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The U.S. EPA reports that your home’s indoor air quality (IAQ) can be some of the worst you experience and can actually make you sick. These five situations aren’t uncommon and contribute to minor or serious health problems:

Dirty Air Filter

The air filter for your home’s furnace or air conditioner traps airborne particulates, and when it gets too dirty, it’ll start blowing pet dander, pollen and possibly mold spores through the ductwork. If you have a sensitivity to any of these particles, you could feel sick.

Gas Appliances

Most of the time gas appliances run safely, but if anything blocks the airflow into them or their vent pipes, carbon monoxide gas (CO) can build in your home. Symptoms include headaches, nausea, feeling like you have the flu, or being dizzy. If you ever notice that a gas stove or oven burns with a yellow flame, turn it off immediately until it can be adjusted. Blocked vents on a gas dryer can emit CO into your home as can a water heater that’s not venting properly.

Furnace Safety

If you heat with gas, be sure you have the furnace professionally adjusted annually to prevent problems associated with CO. There is a plumber in Canada that also deals with heating in Edmonton that has said you could run into serious problems if you don’t take care of dirty ducts, filters, and poorly running furnaces.

Attached Garage

While an attached garage is a major convenience, it can also contribute to poor indoor air quality. Yard chemicals, paint and other gases can enter the home. If you use it to store your vehicle, CO and other noxious gas can enter if the door to your home or the connecting wall isn’t airtight. Caulk can seal cracks and fresh weatherstripping will prevent air transfer between your home and the garage.

Duct work leaks

Leaking duct work can pull lots of dust into your home and even back draft CO throughout your home from vented gas appliances. If you notice dusty areas around the supply registers, it’s a good idea to have the ducts sealed with mastic or metal tape.

Home Improvements

New carpet, paint, furniture, dry cleaning and many cleaning products emit volatile organic compounds (VOCS) that can cause serious health problems. Alternative products are now available that indicate they’re low in VOCs, preventing adverse reactions. Natural cleaning products like vinegar, hydrogen peroxide and baking soda are also a safe alternative to harsh chemical cleaners.

All five of these IAQ problems can be prevented and eliminated through proper maintenance, attention to home safety issues and making educated choices about what you bring home. Considering how much time you spend inside your home, making the air as clean as possible will contribute to better overall health.

Earnest Parenting: Help for parents concerned about indoor air quality.