Indoor Air Issues

Carbon Monoxide Facts

  • Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas. It results from the incomplete burning of natural gas, oil, wood, kerosene, charcoal and other fuels, under conditions where there is not enough oxygen present
  • Exposure to low levels of carbon monoxide can cause flu-like symptoms such as headaches, nausea, dizziness, drowsiness, weakness and shortness of breath. Higher levels can result in unconsciousness or death
  • Carbon monoxide is most likely to accumulate inside homes during winter, when the heating system is in use and the home has been sealed and insulated against the cold
  • Carbon monoxide can accumulate from wood stoves, fireplaces or charcoal grills, furnaces, water heaters, boilers, gas cooking stoves and clothes dryers, gas or kerosene space heaters and automobile exhaust

Carbon monoxide safety

  • Make sure your heating system and all fuel burning appliances are adequately vented and maintained
  • Make sure your furnace has an adequate air supply
  • Do not use gas stoves, ovens or portable camping equipment to heat living areas
  • Have a qualified technician install and check furnaces and all fuel burning appliances
  • Install a UL-listed carbon monoxide detector; one which sounds an alarm. This is in addition to a working smoke alarm

Other Indoor Hazards and Safety Information

  • Mold exposure can be a special problem during winter when homes are sealed up. Enough mold spores can contribute to asthma, allergies and other health problems
  • Molds need an ample supply of moisture. Your home may be at risk if you've had flooding, a leaky roof, ice dams, a damp basement, a backed-up sewer, or chronic plumbing leaks
  • Radon can sometimes enter homes from the surrounding soil and accumulate in living areas, especially during the winter. The Minnesota Department of Health recommends that all homes be tested, as long-term exposure to radon can contribute to many long-term health problems, including lung cancer. When testing, use equipment that can take average readings over a long period of time
  • If asbestos-containing material is disturbed by remodeling, something often done during the winter, tiny fibers can be released to the surrounding air. Some products contained asbestos up to the mid 1980s. Repair or encapsulate the damaged material using hardware supplies. If you hire a contractor to do the work, that contractor must be licensed by the Minnesota Department of Health

For further information, contact:

  • Minnesota Department of Health
    • Indoor Air Program at (651) 201-4601, or (800) 798-9050

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