Minimize window condensation

Healthy HouseTM CleanAir Tip

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Condensation can form on windows when enough temperature variation exists between the indoor air and the surface of the glass. Anytime this happens, it is a risk for mold growth.

Condensation occurs when the air temperature at the surface of the glass falls below the dew point. The dew point is the temperature air needs to cool to cause the water vapor already in the air to condense out as dew on surfaces. Dew point is a function of ambient air temperature and relative humidity. As air becomes more humid, condensate forms at even warmer temperatures.

There are a few simple things you can do to help minimize condensation on windows and prevent mold growth.

1. Single pane windows should be upgraded to a double-pane or triple-pane window. This will help eliminate temperature variation and keep the interior glass surface closer to the indoor temperature.

2. Humidity should be managed through ventilation or dehumidification and should not exceed 60% relative humidity.

3. Maximize the space between your window coverings and the window pane to promote air flow and evaporation. Fabric curtains should be replaced with less-porous window coverings or should be mounted with considerable distance from the window.

4. Sills, ledges and window encasements should be kept dust free to further prevent mold growth.

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Keep power cords away from your body

HealthyHouseTM TechTip

The majority of standard power cords are energized to 120 volts. This voltage potential emanates an electric field that induces voltage on the body. This is referred to as "body voltage." Body voltage can be lessened by keeping power cords further from the body.

Many people work at a desk with a jumbled collection of power cords and power strips at their feet. It's also very common to keep multiple things plugged in around your bed or sofa. Moving these cords as far from your body as possible will lower your body voltage. Try to aim for at least four feet or more of separation.

Low power devices typically have a small block at the end or in the middle of the power cord. This block is the transformer that supplies DC power to the device. Many of these transformers emanate a magnetic field that will drop off with distance. Keeping these transforming power supplies away from the body will also lower your magnetic field exposure.

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Upgrade old electrical wiring

Healthy HouseTM TechTip

Knob-and-tube wiring

Knob-and-tube wiring

Houses with older wiring tend to have elevated EMF.

Knob-and-tube wiring was a early method of electrical wiring that was common to North America from the 1880s to the 1930s. Many older houses are still using this type of wiring today. Houses with this type of wiring usually have higher EMF as compared to houses wired according to current electrical standards.

Knob-and-tube wiring does not inherently contain a grounding wire, which means that you cannot use three prong appliances with this type of wiring. Many older homes with knob-and-tube have been improperly upgraded to support a grounded receptacle. In many of these instances, the grounding conductor is energized with voltage. This voltage on the grounding conductor creates an increased electric field radiating from the device plugged into the improperly grounded receptacle.

Knob-and-tube wiring is designed to contain significant separation of the hot and neutral conductors for heat dissipation. This separation causes elevated magnetic fields in the house.

Even in newer houses, the electrical system can develop problems as the system ages. Circuit breakers and GFCI receptacles can fail with age. Circuit breakers should be inspected periodically to ensure that there are no signs of corrosion or debris buildup. At any sign of corrosion, the circuit breaker should be replaced. When a circuit breaker or GFCI protection device fails, the switching contacts can remain closed and the device continues to provide power—providing no safety protection, which can result in serious injury or even death.

When replacing electrical wiring, consider using a metalized conduit. When instrumented correctly, metalized conduit will block the electric field coming from the hot conductor that is energized. Elimination of the electric field will result in a lower body voltage as compared to alternative wiring containing a non-metalized plastic or vinyl jacket.

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Avoid using a wireless thermostat

Healthy HouseTM TechTip

Most newer thermostats have wireless Wi-Fi capabilities. To reduce exposure to additional radio-frequency radiation, it is best to stick with a traditional thermostat that does not have Wi-Fi or Bluetooth capabilities.

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Stop sewer gases from entering the building

Healthy HouseTM CleanAir Tip

Sewer gases originate from decomposing mater in the public or private sewer, drainage or septic systems. Sewer gases can include methane, hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide. Many of these gases have toxic effects on occupants of a building. Sewer gases gradually displace oxygen, cause odors, or could lead to fire or explosion. In many cases, intruding sewer gases are caused by evaporation of the water barrier in drain traps. They can also originate from drain tile systems. Buildings should be tested for sewer gases and any intrusion problems should be analyzed and fixed.

