Indoor Air Quality

Indoor Air Quality

Everyone is exposed to a variety of health risks each and every day. Indoor Air Quality is a current issue facing Tribal communities, throughout Indian Country, which communities similar to Bad River’s are put at an immediate disadvantage due to factors related to harsh seasonal weather, clay soils, aging structures, and unavailable funding to invest in proper refurbishing  and construction. Scientific evidence has also indicated that the indoor air can become more polluted than almost any polluted-outdoor environment, and with other studies showing the average person spends 90% of their time within indoor environments; it indicates a definite higher risk to a person’s health.

Understanding and maintaining a building or housing structure’s condition can be  great knowledge in initial prevention. Houses that have inadequate air circulation, ventilation and exchange usually are candidates for excessive-lingering pollutants. A structure’s ventilation and pressures have proved to be the touchiest and most influential factors contributing to dangerous levels of molds, carbon monoxide, radon and other indoor air pollutants.

Fortunately there are actions that tribal members can take to help themselves, their family, and/or others to reduce the amount of exposure to indoor pollutants. Maintaining your combustible appliances, such as; stoves, water heaters and furnaces, to make sure they are adequately ventilated to outside the house, can be efficient ways to reduce exposure to carbon monoxide. Individual lifestyles can also be the largest factors in how your house will function. Limiting and/or eliminating habits, such as; accidently covering vents, not turning the bathroom fans on during showers, and not maintaining specific appliance’s filtration, can all be easy and cheap methods to reduce exposure and make sure your house is properly functioning.

Some contributing factors, to unhealthy indoor environments, may need direct assistance from your landlord, maintenance department, trained housing inspectors, and/or a community health officials. Within the Air Program, there is an Air Quality Specialist and a Air Quality Technician that is able to assist Bad River community members and staff, concerned with indoor air issues. The Technician or Specialist may then make recommendations, suggestions and simply point you in the right direction to address your issues, if any are found. Sometimes you may only want to help assure yourself(s) that you are not being exposed to dangerous levels of indoor air pollutants. If you have any questions, concerns, or thoughts on any indoor air issues please contact your Air Quality Technician, located within the BRNRD.

Common Indoor Air Pollutants

Radon: Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that is created from the natural breakdown of uranium in the soil and cannot be detected by any human senses. It is a known Class “A” Carcinogen and is actually the leading cause of lung cancer behind tobacco smoke. Only way to know if your home has radon is to test! 

VOCs: Volotile Organic Compounds are emitted as gases through certain forms of liquids and solids and can cause serious health effects. VOCs can be emitted from thousands of products and supplies, which include; cleaning agents, paints, permanent markers, and even copiers and printers. 

ETS: Environmental Tobacco Smoke is the leading cause of lung cancer among men and women. Many states have taken action against ETS and have made buildings, restaurants, and even cars with small children all smoke free areas. 

Moisture & Mold: Mold can be found almost anywhere there is oxygen and water present. If you find mold, first, do not become over concerned. First examine the area and determine the size of area contaminated. If you feel it is too large for yourself to clean contact a professional for advice. If you determine you can tackle it yourself clean the mold and rid the place of the water source. (EPAs Mold Clean-up)

CO: Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless, and very toxic gas that can be fatal. Many CO issues are contributed from combustion sources, such as; leaky furnaces, water heater, small gas-space heaters, and car exhaust leakage from attached garages. If you feel your home has CO issues immediately contact the Air Department.

Lead: Lead has been known for some time now to cause severe health effects, that include; convulsions, coma, and even death. In the early 1990s lead was considered “the number one environmental health threat to children in the US,” by the Secretary of Department of Health & Human Services.

Asbestos:Asbestos is a mineral fiber that is found in rock and soils. Due to its fiber strength and fire resistance it has been used in numerous types of construction as an insulate for fire retardant. It has been used in roof-shingles, tiles, and other building materials. Particles and fibers can be easily released into the air with almost any type of disturbance of the asbestos material. Although it can be difficult to identify, asbestos can contribute to a person’s development of lung disease. 

The Mesothelioma Center: Provides the most up to date information on asbestos related illnesses. They have a team of patient advocates that work one on one with patients and their families connecting them with doctors, treatment centers, support groups and much more during and after diagnosis. More information can be found about the Mesothelioma Center

This and more Indoor Air Pollutant information can be found on the EPA’s Website

Daniel Wiggins-Air Quality Technician 

Bad River Natural Resource Department
72682 Maple Street
Odanah, WI 54861

For contact information, please see the Natural Resources department contact list on the department home page.

Radon Testing and Information

Radon In Homes

Radon is related to over 20,000 lung cancer deaths each year. It is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that cannot be detected by human senses. Radon gas can infiltrate your home and accumulate to high levels, which then increases a person chances of developing lung cancer. The United State Environmental Protection Agency has recognized this issue and set an action level to address the concern of radon gas and lung cancer.
Radon Brochure

Radon Gas (Rn-222)

Radon gas continues to breakdown in the environment. By products of radon can attach to dust and other floating particles, making it more acceptable to be breathed in. As radon gas breakdowns alpha particles are released and after a series of additional transformations it will eventually stabilize into lead (lead-206). Radon gas has the ability to maneuver through spaces between particles. If a source is large enough and it has the ability to infiltrate a home (or building) through foundation cracks and openings it has the ability to accumulate to high levels. Radon is a noble gas, which means it is inert or will not combine with other chemicals. During the natural radioactive breakdown of uranium (or thorium) radon gas is formed. Uranium, as is radon, is almost present in all type of rock and soil, in different concentrations, throughout the United States. 

Radon Gas Infiltration

Radon gas has the ability to move between soil particles and find any crack within a structure. If there is a large enough source radon has the ability to accumulate in homes in buildings. Some types of structures may be more prone to radon infiltration than others, however, every type of structure is still acceptable to the build-up of high indoor radon levels. Basements and crawlspaces create potential areas for radon infiltration. Structural appliances that may create a pressure differentials (such as whole-house fans and range hoods), a persons lifestyle, and other  specific structural parameters all have the potential to play a role in the level of indoor radon. Nearly all radon in homes is originated from radon-in-soils. Radon-in-water is also a possible contributor to high indoor radon levels, but rarely is it the actual source of radon that causes a home to accumulate high indoor radon levels. (The USEPA recommends you test the air for radon first, and if found high and are utilizing a ground water source, test your water for radon.)

Radon Action Level (USEPA)

The average indoor radon concentration is about 1.3 picocuries per liter of air (pCi/L) and the average outdoor is around 0.4 pCi/L. The USEPA has set an action level of 4.0 pCi/L, which encourages homeowners to take measures to reduce levels. The USEPA also estimate that one out every 15 homes are above the action level. If possible, the USEPA also recommends considering fixing your home if levels are found above 2.0 pCi/L. Lowering the radon level decreases the chances of developing lung cancer. 

Radon Testing

The only way to know if your home (or building) has radon is to test. Testing is can be very simple and can be done by the property owner or a professional (certified) radon tester. Certain states out have certain requirements for radon testing and it may be best to obtain services from a certified professional. 

Tribal Radon Action Month (RAM): 

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has designated January as National Radon Action Month (RAM). Radon Programs across the nation take this time to sponsor and/or host activities and events dedicated towards radon awareness and to further educating the people of the numerous radon issues. Every January the Bad River Tribal Indoor Radon Program will sponsor an event that brings radon awareness to the community, and further encourages people to test their homes.

The Tribal Indoor Radon Program will sponsor two events for RAM; the Radon Poster Contest and the Radon Coloring Contest. The goal of these two contests are intended to raise awareness about radon and further encourage every person to test their homes. Posting of rules and contest information will usually occur in late November, which the contest will usually end in early February.

Any further questions or if you would like further information please contact:

Daniel Wiggins- Air Quality Technician

Natural Resource Department
72682 Maple Street 
Odanah, WI 54861

Phone: 715-682-7123 ext. 1553
Email: Air1@badriver-nsn.gov

The Bad River Tribal Indoor Radon Program reserves the right to change, alter, or dismiss any of the event or activities being sponsored or held by the Program. Our goal as a Radon Program is to raise awareness towards radon issues and at the same time create a fun learning environment for the children.