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Protecting Your Health

People are increasingly concerned about maintaining a healthy home and environment and ensuring good air quality in and around their homes. Issues including mold, radon, carbon monoxide, and exposure to other toxic chemicals from building materials, household cleaners, and pesticides have received greater attention than ever as poor indoor environmental conditions can present risks to health.

Many potential sources of household pollution exist, including:

  • Combustion sources such as oil, gas, kerosene, coal, wood, automobiles in attached garages, and tobacco products

  • Poorly maintained central heating and cooling systems, and humidification devices

  • Building materials and furnishings (e.g., old asbestos-containing insulation; old lead-based paint; wood products with high formaldehyde levels; and carpet, paints, coatings, and adhesives containing volatile organic compounds (VOCs))

  • "Stored" pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers

  • Radon

  • Products for household cleaning and maintenance, personal care, or hobbies

  • Diisocyanates in polyurethane products applied or manufactured in a home, including polyurethane floor finishes and spray polyurethane foam (SPF) insulation

  • Chromated copper arsenic (CCA) in pressure treated wood

  • Pollutants in well water

Homeowners and renters have a variety of approaches available to decrease risks from household pollution.

Home Design and Renovation Strategies

Indoor pollution sources that release gases or particles into the air are the primary cause of indoor air quality problems in homes, and can also have effects on public health by negatively impacting outdoor air and water quality.

Certain building materials, furnishings, and household products (such as air fresheners) release pollutants more or less continuously. Other sources, related to activities carried out in the home (such as cleaning), release pollutants intermittently. Pollutants can remain in the air and on surfaces for long periods of time, especially in home environments with inadequate ventilation and/or high temperature and humidity levels.

There are a number of steps you can take to reduce potentially harmful pollutants in your home, including addressing sources of asbestos and lead or other materials that impact occupant health; using environmentally preferable materials; properly ventilating; and utilizing air and water filtration.

Information on the major building-related toxics and indoor air quality issues, and how to avoid them, is provided below.

For comprehensive information on indoor air quality, go to:
Introduction to Indoor Air Quality
Indoor Air Quality in Homes/Residences
Indoor Air Quality when Remodeling your Home

For information on pollution prevention and toxics, go to:
EPA's Design for the Environment (DfE) Recognized Products
Mercury Information for Consumers
Lead in Paint, Dust, and Soil
General Consumer Pesticides Publications

Address potential indoor environmental quality issues

Asbestos

Asbestos is a group of naturally-occurring minerals that separate into strong, very fine fibers. These fibers are heat-resistant and extremely durable, which made asbestos popular in home construction until health problems came to light. Most products made today do not contain asbestos, and those few products which still contain asbestos are required to be labeled as such.

Until the 1970s, many types of building products and insulation materials used in homes contained asbestos. Today, asbestos in the home may be found in these older products, as well as in some newer materials and products, including:

  • Insulation in houses built between 1930 and 1950

  • Some roofing and siding shingles made of asbestos cement

  • Loose fill attic and wall insulation produced using vermiculite (asbestos may be a natural contaminant in this)

  • Textured paint and patching compounds used on wall and ceiling joints (use banned in 1977)

  • Artificial ashes and embers sold for use in gas-fired fireplaces

  • Walls and floors around woodburning stoves protected with asbestos paper, millboard, or cement sheets

  • Some vinyl floor tiles and the backing on vinyl sheet flooring and adhesives

  • Hot water and steam pipes in older houses coated with an asbestos material or covered with an asbestos blanket or tape

  • Oil and coal furnaces and door gaskets with asbestos insulation

  • Older home products such as stove-top pads

In a home that contains asbestos, the material may or may not pose a health hazard, depending on its condition. If the surface is stable, undamaged, and well-sealed against the release of its fibers, it is usually considered safe. However, when the surface is not sealed or it can be crushed by hand pressure, or it is already loose such as with vermiculite insulation, fibers can be released and may pose a health risk, including lung cancer. In these cases, asbestos should be removed by a professional.

