MSU Takes the Lead
Creators of a Montana State University program that spread across the nation want Americans to know that "Home Sweet Home" isn't always "Home SAFE Home."
Even the cleanest castle and most immaculate abode can harbor harmful contaminants like mildew, radon or carbon monoxide. These invisible indoor intruders can contribute to allergies and asthma as well as serious illnesses like cancer.
To spread the word about these potential hazards, MSU Extension started the "Healthy Indoor Air for America's Homes" program. Now so popular that almost every state has used the materials, the program uses booklets, posters, a web site (www.montana.edu/wwwcxair) and other instructional materials to explain the effects of indoor air contaminants.
The subject affects nearly every American, said the program's creator, Michael P. Vogel, an MSU professor and MSU Extension's housing specialist. While most consumers have heard of mold, formaldehyde, lead and secondhand smoke, many do not realize the extent of the damage such materials can cause. Even newer homes, which would seem to be free of indoor air hazards, may contain furnishings, combustion appliances and hobby products that compromise the quality of the home's air.
The "Healthy Indoor Air" program was begun in 1995 as the result of a national proposal to create indoor air quality materials. When Montana was accepted as the lead state for the project, Vogel saw it as a way to fulfill MSU's land-grant mission and take research-based information to Montanans. A localized version is called "Healthy Indoor Air for Montana's Homes."
The program is currently supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, along with MSU Extension. It's delivered nationwide through a network of nearly 3,000 local Extension offices.
"I think this has been a wonderful model effort for us," said Claudette Reichel of Louisiana State University. "It's a tremendous service to have materials and teaching materials, and not just the training."
Living in an area where floods and hurricanes occur, Reichel said mold and dust mites are probably their No. 1 indoor air problem. Asthma and allergies are epidemic. To help home owners and others deal with those problems, Extension agents and emergency offices use the Healthy Indoor Air materials with other educational resources.
The program has received much praise, appearing in national publications such as The Wall Street Journal and USA Today. The U.S. Department of Agriculture named Healthy Indoor Air the number one "flagship" program of excellence in housing education. The White House declared October as National Home Indoor Air Quality Month.
To reach the country's culturally diverse population, booklets have been translated into Spanish, and program materials have been adapted to reach Samoan, Hmong, Cambodian, Laotian and Puerto Rican populations.
Recently, one of the Healthy Indoor Air booklets was selected for distribution through the Consumer Information Center, the famous publications clearinghouse in Pueblo, Colo. An initial run of 40,000 copies proved very popular, and the booklet rose to the "best-seller" list of the Center's free publications.
For a free copy of "Indoor Air Hazards Every Homeowner Should Know About," write to the Public Document Distribution Center, 31451 United Avenue, Pueblo, CO 81001. Request booklet #636-E.
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