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Indoor Air Quality

Air pollution is a leading environmental health hazard and can happen indoors in places such as homes, workplaces and in vehicles. Common health problems associated with poor air quality include heart and other cardiovascular diseases and asthma and other respiratory diseases.
Understanding and controlling some of the common pollutants found in homes, schools, and offices may help improve your indoor air and reduce your family's risk of developing health outcomes related to indoor air quality.

Indoor air quality could be affected by common outdoor air pollutants in addition to the build-up of other chemicals, gases and particulates. Common indoor air pollutants include carbon monoxide gas, radon gas, smoke and chemicals such as from tobacco smoking, use of vapor-based items, and fragrances, pesticides, chemical-based household products, and lead dust. Exposure to these have been associated with several health problems.
The connection between housing and indoor work spaces and health is well documented with research linking dust, mold, environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) and pests with the aggravation of asthma; radon and ETS causing lung cancer; lead-based paint contributing to child lead poisoning; carbon monoxide and some household products causing poisoning; and building (construction) deficiencies contributing to falls and accidents. These housing-related health and safety hazards have a major negative impact on communities. They lead to missed school and work days, poor quality of life, and financial hardship. This is especially true for vulnerable populations such as seniors, children, people with disabilities and communities affected by poor housing conditions.
Vulnerable populations include seniors, children, people with disabilities, people with existing health conditions and communities impacted by poor housing conditions. Many young children spend most of their time at home, making indoor air quality especially important for them. Infants and toddlers who grow up in safe and healthy environments tend to become healthy teens and adults.

Try these healthy living indoor air quality tips:

  • Adopt a smoke-free policy in your home, workplace and car.
  • Have the furnace and any other gas appliance inspected and serviced yearly.
  • Ensure that a home or office has ventilation (bring outdoor air to the inside). If there is a ventilation system, make sure it is operating properly and filters are changed regularly.
  • Have chimneys and fuel burning appliances inspected.
  • Install and maintain a carbon monoxide detector.
  • Install and maintain a smoke detector.
  • Use appliances such as grills and generators outdoors only and away from windows and doors.
  • Test for indoor radon.
  • Take your shoes off when going inside your home and adopt a no-shoes-inside-the-house policy.
  • Put doormats at all home and building entries.
Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas released from rock, soil and water. It can build up to dangerous levels inside any home. Since radon gas is odorless and invisible, the only way to know if your home has a radon problem is to test for it. All homes should be tested because radon is the number one cause of lung cancer among people who do not smoke and the second leading cause of lung cancer among people who smoke.
The only way to know if your home has a radon problem is to test for it, and fortunately for New Mexicans, there are easy options for doing this.

Reduced-cost, short-term radon test kits are available to New Mexico residents through the state Environment Department's Indoor Radon Outreach Program which offers test kits from Alpha Energy Laboratories. Visit https://www.doctorhomeair.com/# and click on State Discounts. Select the New Mexico flag symbol.

Low cost short-term as well as long-term test kits are available from many radon specialty vendors, hardware stores and DIY (Do-It Yourself) stores. Often the cost of the kits includes the lab analysis.

You can also call this EPA-supported hotline to purchase radon test kits by phone: 1-800-SOSRADON (1-800-767-7236) or visit http://www.sosradon.org
On average, most people spend as much as 90 percent of their time indoors, making indoor exposure to radon a health concern. Typically, indoor radon gets inside a house or building from the soil or rock beneath it. Radon rises through the soil and gets trapped under the building. The trapped gases build up pressure under the building which makes radon gas seep up through floors and walls. Once inside, the radon can become concentrated in the enclosed space making it important to test for radon and mitigate if needed. It is also why new buildings should be built with radon-resistant features.

Mitigation

A mitigation system is any system or steps designed to reduce radon concentrations in the indoor air. The EPA recommends that you act to reduce your home's indoor radon levels if your radon test result is 4 pCi/L or higher. The primary benefit is reducing the risk of developing lung cancer.

There are several methods that a contractor can use to lower radon levels in your home. Some techniques prevent radon from entering your home while others reduce radon levels after it has entered. The EPA generally recommends methods that prevent the entry of radon.

In many cases, simple systems using underground pipes and an exhaust fan may be used to reduce radon levels. Standard radon reduction systems maintain low levels if the fan is operating. Such systems are called "sub-slab depressurization," and do not require major changes to your home. Similar systems can also be installed in houses with crawl spaces.

In addition to installing a mitigation system, sealing cracks and other openings in the floors and walls is a basic part of most approaches to radon reduction. Sealing limits the flow of radon into your home. (The EPA does not recommend the use of sealing alone; it recommends it in combination with a mitigation system).

To learn more about mitigation options, visit:
Radon Resistant Features for New Houses

New homes can be built with radon-resistant features. Building new homes with simple and cost-effective -resistant features can reduce radon entry. Using common materials and straightforward techniques, builders can construct new homes that are resistant to radon entry often for less than $500.

Common radon-resistant features include: gas permeable layer, such as a 4-inch layer of clean gravel; plastic sheeting placed on top of the gas permeable layer and under the slab or over the crawlspace floor; sealing and caulking; and a vent pipe.

To learn more about radon-resistant features visit:
Radon is the number one cause of lung cancer among people who do not smoke. It is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States for people who do smoke because smoking coupled with radon exposure in a home increases risk of lung cancer, per the Surgeon General.

The best ways to reduce your risk for radon-associated lung cancer is to:
  • test your home for radon,
  • install a mitigation system if the home has signs of radon exposure,
  • ban smoking from inside your home, and;
  • get support for quitting smoking altogether.

Test and Mitigate

If you want to reduce your risk, the first step is to test your home for radon. Reduced-cost, short-term radon test kits are available to New Mexico residents through the state Environment Department's Indoor Radon Outreach Program by visiting https://www.doctorhomeair.com/#. Click on State Discounts. Select the New Mexico flag symbol.

If your test shows evidence of high levels of radon gas in your home, the Environment Department will talk to you about ways you can reduce levels of radon gas in your home and how you can cut your exposure to this gas. Order a low-cost kit and call 505 476-8608 to learn more.

Keep a Smoke-Free Household and Get Support for Quitting Smoking

To further reduce your risk of lung cancer, you should make your home smoke-free. Keeping a smoke-free home can help improve your health and the health of children.

You can begin by asking anyone who smokes to not use tobacco products inside the house or any indoor space. Ask that if they smoke, they do it outdoors and away from windows and doorways.

Next, if your household has people who smoke, encourage them to access free cessation services offered by the New Mexico Department of Health. They can begin by calling the statewide toll free number 1-800-QUIT NOW (1-800-784-8669) or visiting http://www.nmtupac.com. Typically, these services include:
  • Unlimited sessions with a Quit Coach
  • Quit Plan
  • Educational materials
  • Nicotine Replacement Therapy (gum, patch or lozenges), as appropriate
  • Specialized services for pregnant women, including postpartum calls
  • Specialized services for people ages 13-17
  • Internet-based activities integrated with phone support
The NM EPHT Web site is supported by Cooperative Agreement Number 5 U38EH000949 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of CDC. Please use the following citation: " Retrieved Mon, 29 May 2017 14:55:47 from New Mexico EPHT Tracking Public Web site: https://nmtracking.org/ ".

Content updated: Mon, 12 Dec 2016 11:40:06 MST