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In-home air quality can be improved during the winter

By Roberta Tolan
SUN Columnist

During the winter months, our homes are as tight as we can make them to conserve energy and save on our heating bills. But with windows and doors closed tightly, openings caulked and heating sources running 24/7, air quality inside our homes can be less than ideal. In addition, our homes often contain many furnishings, appliances and products that can affect indoor air quality.

The following information on improving indoor air quality was taken from the Colorado State University Extension fact sheet No. 9.938, “Improving air Quality in Your Home,” written by K.R. Tremblay, Jr. and M.P. Vogel. For complete information on this topic, download this fact sheet from the CSU Extension website at www.ext.colostate.edu.

Signs of indoor
air quality problems

• Unusual and noticeable odors.

• Stale or stuffy air.

• Noticeable lack of air movement.

• Dirty or faulty central heating.

• Damaged flue pipes or chimneys.

• Unvented combustion air sources for fossil fuel appliances.

• Excessive humidity

• Presence of molds and mildew.

• Health reaction after remodeling, weatherizing, using new furniture, using household and hobby products, or moving into a new home.

• Feeling noticeably healthier outside.

Common sources of
air quality problems

Poor indoor air can arise from many sources and at least some of the following contaminants can be found in almost any home. Some of the more common sources of poor indoor air quality include:

Moisture and biological pollutants such as molds and mildew: If possible, eliminate moisture sources. Install and use exhaust fans and use a dehumidifier if necessary. Remove molds and mildew by cleaning with a solution of chlorine bleach (1 cup bleach to 1 gallon water). Maintain good, fresh air with natural and mechanical air circulation.

Animals: Many animals leave allergens, such as dander, hair, feathers or skin in the air. Keep pets outdoors as often as possible and clean the entire house regularly. Deep clean areas where pets are permitted and clean pets regularly.

Fireplace: Your fireplace can be a source of carbon monoxide and combustion pollutants. Open the flue when using the fireplace and have it and the chimney inspected annually for exhaust backdrafting, flue obstructions or cracks, excess creosote or other damage. Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

Carpet: Biological pollutants can grow on water-damaged carpet and new carpet can release organic gases. Promptly clean and dry water-damaged carpet or remove it altogether. If adhesives are needed, ask for low-emitting ones and, during installation, open doors and windows. Vacuum regularly. Consider area rugs instead of wall-to-wall carpet as rugs are easier to remove and clean.

Gas or kerosene space heater: These devices can release carbon monoxide and combustion pollutants. Never use unvented kerosene or gas space heaters. In the room where the heater is located, provide fresh air by opening a door to the rest of the house, turning on an exhaust fan and slightly opening a window.

House dust mites: Biological allergens can trigger asthma. Clean and vacuum regularly and wash bedding in hot water above 130 degrees. Use more hard-surface finishes, as they are less likely to attract and hold dust mites.

Household cleaners: Unhealthy or irritating vapors may be released from chemicals in cleaning products. Select non-aerosol and nontoxic products and use, apply, store and dispose of them according to manufacturers’ directions. If products are concentrated, label the storage container with dilution instructions and completely use up a product.

Personal care products: Organic gases are released from chemicals in some products such as deodorant, hairsprays, shampoos, toners, nail polish and perfumes. Select odor-free or low odor-producing products and select non-aerosol varieties. Open a window or use an exhaust fan. Follow manufacturers’ directions when using the product and disposing of containers.

There are many sources of poor indoor air quality that can be found commonly within the home, including paneling, pressed-wood furniture, floor tiles, tobacco smoke, draperies, lead-based paint, air fresheners, dry-cleaned goods, radon, hobby products, car and small engine exhaust, and pesticides and fertilizers. For more information on these sources of pollution and possible remedies, visit the CSU Extension website at www.ext.colostate.edu and download the fact sheet.

CPR and first aid
certification classes

CPR and first aid certification classes are now being offered monthly by the CSU Extension office on the second Monday and Wednesday of each month from 6-10 p.m.

Anyone needing to receive or renew certification can register by calling the Extension office at 264-5931. We will also schedule classes on additional dates with five or more registrations.

Cost for the classes is $80 for combined CPR/first aid, $55 for individual CPR or first aid, and $35 for recertification with proof of current certification. The type of first aid information provided will vary by the needs of the audience.

This story was posted on March 13, 2014.