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Mitigate radon gas

Healthy HouseTM CleanAir Tip

Radon gas is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, invisible gas that results from the natural breakdown (radioactive decay) of uranium that is naturally found in the earth.

Radon gas concentration levels will vary depending on your location and soil/bedrock makeup. Some geographic areas have lower levels on-average and some are considered to have elevated levels. But even within any given geographic region, radon levels can vary dramatically.

In the United States, Radon is typically measured in picocuries per litre (pCi/L) and in Canada it is measured in becquerels per cubic meter (Bq/m3). The EPAs take action limit is 4 pCi/L. The Institute for Building Biology and Ecology recommends taking action at 2 pCi/L. Ideally you want your levels to be as close to zero as possible.

For nonsmokers, radon exposure is the leading cause of lung cancer death. A radon level of 4.0 pCi/L is equal to 200 chest x-rays per year or 8 cigarettes per day.

Radon concentrations are typically the highest in the parts of the home that are closest to the points of infiltration like the lower levels, but that is not always the case. Radon can easily enter the living space through cracks, floor drains, and sump pump basins.

Radon is commonly mitigated by installing a sub-slab soil suction system. This system is basically a fan that vents to the outdoor air. It pulls air from below the slab or basement floor and is configured to pull from the cavity of dirt beneath the slab. You can also attach this type of radon mitigation system to a sump pump basin or drainage tile system.

For maximum effectiveness, it is important to ensure the air is being pulled from the earth below the slab and not being pulled from in the house. Sealing any cracks in the basement and sealing sump pump basins will also help lower radon levels.

Additional mitigation steps need to be taken for homes with crawl spaces. Buildings with crawl spaces need extra consideration including whether it is a temperature conditioned space as well as consideration to the types of construction materials including the walls and floor of the crawl space.

Radon levels in homes can vary significantly over time. It is not uncommon to see radon levels change by a factor of 2 to 3 over even a day period, and variations occurring from season to season can be even larger.

Healthy House can guide you through radon measurement and mitigation whether you are nearby or afar by providing testing equipment and consultation services.

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Avoid using conventional dryer sheets and fabric softeners

Traditional dryer sheets and fabric softeners contain many toxic compounds. These products are designed to impart chemicals onto clothing and formulated to to bond to fabric to make it softer and anti-static.

In 1991, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released a document revealing that significant carcinogens are present in fabric softeners and dryer sheets.

Inside these concoctions are dangerous chemicals such as Benzyl Acetate which has been linked to pancreatic carcinogenesis. Limonene, a known lung irritant, is commonly prominent. Many other toxic compounds are contained in these products like Chloroform, Dichlorobenzene, Benyl Alcohol, Camphor, Ethanol, Ethyl Acetate, Alpha Terpineol, Pentane, Linalool, Y-Methyl Ionone, A-Terpineol, Methylene Chloride.

The fragrance in these products are also toxic and may contain hundreds of chemicals. The volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted by fragrances are big offenders of polluted air.

When using these products the chemicals off-gas into the air and enter your body via inhalation when breathing and absorption through your skin.

There are alternatives to dryer sheets and fabric softeners. Natural dryer balls or reusable cloth dryer sheets are a healthier alternative.

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Avoid the use of smart watches and activity trackers
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Healthy HouseTM TechTip

Smart watches and activity trackers are equipped with WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity features. There are a multitude of activity trackers on the market including those geared towards sleep tracking or fitness tracking. Most of these units use Bluetooth to connect to your smart phone and use WiFi to connect to the Internet.

The majority of these devices produce radiation levels that are an extreme level of concern according to Building Biology standards. Some of these devices allow you to disable the WiFi and Bluetooth. If you have one of these devices, you're best to keep these protocols disabled to minimize your EMF exposure.

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Avoid flame retardants

Healthy HouseTM CleanAir Tip

Flame retardant chemicals are used in commercial and consumer products like furniture, electronics, and building materials in order to meet flammability standards. The major uses of flame retardant chemicals by volume in the U.S. are electronics, building insulation, polyurethane foam, wire and cable.

