Indoor Air Quality and Your Homes Heating and Cooling System

What Does the EPA say about Indoor Air Quality?

The US Environmental Protection Agency states that poor indoor air quality is one of the top five environmental threats to our country. So why does the EPA feel so strongly about indoor air in homes and workplaces? Well, according to the EPA, indoor air is on average a staggering three to five times more contaminated than outdoor air and in some instances as high as seventy times.

So why is indoor air so much worse in our home than outdoor air?

The answer is in modern day construction practices. Homes are being built more air tight in an effort to be more energy efficient and environmentally conscious. Older homes are being re-insulated and getting air tight window upgrades. The result is less drafty homes that no longer have natural ventilation to bring in fresh air.

Normal everyday living provides an ongoing source of airborne contaminants like dust, dander, chemicals and other allergens. These pollutants become trapped in your home due to this poor ventilation and then are re-circulated by your heating and cooling system.

So what does this mean for you?

The average American family now spends ninety percent of their time indoors. That means that the bulk of our days is spent breathing in these irritants and pollutants and the health effects are significant. Dust, pollen, household chemicals and smoke can create an unhealthy situation in your home for everyone, but especially for people with compromised respiratory systems such as children, the elderly, and people with asthma and allergy sufferers.

So what can you as a homeowner do to improve your air quality?

Today doctors agree that one of the healthiest things to do is to minimize your exposure to these indoor pollutants, allergens and irritants in your home. One of the most logical places to address indoor pollutants is in your heating and cooling system. Think of this system as the lungs of your home. It takes in air and breathes it out; it circulates all the air and everything in the air throughout your home. In fact, on average all the air in your home passes through your heating and cooling system five to seven times each day.

Begin by making sure that you regularly change furnace filter. While these filters do not eliminate airborne contaminants they can help reduce pollutants from entering your furnace and circulating through the house. Most experts recommend replacing your filter every two months.

Another important step to take to improve the quality of the air in your home, and one that many overlook is having your heating and cooling system thoroughly cleaned. As polluted air is re-circulated through your heating and cooling system dust, dirt, and contaminants are deposited throughout the system overtime. These subtle particles are then picked up by the airstream and are then pushed back out into the living areas of the house to be breathed in by family members. In a large number of homes the heating and cooling system has never been cleaned. Even in newer homes or homes undergoing renovation contaminants such as sawdust and drywall dust left over from construction process are deposited in your ducts.

So how clean is the heating and cooling system in your home? Here is a quick way to check. Remove a vent cover and use a mirror and flashlight to look inside. Or use a small digital camera to take a picture of the inside of your duct. If your ducts are dirty it is time to have your air ducts cleaned.

Choose a NADCA Certified Company

All NADCA members must meet a strict set of requirements:

  • Comply with NADCA’s International cleaning standards
  • Comply with NADCA’s code of ethics.
  • Comply with NADCA’s general liability insurance requirements
  • Maintain at least one certified Air System Cleaning Specialist (ASCS) on staff at all times

The Air Systems Cleaning Specialists Certification verifies that they have successfully completed rigorous testing on heating and cooling system components and cleaning techniques.

Giving your homes heating and cooling system a little attention will keep it and the air in your home cleaner and healthier for you and your family.

11 Ways to Plan Allergy & Asthma Awareness Education in Schools

Asthma is one of the most common chronic diseases in the world, affecting more than 300 million people worldwide.  It is characterized by recurrent breathing problems and symptoms such as breathlessness, wheezing, chest tightness, and coughing.  Asthma symptoms vary over time, and also from individual to individual.

Allergy & Asthma Awareness Education in Schools

May is allergy and asthma awareness month.  There is no better place to promote asthma education, especially the management of environmental triggers than in schools. Join EPA to plan an educational event for staff, parents, and students at a local school. To do this, you will need the support of the school or district administration, school nurse, and other key staff.

