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Keeping Your Home Healthy: Indoor Pollution Solutions

By Jane Mountjoy-Venning

The EPA estimates that the average American spends as much as 90% of our time indoors and that indoor air can be 5 times as polluted as outdoor air, even in heavily industrialized areas. Fortunately, there are steps we can take to make our own indoor space a healthier home.

Mold and mildew are common problems in our damp climate, but there are steps we can take to prevent mold growth indoors. The most effective ways are to reduce moisture and increase airflow. Start by making sure outdoor water stays outside. Keep home gutters and drainpipes clear and draining well away from the building foundation. Repair or report any leaks right away. Then work on ways to minimize and vent moisture produced inside the home. Make sure to seal the shower curtain or door so no water leaks out when bathing. Squeegee shower walls to send excess water down the drain instead of into the air. Use a ventilating fan in the bathroom during showering, and for thirty minutes after showering. Be sure the clothes dryer vents to the outdoors and avoid air-drying clothes indoors. The evaporated water will condense inside the house if not vented to the outside. Water will condense onto cold surfaces such as windows, or walls in unheated rooms or closets. Keep air flowing in these areas by opening window coverings, doors to closets, or unused rooms as much as possible. Place furniture a few inches away from the walls, rather than right against the walls, to increase airflow and circulation.

Another common source of indoor air quality problems is fumes. Be sure the stove, furnace, and fireplace or woodstove are properly vented. Never use a camp stove or other portable cooking devices like a hibachi indoors; these can quickly lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. Wherever there is a source of carbon monoxide, such as fuel burning heating systems, installing a CO detector is a good safety addition, and can save lives. For more information on CO poisoning visit the state Department of Health website at http://www.doh.gov Additional regulations are established through the building codes; see http://www.ga.wa.gov/sbcc

Choose cleaning products with no solvents and limited or no odor, and avoid using air fresheners as they continuously release fumes into the air. When using cleaning products, painting, etc., ventilate properly. This means sending the "dirty" air out of the building, not letting it be pulled into the rest of the home. If possible, use a fan to send air out a window and have a source of clean air that is pulled into the room.

Are you looking for smoke-free rental housing? The American Lung Association® in Washington maintains a list of smoke-free rentals on their website: http://www.alaw.org The list is searchable by location, number of bedrooms, move-in date, and various amenities. Property managers can follow the directions on the page to list their own smoke-free rental units.

For more information, take the Breathe Easier Home Assessment, originally developed by the American Lung Association. This do-it-yourself booklet leads you through a series of questions. The answers fall into low, medium, or high concern category with suggested actions to improve your indoor air. This helps determine the priority actions for your specific living situation.

The Breathe Easier Home Assessment is available through Thurston County Public Health and Social Services Department, 360-867-2674 (TDD 867-2603) or on our website at: http://www.co.thurston.wa.us/health/ehhm/index.html Education staff can lead a workshop or give a presentation to your group on indoor air quality. Options include making green cleaners, or conducting a home assessment.

Jane Mountjoy-Venning is an Educator/Healthy Homes Specialist with Thurston County Public Health and Social Services Department. You can contact her at the number above or by e-mail: venninj@co.thurston.wa.us.

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Updated 2015/01/07 21:14:22