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Utahns are breathing some pretty bad air - especially indoors.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said in March 1991 that nearly 1.3 million Wasatch Front residents breathe air that violates federal clean-air standards. Another EPA study conducted in 1987 says the concentration of toxic and cancer-causing chemicals in the average home is two to five times higher than in the air outside. In some buildings the air is 100 times more polluted than outside air. The study also says Americans spend an estimated 90 percent of their time indoors.With the recent increase in awareness of and attention to the environment, much of the public's concern has been with outdoor air pollution. There has been little publicity about the problem of indoor air pollution.

Last week staffers from the Salt Lake County Public Works Department and two members of County Commissioner Randy Horiuchi's staff became ill from what they claim is the county office building's poor ventilation system. The workers suffered from headaches, nausea and upper-respiratory infections caused by contaminated air. John Morgan, deputy salt Lake City-County health director, said the vents probably suck in pollutants such as pesticides and car exhaust from the parking garage.

Economists urge homeowners to weather-proof their homes to make them energy-efficient. However, this restricts fresh, circulating air. Weather-proofing is often done at the expense of the owner and his family's health.

Dr. Brent Mabey, an emergency medical physician at Cottonwood Hospital, sees several cases a year of natural gas and carbon monoxide furnace poisoning. He says air pollution dangers in the home are "definitely there," especially in homes with leaky furnaces and in places where people smoke.

Economists urge homeowners to weather-proof their homes to make them energy- efficient. However, this restricts fresh, circulating air. Weather- proofing is often done at the expense of the owner and his family's health.


Ways to reduce indoor pollution

How to help counteract air pollution in the home and the workplace:

1. Open windows and doors as much as possible, especially after a snowstorm or rainstorm when air is the most fresh. Even 10 to 20 minutes in the cold months can rid the building of pollutants. This is especially important when germs are floating around in the home from a sick resident.

2. Purchase and install air-purifying and filtering systems to be used in conjunction with hot-air furnaces or as separate units. These systems remove dust, smoke, odors and pollutants leaving the air fresh and clean.

3. Use clean-burning wood stoves.

4. Regularly check furnaces for leaks.

5. Buy real, not silk, house plants and keep them healthy. A NASA study proved that ordinary house plants significantly reduce potentially dangerous indoor pollution. The scientists believe plants absorb pollutants and release oxygen into the air.

6. Use fewer spray aerosol products. Consider using styling gel instead of hair spray, roll-on deodorant instead of spray, liquid furniture polish instead of spray.

7. Never leave your car running in the garage.

8. Be sure you have proper ventilation when cooking, using pesticides, painting or when other strong odors enter the home or building.

9. Clean drapes, carpets and furniture periodically. Germs, odors and dust can store themselves there and can eventually contaminate the air.

10. Throw away rotting food as soon as you detect spoilage. Mold from bread, for example, actually throws an immense number of minute spores into the air, which can cause disease.