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What Can I Learn by Testing My Home Biome?

What Can I Learn by Testing My Home Biome? | Blog

In the past several decades, modern life has revolved around a shared understanding of our homes. We see our homes as safe sanctuaries for living, relaxing, and raising our families. And as such, we’ve developed codes of conduct around keeping our homes clean, tidy, and void of anything unsafe or unsanitary. But have you thought, “What can I learn by testing my home biome”?

However, in recent years we’ve seen a rise in new health issues, which has sparked questions around the safety and health of our homes. We realize that our closed-in living spaces no longer include a relationship with our outdoor environment.

More importantly, researchers and experts are beginning to see that the lack of biodiversity inside our homes is problematic.

This has prompted some crucial discussions and research about what’s living and not living in our homes. Indeed, this may be the start of a new era of modern life where we change our ideas about what safe and healthy actually means for our home environments.

What Is A Home Biome, And Why Does It Matter?

The home biome refers to everything that lives in our homes. It may be surprising to hear that humans are the minority inside our own homes. In the book “Never Home Alone,” author and biologist Rob Dunn recounts the myriad of life that resides in our living spaces 1.

Not only do we live with other creatures like spiders and crickets, but we also share a home with thousands of tiny microbes, most of which are beneficial to us. The home biome matters as much to our health and well being as does a healthy diet or whether we get enough sleep each night 1.

Most of us have heard about the importance of a balanced gut biome. Yet, few understand that a balanced home biome is also essential. And that balance includes having many diverse microbes living in harmony with us 1,2.

Most of us have heard about the importance of a balanced gut biome. Yet, few understand that a balanced home biome is also essential. And that balance includes having many diverse microbes living in harmony with us Click To Tweet

In his book, Dunn refers to several studies looking at the differences between the home biome of modern people versus those who live surrounded by more biodiversity. For example, one study compared the microbes in modern homes with those of homes that were more open and connected with nature.

It turns out that the children raised in homes that contained more biodiverse soil-based microbes did not suffer from allergies, asthma, or other inflammatory conditions 1,3.

Dunn also discusses other expert findings that reveal a relationship between our modern lives and inflammatory disease. It turns out that when the biodiversity around us decreases, human inflammation increases 1,3,4,5.

The presence of microbes in our home biome are required for our immune system to develop appropriately. A balanced home biome makes for a balanced immune system that neither under- or over-reacts. The exact evolutionary reason for this health benefit isn’t completely understood yet. However, we do know that a closer connection to outdoor biodiversity is what brings balance to the home biome 1,3,4,5.

In short, our physical and environmental health depends on living with diverse microbes. And these microbes must include those found in the soil and natural environment.

We also know that a balanced home biome is a strong defense against the few harmful pathogens that can live with us. It’s interesting to note that out of thousands of microbes, only a few are actually harmful to us 1. Microbes such as mold, salmonella, and e.coli are the main ones that we try to avoid in our homes.

We now understand that a balanced home biome that includes soil-based microbes is what keeps these harmful pathogens from becoming a problem. We just need to figure out how to nurture a healthy home biome in this modern age.

 

What Can I Learn by Testing My Home Biome?What Is Home Biome Testing?

The first step in fostering a healthy home biome is to know what’s growing within its borders in the first place.

We know a musty smell points to mold growth. Or if we prepare food and someone gets sick, this may point to salmonella growing on our cutting boards or countertops. Our first reaction is to get rid of harmful microbes, but we rarely think about how to bring in good microbes that may be of help to us.

But really, if we don’t know what’s growing in our homes, then we can’t do anything about it. So testing our home biome gives us an incredible tool for understanding the health of our home.

Many of us have used the ERMI test, which covers about 36 species of mold, while the HERTSMI test includes about 5 species. In this way, we no longer have to guess what’s happening with our home biome. Instead, we can understand the health of our home by identifying any potential dysbiosis.