Planning asthma educational activities at the school:


  • Offer asthma education on environmental asthma triggers and management during in-service days for teachers, custodians, and other school staff
  • Offer asthma education for parents at local PTA/PTO meetings or other similar events.
  • Read children’s books on asthma to students, such as Taking Asthma to School, Zoo Allergy, and The ABC’s of Asthma, by Kim Gosselin;
  • Arrange a school-wide assembly with guest speakers, such as kids with asthma, local celebrities, TV personalities, or local doctors or politicians;
  • Organize an asthma poster contest for children;
  • Coordinate with the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) to launch a Power Breathing Program for middle and high school students with asthma;
  • Sponsor a staff breakfast or lunch and introduce the Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Tools for Schools Program;
  • Design asthma awareness bulletin boards or other displays for students and staff.
  • Encourage teachers to incorporate asthma and the environment into appropriate curricula, e.g., science and health.
  • Include asthma awareness information in school newsletters and other packets sent home to parents/guardians.
  • Conduct a walkthrough of your school to determine if asthma triggers exist. If triggers are found a remediation plan should be developed and implemented as soon as possible. See the IAQ Tools for Schools Kit for assistance.

World Asthma Day is an annual event organized by the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) to improve asthma awareness and care around the world. World Asthma Day 2010 will take place on Tuesday, May 4, 2010.

As World Asthma Day gets closer, you’ll find a wide variety of information about World Asthma Day, including advice and resources for activity planning, and a listing of World Asthma Day events in your area and around the world.

The Danger of Dust Mites

Dust is a combination of pollen, plant and mold spores, pet dander, human skin, lint, bacteria, and other contaminants. While any of these can affect breathing and allergies, dust mites can be a particular problem.

What is a Dust Mite?

Dust mites are tiny insects that are invisible to the naked eye that feed on human skin flakes.  Dust mites thrive in stable environments like indoor dwellings and can survive in almost any temperature at almost any altitude. In other words, dust mites are in every home that has dust.

Why are Dust Mites Dangerous?

Dust mites can negatively affect human health because they are a common trigger for allergies and asthma.  Body parts and feces from dust mites can trigger asthma in individuals with allergic reactions to dust mites, and exposure to dust mites can cause asthma in children who have not previously exhibited asthma symptoms.

How to Control Dust Mites

While you cannot eliminate dust mites, the easiest way to limit the amount of dust mites in your home is to limit the amount of dust in your home.

  • Wash bedding and pillows in frequently as dust mites thrive in these areas where skin flakes collect.  If necessary, mattresses and pillows can be covered in allergen-impermeable covers.
  • Avoid furry and feathered pets as they contribute to the food sources for dust mites.  If you cannot part with your pet, prevent them from occupying your sleeping area.
  • Vacuum fabric furniture and carpet with vacuum cleaner equipped with a high efficient vacuum filter.
  • If you have children, choose washable stuffed toys, and keep stuffed toys off the bed.
  • Dust all surfaces weekly.  Do not scatter dust, use a damp cloth when dusting.
  • Maintain a low relative humidity; the ideal relative humidity in a home is between 30-50%.
  • Have the air ducts cleaned.  Ventilation systems require routine maintenance to prevent dust from being re-circulated throughout the home.
  • In rare instances, chemicals may be recommended to eradicate dust mites, if this is necessary speak to a professional.

Allergen Test Kit Featured on FOX 31 KDVR Martino TV

Ductworks, Inc. and National Jewish Health Featured On FOX 31 / KDVR: Martino TV

Consumer advocate Tom Martino featured the Family Air Kit®, an allergen and mold Test Kit,  developed by National Jewish Health that tests for substances that can cause allergic and asthmatic reactions.

Tom Martino and  Paula Haddock interviewed Jeffery Nathanson, the Executive Director of Business Development and Eddy Frisk, of Ductworks, Inc. to discuss the benefits of the Family Air Kit®

The Family Air Kit® is a cost effective and accurate means of testing the indoor air quality of your home or business.   The Family Air Kit® tests the longitudinal effect of dust in the home.

Ductworks, Inc. and National Jewish Health provide a comprehensive approach to controlling symptoms for people who suffer from allergies and asthma.

