It's much better to keep mold at bay by finding and fixing leaks and minimizing moisture. Often times the problem is "a leaky roof or window or a broken pipe," said Damon. “But it can also be high humidity. Use a dehumidifier to lower the humidity. And it's important that you ventilate the more humid parts of your home like the bathroom, laundry, and cooking areas. "Turn on the exhaust fans while you shower, cook, or run the dishwasher, and make sure your tumble dryer is ventilating outside.
This is the killer. Carbon monoxide, an odorless gas made by burning fuel (including gasoline, wood, and propane), can build up in your bloodstream and choke oxygen in red blood cells. The gas sends more than 20,000 Americans to the E.R. each year. First, it causes nausea, dizziness, and confusion. Without a quick infusion of fresh air, carbon monoxide will cause you to lose consciousness or get worse. At higher concentrations it can be fatal in a few minutes and at lower concentrations in a few hours.
In colder climates, the risks increase in winter. The biggest culprits are faulty heating systems like stoves, gas water heaters and gas dryers, Damon said. "You should have someone check your heating system every year – anything that burns gas, oil or coal," he advised. And don't warm your car in an attached garage, even with the garage door open.
It is important that you have at least one carbon monoxide detector installed near your bedroom so that if gas builds up while you sleep, you will be awakened. Check and replace the batteries at least twice a year. Do it now while you think about it.
Volatile Organic Compounds (V.O.C.s)
A lot of different chemicals fall under the collective term VOCs (including formaldehyde and benzene). Since they are found in thousands of different products, from paint to carpeting to furniture and adhesives, some are likely to be ventilated into your home now. Short-term inhalation of high concentrations can cause eye and throat irritation, nausea, headache and dizziness. In the long run, it's linked to cancer and damage to the nervous system, liver, and kidneys.
One of the biggest sources of formaldehyde in particular is new building materials, said Dr. Arthur Chang, Chief Medical Officer, Department of Environmental Health Science and Practice, C.D.C. New particle board, plywood, adhesives, paints, varnishes and carpets are common offenders. If you don't live in a brand new home, you can be exposed to things like painting or renovation projects, new furniture, and some household cleaners, disinfectants, and cosmetics, among other things.
One of the best defense mechanisms is to keep levels low first by looking for "low or no V.O.C." or labels with low formaldehyde content when shopping for paints, sofas, mattresses and wood products (also check the ingredient lists for “urea” and avoid these products). If a new purchase has that foul smelling odor, put it in a garage or patio to let it off for a few days. Wash new curtains before hanging them. Some V.O.C. are water-soluble, so that moist air accelerates outgassing; A dehumidifier can help keep things up.