Over-Cleaning Causes Increased Fungal Growth in Urban HomesWhat Is Environmental Dysbiosis?

Again, we are beginning to understand what happens to us when our gut biome is out of balance. By now, many people have heard of dysbiosis in our gut and the accompanying health issues. Now, we need to look at dysbiosis in our home environments.

Dysbiosis refers to a biome that is out of balance. This means that certain harmful microbes are growing unchecked, while other good microbes are not growing enough 7.

The reasons why we have dysbiosis in our gut are actually similar to why we might have it in our homes. In essence, we kill off too many good microbes, which allow the bad ones to grow. In the case of our homes, this often happens by over-cleaning with harsh antimicrobial solutions 8,9,10.

Research shows that mold can indeed be much more common in household areas that are “too clean”. And in the regions that are less cleaned, there is a higher diversity of microbes and less mold 8,10.

What Can I Learn From The Results of My Home Biome Test?

By testing the home biome, not only can we learn which harmful microbes may be growing in our homes, but we can actively do something about it. Also, we can understand more about the levels of beneficial microbes as well.

Through a home biome test, we can see if we have a mold problem or not. Mold growth says a lot about the dysbiosis of our homes because we know that rampant mold growth means a lack of diverse microbes 8,9,10.

Through a home biome test, we can see if we have a mold problem or not. Mold growth says a lot about the dysbiosis of our homes because we know that rampant mold growth means a lack of diverse microbes Click To Tweet

Through a home biome test, we’ll know the exact species growing in our homes, which means we can take the necessary steps to improve balance. Some of these steps include bringing in more soil-based microbes while easing up on our cleaning practices.

Where we were once obsessed with getting rid of dirt, perhaps now we need to relax more. Because having a bit of outside dirt in our homes, is quite frankly, exactly what we need.

While it may sound like a radical idea to bring in more dirt and clean less, the research is clearly showing that this is necessary for reducing environmental dysbiosis 1,7,8. In turn, this improves our own health too 1,4,5,7.

As our modern homes are less connected to the natural environment, this means soil-based microbes are no longer living with us the way they once did. And as mentioned above, without this balance, we’re seeing a rise in inflammatory disease.

Conclusion

Indeed, new developments in home biome research are making us pay attention to what’s living or not living in our homes. An increase in mold likely means we don’t have enough beneficial microbes. And this means that our homes may be in a state of dysbiosis.

By testing our home biome, we can arm ourselves with the knowledge we need to prevent or fix dysbiosis. And since we now understand the connection between home dysbiosis and the rise of inflammatory conditions, we must take steps to prevent this.

As our modern dwellings continue to change and evolve, we’ll need to figure out how we can maintain healthy homes that somehow include a relationship with our natural environments. As creative and intelligent beings, there’s much we can do to restore balance. And testing our home biome is an excellent step towards creating that balance.


REFERENCES

1. http://robdunnlab.com/science-portfolio/never-home-alone/
2. https://science.sciencemag.org/content/336/6080/489
3. https://www.pnas.org/content/109/21/8334
4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19895627
5.https://www.nejm.org/doi/pdf/10.1056/NEJMoa1508749
6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2791814/
7. https://letthemeatdirt.com
8.https://www.nature.com/articles/s41564-019-0593-4.epdf
9. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0013935115000304
10. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0064133

11. Homebiotic: Air Purifiers

 

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4 Tips To Prevent Mold At Home

4 Tips To Prevent Mold At Home | Mold Growing on wall

Mold is often an issue for many home-owners and home-buyers. No one likes that musty smell, which is a tell-tale sign of mold growth in your home. And once mold has taken up residence, it’s hard to get rid of it. In this article, we’ll look at what causes mold, which homes are more affected, and what types of mold are dangerous to our health. Then, we’ll look at some simple tips to prevent mold in your house.

The trickiness of mold makes prevention a critical issue when considering the health and safety of your home. Prevention is much easier than having to clean and eradicate mold that has already spread to several areas of the house.

The trickiness of mold makes prevention a critical issue when considering the health and safety of your home. Prevention is much easier than having to clean and eradicate mold that has already spread to several areas of the house Click To Tweet

CAUSE OF MOLD GROWTH IN HOMES

Mold needs three important things to grow: consistent moisture, limited airflow, and food. Any areas that remain moist without airflow have the potential for mold growth. Mold likes to feast on materials such as drywall, carpet padding, dust, mites, and some plant and bacterial cellulose1,2.

WHICH HOMES ARE MORE LIKELY TO HAVE MOLD ISSUES?

A common myth is that older homes are more likely to be full of mold, but this may not be true. In fact, older homes tend to have more airflow, and the positioning of water faucets and bathrooms help prevent widespread water issues. Also, older homes tend to have a more diverse and rich microbiome that helps naturally balance out mold2,3.

Newer homes, on the other hand, are more tightly built, which reduces air circulation. They also contain more building materials that mold likes to eat2,3. Lastly, newer homes have a less diverse microbiome because they are cut off from outside soil-based microbes that would otherwise balance out mold3,4.

Mold is also likely to be an issue in homes situated in humid climates or where there has been a catastrophic flood. Also, over-crowded homes tend to have more problems with dampness and poor ventilation. Lastly, low-income rental units have higher mold issues due to less money spent on renovating and cleaning moldy areas in-between renters3.

However, the reality is that any home can be prone to mold if the conditions are right for their growth.

WHICH SPECIES OF MOLD IS DANGEROUS TO OUR HEALTH?

Common household mold includes species such as Cladosporium, Penicillium, Aspergillus, and Alternaria. The commonly feared toxic mold, otherwise known as black mold, is called Stachybotrys Chartarum5.

Common mold can cause allergic and asthmatic illness. In some cases, the illness can be severe if the person has immune issues or severe asthma and allergies. However, toxic black mold can be life-threatening, especially in people who have weakened immune systems. Thankfully, toxic mold is less abundant than common molds5.

Common mold can cause allergic and asthmatic illness. In some cases, the illness can be severe if the person has immune issues or severe asthma and allergies. However, toxic black mold can be life-threatening, especially in people who… Click To Tweet

No matter which mold you have in your home, they can all cause health issues depending on your medical history and immune system. Mold spores themselves can cause immune system issues, but more likely, illness occurs from the exposure to the mycotoxins produced by certain mold species2,6,7.

There’s no doubt that mold can be a real nuisance, and the best way to deal with it is to prevent it from growing in the first place.

4 TIPS TO PREVENT MOLD IN YOUR HOME

There are several ways to prevent mold from growing in your home. Some suggestions are more straightforward than others, but it’s worth looking into all of them to ensure that your family is safe and healthy.

1. Keep moisture as low as possible

Moisture collects in several ways: leaky faucets, condensation, accidental spills, flooding, a build-up of humidity in kitchens and bathrooms, and leaks around the shower and bathtub, to name a few.

Here are some tips to help keep moisture levels low2,8,9:

  • Make sure that all leaks or water accidents cleaned and thoroughly dried. Be extra vigilant to look for places that water may have escaped, such as under carpets or floor tiles.
  • Kitchens, bathrooms, and laundry rooms are prone to mold because of their high-incidence of water leaks and condensation. Be sure to check hidden areas for moisture build-up. Check faucets and water tubes for leaks or condensation. Make sure the exhaust pipe from dryers is intact.
  • It might be worth it to buy indoor humidity monitors to put in a few locations around your home. They are relatively inexpensive and can help you understand moisture changes throughout the seasons.
  • For high-moisture areas, consider dehumidifiers or renovations that keep moisture in check.

Next, we’ll talk about ventilation because you can’t keep moisture low without proper airflow.

