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BREATHE EASY AT HOME Smart Moves to Reduce Indoor Pollution

by Crissy Trask

systems should have high-quality filters to capture fine particles and should be changed monthly,” says Glenn Fell- man, executive director of the Indoor Air Quality Association. But filters alone won’t solve serious air problems. “If you’re concerned about your

air quality, a portable high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) room air cleaner in your main living area or bedroom may protect you further,” says Fellman, “but the key is eliminating the con- tamination source.”


hile most people are aware of outdoor pollution, they may know little about

harmful air pollutants inside their home. That ignorance can have grave consequences.

Indoor pollutants can come from faulty combustion in appliances, trapped moisture, household prod- ucts and home furnishings. Even the mattress we sleep on could, through a process called off-gassing, be a source of chemicals known as volatile or- ganic compounds (VOC), making for much worse than a poor night’s sleep. The cumulative effects of exposure to indoor pollutants range from the sniffles to serious illness and death. “Children are especially vulnera- ble to poor indoor air quality, due to their smaller and developing lungs,” says Bernadette V. Upton, owner of EcoDecor Inc. in North Palm Beach, Florida. “A child’s lungs continue to develop until they’re 18 years old. That’s a long stretch of time for children to be exposed to toxic pol- lutants.”

It’s one of many reasons why Up- ton became expert in green interiors. As a noted accredited professional

24 Hudson County

with Leadership in Energy and Envi- ronmental Design and the American Society of Interior Designers, she’s in the forefront of her industry. “When it comes to decorating our homes,” she says, “we focus too much on how rooms look—such as the color of the walls and the pattern in the sofa (the visible)—forgetting to pay attention to what’s in products that can turn indoor air into a toxic soup (the invisible).”

DRAW A BREATH OF FRESH AIR To begin, experts agree that every home and business should have prop- er ventilation to prevent the buildup of indoor pollutants. New buildings are made more airtight these days to keep out drafts and hold in warm or cool air, even though this puts occu- pants at risk for health problems. To ensure that an adequate amount of outdoor air enters a home, open windows as often as possible during good weather. Also ask an HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) professional to see if the building could benefit from a me- chanical system to remove pollutants. At a minimum, “Heating and cooling

BE AWARE OF FIVE POLLUTANTS 1. CARBON MONOXIDE Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odor- less, colorless and tasteless toxic gas that’s produced when fossil fuels burn incompletely. At lower levels of expo- sure, CO causes flu-like symptoms. At high levels, it can cause unconscious- ness and even death. Sources include natural gas stoves, cooktops, ovens, water heaters and furnaces, wood-burning stoves and fireplaces, kerosene space heaters, charcoal grills and gasoline motors. These sources present a danger to indoor air quality when the CO they produce leaks within a building, in- stead of being vented outdoors.

Prevention and Remediation • Do not use kerosene and gas heat- ers without proper ventilation. • Use an exhaust fan vented to the outdoors when operating a gas stove.

• Do not use a wood-burning fire- place if the smoke can be smelled indoors. It could be back-drafting and need inspecting.

• Have a professional annually inspect combustion appliances for maintenance and cleanliness. • Never let a car sit idling in an attached garage or outside of open windows. It helps to install a detector that will sound an alarm if unsafe levels of CO are detected. The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends units that meet the requirements of the cur- rent UL standard 2034 or the IAS 6-96 standard. Detectors, however, are no substitute for the proper use and main- tenance of CO-producing appliances.

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