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Air Quality
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October is noted as Indoor Air Quality Awareness month. This is such an important topic so today seems like the perfect time to share some updated information on this subject.
We spend the majority of our time inside; 90 percent of it, in fact. However, mold, mildew, carbon monoxide, tobacco smoke, radon, asbestos and other indoor air pollutants can make some days you spend inside miserable. Indoor air pollution is a high contributor to illnesses. These pollutants cause acute and chronic problems such as allergies, asthma, headaches, nausea and even cancer. Americans lose millions of dollars each year in medical costs, lost workdays and decreased productivity due to illnesses caused by poor indoor air quality.
Indoor air quality can actually be worse than outdoor air quality. Many buildings are built or remodeled so tightly that fresh air is prevented from entering and circulating. That is complicated by the use of many furnishings, appliances, products and decorations that can negatively affect indoor air quality. Of course the obvious signs of poor indoor air quality include unusual or noticeable odors. This may be attributed to moving into a new home, using new furniture, or using hobby products. Feeling noticeably healthier when you are outside is a definite clue that the air you are breathing inside your home may not be healthy.
Factors that impact air quality include lack of air movement, dirty or faulty heating or air conditioning equipment, damaged flue pipes or chimneys, unvented combustion for fossil fuel appliances, excessive humidity and the presence of mold and mildew. Many common household items pollute the air.
After periods of rain I am often called and asked if I will come and inspect for mold. That really is not necessary because the KDHE and Extension specialists say that if you see it or smell it, you have it. Sometimes the solution to the problem is not one they want to hear. Any textiles in the affected area should be disposed of. It may be necessary to cut out a portion of a wall where moisture has caused damage and replace support wood and refinish. The bottom line is that you really can’t kill mold spores; you need to remove the source of the problem. The newest information does not encourage the use of chlorine bleach as a routine practice during mold cleanup. That is a big change from what we have said in the past.
Mark Wednesday, Oct. 15, on your calendar and join me at the Great Bend Activity Center at noon for an update on air quality. I will share the same information on Friday, Oct. 17, at 1 p.m., at the Great Bend Senior Center. I will have copies of the  Mold, Moisture and Your Home publication from the EPA at no charge. This is also a good time to check your home for radon. I will have more on that subject next week.
Donna Krug is the Family and Consumer Science Agent for K-State Research and Extension - Barton County. You may reach her at (620)793-1910 or