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Your house is your home, it should be a place to relax, be with family and, most of all, a place where you should feel safe. Many people may not be aware that there are several indoor air pollutants that could create dangerous situations in your home if not properly prevented and detected. The following is a list of some of the most common indoor air pollutants, their effects on health and how to detect and prevent them.
- AsbestosThis indoor air pollutant is a mineral fiber that has been used in a variety of building products to increase resistance to fire. Due to adverse health effects, a ban was placed on some asbestos products, and manufacturers have limited its production. Harmful forms of asbestos still remain in older homes, in pipes, shingles and some textured paints. Fortunately, asbestos can be in your home without causing any health problems, so long as it remains undisturbed. The real problems begin when asbestos is disturbed and the dust is inhaled. Lung diseases such as asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma can develop due to prolonged exposure to this pollutant. Because you cannot tell if a product has asbestos in it just by looking at it, you should handle a suspected product with care and contact a professional for removal. CLICK HERE for more information on identifying asbestos and avoiding contact with it.
- Carbon monoxide: This pollutant is a toxic gas that you cannot see or smell. Carbon monoxide poisoning can occur when this toxic gas builds up in a room and is inhaled. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, buildup of this gas is usually the direct cause of improper ventilation in gas or wood stoves or kerosene and gas space heaters. Mild effects include dizziness, nausea, fatigue and disorientation. Carbon monoxide poisoning can result in death. Despite the killer nature of this pollutant, death can easily be prevented. Making sure the flue to your fireplace is open and having a trained professional inspect your heating system (furnaces, wood stoves, chimneys, etc.) can prevent a potential tragedy. Never idle your car inside the garage as the fumes can build up and linger inside your home. You can even buy carbon monoxide detectors for your home. Some states have even passed legislation that requires every home to have a detector installed. Detectors run $20 to $30 and can be found in local hardware stores.
CLICK HERE for more information on carbon monoxide poisoning and how to prevent it.3. Radon: This extremely toxic, colorless, radioactive gas is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. Christine Keyser, indoor radon program coordinator for the Utah Department of Environmental Quality Radiation Control Division, says this can become a tragedy. "I get too many calls from people who tell me that a family member has been diagnosed with lung cancer who has never smoked a day in their life and now they want to test their home for radon," says Keyser. She believes that many people may not have their homes tested because they do not know what radon is or because they have become apathetic to it. "I cringe when I hear someone say, 'Why haven't I heard about radon?' We try very hard to educate the public with limited funds," says Keyser. "Then there are some folks who know about radon but don't accept it as a real problem because you can't see it, hear it, taste it or smell it. ... so therefore, it must not exist."
Exposure to radon in the home is responsible for an estimated 20,000 lung cancer deaths each year. -EPA
Radon is a very real threat to public health and has been shown to be fatal to thousands of people each year. The easiest way to prevent radon in your home is by ordering a radon testing kit. These kits are available online at http://www.radon.utah.gov/ at a discounted price of $6. Keyser says that your home, school or business should be tested every couple of years for radon, especially if you have renovated.
CLICK HERE for more information on the health effects associated with radon and how to prevent it.
- Lead: Lead is a soft metal that is toxic to humans when ingested or inhaled. Exposure can come through the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat. Most common exposure comes from the improper removal of old lead-based paint in the home, but exposure can also come from contaminated soil and drinking water. Homes built before 1978 have been shown to have lead paint. Lower levels of lead can cause reproductive problems, high blood pressure and hypertension, nerve disorders and memory and concentration problems. Continued exposure to lead can cause coma and even death. According to the EPA, the effects of lead exposure on young children and fetuses can be "severe," causing both physical and mental birth defects. The EPA lists several ways to reduce exposure to lead. The agency suggests keeping children's play areas clean and dust-free; leaving lead-based paint undisturbed if it is in good condition; and contacting a professional to remove damaged lead paint. CLICK HERE for more information on preventing lead poisoning.