Indoor Air Pollutants: Protect Against Smoke, Carbon Monoxide and Radon

The air inside homes can be even more polluted than the outdoor air in the largest and most industrialized cities, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).


| May/June 2007



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The air inside homes can be even more polluted than the outdoor air in the largest and most industrialized cities, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Some air pollutants, such as cigarette smoke, are easy to detect and avoid. Others, such as carbon monoxide and radon, are virtually impossible to see or smell, and they can be deadly. You can protect your family by installing appropriate alarms.

Smoke alarms

Your chance of surviving a fire is almost 50 percent higher if your home has the recommended number of smoke alarms, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Experts recommend installing a smoke alarm on each floor and inside each bedroom. For larger homes, consider interconnecting models, which all sound when one alarm senses smoke. Install alarms near but not inside kitchens, garages and bathrooms to prevent false alarms from cooking smoke, exhaust and humidity.

Ionization alarms use “ions,” or electrically charged particles, to detect smoke. Photoelectric alarms use a beam of light and a light sensor. You need both technologies. Ionization alarms respond to blazes with high flames, and photoelectric alarms respond to slow, smoldering fires. “Dual alarms” can sense both types of fires (high-flaming and smoky) with equal effectiveness.

Choose from battery-powered alarms, hardwired electric models or units you can incorporate into your home’s security system. If you prefer a hardwired model, choose one with a battery backup.

Combination alarms sense both smoke and carbon monoxide. However, these alarms typically include only one type of smoke-detection technology (ionization or photoelectric). If you purchase a combination alarm, make sure to buy a second alarm with the smoke-detection technology not used in the combination alarm.





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