For more information on detecting and managing possible asbestos in your home, go to:
http://www.epa.gov/iaq/asbestos.html
http://www.epa.gov/asbestos/pubs/ashome.html

Combustion Pollutants

In the home, combustion pollutants are gases or particles that are generated by burning materials in combustion appliances including heaters, ranges, ovens, stoves, furnaces, fireplaces, water heaters, and clothes dryers. These appliances burn fuels, such as gas, kerosene, oil, coal, or wood, for warmth, cooking, or decorative purposes. The major combustion pollutants released are carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and particulates.

Typically, combustion appliances are safe. However, under certain conditions these appliances can release pollutants into the home that can seriously damage health. Tips to reduce exposure to combustion pollutants include:

  • Using sealed-combustion, induced draft, or power-vented furnaces, boilers, and water heaters. ENERGY STAR equipment usually features sealed combustion or power-venting.

  • Using cleaner-burning woodstoves and fireplaces (woodstoves should be certified by EPA).

  • Properly selecting, installing, inspecting and maintaining your appliances.

  • Providing ample ventilation and correctly using your appliances. For instance, install and use exhaust fans over gas cooking stoves and ranges, and keep the burners properly adjusted. Using a stove hood with a fan vented to the outdoors greatly reduces exposure to pollutants during cooking.

For more information on reducing your exposure to combustion pollutants, go to:
http://www.epa.gov/iaq/homes/hip-combustion.html
http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/pubs/452.html

Lead

Lead has long been recognized as a harmful environmental pollutant, and is a particular concern for children's health and intellectual development. In homes, old lead-based paint is the most significant source of lead exposure in the U.S. today, particularly those homes built before 1978, when lead-based paint was phased out. Lead-based paint that is in good condition is usually not a hazard. However, lead from paint chips, which you can see, and lead dust, which you can't always see, can be serious hazards. Peeling, chipping, chalking, or cracking lead-based paint can be a hazard for children and pets who ingest flakes of lead paint from the floor, or from surfaces that children can chew or that get a lot of wear-and-tear. These include windows and window sills; doors and door frames; stairs, railings, and banisters; and porches and fences. Also, lead dust can form when lead-based paint is dry scraped, dry sanded, heated, or when painted surfaces bump or rub together. Settled lead dust can re-enter the air when people vacuum, sweep, or walk through it. To find out if you have lead in your home, if it presents a current hazard, and how to remove it, the best strategy is to hire a professional who specializes in lead paint removal and abatement.

If your home has lead-based paint, you can also be exposed to it when remodeling. It is important to keep the remodeling work, and dust associated with the work, separated from other areas in the home. On April 22, 2008, EPA issued a rule requiring the use of lead-safe practices and other actions aimed at preventing lead poisoning from renovation and other activities. Under the rule, beginning in April 2010, contractors performing renovation, repair and painting projects that disturb lead-based paint in homes, child care facilities, and schools built before 1978 must be certified and must follow specific work practices to prevent lead contamination. You should ask your contractor for proof of certification prior to the start of any remodeling, repair, or painting work that will disturb paint in pre-1978 housing or child care facilities.

For more information about preventing lead exposure in your home, go to:
http://www.epa.gov/lead/
http://www.epa.gov/lead/pubs/renovation.htm http://www.epa.gov/iaq/homes/hip-lead.html

Moisture/Mold

Too much moisture in a home can lead to mold, mildew, and other biological growths. This in turn can lead to a variety of health effects ranging from allergic reactions and asthma attacks to more serious illnesses. In addition to health problems, severe moisture problems can lead to rot, structural damage or premature paint failure. Hence, it's important to use techniques to control moisture when building, renovating, maintaining, and operating your home.

For information on how to control moisture in your home, go to:
http://www.epa.gov/iaq/homes/hip-moisture.html
http://www.epa.gov/mold/index.html

Radon

Make sure to test your home for radon. Radon is a naturally-occurring radioactive gas that is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. It can't be seen or smelled, but it's easy and inexpensive to test for. If your home has radon, then a radon mitigation system that vents the gas out of your house can be installed.