How Indoor Air Quality Affects People

The greatest difficulty in solving indoor air quality problems is that effects on people can vary.  One of a pollutant can have a completely different effect on two different people.  While pollutants found in indoor air can be responsible for many harmful effects, there is considerable uncertainty as to what concentrations or periods of exposure are necessary cause specific health problems.

Immunocompromised Individuals

People who are immunocompromised have an immune system that is compromised or entirely absent.  Indoor air quality is of great concern to those who are immunuocomprimised, as their bodies are very vulnerable to opportunistic infections.


Some people can become sensitized to biological & chemical pollutants after repeated or high level exposures. Effects may show up after a single exposure or repeated exposures.  Once sensitized to a pollutant, the individual can experience acute adverse reactions when they are exposed to that pollutant, even when the pollutant is at a lower level.

Age Makes a Difference

Children are sensitive to indoor air quality because they breathe faster than adults, inhaling up to 50% more air per pound of body weight than adults.  Elderly have a higher risk for cardiovascular, respiratory illness from fine particle pollutions.

Allergies & Asthma

Dust is a mixture of many substances. Its content may vary from home to home, but the most common allergy triggers such as mold spores, pollen, dust mites, can trigger allergy or asthma attacks.

Fortunately for most healthy people, the symptoms of air pollution exposure usually go away as soon as the air quality improves.  Good housekeeping and good maintenance of the heating and air conditioning equipment is the most important methods for controlling exposure to indoor air pollutants.

12 Ways To Go Green For Spring


After a long winter, spring is the perfect time to clean out your home and make room for new, green habits. If getting green was one of your New Year’s Resolutions, and you haven’t been able to find the ways to get it done, here are 12 tips to add some green to your spring.

1. Green Spring Cleaning

The onset of spring always motivates us to get down and scrub the floors and remove the cobwebs from the corners. This year, use green products instead of harsh chemicals for cleaning. Lemons and baking soda can be used to clean and freshen kitchen counters, showers, tubs, and sinks. Use vinegar and warm water for floors and to remove the sticky, greasy dust that builds up in the kitchen on walls, top of refrigerator, and corners. Clean windows streak-free with old newspaper and 3 tablespoons of vinegar in 1 gallon cold water.

2. Clean Air Ducts

Make your spring cleaning last longer by cleaning your air ducts. Clean air ducts will also lessen the amount of dust, pollen, and other pollutants that circulate around your home as outdoor plants come to life. Air Duct cleaning will decrease allergens & improve the energy efficiency of your heating and cooling system.

3. Buy Air-Cleansing Plants

Naturally freshen the air after your air ducts have been cleaned with air-cleaning house plants like English Ivy, chrysanthemums, and spider plants. If allergies and asthma are a problem in your household, these plants may be able to help keep the air clean. Plus, healthy green plants bring spring indoors.

4. Home Improvements

Spring is a great time to do energy-saving home improvements like replacing windows, adding insulation, and repairing leaks and drafts. Before the heat of summer sets in, make sure to perform home improvements that will keep the heat out and air-conditioned air in. This is also a good time to service your AC unit and replace filters.

5. Plant a Garden

Instead of adding landscaping, why not plant a garden? Your beautiful plants can also provide delicious, nutritious food for your family. Check seed packs for the best time to plant in your area and dedicate a few square feet of your yard to food-producing plants. Make sure to keep food healthy by not using chemical fertilizers and instead, use organic plant foods

available at most garden stores.

6. Start To Compost

If you already recycle and still want to reduce the amount of waste you produce, start a compost pile. There are many ways to compost and you don’t need to buy an expensive plastic unit to do so. You can just dig a hole in the ground and add compostables. Stir with a pitch fork once a week and cover with leaves or a tarp. You will be amazed at how much “trash” you can compost and use in your garden.

7. Replace Bulbs

Replace incandescent bulbs in your home with energy efficient CFL bulbs. There are now many warm tones of light available. You can also add outdoor solar lighting to your garden or walkway. These lights recharge in the sun and can be set to automatically turn on when the sun goes down.

