 20 inch x 20 inch MERV 11 filter to the back of the fan. You can run this low while class is in session, and high when leaving the class for the day. This $15.00 "HEPA Machine" will scrub the air significantly. Replace the filter every 4-8 weeks.
- Adding "fresh air" into a school is smart. Yet it should not be when the outside soil is wet. Rain lowers floating pollen, but increases outdoor mold. It is good to remove high levels of indoor carbon dioxide and stale re-breathed infectious air, but perhaps it should not be done while it is raining.
Cleaning products are increasingly falling into two categories. The older class of cleaners is made with various chemical derivatives and release toxic fumes and gases. Some health education groups feel that popular "air fresheners" or odor-masking cleaners have carcinogenic gases and chemicals. Some feel these cleaners may fill estrogen receptors and increase prostate and breast cancer years later.
The second class of cleaners are derived from various fruit acid sources and combined with various soap products. They are exploding in popularity because they are effective, do not leave petroleum orders, and are safe.
My Best To Your Health!