Also, if you are building an addition or a new home, radon-resistant new construction techniques can prevent high radon levels. The techniques may improve energy efficiency as well. In addition, when selling an existing home, it is very common, and even required in some locations, that a radon test be conducted as a part of the real estate transaction.

For more information on protecting your home from radon, go to:
EPA's radon Web site
A Citizen's Guide to Radon
Home Buyer's and Seller's Guide to Radon
Radon-Resistant New Construction Techniques
For locations of high radon zones see

Know About Materials and Furnishings Before You Buy

Building materials and furnishings can contain harmful chemicals.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

VOCs are emitted by a wide array of products including many: paints and lacquers, paint strippers, adhesives, solvents, upholstery and carpet treatments, and craft materials. Some VOCs contribute to outdoor smog, as well as indoor air pollution.

Formaldehyde

Formaldehyde is an example of an common VOC that is used in the manufacture of building materials, including most types of particleboard (used as sub-flooring, shelving, in cabinetry and furniture); hardwood plywood paneling (decorative wall covering, cabinets, and furniture); and medium density fiberboard (used for drawer fronts, cabinets, and furniture tops). Other types of VOCs include benzene, xylene, toluene, to name just a few.

For more information on formaldehyde, go to: http://www.epa.gov/iaq/formaldehyde.html

Chromated copper arsenic (CCA)

CCA is a chemical that has been used since 1940 in manufacturing pressure treated wood to make it resistant to decay and rotting. Since the 1970s, CCA has been commonly used in most wood for outdoor decking and childrens' playsets. CCA can be acutely toxic and a known human carcinogen. Due to this, it is no longer available for use in residential settings.

Diisocyanates in polyurethane products

Diisocyanates in polyurethane products such as polyurethane floor finishes and spray polyurethane foam (SPF) insulation can be toxic during installation when diisocyanate containing vapors or particles are inhaled or if the material comes in contact with the skin. Diisocyanates are well known inhalation and dermal sensitizers that can trigger a severe asthma attacks, especially in sensitized persons. Residents should leave their home during spray foam operations. Spray foam applicators should take measures to contain the migration of spray foam vapors and particles during spraying and cutting. Residents should work with their contractor to ensure that your home is well ventilated and cleaned before returning.

Spray polyurethane foam (SPF) insulation, a highly effective material for insulating new and existing buildings, schools and residences, is sometimes marketed as "green" because of its high insulation value and because, in some cases, it is made using soy bean oils as an extra ingredient. However, diisocyanates are found in all polyurethane products, including SPF insulation, and these can be released during the installation of the foam in a building.

Use environmentally preferable products (EPP) for building materials and furnishings for a healthier home.

For more information on using environmentally preferable materials and furnishings in your home, go to:
Guidance on Building and Construction Products
Guidance on Carpets
Guidance on Electronics
Federal Green Construction Guide for SpecifiersExit EPA Disclaimer
Guidance on chromated copper arsenic (CCA)
Guidance on diisocyanates
http://www.epa.gov/dfe/pubs/auto/profile/
http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/asthma.html

Ventilation

Ventilation supplies fresh air to your home and dilutes or removes stale polluted air. Good ventilation protects you and your family from unpleasant odors, irritating pollutants, and potentially dangerous gases. Well-planned ventilation also helps prevent the growth of mold and mildew.

Outdoor air enters and leaves, thereby ventilating a house, in three ways:

  • Natural ventilation - Air moves through opened windows and doors.

  • Infiltration - Outdoor air flows into the house through openings, joints, and cracks in walls, floors, and ceilings, and around windows and doors (air may also move out of the house in this manner -- this is called exfiltration). Uncontrolled infiltration can be a major cause of additional heating and cooling costs.

  • Mechanical ventilation - Historically, tightening a home's envelope to decrease infiltration led to poor IAQ for homes that lacked mechanical ventilation. Mechanical ventilation devices include exhaust (vented outdoors) fans that intermittently remove air from a single room (e.g., bathrooms or kitchen), to whole-house fans or air handling systems that continuously remove indoor air and distribute filtered and conditioned outdoor air throughout the house.

