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ERMI Data Used as a Predictor of Asthma

Many private firms recommend collecting mold samples to determine whether a home has a mold problem. Yet, federal and state agencies, and many non-governmental organizations (including NCHH) don’t think it is necessary. Instead, we support visual assessment over mold sampling when identifying a mold problem and choosing the appropriate remediation. In two recent articles, investigators used the Environmental Relative Moldiness Index (ERMI) to analyze settled dust samples and found a link between mold and asthma development by age 7. Investigators also conducted visual assessments in the study homes but did not find an association between visible mold and asthma. Do these studies mean that visual assessments are not useful for determining whether a mold problem exists?  Do they indicate that complex sampling and analysis methods are required to identify home mold issues?

I would argue that ERMI is not ready for prime-time as a home assessment tool. In 2009, the Federal Register stated that, while ERMI is a “prototype research tool,” it has not been validated for wider use in identifying mold-contaminated environments. A 2012 industrial hygiene conference presenter noted that ERMI did not pass an internal 2009 EPA peer review. Indeed, the methods used to develop ERMI have not been subjected to external peer review. The DNA-based lab method on which ERMI (called MSQPCR) is based has not been subjected to internal and external laboratory tests needed to verify its precision and accuracy.

Reducing home moisture problems to minimize exposure to mold and other moisture-related toxins is a vital goal. Although the recent asthma study did not find an association between mold found through visual inspection and asthma development, a large body of literature suggests that water damage identified by home inspection is associated with increased asthma and respiratory disease risk. For example, the two articles referenced above indicate ERMI may have potential as a research tool, but trained eyes (and noses)  are a more accessible and practical approach to identifying mold problems in homes. 

DIY Green Household Cleaning Solutions

Have you ever wondered how safe and eco-friendly those "green" cleaning products are on the store shelves? Green cleaning products are flooding the market, and with over 80,000 chemical compounds approved for commercial purposes, it’s become harder to tell if they are truly safer. In the U.S., companies are only required to warn of a product’s toxicity. Buzzwords on green products such as “nontoxic,” “biodegradable,” and “all-natural” can also be misleading. It can simply mean products are made from organic materials but still contain potentially harmful chemicals.

How To Prevent Clothes Dryer Fires In Your Home

Have you noticed your clothes dryer getting super hot and giving off a burnt smell in the laundry room? Before you start shopping for a new one, take a look at your dryer vent which just may need a good cleaning. Lint balls are extremely flammable. Check out this Farmers Insurance commercial on dryer fires.

Carbon Monoxide – Protect Your Family Against This Silent Deadly Killer

Recently, five lives were lost in a tragedy involving carbon monoxide poisoning in Oxon Hill, MD. What killed them? It was carbon monoxide (CO) that leaked into the house from rusted and separated exhaust pipes on a natural gas furnace. According to the Washington Post, CO levels of between 140 parts per million to as high as 560 parts per million were found in the home. To put that number in perspective, 0 to 5 parts per million are considered “normal” and it takes only 30 parts per million to be fatal over time.

What Lead Poisoning Did to My Family - Part II

While lead poisoning is something my son Sean will live with for the rest of his life, the outcome could have been much worse had the local and state health departments not had the resources to help us. Without federal funding for both of these agencies, Sean would never have been tested for lead by a WIC nurse. Our home would not have been tested for lead-based paint in time to save us from an environmental hazard. There would not have been any nurse-related check ups and blood work schedules in place. We would not have been directed to AEA 267 to oversee my son’s education.

To put it simply, we might never have known that Sean was lead poisoned. Or worse, we might have lost him. We will forever be thankful to Mike Prideaux, the Black Hawk County Health Department Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, and Rita Gergely, Iowa Department of Public Health who have been a huge part of our lives over these past nine years.


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