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. “Windows and doors are typically closed during the winter months, causing poor ventilation because of little outdoor air exchange,” says Mike S. Zouak, CIH, president of Airtek Environmental Corp., based in Long Island City.
That lack of air exchange can exacerbate the presence of gases, chemicals, odors and other issues that can cloud the air we breathe. “Common air pollutants that become more problematic during the winter months include gas and fumes that result from the use of fuel for the boiler, stove or dryer in the winter,” says Zouak. “People tend to cook and use the dryers more often in the winter months, thereby increasing fuel combustion in buildings. Combustion contributes not only to unpleasant indoor odors and fumes, but also to higher carbon monoxide levels in indoor space.”
And of course, that is never a good thing. According to the New York State Department of Health, carbon monoxide (CO) exposure is the leading cause of death due to poisoning in the United States. Because it is colorless, odorless, tasteless and non-irritating, the signs of CO exposure can be ignored, or a person may lose consciousness and be unable to escape.
Jeffrey Hammond, a spokesman for the New York State Department of Health agrees that “carbon monoxide in the winter can be a problem,” especially since the most common sources of CO poisoning in a home comes from “malfunctioning or misused fuel-burning appliances,” according to the Department of Health website. That includes malfunctioning furnaces and portable non-electric space heaters, both of which get a workout in the winter months.