Microbes and the Air Supply

The smallest form of life on Earth is the microbe. Although microbes have existed for millions, and even billions of years, their presence was not detected until the seventeenth century. In 1683 Dutch merchant Antony van Leeuwenhoek, who made microscopes as a hobby, detected "wee animalcules" in scrapings from his teeth. Another 200 years would pass, however, before scientists would establish the relationship between microbes and disease.

Although some microbes are deadly, most are harmless, and some are extremely beneficial. These microscopic organisms can be found virtually anywhere - in air, water, plants, animals and humans.

Grouped by physical and behavioral characteristics, microbes fall into the following major categories:

viruses Viruses (singular: virus) are the smallest and simplest microbes, just a ball of genes wrapped in a shell - about a millionth of an inch across. No one knows how long they've been on Earth or how they evolved. They reproduce by injecting their genes into a cell to produce thousands
Bacteria Bacteria (singular: bacterium) are much larger than viruses - about 125,000th of an inch long. If a virus were human-sized, a bacterium would be about as big as the Stature of Liberty. These one-celled bodies either make their own food through chemical processes or feed on live hosts or dead matter. Bacteria have existed on Earth for more than 3.5 billion years.
Protozoan Protozoa (singular: protozoan) are a group of one-celled predators and parasites similar to bacteria but about 1,000 times larger. Examples include amoebae and paramecia. Protozoa made their debut on Earth more than 1.8 billion years ago.
Fungus Fungi (singular: fungus) In nature, fungi are decomposers. They break down matter into nutrients and minerals that plants and animals reuse. Of the 100,000 known species of fungus, familiar examples include mushrooms, yeast, mold and mildew.

Most are invisible to humans. Fully 90% of the living matter on this planet are microbes. Some are extremely dangerous to humans and are called pathogens. They all need moisture or water to function or survive. Some microbes (germs) also reproduce at an incredible rate with proper food and warmth. As an example, common E coli bacteria, if sufficient food were available, could produce a mass of bacteria greater than the mass of the earth in less than a week! Some of the more common microbes that are hazardous to our health include:

  • Staphylococcus aureus (Staph)
  • Escherichia coli (E.coli)
  • Mycoplasma pneumoniae (Pneumonia)
  • Human Immunodeficiency Virus (AIDS)
  • Rhinovirus (Common Cold)
  • Myobacterium tuberculosis (TB)
  • Rubrivirus (Rubella or German Measles)
  • Filovirus (Ebola, Hemorrhagic Fever)
  • Enterococcus faecalis (Strep).
  • Salmonella typhimurium (Food Poisoning)
  • Influenza Virus (Flu)
  • Borrelia burgdorferi (Lyme Disease)
  • Hantavirus (Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome)
  • Flavivirus (Dengue Fever)

For an extensive discussion of mold, visit Advanced Mold Inspections

Microbes are found in your heating and cooling system, house pets, garbage, bathrooms and everywhere else in your home. Few people realize that flushing a toilet or using a urinal releases an explosion of pathogenic microbes that coat every surface in a lavatory with fecal clostridium, streptococcus and E-Coli bacteria!  Besides washing your hands carefully, you need some form of personal protection against microbes. Many of these creatures that we breathe, eat or touch can result in serious life threatening infection.

Airplane passengers seated in aisle one can spread tuberculosis germs throughout the aircraft according to a study done by the Harvard School of Public Health.

How Can Microbes be Killed?

Outdoors, microbial dangers are minimized because of air flows lowering concentrations of germs and because ultraviolet light from sunlight effectively destroys many of these organisms. Except for someone nearby sneezing or stagnant outdoor moist conditions, microbial infections are minimized during daylight hours. Dry conditions and high ambient outdoor ozone also effectively kills many different microbes.

What can we do further to help keep ourselves as germ free as possible? To remove germs from toothbrushes and dental appliances (retainers, dentures, etc.), see Violight Toothbrush Sanitizers. To remove germs from the air, we have several microbial-removing air purification technologies.

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