8. Replace Old Appliances

Replace your old appliances with energy star rated appliances. You will save energy and money and help reduce the strain on energy needs over the summer. Also, hang your laundry outside to dry in the sun. It will smell fresh and save lots of energy while the weather is nice.

9. Ride Your Bike to Work

Now that the weather is improving, why not make the commitment to ride your bike to work at least one day a week? The exercise will help you trim up after the winter, improve your health, and increase energy level. If biking is not an option, then use public transportation, carpool, or walk. The first few weeks may seem an inconvenience, but you will soon look forward to the exercise and time spent outdoors.

10. Shop at the Farmer’s Market

Support local farmers by shopping at farmer’s markets. Most areas have a few, and one will surely work for your schedule. By shopping at farmer’s markets you will eat healthy foods that are in season, get some exercise by walking around, and support your local economy. It is a great way to get green.

11. Recycle your Old Stuff

While you do your spring cleaning, gather up all your old clothes, toys, and furniture that is still usable and donate it to a local charity that helps families in need. The economy has likely affected families in your community, so give you old stuff to people that can use it. There is no sense in throwing anything away that can still be used.

12. Green Beauty Products

Since you will be showing more skin now that its spring, bring going green into your skincare regimen. Buy lotions and other products that contain natural ingredients that haven’t been tested on animals. Many make-up companies now offer organic lines that are better for your skin and the environment. Look for items that aren’t overly packaged with plastic, can be refilled, or reused.

10 Tips to Lowering Dust Within Your Home 

While you will never be able to completely rid your home of dust.  Here are 10 great tips to reduce the amount of dust and other allergy-aggravating particles from your home.

Establish a Regular Cleaning Schedule

When there are long periods of time between cleanings it makes the work much harder.  Develop a routine cleaning schedule, it will help ensure that the maintenance is routine and that areas are not overlooked.

Remove Shoes

Not only does taking your shoes off at the door save the carpets, it also prevents dirt, dust, pollen, and other debris from getting tracked throughout the house. Use of mats placed inside and out of all entrances will help cut down on dust.

Dusting Techniques

When dusting your home, the goal is to capture the dust, do not use a feather duster, as they only stir up dust. When dusting objects within your home work from the top of the object down using a damp cloth, or an anti-static cloth to capture the dust.


Vacuum upholstered furniture weekly.  Most vacuum cleaners come with a hose and attachments to make this an easy task.  Remove all the cushions, and vacuum them separately. Clean the back, sides and make sure to clean underneath the furniture too

Window Treatments

Dust window treatments monthly.  Window treatments can hold a lot of dust which can get released into the air if they are brushed up against or touched.


Carpets are the perfect resting spot for dust and pet dander. Vacuum all carpets at least once a week.  Be sure to use high efficiency vacuum bags, low efficiency vacuum bags will allow for fine dust to re-enter the air.


Lots of mites and dust get trapped in bedding.  Bedding collects skin flakes, sheds its own fibers and releases dust every time you roll over.  Wash bedding weekly in hot water & don’t forget to vacuum under your bed.

Inspect Your Dryer Vent Exhaust

Once a year inspect your dryer vent exhaust. Your dryer is responsible for exhausting moisture and lint from your clothing, and can potentially be the culprit for dust in your home.  Make sure that the dryer isn’t shoved against the wall, and that the dryer exhaust line is firmly attached.  Clean out your lint trap regularly & have the dryer vent cleaned when needed.

Change Filters on Heating & Air Conditioning Unit

Change the air filters every two months that the heating or air conditioning system is in use.  Use good air filters with a MERV rating between 7 and 11.

Keep Your Air Ducts Clean

Overtime dirt and dust build up within the air ducts.  Dirty air ducts will re-circulate dust within your home.  Typically air ducts need to be cleaned every 3-5 years.

Ductworks Collaborates with National Jewish Health® to Help Families Detect Allergens at Home

Family Air Care Indoor Allergens & Mold Test Kit

Ductworks, Inc., is collaborating with National Jewish Health to provide a comprehensive approach to controlling symptoms for people who suffer from allergies and asthma. National Jewish has developed a diagnostic kit to assess the allergen levels in indoor environments.

