Friday, December 29, 2006

Home Renovation and Asthma Attacks

I am renovating my home. Dust is everywhere and my daughter has had several asthma attacks as a result. We have since moved to my parent's house. How will I know when it is safe to move back home?

Since the dust generated during your renovation is primarily made up of large particles that settle quickly onto surfaces, it is likely that dust levels inside your home will quickly settle back to normal as soon as your home renovation is over. However, there will probably be a lot of dust on your floors, walls, and other inside surfaces. This deposited dust can be resuspended (or lifted back) into the air when you move around your home or with the air drafts.

Before you move back home, I would clean all surfaces in your home, including floors, walls, furniture, and vents, to make sure that they are free of dust. I would clean non-carpeted surfaces using a wet wash cloth (or mop) with soap and carpeted surfaces using a vacuum cleaner with HEPA bags. The HEPA bags will make sure that any dust picked up by your vacuum cleaner stays in your vacuum cleaner. [I think that HEPA bags can be used in most vacuum cleaners, but am not sure.]

As an extra precaution, you could measure indoor particle levels and check whether they are back down to normal levels. Without (and sometimes even with) connections, this is not so easy to do, as portable, easy-to-use and reliable particle measurement devices are difficult to find and are quite expensive. Particle measurement devices are used primarily by people in research or the government; as a result, they are not made for the mass market. A possible option would be to ask an environmental consulting firm to make the measurements for you. I think that this option is probably not worth it (unless your problem is big), as it would be very expensive and your request may be too small for them to take the job. A second option may be to borrow equipment -- with some guidance and instructions -- and make the measurements yourself. You will need some connections to make this second option a true possibility. I may (with the emphasis on may) be able to help in this regard. If you are interested, drop me a note and I will see what I can do.

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