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Various studies by Health Canada and other health or environmental agencies suggest indoor air pollution is by far a greater threat to your family’s health than the pollutants in the air outside. That might come as a real shock but take a deep breath: there are relatively inexpensive things you can do to reduce your exposure to pollutants circulating within your walls.
We Canucks spend most of our time indoors year-round either at home or at work. Therefore, being wise to where indoor air pollution begins, and taking steps to reduce your exposure to them, can make a significant difference to your long-term health. After all, indoor air pollutants can trigger a number of health-related problems including severe allergy and asthma attacks, as well as be the source of other long-term ailments.
So what causes indoor air pollution? Biological hazards such as mould, fungi, bacteria, viruses, animal hair, and dust mites, as well as chemical-based toxins contained in tobacco smoke, household cleaners, building materials, and even some types of air fresheners. Moreover, all of these contaminates are being continuously recirculated throughout your home day and night by your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system.
Find new ways to make your home smell good. Candles may give off toxic chemicals into the air including, the possibility of lead that is used in the wicks of some candles. Spraying air fresheners can be like spraying chemicals around your home, depending on what type you use. Instead, try burning essential oils in diffusers. You can also put a pot on the stove with some spices like cloves, cinnamon, or citrus fruits. At a low simmer, these lovely scents will permeate your whole home without any toxins. Creating your own natural potpourri creates a welcoming scent for your home introducing unnecessary toxins to your environment.
Don’t use chemical pesticides. If you use chemical pesticides, they can give off ultra-fine particles that you might inhale or ingest. Such chemicals have been connected to birth defects, nerve damage, and cancers. You can choose to use natural pesticides that leverage substances such as citrus. You can also take the time to seal off entryways and cracks and crevices around your home is a safer, healthier approach to pest control.
Keep it green when choosing building materials. Certain chemicals, such as formaldehyde, are considered to be toxic substances in Canada. As such, they are no longer permitted in our manufacturing, but they are still common in manufacturing that happens in other companies. Today’s international trade markets allow these toxins to be imported through everyday materials. Home products that may present a risk include laminate floors, insulation, and carpeting. If you are not able to use locally-made materials, then take steps ensure your home has proper ventilation and a means of filtering out unwanted toxins. This can be done with ultra-fine filtration on your home comfort systems or with a whole-home purification system to reduce the risks these toxins pose.
Reduce your radon exposure. Radon is a naturally-occurring chemical element that can cause cancer when people are exposed to it. Radon is created when certain types of organic materials break down in the earth beneath and around your home. Most new home developments will not be built on radon-contaminated soil; however, older buildings may still be affected. You may wish to hire a specialist to perform tests on the land surrounding your home. These experts will provide remediation recommendations if it turns out that your soil is contaminated.
Right-size the range hood if you have a gas oven. Range hoods are designed to extract rising gases and grease released during cooking on a gas-based stove, but many are insufficient in size. As such, they are inadequate at eliminating the contaminants that happen when you’re cooking. Your range hood needs to be the same width as your stovetop or even wider to capture particles in the air.
Mould reduction. Mould is very unhealthy but difficult to combat in some homes as it can grow quickly anywhere there is moisture in your home. You should check for white or black dots in all areas that tend to have more moisture, including bathrooms and kitchens. Areas to check within all rooms include baseboards, radiators, and windowsills, and under any carpet in your basement. If you find any problems areas, you need to eliminate the mould with products that are not toxic, and then make changes to prevent the moisture and mould from returning. Stay safe by wearing an N95 respirator. These face masks are often used by medical professionals, and they can protect you too if you’re a do-it-yourselfer.
Clean your natural gas appliances. Have a professional conduct an annual inspection of any natural gas appliance in your home. This may include your oven, fireplace, and/or furnace – really anything that is powered by gas. Annual inspections of your appliances can prevent the presence of harmful airborne by-products that are a result of the combustion that occurs in gas appliances.
Use all-natural cleaning products. Some household cleaners emit toxic chemicals, even from within their sealed containers. Using household cleaners with strong chemicals for your cleaning tasks can easily pollute your indoor air quality. Change your routine to include to all-natural products like orange essence or white vinegar. Be sure to ventilate the air wherever you are cleaning, and then when you’re done, make sure everything is stored away safely and well-sealed.
Swap out your furnace filter frequently. It’s important to use fresh filters in your furnace on a regular basis, all the while ensuring that you have the correct size and type of filter for your furnace. A clean filter that fits properly plays a big role in minimizing dust and particle emissions in your home, and it also keeps your furnace working optimally with lower energy bills for you.
Use smart paints when redecorating. All household paints release traces of ultra-fine particles. Some release VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) which can also be found in evaporating fuels and solvents. These toxins can irritate the upper respiratory system for months to years after being regularly exposed to them. Choose a smart paint, one with either low or no VOCs the next time you decide to freshen up your walls with new paint. Be extra careful when scraping away old paint or sanding walls, as lead and asbestos were common additives in older building products. You may want to have a professional check your walls before you start any renovations.
Talk to Mr. Furnace about your concerns or to schedule a service appointment.