Environment Matters Podcast
EPA Region 3
Topic: Indoor Air Quality
Date: November 14, 2008
Lena: When the weather cools off, we spend more time indoors with our windows shut and our heaters on. We know that means less fresh air in our homes. Today, we have some tips to help us keep our indoor air healthier.
Hi, I'm Lena Kim at the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency's mid-Atlantic region and welcome to Environment
Matters, our new series of podcasts.
Cristina Schulingkamp, an EPA indoor air quality scientist and a mother of young children, has found four areas where we need to pay special attention.
Cristina: That's right, Lena. Thank you. The first clean air tip has to do with cleaning products. Most commercial cleaners are designed to be used in very small quantities. Read the label and use them as directed. Never combine cleaning products if you don't have to – the result can be very toxic.
If you accidentally spill too much, open the windows and let the vapors out – even if it means letting some cold air into your house. Your lungs do need that fresh air.
If you have young children or pets, keep your cleansers out of their reach.
Some people want to make their own cleaners, which is just fine. Baking soda mixed with water is great for cleaning sinks or other sticky places. Lemon juice is good for cleaning glass coffee pots. You can also use some vinegar mixed with water to clean windows. The "green cleaning" market is growing but it can be confusing to consumers. There are not industry standards. So, to help you find products that are less toxic and easier for your indoor air quality you can start by looking on the label for natural ingredients that you recognize - such as plants, scents and minerals are the words and 'free of petrochemicals,' also look for biodegradable and non-toxic. See if the bottle themselves are reusable and refillable.
Lena: Cristina, what else can contribute to air pollution in the home?
Christina: There are some major appliances in your home that can contribute to poor indoor air quality such as your gas stove, hot water heater, furnace, and fireplace can emit carbon monoxide, which can be fatal. EPA asks that you take some precautions in your home.
Make sure to keep your stove top clean, preventing it from getting clogged. Also if you know where your furnace filter is you can either clean it or change it. If you can't reach your filter easily, manufacturers recommend that you hire an expert. In addition, they recommend that every home have a professional heating ventilation and home inspection annually. Since carbon monoxide is fatal, EPA also recommends that homes have carbon monoxide and smoke detector also.
Lena: Anything else?
Cristina: Yes, you can install a bathroom exhaust fan. And on those days when weather is pleasant outside, open your windows. In areas with excess moisture a dehumidifier helpful.
In addition, check your home for radon every five years. Since radon is colorless and tasteless it may seem easy to ignore, but radon is the 2nd leading cause of lung cancer after cigarette smoking. You can get a simple, inexpensive test kit at hardware store or home improvement center.
Lena: Critina, thank you for all those great indoor air tips, and for more information, visit our website at www.epa.gov/iaq , www.epa.gov/radon and www.epa.gov/dfe - design for the environment.
And thanks for joining us on Environment Matters, EPA's new series of podcasts.