Sealing up the house for summer to save on energy bills can invite harmful contaminants. The University of Nevada’s Cooperative Extension offers tips for maintaining healthy indoor air.

Sealing up the house for the summer to save on energy also can be an invitation for harmful contaminants to make themselves feel at home.

Unhealthy indoor air can cause allergies, breathing problems, asthma and carbon monoxide and lead poisoning. Simple measures can be taken to keep healthy air as a constant house guest, said Laura Au-Yeung, indoor air quality and radon coordinator for the University of Nevada’s Cooperative Extension.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency findings concluded that air quality in homes is 5 percent worse than the outdoors, Au-Yeung said, and 20,000 people die each year from airborne contaminants.

“There are many contaminants in our homes that could cause harm,” she said. “Some could kill you instantly, and some could take a long time, depending on exposure period and dose.”

Being privy to what may be lurking is half the battle, she said.

n Carbon monoxide has been dubbed the silent killer due to its colorless and odorless qualities. Most people affected by the compound feel cold- or flu-like symptoms. Au-Yeung suggested purchasing carbon monoxide detectors or checking the batteries on existing ones.

n In homes or fixtures manufactured before 1970, lead can be a hazardous bedfellow. It can cause developmental issues in children or be harmful to the kidneys. Au-Yeung suggested replacing or resurfacing items that could contain harmful amounts of lead.

n Although Las Vegas rests in a dry desert, mold can find places to flourish. The micro-organism is found anywhere standing water had time to let spores develop.

“Once it starts to grow, it will continue and won’t go away,” Au-Yeung said.

Don’t disregard a spill on the carpet or overflow of a sink or toilet, she said.

n Be careful with aerosol sprays, even general air deodorizers and beauty products. The added chemicals can be harmful if built up in the lungs, Au-Yeung said. Turn on exhaust fans when using the products or during showers and defecation.

n Think of air quality while using household cleaners and hobby items, such as glues and paints.

n Change air filters often. “If the air filter is plugged, you’re not taking pollutants out of your home,” Au-Yeung said.

Russell Roberts, principal air quality specialist for the Clark County Department of Air Quality and Environmental Management, said the filter systems in the home reduce particulate levels of outdoor pollutants.

Once inside, the climate-control conditions turn over the air so it’s not drawing more ambient pollutants, such as carbon monoxide and ozone, that could be harmful.

n Test for traces of radon. On average, 8 percent of homes have radon seeping up from soil through cracks in the foundation, Au-Yeung said.

A radon awareness presentation, which is set to include the distribution of free kits for detecting the carcinogenic gas, is planned for 10:30 a.m. Saturday at the West Charleston Library, 6301 W. Charleston Blvd.

The University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, 8050 Paradise Road, also gives away the kits and offers healthy home presentations, thanks in part to the Nevada Healthy Homes Partnership with professionals at UNLV.

n Research and use eco-friendly products and practices. Many stores carry eco-friendly cleaning solvents, and there are environmentally minded dry cleaners in the valley, Au-Yeung said.

For more information, call 257-5550 or email au-yeungl@unce.unr.edu.

Contact Centennial and Paradise View reporter Maggie Lillis at mlillis@viewnews.com or 477-3839.

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