As we dive deeper into winter many of us bunker down and brace for the cold weather. But by sealing up windows and doors, we can be creating a health hazard within our homes. During the winter, it’s common for air quality to become worse inside the home than it is outside. In fact, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), indoor levels of pollutants may be two to five times (and occasionally more than 100 times) higher than outdoor pollutant levels!
Keeping your indoor air healthy is important especially if you have respiratory issues like allergies and asthma. Rebecca Morley, the executive director for the National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH), shared the following tips to help everyone improve and maintain air quality at home:
- Check Your Appliances & Install Safety Devices – Hire a licensed professional to inspect your gas appliances, fireplace and furnace to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning and fires. Make sure smoke and CO alarms work on each level of your home and outside of sleeping areas. Combination fire and CO alarms range from $18 to $35. Some models let you record a message for a child or older adult who may require more instructions when the alarm sounds.
- Keep Generators Outside – In the case of power outages, generators should only be operated outside of an enclosed space. Never run a generator, pressure washer, or any gasoline-powered engine inside a basement, garage, or other enclosed structure.
- Test Your Home for Radon – Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking and about 1 in 15 homes has a radon problem. Radon enters homes through small spaces and cracks from the ground beneath homes. Basic radon test kits are available at hardware stores or local and state health departments. Radon testing kits are available at discounted prices from the National Safety Council’s Radon Hotline (800-767-7236).
- Avoid Air Fresheners – Air fresheners, including sprays and plug in devices, worsen air quality. Instead, make your home naturally smell good through food smells. For example, bake apples or boil cranberries or herbs for comfort smells. Plant herbs in indoor pots and put rosemary, lavender or mint in vases.
- Remove Clutter & Keep Things Clean – Store belongings off the floor on wire shelving or in plastic bins instead of keeping them in cardboard boxes or on the floor. Resilient floors (wood or tile) are much easier to keep free of allergens and chemical residues such as pesticides and lead dust. Area rugs or carpet should be vacuumed weekly. For those with asthma and severe dust-related allergies, a special High Efficiency Particle Air (HEPA) filter vacuum is recommended.
Healthy Housing Challenge is a partnership between NCHH, Rebuilding Together and Wells Fargo. They make repairs at no charge to prevent health and safety hazards in the homes of low-income families, seniors, veterans, and persons with disabilities.