Remodeling may present an opportunity to ensure your home has adequate ventilation, while increasing energy efficiency. In general, remember to ventilate during a renovation project and when conducting repairs or cleaning that involve any noxious chemicals or fumes. Open windows for a cross-breeze and use a fan pointed towards the open window to push fumes outside. If the renovation/repair area is dusty, vacuum the area before turning on any fans. And keep dust or other pollutants from migrating into other areas of the house. However, if the renovation includes removal of lead-based paint, the best strategy is to hire a professional who specializes in lead paint removal and abatement.

For more information on ventilation for homes, go to:
http://www.epa.gov/iaq/homes/hip-ventilation.html
http://www.epa.gov/iaq/homes/hip-pressurebarrier.html

Air Cleaning

Air cleaning devices such as mechanical filters, electronic air cleaners, and ion generators can help improve indoor air quality. However, alone they cannot assure adequate air quality, and should be used in conjunction with toxic source reduction strategies and proper home ventilation. The effectiveness of air cleaners in removing pollutants from the air depends on the device's efficiency and the amount of air it handles.

For more information on air cleaning devices, go to:
http://www.epa.gov/iaq/pubs/airclean.html

Water Filtration

Water filters

Water filters can improve the taste and quality of your drinking water. Compared to purchasing bottled water, water filters require less energy and result in less waste.

The EPA enforces national standards for the tap water provided by public water systems. As long as contaminants remain at or below these low levels, the water is considered safe to drink for healthy people. (Note: People with severely weakened immune systems or other specific health conditions may wish to further treat their water at home.) Still, to improve the taste or because of health concerns, 4 out of 10 Americans use a form of home water treatment. These devices range from simple pitchers costing less than $20 to sophisticated reverse osmosis units costing hundreds of dollars.

Home water filtration is a better alternative than bottled water for several reasons. Some bottled water is treated more than tap water, while some is treated less or not treated at all. Bottled water costs far more per gallon than home filtration. Finally, the energy used (and greenhouse gases emitted) to bottle and transport water, as well as the waste created by discarded water bottles, makes bottled water a poor choice for the environment.

Before purchasing a home water treatment unit, consider local water quality, cost and maintenance of the unit, product performance, and certifications to make sure that the unit will meet your needs and address your particular concerns.

While EPA does not endorse specific units, there are three different certifications to look for on the label, which are accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) - NSF International, Underwriters Laboratories, Inc. (UL), and the Water Quality Association.

Well Water

For homes getting their water from wells, pollutants, either naturally occurring or from man-made contamination can be present. This can include such things as lead, radon, arsenic, perchlorates, bacteria and other substances. In many cases, specialized in-home filtration can help to remove or reduce these pollutants. However, prevention through proper well construction and continued maintenance are a better strategy for ensuring the safety of well water. The well should be located so rainwater flows away from it. Rainwater can pick up harmful bacteria and chemicals on the land's surface. If this water pools near your well, it can seep into it, potentially causing health problems. To keep your well safe, you must be sure possible sources of contamination are not close by. Experts suggest the following distances as a minimum for protection:

  • Septic Tanks, 50 feet

  • Livestock yards, Silos, Septic Leach Fields, 50 feet

  • Petroleum Tanks, Liquid-Tight Manure Storage and Fertilizer Storage and Handling, 100 feet

  • Manure Stacks, 250 feet

Protect your own well area. Be careful about storage and disposal of household and lawn care chemicals and wastes. Regularly check underground storage tanks that hold home heating oil, diesel, or gasoline. Make sure your well is protected from the wastes of livestock, pets, and wildlife. Take steps to reduce erosion and prevent surface water runoff.

Finally, maintain your well to avoid contamination problems. Keep up-to-date records of well installation and repairs plus pumping and water tests. Such records can help spot changes and possible problems with your water system. If you have problems, ask a local expert to check your well construction and maintenance records.

