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Indoor Air Quality

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For Information Call

John Sobolewski, RS
Deputy Director
(216) 201-2000 ext. 1515
jsobo@ccbh.net
Stephanie McConoughey, RS
Program Manager
(216) 201-2000 ext. 1244
smcconoughey@ccbh.net

Indoor air can be unhealthier and more polluted than outdoor air. Some of these pollutants include cleaning chemicals, cigarette smoke, and mold. Other non-visible dangers include carbon monoxide and radon.

Asthma & Allergies

Portrait of a girl using asthma inhaler

The rates of children diagnosed with asthma have increase significantly in the last 10 years. Asthma is the leading chronic illness in children, resulting in more school days missed then all other illnesses combined. Asthma rates in the Northeast are among the highest in the country.

Asthma attacks are an allergic reaction to a trigger. Some triggers are: mold, dust, pollen, pets (dander), cold air, tobacco smoke, dry heat, air pollution, cleaning chemicals, pesticides, cockroaches, and dust mites. Most of these triggers can be found in the home.  To help manage your or your child’s asthma, the United States EPA has created a fact sheet that lists 10 easy steps to making your home more “asthma friendly.” 

 

Carbon Monoxide

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Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a colorless, tasteless, and odorless gas. Every year, hundreds of people in the United States die of CO poisoning. CO is generated from combustion appliances (those that use fuel-gas, oil, kerosene, charcoal, or wood to produce heat). Some of these appliances in the home include: gas furnaces, hot water tanks, ovens, dryers, wood burning fireplaces, grills (both gas & charcoal), vehicles, and gas powered yard equipment. Tobacco smoke also produces deadly carbon monoxide.

The number of CO poisoning cases often rise during the winter months when people who are experiencing power outages caused by adverse weather turn to alternative sources of heat, such as portable generators or fuel-burning stoves or heaters. One generator can produce as much CO as hundreds of cars and can incapacitate and kill a person in only a few minutes. Generators should only be used outdoors and away from any window, doors or vents.

Signs of low level CO poisoning can resemble those associated with the flu (headache, nausea, tiredness, weakness, & dizziness). Extended exposure to even low levels of CO can cause brain damage and heart problems. High levels can cause loss of consciousness, coma, and death. If you feel that you are having any of these symptoms, get fresh air immeidately! Open doors and windows, turn off combustion applicances and leave the house.

  • DON’T: Leave your car idling in the garage (even with the door open)
  • DON’T: Use gas-powered equipment or grills indoors or in any other enclosed spaces
  • DON’T: Use your gas oven to heat your home

Installing a CO detector in the home is very important. You should also remember to have your furnace and other heating applicances checked at the beginning of every winter season to ensure proper functioning and venting of all combustion gas.

s to become drowsy, get headaches, or function a lower activity levels. Humans are the main indoor source of carbon dioxide.

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Mold & Moisture

Mold needs moisture in order to grow. Moisture can enter the home (leaks) or be generated by the people in the home (hot showers, cooking). Mold can grow anywhere there is water and a suitable surface.  Porous surfaces retain the water and often stay damp (carpet, drywall, fabric, wood, and paper-based items).

There are hundreds of thousands of molds in various colors – black, brown, orange, green, etc. There is no good mold. Infants, children, elderly, and those persons who are immuno-compromised due to an illness, are more at risk for upper respiratory problems. Symptoms can include runny nose, itchy watery eyes, and sore throat. Anyone who has asthma or mold allergies will typically have a reaction. Not all people are affected in the same way.

There are six basic recommended steps for clean-up of visible mold growth. Although cleanup of mold may be conducted by the resident, extensive problems may necessitate the use of a professional.  In the event of a flooding event, many different types of items or surfaces may have been impacted by flood waters.  CCBH has created a fact sheet to assist with water removal and mold prevention.

There are currently no established standards for mold, how much visible mold is good or bad, or required certifications needed for those conducting the clean-up procedures.

Radon

Radon is a naturally occurring, odorless, tasteless radioactive gas. It originates from the earth and may enter your home from below the foundations through cracks in the floors, walls, floor drains, and sump pumps. Radon levels are generally higher in the basement or ground floor rooms that are in direct contact with the soil.

Radon gas can by inhaled and the radioactive particles may cause damage to the lung tissue and initiate lung cancer. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. Radon may be tested through a short term test kit, which can be mailed to a laboratory for analysis. Radon test kits are available for a nominal fee from the Cuyahoga County Board of Health.

