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Keeping Your Family Safe This Winter: Indoor Air Quality Issues

As it grows colder outside, families across the country are turning their focus onto winterizing their homes, hoping to keep their heating usage and bills in check.

For most of the country, the winter season means closed windows, recirculated air and fires in woodstoves and fireplaces. Gone are the days of summery breezes, open windows and fresh air freely circulating.

Many families are rightfully concerned about how clean their air is during the winter months, simply because of the lack of consistent fresh, outdoor air.

Common Indoor Air Quality Concerns

Essentially, we live in a polluted world. Every time something is released into our air, we’re at risk for breathing it in. Consider this: every time you use your regular spray cleaner, open a window as a truck passes by or your uncleaned furnace kicks on, you’re breathing in contaminated air.

However, some pollutants are more harmful to our health than others are.

For example, many homes contain asbestos, and long-term exposure to airborne asbestos particles may lead to mesothelioma, a deadly disease that affects the lining of the lungs, heart and abdominal wall.

Radon, a naturally occurring gas, is linked to lung cancer.

Lead-based paints, if ingested, may lead to damage in the nervous system.

All of these examples pose a threat to our indoor air quality, especially if any of these materials becomes loosened and airborne.

How to Keep Your Air Safe: Asbestos and Lead-Based Paint

Above all, if you suspect that you have asbestos products or any lead-based paint anywhere in your home, leave material alone. Don’t attempt removing suspected toxic materials yourself. Contact a certified asbestos-removal professional or a contractor to tackle the issues.

Further, if the asbestos is intact and remains in good condition, then the risk of asbestos exposure decreases. As long as the asbestos is undisturbed, then the deadly particles can’t become airborne and there isn’t a danger of inhalation. The same applies to any lead-based paint.

Nevertheless, if the asbestos in your home is in good condition and, yet, you remain concerned, contact a professional asbestos-removal contractor. In most cases, these professionals will seal the asbestos so that the fibers remain intact, and upon request by the homeowner, can remove the asbestos all together.

For lead-based paint issues, always let a professional handle the material.

Again, never attempt to seal or remove any suspected asbestos or lead-based paint on your own.

How to Keep Your Air Safe: General Tips

  • Install and maintain whole-house air ventilation systems
  • Invest in an air cleaner or purifier
  • Keep your home free of mold and dust
  • Regularly service wood burning stoves and fireplaces
  • Ensure that all home windows are installed correctly and maintained regularly
  • Switch to natural, non-toxic household cleaners and paints
  • Place plants around your home
  • Clean and maintain your furnace regularly
  • Test the radon levels in your home, and if the level is unsafe, install a radon ventilation system

Resources

United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). An Introduction to Indoor Air Quality (IAQ). Accessed on November 21, 2011. (http://www.epa.gov/iaq/is-imprv.html)

United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). An Introduction to Indoor Air Quality: Asbestos. Accessed on November 21, 2011. (http://www.epa.gov/iaq/asbestos.html)

United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Asbestos in Your Home. Updated on June 7, 2010. Accessed on November 21, 2011. (http://www.epa.gov/asbestos/pubs/ashome.html)

US Consumer Product Safety Commission. The Inside Story: A Guide to Indoor Air Quality. Accessed on November 21, 2011. (http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/pubs/450.html)

WebMD. Breathe Easy: 5 Ways To Improve Indoor Air Quality. Reviewed on January 8, 2009. Accessed on November 21, 2011. (http://www.webmd.com/health-ehome-9/indoor-air-quality)

TheDailyGreen. 10 Ways to Improve Indoor Air Quality. October 16, 2008. Accessed on November 21, 2011. (http://www.thedailygreen.com/living-green/blogs/organic-parenting/voc-paint-55101601)

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