THE DOWNSIDE OF BEING INSIDE
The average Canadian spends as much as 90 per cent of the time indoors. And yet, toxic air inside our homes, schools and workplaces tends to be swept under the carpet. Radon lurks. Scented products fill the air. Fireplaces pose a real threat to children and people with asthma, allergies or lung disease. Poor indoor air quality can even affect development in children!
Air Quality Basics
How healthy is the air quality in your home? As someone who has been impacted by lung disease, you know the quality of the air we breathe, both indoors and outdoors, plays a major role in your overall lung health. With Canadians spending approximately 90% of their time indoors, healthy indoor air quality does make a big difference.
According to the report, Life and Breath: Respiratory Disease in Canada, more than three million Canadians have lung disease with this number increasing as the general population gets older. Breathing clean air is important for everyone and can be vital to the health of those with lung disease.
RISK AND TRIGGERS
- Gas appliances can release dangerous gases and particles in the air putting your breathing at risk
- Damp areas like the kitchen provide the right environment for mould to grow
- Many household cleaning products contain toxic chemicals hazardous to your health
- Air fresheners can release a variety of chemicals contributing to your indoor air pollution
- Make sure your bathroom exhaust fan is working properly to help keep the moisture away
Once you find out about these triggers, take action to improve your indoor air quality as much as possible.
Second Hand Smoke
Second hand smoke can cause cancer and heart disease, as well as worsen existing lung conditions such as asthma. Smoke gets everywhere inside a home, even if you only smoke in one part, and lasts a long time even after smoking has stopped.
If someone in your home smokes, make sure they only smoke outside until they are able to quit. This will greatly reduce the amount of smoke that everyone in the home is exposed to. Never smoke inside a home or vehicle, even if no one else is around at the time.
One of the most popular questions we are asked is which air cleaner should Canadians purchase for their home.
Before purchasing an air cleaner, residents should look for the source of the problem (e.g. cigarette smoke, mould, wet carpet). By removing the source of the problem directly, this will be much more effective than using an air cleaner to improve the home’s air quality.
MouldMould can be found anywhere in the home where there are high moisture levels and a lack of air movement. To limit mould growth, you need to control moisture and humidity and allow air to move through your home. Fix any water leaks or water drainage problems around your home, reduce clutter for better air movement, open windows to allow fresh air to circulate when practical, and use exhaust fans when cooking or bathing. To measure humidity levels, purchase a hygrometer from a hardware or electronics store to make sure indoor humidity levels are between 30-50%. If there are high humidity levels, use a dehumidifier and make sure it is cleaned and emptied regularly.
Consumers can become overwhelmed by the number of household cleaning products available on the market. Many products contain toxic ingredients which can cause health problems when used. These include: shortness of breath, an allergic reaction, or dizziness. It is important to use any products with adequate ventilation (open windows, exhaust fans running). If any symptoms occur, stop using the product immediately and get some fresh air.
You can avoid using harmful products by making your own non-toxic cleaners. Key ingredients include baking soda, vinegar or lemon juice mixed with water to clean surfaces, drains and toilets.
Flooring and CarpetingThe type of flooring found in your home can impact the quality of the air indoors. This also includes the types of glues and sealing materials used to install flooring which can release chemical odours. When you have a choice for flooring, look for low-emitting materials and adhesives that are water-based. Carpeting can hold onto bacteria, dust, dust mites, pet dander and mould. If possible, remove as much carpeting as you can. If you install carpeting, look for a low emission product to limit the amount of chemical odours released, and make sure it is cleaned properly and regularly.
Radon is a naturally occurring gas that is found in the soil and rock surrounding a home. It can get into your home through cracks in the foundation and build up to dangerous levels that can increase your risk of lung cancer over time. If you are a smoker, you are at an even greater risk of lung cancer if your home also has high radon levels.
Take action to enhance the indoor air quality in your home.
Below are tips and tricks to ensure your the air you breathe in your home is healthy year-round.
- Getting started: Conduct a Healthy Home Audit.
- Determine your priorities – what changes should you make right away? What projects are short-term, and which ones are long-term?
- Are you concerned about specific rooms, or areas of your home? Take a look at potential projects room by room.
Do you have some time on the weekend?
By setting aside a little more time, there are several weekend projects that you can do yourself:
- Clean out your basement – sort through and discard unwanted items.
- Clean out your garage – sort through and discard unwanted items.
- Get a ventilation unit installed by a qualified professional to ensure fresh air flow throughout your home.
- Steam clean your carpet and ensure adequate ventilation is available to help carpet dry.
- Replace or add weather stripping around windows and doors.
- Seal or caulk outdoor entry points in the basement floor or walls to prevent water, air, or insects from entering your home.
- Clean out eaves troughs and downspouts by removing any obstructions such as leaves or branches.
- Ensure that the yard surrounding your home slopes away from the house to prevent water from draining into your basement.
Are you renovating, or planning any long-term projects?
If so, it’s a great opportunity to look at including changes to your home that will enhance overall air quality:
- Look at removing any carpet in your home and replacing with flooring. If you must have carpet in your home, look to replace old carpeting with low emission carpet. Visit the Types of Pollutants page for more information.
- Install an exhaust fan (if you don’t already have one) in your kitchen and bathroom to help limit moisture buildup from cooking and bathing. If you already have an exhaust fan in your bathroom, look at installing a timer that will shut off the fan automatically after a certain amount of time.
- Install an exhaust fan in your garage to allow for fresh air to help dilute any vehicle exhaust from vehicles and other equipment.
- Burn smart with fireplaces.
- Radon testing.
- Check and clean/replace furnace filters regularly.
- Open windows.
- Spring cleaning/get rid of clutter and dust.
- Clear eavestroughs and downspouts.
- Use a dehumidifier if your home becomes too humid.
- Clean or replace air conditioning filters.
- Deep clean carpets and rugs.
- Get your furnace checked.
- Check chimneys for blockages.
- Ensure doors and windows are sealed properly.