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Second Hand Smoke

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Second hand smoke is the combined smoke from the cigarette/cigar/pipe and the exhaled smoke from the person smoking. This smoke has a high concentration of cancer-causing agents (carcinogens). The more secondhand smoke you are exposed to, the higher the level of these harmful chemicals in your body.

In the United States alone, each year second hand smoke is responsible for:

  • An estimated 46,000 deaths from heart disease
  • About 3,400 lung cancer deaths
  • 50,000 to 300,000 lung infections (such as pneumonia and bronchitis) in children younger than 18 months of age, which result in 7,500 to 15,000 hospitalizations annually
  • Increases in the number and severity of asthma attacks in about 200,000 to 1 million children who have asthma
  • More than 750,000 middle ear infections in children
  • Pregnant women exposed to secondhand smoke are also at increased risk of having low birth-weight babies

In December 2006, the Smoke Free Workplace became law in Ohio. This law requires any establishment that has an employee or invites the public to enter to be smoke-free. The law does not apply to homes, cars or outdoor areas.

a young man smoking a cigarette

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Asbestos

“Asbestos” is a commercial name, not a mineralogical definition, given to a variety of six naturally occurring fibrous minerals. It is a mineral fiber that occurs in rock and soil. Because of its fiber strength and heat resistance asbestos has been used in a variety of building construction materials for insulation and as a fire retardant. Asbestos has also been used in a wide range of manufactured goods, mostly in building materials (roofing shingles, ceiling and floor tiles, paper products, and asbestos cement products), friction products (automobile clutch, brake, and transmission parts), heat-resistant fabrics, packaging, gaskets, and coatings.

Where asbestos may be found:

  • Attic and wall insulation produced containing vermiculite
  • Vinyl floor tiles and the backing on vinyl sheet flooring and adhesives
  • Roofing and siding shingles
  • Textured paint and patching compounds used on wall and ceilings
  • Walls and floors around wood-burning stoves protected with asbestos paper, millboard, or cement sheets
  • Hot water and steam pipes coated with asbestos material or covered with an asbestos blanket or tape
  • Oil and coal furnaces and door gaskets with asbestos insulation
  • Heat-resistant fabrics
  • Automobile clutches and brakes

Asbestos fibers may be released into the air by the disturbance of asbestos-containing material during product use, demolition work, building or home maintenance, repair, and remodeling. In general, exposure may occur only when the asbestos-containing material is disturbed or damaged in some way to release particles and fibers into the air.

Unless the material, such as vermiculite insulation, is labeled as asbestos you cannot tell if it is asbestos-containing. To determine the presence of asbestos Ohio law and rules require that persons certified as Asbestos Hazard Evaluation Specialists be used to identify, detect and assess asbestos-containing materials. This list is also available free of charge by contacting the Ohio Department of Health Asbestos Program at (614) 466-0061.

If you suspect vermiculite insulation is in your home, the safest thing is to leave the material alone. If you decide to remove or must otherwise disturb the material due to a renovation project, the Ohio Department of Health recommends that you first contact an Asbestos Hazard Evaluation Specialist to determine if the insulation is asbestos containing. If the insulation is determined to be asbestos containing then contact a licensed Asbestos Hazard Abatement Contractor in your area.

Even if you have asbestos in your home, this is usually NOT a serious problem. The mere presence of asbestos in a home or building is not a hazard. Asbestos materials may become a hazard when damaged by others (heating & cooling contractors, plumbers, home improvement contractors or even the homeowner themselves) or when they begin to deteriorate.

Exposure to asbestos increases your risk of developing lung disease. That risk is made worse by smoking. In general, the greater the exposure to asbestos, the greater the chance of developing harmful health effects. Disease symptoms may take many years to develop following exposure.

Asbestos-related conditions can be difficult to identify. Healthcare providers usually identify the possibility of asbestos exposure and related health conditions like lung disease by taking a thorough medical history. This includes looking at the person’s medical, work, cultural and environmental history.

After a doctor suspects an asbestos-related health condition, he or she can use a number of tools to help make the actual diagnosis. Some of these tools are physical examination, chest x-ray and pulmonary function tests. Your doctor may also refer you to a specialist who treats diseases caused by asbestos.

Three of the major health effects associated with asbestos exposure are:

  • lung cancer
  • mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer that is found in the thin lining of the lung, chest and the abdomen and heart
  • asbestosis, a serious progressive, long-term, non-cancer disease of the lungs

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