Keeping Indoor Air Clean a Priority During Colder Months

As fall and winter descend on Colorado, many people will begin to spend more time indoors. But the lack of fresh air may have adverse effects on some peoples’ health, particularly children, because the air inside some homes may be more polluted than the air outside, according to a Colorado State University housing expert.

Many children spend up to 90 percent of their time indoors, especially during the colder months, according to Ken Tremblay, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension housing specialist. That means that children are at greater risk for health problems that come from indoor air pollution. Unfortunately, homes, which are usually the places where people feel the safest, may pose significant health risks if indoor air has too many pollutants.

"Serious health threats may come from seemingly innocent things like the air we breathe or products used to clean bathrooms," said Tremblay. "For example, many homes in Colorado have high levels of radon, unless they are properly ventilated."

Radon is a colorless, odorless radioactive gas that can lead to lung cancer and that causes thousands of deaths per year, according to the National Safety Council. The gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the country. The gas is easy to detect with a simple test, and radon ventilation systems can be installed to prevent poisoning.

Other indoor air pollutants come from products that aren’t used properly, such as solvents, or are emitted from new items such as furniture, carpet or building products that give off chemicals for a period after they are manufactured. Older homes may contain paint with lead that can cause lead poisoning in children.

Other indoor-related health risks stem from mold, carbon monoxide, asthma and allergies, lead poisoning, drinking water, pesticide use and hazardous household products. The national organization of Cooperative Extension, called Cooperative State Education and Extension Service, has teamed up with the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to publish a booklet, "Help Yourself to a Healthy Home: Protect Your Children’s Health," which outlines these risks and tips to reduce them as well as addressing basic home safety.

The booklet provides a starting point for people who are concerned about health risks around their home, Tremblay said. Included are tips for making homes safer and sources for people to contact for more information. The free booklet is available by calling the Consumer Information Catalog Center at 1-888-878-3256 or by visiting the Web at