For more information on well water issues, see: http://www.epa.gov/privatewells/index2.html

For information on well water contaminants, see:
Arsenic
Perchlorate

For more information on water filtration devices, go to:
http://www.epa.gov/ogwdw/faq/pdfs/fs_healthseries_filtration.pdf(PDF) ( 7 pp, 1.7MB, About PDF)

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Household Goods

Household goods such as those used for housecleaning and pest management are helpful for maintaining the home, but some can contain toxic or hazardous chemicals - including carcinogens, persistent bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT) chemicals, endocrine (hormone) disrupting chemicals, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) - that may pose risks to human health and the environment. For instance, many pesticides, paints, varnishes, and waxes contain VOCs, as do many cleaning, disinfecting, air fresheners, and cosmetic, degreasing, automotive, and hobby products. All of these products can release VOCs while you are using them, and, to some degree, when they are stored.

The ability of household products to cause health effects varies greatly, from those that are highly toxic, to those with no known health effect. However, the simplest way to reduce health risks is to reduce or eliminate individual sources of pollution, or reduce exposure during use by:

  • Buying limited quantities - If you use certain products only occasionally, such as paints, paint strippers, or gasoline for lawn mowers, buy only as much as you will use right away.

  • Disposing of unused or little-used containers safely (i.e., taking them to household hazardous waste facilities, when appropriate). [link to household hazardous waste text on page 6 of the "Reduce Waste" section].

  • Choosing products that are packaged to reduce the chance of spills, leaks, and child tampering.

  • Making sure you have plenty of fresh air ventilation when using these products.

  • Using household products according to manufacturer's directions.

You may also want to consider using environmentally preferable cleaners as well as employing safer pest management in your home.

Use Environmentally Preferable Cleaners

Cleaning products are necessary for maintaining healthful conditions in the home. But many cleaning products can present health and environmental concerns, including eye, skin, or respiratory irritation, or more serious issues.

When purchasing cleaners, look for signal words on product labels. Try to avoid most products labeled "Danger/Poison" (indicating that they can be lethal when ingested in very small quantities), as well as products labeled as Corrosive, Severely Irritating, Highly Flammable, Highly Combustible, or Strong Sensitizer. Also, when possible, try to select cleaning products that are labeled as low-VOC and readily biodegradable. (Please note that terms like "bio-based" and "solvent-free" have very broad meanings and do not necessarily indicate that a product is safer. Citrus- and pine-based cleaners, both bio-based, raise potential health and environmental concerns, and the term solvent refers to a large class of chemicals-ranging from the highly toxic to essentially benign, like water.)

Some products' health and environmental claims have been verified or certified by a reliable third-party. The EPA Design for the Environment (DfE) Program is a leader in this field. When you see the DfE logo on a product, it means that the DfE scientific review team has screened each ingredient for potential human health and environmental effects and that-based on the best available information, EPA predictive models, and expert judgment-the product contains only those ingredients that pose the least concern among chemicals in their class. DfE-recgonition represents the highest level of achievement in formulating products that are safer for families and the environment. (For more information on the DfE Safer Product Recognition Program, visit http://www.epa.gov/oppt/dfe/pubs/projects/formulat/formpart.htm.

(Other third-party certifiers include Green Seal, Terra Choice/EcoLogo, and Scientific Certification Systems).

Also bear in mind that several simple and inexpensive household substances can also be effective for many types of household cleaning jobs, especially when applied with a little extra elbow grease. These substances include white vinegar, baking soda, mild liquid (e.g., castile) soap, and lemon juice. (Note that vinegar (acetic acid) and lemon juice are acidic and thus potential irritants to skin, eyes, and mucous membranes; concentrated acetic acid may also cause respiratory effects when heated. They are useful for removing mineral deposits and wax or grease build-up, but they should not be used on all surfaces. Borax, commonly considered a safer DIY ingredient, actually presents concerns for potential human health effects.) Recipes for making cleaning formulas are available on various Web sites such as thegreenguide.com Exit EPA Disclaimer and care2.com.Exit EPA Disclaimer

Check out EPA's environmentally preferable cleaners Web site for information to help you choose household cleaners with reduced health risks. For information on specific green household cleaning products, go to:

EPA Design for Environment Program List of Program Partners and Recognized Products
EPA Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Database of Environmental Information for Products and Services
National Institutes of Health Household Products Database

PLEASE NOTE: Linking to these lists does not constitute "endorsement" of these products or companies on the part of the EPA.

