It’s now February, and the weather’s only constant feature is unpleasantness. As Hoosiers retreat into the warm indoors from the cold, many may not realize the potential health risks found inside their home.
Lisa Caldwell, head of the Indoor Air Quality Program at the Marion Public Health Department, said indoor air may carry unhealthy contaminates, and neglecting air quality inside your home can lead to asthmatic conditions, carbon monoxide poisoning and possibly even lung cancer. Therefore, following a few tips to ensure quality indoor air is important to staying healthy in the winter.
Be cognizant of carbon monoxide
Winter is not only bad for indoor air quality because of closed windows and a lack of fans circulating air throughout your home, but people also use gas appliances such as furnaces and water heaters during the season, which can emit carbon monoxide. Because carbon monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas it often goes undetected and poisoning can lead to headaches, vomiting or even death. Prevention is the best cure. Don’t use ovens or stoves to heat your house, change your furnace’s air filter and install a carbon monoxide detector. Worst case scenario: call 911. The fire department can check both people’s bodies and houses for excessive carbon monoxide.
Clean, but clean correctly
Contaminants that corrupt air quality such as mold thrive in wet and dirty areas, so keep up with vacuuming, sweeping, mopping, washing dishes and other household chores.
“Clean and dry is a very good motto to have,” Caldwell said.
That being said, be careful how you clean. Many cleaners leave harmful chemicals in the air, especially when using excessive amounts. Keep the exhaust going when using chemical cleaners. LaToija Snodgrass, Indiana manager of health promotions of the American Lung Association (ALA) also recommends using alternative cleaners that are less toxic such as Go Green cleaner or even going totally natural by cleaning with baking soda.
Don’t smoke indoors
The health risks from firsthand and secondhand smoke are old news, so many smokers avoid smoking in their home when guests are around. What smokers might not know is that thirdhand smoking also exists and poses a number of risks as well. Thirdhand smoking is when the smoke people exhale settles into the environment. Furniture commonly catches the toxins from thirdhand smoking, for example. Whenever someone sits in the living room of an indoor smoker, they risk breathing in thirdhand smoke.
“People who smoke in their home don’t really understand the gravity of their actions,”
Beware of radon
Just like carbon monoxide, radon is a colorless and odorless gas. It comes from soil and can leak into houses with cracked foundations. Long-term exposure to radon may cause lung cancer. In fact, Caldwell said radon is the second largest cause of lung cancer next to smoking. Preventing radon in your home is as simple as installing a radon alarm or contacting the Marion County Public Health Department for a free radon scan of your home.
Use available resources
Free scans are not the only resource available to those looking to ensure quality indoor air. Both the Marion Department of Public Health and the ALA possess educational resources online to help people keep their home healthier. The ALA even employs trained counselors who are available by phone. If you don’t feel comfortable with any of those options, Snodgrass suggests discussing your concerns with your primary physician.
Contact staff writer Ben Lashar at 317-762-7848. Follow him on Twitter @BenjaminLashar.