Ductworks and National Jewish Health are working together on marketing and distribution of the Family Air Care® Indoor Allergens and Mold Test Kit. The kit, developed and serviced by National Jewish Health in Denver, determines levels of common indoor allergens and mold from dust samples taken inside a home, apartment or other building. The kit is now available through Ductworks for $299.

Once the diagnostic assessment of the home is complete, users can go to the Family Air Care® Website to learn how to lower allergen levels in their homes.

“The Family Air Care® kit is the only commercially available indoor-air testing kit that lets customers compare their results with samples from homes around the nation, and offers specific advice about how to interpret the results and what to do after receiving them,” said David Tinkelman, MD, Vice President of Health Initiatives at National Jewish Health.

To use the Family Air Care® Indoor Allergens and Mold Test Kit, consumers simply attach a small capture device to their vacuum-cleaner hose, briefly run the vacuum cleaner in their homes, then mail the collection device to National Jewish Health in a pre-paid envelope provided with the kit. Test results are reported in a secure e-mail. The kits can be ordered online at

“The Family Air Care®assessment benefits all households, but is especially important to the 70 percent of households where a person with allergies and/or asthma lives,” said Dr. Tinkelman. “The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommend that people with allergies and/or asthma reduce levels of allergens and irritants in their homes to improve their health.”

About National Jewish Health

National Jewish Health is known worldwide for treatment of patients with respiratory, immune and related disorders, and for groundbreaking medical research. Founded in 1899 as a nonprofit hospital, National Jewish Health provides the best integrated and innovative care for patients and their families.

For 12 consecutive years, U.S. News & World Report has ranked National Jewish Health the No. 1 respiratory hospital in the nation. Scholarly publisher Thomson Scientific has ranked National Jewish among the 25 most influential research institutions in the world in its areas of focus. Further information can be found by visiting

About Ductworks

Ductworks, Inc. “Your Air Duct Cleaning Expert” is a Denver-based company founded in 1990 to improve indoor air quality for homes and businesses. Their patented system of scraping and vacuuming is the most effective process for air duct cleaning. They have more technicians certified by the NADCA than any company in Colorado and provide customers with before and after photos to insure top quality performance. For more information on Ductworks and the Family Air Care Kit, go to

Pet Dander Can Affect Your Air Quality

Pet Dander is one of those microscopic particles found in many homes that can cause allergic reactions and trigger asthma. Here is some more information about pet dander and what you can do to reduce the amount of it in your home.

What is Pet Dander?

Pet dander is not animal hair; it is the tiny bits of skin flakes skin produced by every animal. Many people think they are allergic to cat or dog hair, but most are allergic to dander. Some people are severely allergic to pet dander, while others have less severe reactions.

Where is Pet Dander Found?

Pet dander is found anywhere pets are found. All animals shed hair and skin and leave traces of it behind everywhere the go. Dander is often so small that it can become airborne and reach the tops of surfaces that pets do not go, so just because Fido does not sit on the couch that does not mean that dander cannot be found on the couch. Pet dander can also stick to people’s hair, skin, and clothing that come in contact with animals, their bedding, or places animals have been.

How Do You Control Pet Dander?

Keep pet dander at a minimum by cleaning and dusting frequently. Wash animals and their bedding and brush them outdoors. Offer pets their own place to sit and sleep rather than allowing them on furniture.

What If I am Allergic to Pet Dander?

The best way of controlling allergic reactions is avoidance. If you are unwilling to part with the animal consider the following suggestions:

  • Receive treatment or consultation from an Allergist.
  • Make sure to wash your hands after petting any animal and never rub your eyes.
  • Wear a protective mask and gloves when grooming.
  • Litter boxes should be placed in an area unconnected to the air supply for the rest of the home.
  • Keep pets off furniture.
  • Change clothing worn after grooming or playing with pets.
  • HVAC systems can spread allergens throughout the home, change the furnace filter regularly, and keep the air ducts clean.