Flame retardant chemicals can negatively impact indoor air quality and your health. Choose flame retardant free mattresses, sofas, chairs, etc. to reduce your exposure.

There are hundreds of different flame retardants. They are often broken into categories based on chemical structure and properties. In general, flame retardants are grouped based on whether they contain bromine, chlorine, phosphorus, nitrogen, metals, or boron.

Brominated flame retardants — Contain bromine and are the most abundantly used flame retardants. Used in many consumer goods, including electronics, furniture, building materials, etc. and have been linked to endocrine disruption among other effects.

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE’s) —PBDEs do not chemically bind with the products to which they are added (furniture, electronics, etc.) so they easily release from these products and enter air and dust. PBDEs can lower birth weight/length of children, and impair neurological development.

Tetrabromobisphenol A (TBBPA) — Widely used to make computer circuit boards and electronics. Also used in some textiles and paper, or as an additive in other flame retardants.

Hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD) — An additive primarily used in polystyrene foam building materials. The primary risk to humans is from leaching out of products and getting into indoor dust. Low levels of HBCD have also been found in some food products.

Organophosphate flame retardants (OPFRs) — With the phasing out of PBDEs, some OPFRs have been identified as replacements.

 

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Take action upon finding a water leak

Healthy HouseTM CleanAir Tip

One of the most important things you can do if you discover a water leak or water intrusion in your home is to promptly call a water restoration company to begin drying out the space. It doesn't matter the cause - roof leak, grading issue, plumbing leak, overflowing sink, etc. You can save yourself a large future headache by getting your space dried out as quickly as possible.

As long as you stop the leak and start the drying process within about 24 hours, the likelihood of mold growth is greatly reduced. It is much less costly to have a crew professionally dry the space versus have mold safely remediated.

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Don’t use an electric adjustable bed

Healthy HouseTM TechTip

Charging ports on the side of an electric adjustable bed.

Charging ports on the side of an electric adjustable bed.

Adjustable beds with an electric motor typically create elevated magnetic and electric fields. When plugged into the wall, many electric adjustable beds are in the extreme level of concern range according to Building Biology safety standards. As electric field strength increases, so does your body voltage.

It is best to avoid purchasing any bed or bedframe that plugs into the wall including those with features such as massage, warming, and USB charging. If you already own one of these types of electrical-powered beds, it is best to unplug it before falling asleep.

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Create a nontoxic yard

Avoid putting toxins on your yard. Your lawn, landscaping, and gardens should be safe and healthy sanctuaries for your enjoyment. These outdoor living spaces should not be posionous.

Many readily available products are full of toxins that can affect the health of you, your family, and pets. These chemicals also cause harm to the earth, our food stream, and wildlife.

Don’t use lawn fertilizers that are advertised to kill insects or weeds.

These fertilizers are full of synthetic chemicals that are designed to KILL. That is what they do — they kill the weeds and insects. These posions could also kill you and that is why these products all have warning labels. But exposure in non-lethal doses, still has health consequences. They are also bad for the environment.

What does a healthy lawn look like to you?

Many people think that a healthy lawn is one that has a single species of grass with no weeds and nicely edged sidewalks. Challenge your preconceived notions because most of these lawns are actually sick. They require being on life support and the continual dumping of nitrogen, pesticides, and herbicides just to keep them green and lush.

But it's been 5 days and it's rained. Isn't it okay to walk on it now?

Waiting until it rains or running the sprinklers after using conventional fertilizers, may help diffuse toxins slightly, but those toxins just don’t disappear. Most of the chemicals stay on the lawn and enter the soil. The remainder gets washed into street drains.

Most of these drains empty into the watersheds that connect to rivers and lakes. This leads to polluted water ways and toxins entering into our food stream. The excess nitrogen dumped into the waterways lead to algae blooms and microbiological dysbiosis. The chemicals also cause mutated species.

Instead embrace ecological diversity.

A healthy lawn is actually one that is biodiverse, including multiple species of grass and plant life. Clover and dandelions can be quite beautiful. It is quite ironic that such nutrient dense and healthy foods like dandelions are considered "weeds".

