Breathing Easier in the Basement: Humidity, Mold, Solvents and Laundry

When I was growing up, the basement was a place to store stuff we didn’t want to look at as well as a place where we kids could hang out, away from the ears and eyes of parents. Well, since then, the basement has become just another living space in most newer homes.

Potential Problems
Temperature, humidity and air quality are harder to control in some basements due to lack of windows that open and natural sunlight. Finding a comfortable humidity level can result in comfort and even, better health. Too little moisture can lead to irritated sinuses, dry skin and sore throats. Too much humidity can aggravate asthma, allergies and chemical sensitivities because of higher concentrations of mold spores which love a moist environment and often find food sources in basements. The recommended level of relative humidity is below 50%.

Measure
A hygrometer is an inexpernsive instrument that can measure the relative humidity in a space. More about using these devices here at the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s site.

Lower the Humidity
A de-humidifier is a machine the removes humidity from the air. Proper drainage from washers is important. Ventilation and air flow can also lower humidity levels and prevent toxic mold from taking hold in the first place. Leaks, drips and seapage from sinks and washers can also lead to mold and should be addressed promptly.

Remove the Food
Keeping paper products (a food mold loves) out of the basement or away from walls and off the floor can help prevent mold. Moldy drywall has to be replaced and precautions should be taken when dealing with existing mold problems.

Storing Toxic Materials
Pesticides, solvents, leftover paint and the like should not be stored inside. They slowly release into the air and pose a health risk. Hobbies involving chemicals should be done with proper ventilation and masks if necesary. Air travels around the home and sensitive people know that just because chemicals are in the basement, it doesn’t mean they are out of the breathing zone. The outside might be a better choice for activities requiring harsh chemicals.

Laundry
Laundry can be a contributor to health issues. This common activity has contaminated homes so much that those with some breathing problems and severe chemical sensitivities can’t even enter without having symptoms. Laundered clothes continue to emit chemical fumes everywhere they go. Why? Because the chemicals used in detergents and especially, dryer sheets and other fabric softeners nowadays are designed to last and as a result, are potent. Choose safer, natural, non-toxic products and breathe easier. More on the health effects of laundry products here.

So instead of just some remote, dank storage container, thinking of a basement as just another room can lead to better air and healthier bodies.

Read more about safer, non-toxic laundry in the next post.

Copyright Lynn Argent, 2008.

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About Lynn

Blogger, talkcaster and teacher.
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2 Responses to Breathing Easier in the Basement: Humidity, Mold, Solvents and Laundry

  1. Cynthia says:

    Excellent take on the impact of basements in overall indoor quality.
    We work solving foundation moisture problems and we often meet homeowners with no idea that their basements and crawlspaces may be the cause of their allergies and upper respiratory symptoms. They are usually surprised when we tell them that 1/3 of the air their breathe in the upper floors, due to the stack effect, is coming straight from the basement.

    As for the laundry, I was somewhat aware of the hazards of harsh chemicals being used in laundry products, but your article and source convinced me to go for “green” laundry products such as liquid castile soap.

  2. Thanks for the awareness discussion…we should be more concerned about the cleanliness of the basement because of health issues if not anything else.

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