Use Safer Pest Management: Insecticides, Herbicides, and Fungicides

Many common pesticides to control insects (insecticides), weeds (herbicides), and fungus and molds (fungicides) can contain toxic chemicals. The best way to manage pests is to try to prevent them from appearing in the first place. For instance, stop insects from entering your home by removing sources of food, water, and shelter. And for outdoor landscapes, check out EPA's Greenscapes program, which provides information on adopting a preventative and holistic approach to pest management. Also, consider natural or less-toxic alternatives to chemical pesticides

If pest prevention does not work, and you decide to use chemical pest control products, use them safely and correctly (and do not use any more than is needed). Always carefully read and follow the pesticide label's instructions and safety warnings.

For more information on safer pest management, go to:
What is a Pesticide?
Do's and Don'ts of Pest Control
Controlling Pests in the Home
GreenScaping: The Easy Way to a Greener, Healthier Yard

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Home Maintenance and Household Practices

This section provides a number of tips you can follow to reduce exposure to household chemicals and other indoor pollutants through maintenance and household practices. Remember, the most effective way to improve indoor air quality is to eliminate individual sources of pollution or reduce their emissions.

Home Maintenance

furnace/air conditioning filter

Change your furnace/air conditioning filter according to manufacturers and product specifications. A filter with a MERV 8 rating or greater will provide more effective air filtration.

Fuel burning appliances

  • Equipment use and maintenance - Have your fuel-burning appliances -- including oil and gas furnaces, gas water heaters, gas ranges and ovens, gas dryers, gas or kerosene space heaters, fireplaces, and wood stoves -- inspected by a trained professional at the beginning of every heating season. Also, read equipment manuals and instructions, and make sure equipment receives regular maintenance. For instance, change or clean the air filters in your heating system monthly or as needed.



  • Replacing heating equipment - When replacing heating equipment, consider using only sealed-combustion, induced draft, or power-vented furnaces, boilers, and water heaters. After installation of combustion and/or ventilation equipment, combustion equipment should be tested to be sure that it functions properly.

  • Consider installing carbon monoxide detectors/alarms

For more information on proper maintenance of fuel burning appliances, go to:
http://www.epa.gov/iaq/homes/hip-combustion.html

Moisture Reduction

  • Prevent mold growth - Make sure wet areas, such as spills or stains, are dry within 24 to 48 hours to prevent mold growth. Control excess moisture (such as standing water from air conditioner drains or refrigerator drip pans) and fix leaks, drips and seepage problems. Thoroughly clean and dry water-damaged carpets and consider removal and replacement of items that appear to be permanently water damaged. Also, remove food wastes promptly. If mold and mildew does appear on hard surfaces, wash it off and dry completely.

  • Biological pollutants in basements - Clean and disinfect the basement floor drain regularly. Do not finish a basement below ground level unless all water leaks are patched and outdoor ventilation and adequate heat to prevent condensation are provided. Operate a dehumidifier in the basement if needed to keep relative humidity levels down.

  • If using cool mist or ultrasonic humidifiers, clean appliances according to manufacturer's instructions and refill with fresh water daily.

For more information on ways to reduce moisture in your home, go to:
http://www.epa.gov/iaq/homes/hip-moisture.html

Housekeeping

  • Keep the house clean

    - Dust mites, pollens, animal dander, and other allergy-causing agents can be reduced through regular cleaning. For instance, vacuum your carpet and fabric-covered furniture often to reduce dust buildup. Consider the use of vacuums with HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters if you are particularly sensitive

    - Prevent insects from entering your home by removing sources of food, water, and shelter for pests. For instance, make sure food and food scraps are tightly sealed and garbage is regularly removed.

