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Cayuga County Health Department: Keep yourself healthy in your home

November 21, 2016 GMT

There are two harmful, invisible, odorless gases that residents should be aware of, especially during the winter season.

One is radon, which occurs naturally in the soil. Radon gas is a carcinogen, meaning it causes cancer. Since January is Radon Action Month, now is a good time to revisit this topic.

Radon gas can pose a problem for people if it is leaking into their home from the soil through cracks in your basement or slab, through the dirt floor of your crawl space or through openings around your sump pump. Radon can accumulate in enclosed areas, which is especially of concern during the winter months, when houses usually have minimal fresh air ventilation. Any home can have high radon levels. It doesn’t matter if your home is old or new, or if it has a basement or is on a slab.

The Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Health have designated Cayuga County a high-risk radon county due to the fact that many residences have already been shown to have elevated radon levels. The Cayuga County Health Department is encouraging all residents to determine if they are at risk to radon exposure by testing their homes for radon.

Free radon test kits are available at the Cayuga County Health Department office at 8 Dill St., Auburn, and at the following public libraries: Aurora Free Library, Fair Haven Library, Hazard Library, Port Byron Library, Powers Library, Seymour Library, Springport Free Library and Weedsport Free Library.

Radon test kits can also be purchased at your local home improvement store. For more information on radon you can visit the EPA website at epa.gov/radon. If elevated radon levels are found in your home, the Cayuga County Health Department can provide you with information on how to reduce these levels.

Another harmful, invisible, odorless gas that residents should be aware of is carbon monoxide. As with radon, when there is minimal fresh air ventilation, carbon monoxide can accumulate in your home. Carbon monoxide is not only odorless, it is colorless and tasteless. High levels of carbon monoxide can be harmful and even cause death.

Carbon monoxide is the leading cause of poison-related death and serious injury in the United States. Every year, nearly 450 people die in the U.S. from accidental CO poisoning.

Carbon monoxide is released from furnaces, stoves, portable generators, gas ranges, charcoal, fireplaces and other products when they malfunction or are used improperly, which is why it is important that individuals educate themselves about proper use and take extra precautions in the winter time.

How safe is your home? Program offers free home check-ups in Cayuga County AUBURN — Armed with bright blue buckets and green fabric bags, a small group of college students, firefighters and health officials meets in the streets of Auburn each week with one question on their minds: How safe is your home?

Make sure to follow these tips offered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning:

• Maintain all fuel-burning appliances, like furnaces and generators, according to the manufacturer’s operation instructions and have them serviced annually by a qualified technician.

• Install a battery-operated or a plug-in CO detector with battery backup in your home near all sleeping and living areas, according to the manufacturer’s installation instructions.

• Replace the battery of your CO detector when you change the time on your clocks each spring and fall, and test your CO alarms frequently.

• All fuel-burning appliances must be properly vented so that CO will not build up in your home, cabin or camper.

• Have your chimney checked or cleaned every year. Chimneys can be blocked by debris. This can cause CO to build up inside your home or cabin.

While this list is a good summary of tips, it is by no means all-inclusive. For more tips, you can visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at cdc.gov/co, or visit cayugacounty.us/environmental.

The Healthy Neighborhoods Program also provides free carbon monoxide and smoke detectors, as well as furnace filters, among other health and safety items. Residents in certain areas of Auburn as well as all residents in Locke and Moravia are eligible for this program. Call the Cayuga Community Health Network at (315) 252-4212 to schedule a home assessment today! The Healthy Neighborhoods Program is administered by Cayuga County Health Department through the Cayuga Community Health Network, and paid for by a grant from the New York State Department of Health.

This winter, take extra precautions to ensure your home keeps your family healthy!