Indoor Air Quality

Submitted by Lorene Bartos, UNL Extension Educator

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October is National Indoor Air Quality Month. How is the air quality in your home? This is the time to check the home for "triggers" and appliances that may pollute the air.

As we spend more time inside during fall and winter it is important to take steps to make sure the indoor air is not harmful. Many times indoor air is more polluted than outside air and can be a problem for people with respiratory problems or allergies. Polluted indoor air comes from a variety of sources. Excess moisture, especially in kitchens and bathrooms, can lead to mold. Smoke and pets also effect the quality of indoor air.

Carbon monoxide and radon are silent killers and homes should be checked and detectors installed to protect families from these problems. Carbon monoxide can come from fireplaces or other combustion heating and cooling appliances. Heating and cooling systems should be checked annually. Even household cleaning products can give off toxic chemical. Always have good air circulation when using cleaning products. Common asthma triggers are found in many homes. These are such things as pollen, dust particles, tobacco smoke, cockroaches and dust mites. Good housecleaning habits can help keep many of the triggers under control.

Dust can be controlled with regular vacuuming and dusting. High performance vacuum cleaners with a high efficiency filter are best. Using damp mops and dust rags is a good method to control dust. Since cleaning can put dust in the air, it is best to do cleaning when children are not around, if they have dust allergies.

Pets in the home can also cause problems. Pet dander collects in carpets and furniture and they need to be cleaned more often when pets are inside.

It is especially important to clean carpets frequently. Carpets can contain dust, mold, dust mites, lead and other pollutants. Be careful with carpet cleaning chemicals (follow label instructions). If wet methods are used on carpets, use fans as needed so the carpet dries out within a day or so.

To avoid mold growth fix plumbing leaks promptly and get rid of water drips and spills. Mold needs moisture to grow so it is very important to take care of excess moisture problems immediately.

Dust mites are found mostly in bedding. They can live in many other places, including upholstered furniture and stuffed toys. Regular cleaning and washing of bedding is most helpful. For laundered items, the "hot" setting can kill mites and their eggs.

Be aware of the 'triggers" that cause lower air quality in your home and take time to improve the air quality in the home. Your family will be healthier and the home will be a healthier place to live.

Ask Lorene

(This resource was updated October 2012 and appeared in the Lincoln Journal Star Newspaper Sunday edition. For information on reproducing this article or using any photographs or graphics, read the Terms of Use statement)

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