    - Vacuuming - Vacuum carpets regularly, preferably using a vacuum that has a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filter.

    - Carpet cleaning - When having carpets professionally cleaned, find a service that uses a non-chemical and low-water process, and run fans afterwards to make sure that the carpeting dries quickly.

Household Practices

Product Use and Disposal

  • Follow label instructions carefully - Potentially hazardous products often have warnings aimed at reducing user exposure.

    - Always use household products only for their intended purpose and according to the manufacturer's instructions. Never mix household products unless directed on the label. Make sure you provide plenty of fresh air when using these products.

    - Wear gloves and eye protection when handling any hazardous products.

    - Keep household products in their original containers so that safety information and directions for use are always with the product.

    - Store any hazardous products in a secure place (where children and pets cannot reach them) and away from potential sources of heat, sparks, or flames.

  • Safely dispose of partially full containers of old or unneeded chemicals - Because gases can leak even from closed containers, this single step could help lower concentrations of organic chemicals in your home. Do not toss unwanted products in the garbage can; instead follow your local government's instructions for disposing of hazardous waste. Click here for more information on proper disposal of household hazardous waste

Equipment Use and Ventilation

Wood stoves

Wood stoves can provide supplemental heat to a home. For safe operation, be sure to follow the manufacturer's directions for use.

  • Wood stoves and fireplaces - Buy only EPA-certified wood stoves. Keep emissions to a minimum. Follow the stove manufacturer's directions for use, use seasoned (dried) wood only, and make certain that the doors fit tightly. For more information on safe and efficient wood-burning practices, go to: http://www.epa.gov/burnwise/woodstoves.html.

  • Open flues whenever fireplaces are in use.

  • Space heaters - Use an electric space heater whenever possible. Should you decide to use a fuel-burning space heater, open a door from the room where the heater is located to the rest of the house when the heater is in use. Take special precautions when operating fuel-burning unvented space heaters. Follow the manufacturer's directions, especially instructions on the proper fuel and keeping the heater properly adjusted.

  • Use exhaust fans or open windows when showering, cooking or using the dishwasher.

  • Do not idle the car inside your garage.

  • Lawn maintenance equipment - Consider using electric lawn mowers, manual push mowers, trimmers, and leaf blowers (or manual alternatives) rather than gas-powered equipment. This will not only greatly reduce the emission of air pollutants, but electric (and manual) tools are much quieter and less expensive to operate.

For more information on making your house a healthy home when carrying out household activities, go to:
http://www.epa.gov/iaq/homes/index.html
http://www.epa.gov/oppts/

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For New Homes

Homebuyers today are increasingly concerned about the indoor air quality of their homes. Issues like mold, radon, carbon monoxide, and toxic chemicals have received greater attention than ever as poor indoor air quality has been linked to a host of health problems.

Building a new home provides the opportunity to improve indoor air quality. Express your concerns about indoor air quality to your architect or builder, and ask them to specify construction practices and materials that reduce the potential for poor IAQ in your new home. Builders can employ a variety of construction practices and technologies in new homes to help address these concerns.

One EPA program that can guide you and your builder is the Indoor airPLUS Program. EPA created the Indoor airPLUS new home label to help builders meet the growing consumer preference for homes with improved indoor air quality.

By constructing homes that meet EPA's stringent specifications, forward-thinking builders can distinguish themselves by offering homes that have earned this designation. Indoor airPLUS is a complimentary label to ENERGY STAR for New Homes; only ENERGY STAR qualified homes are eligible for the Indoor airPLUS label.

When purchasing a new home look for a home with the ENERGY STAR and Indoor airPLUS labels. When building a new home, look for a builder who is a partner in both programs.

For more information on air quality in your new home, go to:
For information on Indoor airPLUS A Guide to Indoor Air Quality Indoor Air Quality in Homes and Residences

For information on ENERGY STAR for New Homes, go to - - http://www.energystar.gov/homes

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