Having insects in your lawn is actually beneficial. They will help transport nutrients and aerate your root structure. Insects and diverse plant species will bring birds and rabbits to help fertilize your lawn. Birds will help keep insect populations in check. A non-toxic yard will help bee and butterfly populations which are on the decline. Flowering plants in your landscape will support diverse wildlife.

If you endeavor to grow just grass and not "weeds", you can do that naturally too. Your best strategy is to crowd out the weeds. Over seed your lawn with grass seed a few times a season. Raise up your mower height to let the grass glow longer and taller than the other things growing in your lawn.

Use non-toxic nutrients as a fertilizer.

To shift to a natural lawn, you need to give it life again. Apply compost tea to help fertilize the lawn naturally. This will deliver nutrients and return microbes to the lawn. The microbes will help break down the synthetic chemicals in the soil. Apply rock dust and ocean nutrient solution to help mineralize the soil. Create a natural spot-use weed killer solution by combining high strength vinegar, orange oil, soap, and salt.

Compost and avoid biosolids.

Consider making your own soil from kitchen scraps and yard clippings. Create a compost heap or buy a compost tumbler. It is much better to recycle these nutrients than have them dumped into a landfill.

Much of the bagged soil that is sold in stores is not even top soil. Many of these are made from biosolids. Biosolids are sewer sludge. The "biosolids" name was created to make sewer sludge marketable. Sewer sludge as you would guess, is also full of toxins - chemicals, pharmaceuticals, you name it. Biosolids will not only bring toxins to your lawn but harmful bacteria and fungus.

In addition to biosolids, many of these soils are also mixed with commercially created compost from food or yard waste. It is common to find chunks of plastic and trash debris in the bagged soil you buy in the store. There are no quality standards in place for soil. The industry can pretty much bag up almost anything and sell it to you.

Also, consider the natural and organic fertilizers on the market, many of them, like Milorganite, are marketed as organic, but are made from biosolids. There are no organic standards for fertilizers. It is fully legal to market sewage sludge as organic.

If you need to purchase soil or fertilizer, ensure that it is not made from biosolids. OMRI stands for Organic Materials Review Institute. Look for an OMRI label on products you buy. The OMRI approval standard does not allow for biosolids.

With food, look to buy certified organic. Certified organic is not supposed to be grown in biosolids.

Consider ditching your lawn.

Lawns are very resource intensive. Lawns need to be watered and need to be mowed. They require a considerable amount of time if you are trying to keep up with the Joneses.

If your feeling really ambitious, consider replacing your lawn with a permaculture landscape. Permaculture landscapes are natural food gardens that are abundant and low-resource systems. An edible garden is the ultimate way to create a healthy yard.

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Avoid using products with alcohol

Many organic hand sanitizers, deodorants, and other personal care products contain ethyl alcohol or isopropyl alcohol. The purpose of including these compounds are that they are disinfectants. Both solutions emit VOCs and can cause respiratory irritation and have been linked to increasing risk of asthma. Choosing products that are alcohol free can lower your risks and improve indoor air quality. It is also not good to absorpb either of these by applying them to your skin.

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Minimize radiation from driving

Healthy HouseTM TechTip

Chances are you are getting exposed to a large amount of EMF while driving. Most vehicles emit significant levels themselves. The process of traveling down a road, in and of itself, also increases your exposure from sources external to your vehicle. Cell towers are strategically placed near interstate corridors and populous areas. Power lines also typically follow and cross major roads. There are some simple steps that you can take to find a low-EMF vehicle and reduce your exposure while driving.

Wireless Radiation

First off, many cars produce radio frequency radiation. This wireless radiation is most commonly in the form of Bluetooth radiation. This is the protocol used for "hands-free" communication with your cell phone. Even if you don't use your "hands-free" feature on your car, chances are that it is still emitting radiation.

Some cars, like Fords have a disable option in the menu system to stop Bluetooth radiation. Other car manufacturers like Toyota don’t have a disable option, but they do not radiate when there are no mobile devices are paired with the system. Other manufacturers like some of the General Motors and Chrysler vehicles continuously radiate even when no devices are paired. Some of the more recent General Motors vehicles that have the most recent firmware do not radiate Bluetooth when no devices are paired. If your GM vehicle is radiating, try having an authorized service shop update the firmware.

