Clean air is important both in and out of doors but you have more control over the air inside your home, workplace or where you choose to eat and play. Wilkes County Health Department works to support smoke-free restaurants and people with asthma and provides education and resources for questions about mold, radon and carbon monoxide.
More Information about Clean Air can be found at: http://www.epi.state.nc.us/epi/air.html
North Carolina’s Smoke-Free Restaurants and Bars Law was passed by the N.C. General Assembly and signed by the Governor in May, 2009, with an effective date of January 2, 2010.
The law requires enclosed areas of almost all restaurants and bars to be smoke-free effective January 2, 2010. Smoking is also banned in enclosed areas of hotels, motels, and inns, if food and drink are prepared there.
For more information about this new law, go to:http://tobaccopreventionandcontrol.ncdhhs.gov/smokefreenc/
Molds are fungi that grow indoors or outdoors. They grow in warm and damp conditions, such as in compost piles or wooded areas outside or in basements or showers inside. Molds reproduce by making spores, kind of like seeds, that do not begin to grow until conditions are warm and moist. The spores can exist in all conditions though.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not recommend routine sampling for molds. The danger of mold has to do more with the person than the type of mold. Some people sensitive to molds will have wheezing, stuffy noses, or eye and skin irritation when mold is in the house. People, who are more sensitive, such as those with serious allergies or chronic lung conditions, can have severe reactions. If you are susceptible to mold and mold is seen or smelled, there is a potential health risk; therefore, no matter what type of mold it is, remove it.
Mold and its spores can be cleaned off of hard surfaces with soap and water or a weak bleach solution (1 cup bleach in 1 gallon of water). After cleaning where mold has been, or to stop it from becoming a problem in your home follow these important guidelines:
- Keep humidity levels between 40-60% by using an air conditioner or dehumidifier during humid months.
- Put exhaust fans in showers and cooking areas.
- Make sure all leaks are fixed and seal any cracks in wet basements.
- Add mold inhibitors to paints before painting.
- Do not carpet bathrooms or basements.
Radon is a naturally occurring, invisible, odorless gas. Radon is a radioactive decay product of radium which is a radioactive decay product of uranium. Both uranium and radium are common elements found in soil, rock and water.
Radon is released harmlessly into the outdoor air, but when it becomes trapped in buildings it can be harmful, especially at high levels. Radon comes into houses through foundation cracks or other floor openings such as drains, ductwork or pipes. Radon can also become trapped in underground water sources such as wells and enters the home through showering, washing clothes or other household water use but this is usually a much smaller risk.
The US Surgeon General has determined that radon gas is a substantial risk. It is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the US (behind smoking which causes nearly 90% of all lung cancers). Radon can cause cancer when it is inhaled into the lungs. In the lungs, radon decays which releases alpha particles that can damage DNA. The damaged DNA can lead to lung cancer.
Radon is measured in picocuries per liter of air (pCi/L). The US Environmental Protection Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that people in homes with 4pCi/L or higher in household air or 300 pCi/L in water make changes to reduce the amount of radon in their homes. (It takes much higher levels of radon in water for significant health risks.) The most commonly recommended steps people take to reduce radon in their homes is to caulk cracks along basement foundations, seal leaks around pipes or installing a pipe and fan system to vent radon out from under the house. If water is the problem, water aeration or carbon filters may help.
You can get information and order test kits from the National Safety Council’s Radon Hotline (1-800-SOS-RADON), or click here.
Carbon monoxide is another invisible, odorless gas that is made whenever fuel, such as wood, gasoline, coal, natural gas, kerosene, etc. is burned. There may be other smells coming from the burning fuel source, but carbon monoxide is odorless.
Carbon monoxide can get into your home if you leave your car, truck or other vehicle running; if your home has a poorly vented or malfunctioning hot water heater, furnace, space heater, fireplace or kitchen cooking stove; or if you burn charcoal, alcohol, gas or cigars, cigarettes or pipes in an enclosed tent, camper or small room.
Carbon monoxide stops your body from being able to use oxygen. It creates a poison in your blood and can harm your central nervous system and even your heart. Carbon monoxide poisoning can look like you’re coming down with the flu or food poisoning. Symptoms include: headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, rapid heartbeat, seizures, cardiac arrest, loss of hearing, blurry vision, vomiting, disorientation, loss of consciousness, coma, respiratory failure and even death. Although everyone can be poisoned by carbon monoxide, some people with existing health problems, such as heart and lung disease and the elderly, are especially vulnerable. Infants, children and pregnant women are also at high risk.
To protect yourself and your family there are some steps you can take:
- Use carbon monoxide home alarms to let you know when carbon monoxide levels are high.
- Have your furnace and fireplace cleaned and inspected each year before it gets cold.
- If you are using non-electrical space heaters, do so only in open, well-ventilated areas.
- Don’t start or leave running cars, trucks or other vehicles in an enclosed area.
- If you are having symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning and your detector alarm goes off, call 911.
- If you are not having symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning and your detector alarm goes off, check the detector. Reset it with the reset button (if there is one). Turn off any appliances or anything burning fuel and get fresh air into the building. Have your heating system or appliances repaired if necessary.
- If you are having symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning and you do not have a detector, leave the area (to get fresh air) and call 911.