Few things are as important to our health and well-being as the air we breathe, especially inside our own homes. That is why it is so important for individual homeowners as well as management to stay up-to-date on issues of indoor air quality and ensure that everything possible is done to provide a healthy environment, especially in the winter months when so many of us are spending time in the warmth of the indoors.
Staying warm is always priority one in the winter months. That desire to keep the cold out and the warmth in can lead to problems, though, with air quality. “Ventilation and air exchange is a big component of indoor air quality. Obviously with the windows open you get a lot of mixture of air with a tendency to dilute pollutants. During the winter when everything is sealed up you get less ventilation and what happens, particularly during the heating season is you’ll have the potential for the exhaust gases to affect the indoor air,” says Richard M. Lester, M.S.I. H., president of Garden State Environmental in Glen Rock. “That can come from a multitude of sources, anywhere where there is combustion, furnaces and hot water heaters. They are creating heat and burning fuel and when you burn fuel you generate a variety of exhaust gases.”
“The simplest problem is lack of fresh air,” adds David DiMaio, the owner of New Jersey Air Quality, a commercial vent and duct cleaning company in Haledon. “The average person spends more than 85 percent indoors. If you do not have fresh air introduced into the home, it can cause a number of things, anywhere from exhaust or emissions, from appliances laying stagnant in the home (low levels of carbon monoxide from hot water heater, stove pilot, and exhaust from heating system), to accumulations of dust allowing food for microbial growth and even dust mites.”
Experts believe that carbon monoxide can be problematic in the wintertime because potential sources inside a building that may generate carbon monoxide include gas heating systems, gas stoves, gas hot water heaters and portable kerosene heaters, appliances which tend to get a workout during the winter months. Because carbon monoxide is colorless, odorless, tasteless and non-irritating, the signs of carbon monoxide exposure can be ignored, or a person may lose consciousness and be unable to escape. Carbon monoxide detectors can be purchased from any home improvement store and each home should have one.
According to Daniel Emmer, the communications manager for the New Jersey State Department of Health, 98 people were hospitalized in New Jersey from 2008-2011, due to unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning.