Molly Burke special for the citizen
Temperatures are starting to drop, which means winter will be here soon. Chances are that your home’s windows are now closed, air conditioners are put away, and all drafts have been sealed off. Unfortunately, some “silent killers” may still be lurking in the air in your home – carbon monoxide and radon.
CO is known as a silent killer because it is an odorless, tasteless and colorless gas. Homeowners should be aware of this gas and the sources of CO in their home, as it can pose a huge health and safety threat. It is produced by common household appliances, such as fireplaces, water heaters, furnaces and other major appliances. When these devices are not properly vented, CO can build up in your home or garage and can potentially cause CO poisoning when you breathe in this silent killer. The most common symptoms of CO poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, stomach pain/vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. If you experience these symptoms, it is recommended that you get outside to get some fresh air and contact your doctor.
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One of the best ways to protect yourself against carbon monoxide poisoning is to install a battery operated CO detector in your home. Some CO detectors come with a sealed battery that can last 10 years. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention also recommends the following to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning:
• Make sure all fuel-burning appliances are properly vented so CO doesn’t build up in your home.
• Have your chimney checked or cleaned annually. Chimneys can become clogged with debris, which can lead to CO buildup inside your home.
• Never drive your car or truck inside an attached garage, even with the garage door open.
Radon is similar to CO in that it is also an odorless, colorless and tasteless gas. Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas found in almost all soils in all regions of the United States. It can enter your home through cracks and other holes in a home’s foundation or pipes. Without proper ventilation it becomes confined indoors and therefore is included in the air we breathe.
Radon is a big concern during the colder months, when windows are closed and our homes receive little or no fresh air. This also makes late fall and winter the best time of year to test for radon. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the New York State Department of Health have designated Cayuga County as a high-risk radon county. Therefore, the Cayuga County Health Department strongly recommends that all Cayuga County residents test their homes for radon this winter. If your home has a high level of radon (4pCi/L or more), the EPA recommends a radon remediation of your home, which should be done by a certified professional.
For more information on carbon monoxide or radon, be sure to visit the CDC websites:
• CO: cdc.gov/co/default.htm
• Radon: cdc.gov/radon/index.html
If you do not have carbon monoxide detectors in your home or would like to test your home for radon, contact the Cayuga County Healthy Neighborhoods Program. This program offers free home assessments to ensure people are living in a healthy environment. After a living environment assessment, residents can receive information, educational materials and supplies to help create a healthier and safer living environment. This program can also offer referrals to partner organizations to ensure a healthy home. The program is offered free of charge to all residents of the City of Auburn, City of Mentz, and City of Montezuma. Call (315) 253-1560, visit cayugacounty.us/health or scan the QR code to schedule your free Healthy Neighborhoods tour today!
Molly Burke, MPH, is a senior public health educator with the Cayuga County Health Department. For more information, contact the department at (315) 253-1560, visit cayugacounty.us/153/health-department or like and follow the department on Facebook and Instagram at @CayugaCountyHealthDept.