More and more cars are now equipped with WiFi. General Motors was one of the first car companies to offer in-vehicle WiFi. Currently, it is impossible for a consumer to disable WiFi in their vehicle. Even when calling GM and OnStar to find out how to turn it off, they sound baffled and tell you that if you are not using it, it is off. This is not true. Other car manufacturers like Ford offer a disable button for their in-vehicle WiFi.

Shielding Characteristics

Also test the cars RF-blocking capability by testing wireless radiation outside the car and inside the car. Cars are made of varying amounts of metal, so some cars will perform better than others. Take a reading in the foot region away from the windows to get a better idea of the performance of the car body. You might also consider shielding the windows with EMF-blocking window film to cut down on the radiation coming from the cellular, broadcast towers, and other cars.

Magnetic Fields

Cars produce magnetic fields. The fields can vary greatly. Different trim packages of the same model of car can also vary greatly. As a whole, Fords and Toyotas seem to be the lowest. This is a generalization though based upon testing many vehicles. It is recommended to test individual cars to find one with low magnetic fields.

When testing a car, take magnetic field measurements on each of the seats, foot regions, and head regions. It is also recommended to take measurements with the vehicle off, with the accessory on, with the engine started, and while driving. Cars produce a lot of high-frequency magnetic fields, so it is ideal to have a gaussmeter with a large dynamic range spanning low to high frequencies. It is important to get a baseline with the car off since many car lots are surrounded by powerlines. While driving, you will notice that fields increase as you travel near and under powerlines. The expressway is often a good spot to get decent stretch of road that is away from powerlines. This will allow you to see how much is coming from the car. Work with someone to write down values so you can keep a good eye on the road.

Power seats often create a constant magnetic field on the seat that will deviate the earth's natural magnetic field due to the motor. Heated seats produce high magnetic fields when in use. The foot region is often where you find the strongest magnetic fields. Hybrid cars typically have high magnetic fields. However, hybrids also vary, so it is best to test.

What is a good level to try to achieve when looking for a car? Well, the lowest that I have measured is .15 mG (milliGauss) on the seat and 1-3 mG in the foot region. This was on a Ford F-150 with basic trim level package. There are many other vehicles that come close to this range. There are also many other vehicles that exceed these levels and average 5-10 mG in the seat and 15-100 mG in the foot region. This are in the extreme level of concern range according to Building Biology Standards.

Electric Fields

Avoid cars with 110 volt outlets as they will have higher electric fields which will increase your body voltage.

Cell Phone Use

It is best to avoid cell phone use in a car. The phone typically has to transmit at a higher power density because of the metal in the body of the car. If you do need to talk on the cell phone, make it brief and use an airtube headset with the phone at a distance from your body. But aside from EMF, put your phone down to focus on safe driving.

Many sensitive individuals report feeling less tired and less depleted when driving a low-EMF vehicle.

 


Clean your air ducts

Healthy HouseTM CleanAir Tip

Consider having your air ducts cleaned to improve indoor air quality. Air ducts can harbor all kinds of dust and debris. Ducts and HVAC systems are common breeding grounds for mold and bacteria.

You should ideally have your ducts cleaned every five years. If air ducts are not cleaned in a proper manner, new health problems can arise.

Air ducts should be visually inspected prior to cleaning with a camera scope. If there is an accumulation of visible mold is found, proper remediation techniques should be conducted prior to cleaning. This may include the use of air scrubbers, negative air pressure and the possible removal of portions of the air ducts.

Air ducts should be cleaned by a reputable company that uses a truck-mounted cleaning unit. This will help prevent your house from becoming cross-contaminated, since the air is pulled straight to the outdoors before being filtered and expelled.

Many air duct cleaning crews include vacuuming as part of the service to clean up before around vents and registers. Opt to use your own vacuum since their equipment may be contaminated with mold. It is best to vacuum with a HEPA filter.

Biocides are commonly used to kill mold and/or bacteria. Chemically-based biocides are toxic. Request that biocides are avoided in your house.

Many crews use rotating brush attachments to clean the inside of your duct work. Request the cleaning crew to do a thorough cleaning of the attachments using non-toxic cleaners prior to servicing your house.

