What are you breathing? It is a good question to ask ourselves. All of us face a variety of risks to our health as we go about our day-to-day lives. Driving in cars, engaging in recreational activities, and being exposed to environmental pollutants all pose varying degrees of risk. Some risks are simply unavoidable. The good news is indoor air pollution is one risk that you can do something about. As we celebrate Indoor Air Quality Awareness month during October, see if any red flags go up in your house.
Nearly every week I receive a question about mold or moisture in the home. A lot has changed over the years. The days of killing mold with a strong solution containing bleach has been modified. Correcting the source of the moisture and cleaning the affected area with soap and water are the first important steps to be taken. Finally, disinfecting the area with a weak bleach solution can help prevent further mold growth. And make sure that an approved mask (N-95 respirator type) is worn during the mold remediation. I have a good supply of the EPA bulletin titled, "Mold, Moisture and Your Home" available in English and Spanish. It is also available on the EPA website.
Radon is another indoor air contaminant that has gained national attention. Exposure to radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. Radon can enter the lowest level of a home through cracks in the foundation, floor or through a floor drain. It is an odorless, colorless gas created from the break down of uranium in the soil. Soil porosity influences the amount of radon in a particular area. Higher readings are found in more compacted soils. The best way to see if your home is affected is to perform a short term test. We keep radon test kits on hand, (the cost is $5) and fall is the perfect time to check the radon level in your home. If the test comes back high, we have excellent bulletins to help you learn about fixing the problem.
Other indoor air quality concerns relate to dust mites and animal dander, carbon monoxide and second hand smoke. Each of these has a cause and a cure. Dusting and damp mopping areas where pets are allowed may help with animal dander. Making sure furnaces or any gas burning appliance is vented properly will go a long way to prevent accidental carbon monoxide poisoning. And asking family members or guests to smoke outside of the house will also help keep indoor air cleaner. Of course there are other chemicals found in paint, solvents, cleaning supplies, pesticides and fertilizers that may cause family members to experience breathing difficulties.
If my discussion about indoor air quality has sparked an interest, come by the Extension office at 1800 12th Street, and ask for the "Indoor Air Hazards Survey." It is a neat room by room checklist to help you make your home a safe place to be! It is available in English and Spanish and is free of charge.
Donna Krug is a family and consumer science agent with K-State Research and Extension – Barton County. She may be reached at email@example.com.