There’s no place like home – right? Where we live should be a safe haven for raising our children, spent time with friends and family, as well as take time to enjoy ourselves. As Canadians, it is estimated that we spend about 90% of our time indoors; however, most people are still unaware of the effects that poor indoor air can have on our health.
According to Health Canada, there are two major pollutants (Biological and Chemical) that are in our poised in our homes are potential health concerns. Biological contaminants include mold, bacteria, viruses, dust mites and their feces. Chemical contaminants include VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds), and various other sources of indoor pollution such as cleaning agents and personal health care products. At the center of this is our heating/cooling system that is recirculating contaminates through the homes lungs, your ductwork.
Here are 10 simple tips for a “lung-healthy” home:
- Skip using scented candles and air-fresheners. Candles can release highly toxic chemicals into your air – including potentially lead that is still found in the “wick” of many candles. Try safer alternatives include using essential oils in diffusers or simmering spices such as cloves, oregano, cinnamon or even fruit like lemons on your stove. An all-natural potpourri is a healthier way to eliminate odors without using chemicals that can actually be polluting your air.
- Reduce use of chemical pesticides in your home. Over time, with exposure, chemical pesticides can release ultra-fine particles that can be inhaled or ingested that have been linked to birth defects, nerve damage, and cancers. Switching to “natural pesticides” that are sourced from organic ingredients like citrus, as well as taking the time to seal off entryways and cracks/ crevices is a better approach to a healthier home.
- Use green building materials. Even though chemicals like formaldehyde have been declared a toxic substance in Canada, it is still very common in foreign manufacturing processes. With global-trade, it has made its way into common materials like laminate floors, home insulation, and carpeting. Apart from sourcing local materials, proper ventilation and ultra-fine filtration, or a whole-home purification system combined with home testing, is a smart strategy to reduce the risk.
- Minimize exposure to radon, a leading cause of cancer. Radon naturally occurs in the environment as a by-product of certain types of organic materials breaking down in the soil beneath your home. Newer homes are beginning to be designed with radon in mind, but if you have an older home, your only solution may be to hire a contractor to test your home and make suggestions as to the best solution for it.
- Design your next kitchen with a better range hood. While range hoods are designed to exhaust pollutants released during cooking or use of a gas stove, most are not properly sized and are inadequate at trapping pollutants generated by them. Getting the right range hood can prevent the recirculation of contaminated air throughout your house.
- Eliminate mould. Mould spreads in warm, moist environments. Inspecting bathrooms, kitchens, and basements for white or black dots is the first step – especially under sinks, baseboards, and windowsills. Using a professional, or non-toxic solutions, to clean it and then fix the source of moisture is the solution. Don’t forget to wear an N95 approved face mask if your planning on tackling it yourself.
- Keep gas appliances working properly. Having an annual inspection of your stove, fireplace, and furnace is a best practice and is recommended in the Ontario Gas Code. If you suspect any problems with the above, call a professional immediately as the by-products of gas combustion can be deadly.
- Switch to safer, all-natural, cleaning products. Even while well sealed, some cleaners and off-gas and emit toxic chemicals when not in use. On the other hand, by using them, you are likely polluting your air and breathing in hazardous chemicals in the process of cleaning surfaces. When an all-natural products like “orange essence”, or vinegar cannot be used, be sure to ventilate well where you're cleaning and then safely store away cleaners in sealed totes away from living areas.
- Keep your furnace happy – change your filter regularly. By changing your filters regularly, you’re not only reducing dust and particle emissions – but you also help prevent future repairs, increased operating costs, and early replacement.
- Use smart paints when decorating. All household paints release traces of ultra-fine particles and some release VOCs that can irritate the upper respiratory system even months to years after application. Choose a smart paint, one with either low or no VOCs next time you decide to redecorate. Pay particular attention to removing old paints or sanding walls as lead and asbestos were common additives in older building products. When in doubt, call a professional.
These simple tips can help you create a safer environment where you and your family can break free from daily pollutants that can trigger allergies, asthma, and be potential sources of long-term health conditions.
Contact Boonstra today for a “free indoor-air assessment” or to talk about other solutions to make your home a healthier home.