2. Proper Ventilation

Good ventilation is vital in helping to keep moisture levels down, and it requires both air flow and circulation. Proper overall ventilation will help prevent moisture build-up in areas that are hidden from view such as tight corners, under carpets, or behind furnaces.

Here are some tips to improve ventilation in your home2,8,9:

  • If the outside air is dry and warm (not humid), open the windows to let air come through.
  • In cold weather, when there’s more condensation, keep the windows shut but use fans to circulate the air. Check for condensation around windows and doors in the colder months.
  • Be sure that your air ducts and filters are obstruction-free and operating correctly. Also, be sure to check for mold in these ducts, furnaces, and air-conditioning units as they can continue to spread mold throughout the house.
  • In areas like the bathroom or kitchen, make sure the ceiling and stove fan is working well.
  • In areas prone to moisture that are also low-traffic (such as basements, laundry room, and crawl spaces), consider a dehumidifier that also has a fan to circulate air.

3. Make Small Structural or Cosmetic Changes

Making a few changes around your home will help prevent conditions with which mold will take up residence and grow.

Here are some ideas for structural or cosmetic changes that can help prevent mold in your home2,8,9:

  • If possible, remove carpets in favor of hardwood, tile, or laminate flooring. Be sure that the floor underneath is dry and mold-free before putting down new hardwood, tile, or laminate.
  • Don’t store items on the floor or in paper boxes. Mold loves to eat paper and dust that accumulates in these items. Mold growth in stored items is especially problematic if they’re kept in damp areas like basements. Consider purchasing shelves or storage bins to keep things off the floor and protected from moisture.
  • Consider upgrading or repairing your heating, air-conditioning, or ventilation system in your home if required. Many issues of mold, due to problems with these systems, can be prevented by ensuring they’re operating well and up to code.
  • Ensure that outside water drainage moves water away from the foundation, rather than towards it.
  • Make sure that materials used in renovation and construction (i.e., drywall and wood) are adequately sealed if they’re near a water source. Mold loves to feast on these materials, so don’t give them any moisture to help them grow.

Avoid Over-Cleaning During the Pandemic Quarantine4. Choose Your Cleaning Products Wisely

Many of us think that applying bleach and corrosive cleaning products will eradicate mold, but this is not the case. These products can often disturb the environmental microbiome as well as adding vapors that contribute to chemical sensitivity in humans. We are learning that a healthy microbiome in the home provides a balance against these microbes naturally10,11.

Here are some tips around choosing cleaning products to help prevent mold growth:

  • Consider using water and vinegar as a cleaning solution. Mix one part vinegar to three parts water in a spray bottle and use on all surfaces, including floors. This solution is extremely effective at cleaning without disrupting the microbiome.
  • Consider using baking soda for stuck-on stains and grease. However, avoid using on surfaces that may get scratched by the baking soda.
  • Consider getting a probiotic solution, such as Homebiotic spray, to prevent the causes of musty odors in your home naturally

CONCLUSION

Hopefully, you know more about how mold grows, which homes are more affected, and how mold can be dangerous for our health. The prevention tips discussed above may help you in making decisions about reducing moisture, ensuring proper ventilation, making structural or cosmetic changes, and choosing cleaning products.

Mold will likely always be a part of our lives, but we can learn to live with it in better harmony while improving our mold prevention strategies.


REFERENCES

1.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indoor_mold
2.http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0017/43325/E92645.pdf
3.https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0013935115000304
4.https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1471490615000022
5.https://www.cdc.gov/mold/stachy.htm#Q3
6.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3492391/
7.https://www.who.int/bulletin/archives/77(9)754.pdf
8.https://www.nedcc.org/free-resources/preservation-leaflets/3.-emergency-management/3.8-emergency-salvage-of-moldy-books-and-paper
9.https://iseai.org/your-definitive-mold-clean-up-guide/
10.https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0064133
11.https://err.ersjournals.com/content/27/148/170137