November 6, 2012

Breathe Easy This Winter!

Take a clean break from indoor air pollution with these winter health tips.

The good news is, a winterized home is sealing out the wind and cold. The bad news is, it may be sealing in common pollutants. In fact, research indicates that interior air may be more polluted than outdoor air even in major cities. But with regular, simple maintenance and procedures, you can keep your indoor air fresh as the outdoors – actually, fresher!

Here are a few winter health tips to give your home a clean bill of health. They can also save money on house cleaning, your appliances’ longevity, and best of all, doctor bills.

Top Winter Health Tips:

Make sure your chimney is clean and the fireplace flue is wide open during cozy fires. Also, have inspections for proper venting and air intake to help prevent back-drafting with carbon monoxide and particle pollutants. Have your chimney inspected yearly.

Use exhaust fans in the kitchen and with the dryer. Gas appliances may emit carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide. Unvented gas stoves can release formaldehyde. Warning: A persistent yellow-tipped flame usually indicates pollutant emissions from stove burners and space heaters. Have the burner adjusted so the flame tip is blue.

Don’t smoke indoors. If you smoke, go outdoors. It’ll clear the air of the smell and yellow dinge left by tobacco smoke, not to mention make your home more pleasant.

Use exhaust fans in the bathroom.This helps prevent mold and mildew.

Test for radon. This naturally occurring gas can cause cancer, but it’s relatively easy to vent and prevent. Any home can have radon. Call your contractor or state radon office for an inspection or inspection kit.

Have central air conditioning and ducts inspected yearly. This can be a breeding ground for mold and other biological contaminants if they aren’t properly maintained.

Change heater filters monthly.You’ll increase the life and efficiency of your heater and enjoy better air quality.

Have plumbing inspected by a professional. Leaking water often means mold and mildew and it can happen in so many places.

Regularly clean the humidifier. This can become a breeding ground for bacteria.

Immediately clean or dispose of water damaged materials. Scrub any mold off hard surfaces with detergent and water, then dry it completely. You may have to throw out porous materials, from carpet to ceiling tiles. Never paint or caulk moldy areas. Clean it and dry it!

Ventilate the attic and crawl spaces. You’ll help prevent moisture buildup and the chance for mold.

Pressed wood products should be “exterior-grade.” Particleboard and plywood paneling may release formaldehyde. However the gas weakens with age. Keep rooms with new pressed wood products cool and dry.

Change dry cleaners if your clothes have a chemical odor. Dry cleaners try to recapture and reuse perchloroethylene to save money, but may not always do a thorough job.

Don’t idle the car in the garage. A major carbon monoxide producer.

Have your home tested by a heating/cooling specialist. Test for mold, carbon monoxide, radon, and anything unique to your region or neighborhood. It’s a small price to pay and you’ll breathe a lot easier.

Indoor Pollutant Dictionary

  • Bacteria are microorganisms that thrive in wet areas of the home and are often food-borne. Effects range from sore throats to food poisoning.
  • Biological contaminants are life-based contaminants including bacteria, mold, viruses, animal dander, house dust mites and pollen.
  • Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that reduces oxygen levels in your body. Symptoms include headaches, dizziness, weakness, confusion and sometimes death.
  • Formaldehyde is a colorless, pungent-smelling chemical that can cause watery eyes, burning sensations in the eyes and throat, and sometimes breathing difficulties. It’s common in pressed woods, and unvented gas stoves can produce it.
  • Mold and mildew are fungi. They gradually destroy items they grow on and can cause allergic reactions, headaches, labored breathing, skin irritation and more.
  • Nitrogen dioxide is a colorless, odorless gas that irritates eyes, nose and throat and can cause shortness of breath.
  • Perchloroethylene is a dry-cleaning chemical that causes cancer in animals.
  • Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas in the ground. Radon can cause cancer, however it’s inexpensive to detect and there are effective, often inexpensive ways to rid homes of radon. The EPP recommends all homes be tested for radon.

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