Ask Eartha: Slaying those creepy invisible zombie gases |

Ask Eartha: Slaying those creepy invisible zombie gases

Eartha, I have heard about widespread problems with indoor air quality in our homes and the associated adverse health effects, how can I be sure my home is safe from these gases as well as zombies? – Betty

Betty, your question is very relevant given our cold climate where we often heat our homes with combustible fuels and seal our homes tight to keep the heat in while spending extended periods of time indoors. It is also very encouraging that zombie awareness is on the rise.

The most dangerous gas to be aware of in your home is Carbon Monoxide (CO), a colorless, odorless gas that interferes with the delivery of oxygen throughout the body and can be fatal. Other harmful gases include Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2), which is a colorless, odorless gas that causes eye, nose and throat irritation, shortness of breath, and an increased risk of respiratory infection. Radon, a radioactive gas that is formed in the soil and can enter indoors through cracks and openings in floors and walls that are in contact with the ground is the second leading cause of lung cancer overall.

The insidious nature of these gases is their difficulty to detect; they are odorless, colorless and not visible. Similar to zombies, it is hard to know when they are in the vicinity, although often one of two scenarios will emerge: sirens, helicopters, and explosions, or a conspicuous lack of any human signs, depending on the level of zombie infection. Unfortunately, when it comes to the presence of harmful gases in our homes, we rarely have those types of helpful indicators.

Luckily, combustion gases that creep around like zombies peering in and scratching at the windows and doors trying to get to human flesh can be detected.

One method we have to detect these gases is through conducting building energy audits, which include CO, and combustion appliance testing. These tests are conducted with specialized equipment which measure the presence and level of these gases. The combustion appliance zone test is a health and safety diagnostic that is recommended where combustion appliances are in use. These tests are designed to insure that there is no leakage of flammable fuels or combustion gases into the living space and that appliances are functioning in a safe and efficient manner. In the case of Radon, there are specialized companies that can be contacted through the phone book.

In homes, the major source of combustion pollutants are improperly vented or unvented fuel-burning appliances such as space heaters, woodstoves, gas stoves, water heaters, dryers, and fireplaces. Just as you would barricade yourself in a building, take a boat out onto a body of water (zombies can’t swim), or position yourself on top of a building (zombies can’t climb) to avoid being eaten, there are steps to reduce exposure to harmful gases within your home.

Steps to Reduce Exposure

– Keep gas appliances properly adjusted.

– Install and use an exhaust fan vented to outdoors over gas stoves.

– Open flues when fireplaces are in use.

– Choose properly sized wood stoves that are certified to meet EPA emission standards. Make certain that doors on all wood stoves fit tightly.

– Have a trained professional inspect, clean, and tune-up central heating system (furnaces, boilers, flues, and chimneys) annually. Repair any leaks promptly.

– Do not idle the car inside garage

– Consider installing a Carbon Monoxide sensor in your home.

If you or anyone in your family experiences eye, nose and throat irritation, shortness of breathe, or repeated respiratory infections consider scheduling a building energy audit and/or Radon test to determine the presence of harmful gases in your home.

For questions about building energy audits, call High Country Conservation Center at (970) 668-5703

Eartha Steward today is written by Trevor Schatz, consultant on all things zombie at High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation in our mountain community. Eartha believes that you can walk gently on our planet, even if you’re wearing stylish shoes. Submit questions to Eartha at or to High Country Conservation Center, PO Box 4506, Frisco, CO 80443.

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