If you have a whole house air conditioning system, it is also recommended to have your evaporator coil inspected an cleaned. Humidifier pads should also be inspected and replaced if needed. Replace your furnace filter right after your air ducts are cleaned.

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Minimize EMF exposure from personal grooming appliances

Healthy HouseTM TechTip

Hair dryers, curling irons, and electric razors produce considerably high EMF (ElectroMagnetic Fields). It is best to test your electrically-powered personal care products, minimize the use of them, or better yet follow a few simple tips to reduce your EMF exposure.

Hair dryers typically create high magnetic fields often approaching or exceeding 20 mG near your head. Most hair dryers will produce less EMF when set to the lowest speed and to the lowest heat. Exposure can also be minimized by holding the dryer at a distance from your head. Hair dryers with ceramic core heating elements usually produce less EMF than traditional ones. Consider replacing yours with a ceramic core model.

Curling irons create high electric fields often exceeding 150 V/m near your head. When using a curling iron, hold it as far away from your head as possible.

Electric razors create significant magnetic fields, typically around 5mG near the tip of the blade. Consider using a manual one or minimizing it's use. All of these aforementioned readings are at or beyond the extreme level of concern according to Building Biology standards.

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Avoid conventional dry cleaning

Healthy HouseTM CleanAir Tip

Clothes from conventional dry cleaners are cleaned with chemicals that shouldn’t come into contact with your skin. These chemicals also contaminate indoor air quality. If you find it necessary to use dry cleaning, hang recently dry cleaned clothes on a clothes line outside in the sun for several hours to lessen the amount of chemicals brought into your home.

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Don't use electric blankets or heating pads.

Healthy HouseTM TechTip

The majority of electric blankets and heating pads create high EMF. Even when electric blankets and heating pads are just plugged into the wall and not turned on, they are likely emanating a electric and magnetic field. Due to the way these products are designed, EMF measurements are typically in the Extreme Level of concern according to Building Biology Standards.

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Monitor the humidity in your home.

HealthyHouseTM CleanAir Tip

The humidity in your home should be between 40% and 60% relative humidity. Humidity, the amount of water vapor in the air, is measured with a humidity gauge known as a hygrometer. Above this range, mold can thrive easily. Below this range, bacteria and dust mites will tend to thrive. Basements are an important area to keep the humidity level in check. Basements tend to be damp and typically do not have a lot of air flow. Mold will thrive in humid environment and can grow on almost anything including dust and cardboard. A dehumidifier can be used to remove moisture from the air. It should be set at 40 - 45% relative humidity.

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Turn on your exhaust fan while cooking on the stove.

Healthy HouseTM CleanAir Tip

When the stove burner is on, a variety of pollutants are released into the air. These pollutants mainly consist of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and nitrogen dioxide.

Carbon monoxide is a deadly toxin. Carbon monoxide from kitchen ranges is a common reason for elevated concentrations of CO in homes. Carbon monoxide can lead to dizziness, headaches, rapid heart rate, brain damage and even death from high exposure. Orange, yellow flames, or sooty flames, is a good indication of incomplete combustion, which could lead to carbon monoxide buildup in your home.

Carbon dioxide is produced during the combustion. At higher concentrations, CO2 can cause drowsiness, headache, reduced cognition and lead to a “stuffy” feeling in a home.

Nitrogen dioxide is a respiratory irritant produced when nitrogen from the air encounters oxygen from the burner. NO2 affects the mucosa of the eyes, nose, throat and respiratory tract. Continued exposure to high NO2 levels can contribute to development of acute or chronic bronchitis. Low level exposure to NO2 may cause decreased lung function in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and increase risk of respiratory infections, especially in young children.

Exhaust fans should be vented to the outdoors. They should also be properly sized for your stove. Always use your exhaust fan while cooking on a gas range. It will help draw the combustion pollutants out of the home.

Most exhaust fans will emirate a magnetic field when turned on. Because of this, it is good practice to step away from the stove during cooking while keeping an eye on it.

If your stove is electric, combustion pollutants are not released into the air. However, many electric stoves produce a high magnetic field when the heating element cooktop surface is turned on.

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