Breath of Fresh Air

Fresh Air,Most people are probably aware of the ‘drink eight glasses of water a day’ rule, and we go to great lengths to ensure that our water is purified and clean. But, have you ever considered how much air you breathe in a day? For the average person, that’s about 10,000 litres of air per day! Are you making sure that the indoor air you breathe is clean? Most people are unaware of the effects poor indoor air quality (IAQ) can have on their health.

Clean air is essential for good health, and this is especially true when it comes to indoor air. Canadians spend an average of 90% of their time indoors and indoor air can be five to ten times more polluted than outdoor air! We cook, clean, light candles and warm up our cars in attached garages. Our very presence in our homes adds to humidity and carbon dioxide, and the items that form our modern life often give off harmful chemicals.

Medical groups report that as many as half of all illnesses are caused or aggravated by indoor air pollution. Indoor air quality problems may arise from inadequate temperature, too much or too little humidity, indoor air contaminants such as chemicals, dusts and moulds, or insufficient ventilation. Problems with IAQ have increased since the 80’s, as builders started building tighter homes with increased air sealing to reduce energy costs.

It is important to be aware of how air contaminants can affect our health and take necessary steps to improve IAQ in our homes. Poor IAQ can be the cause of numerous health problems: dryness and irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, and skin; headache; fatigue; shortness of breath; allergies; sinus congestion; coughing and sneezing; dizziness, and/or nausea. People with existing health issues, such as asthma or allergies, can find their condition aggravated by poor indoor air.

One strategy for reducing indoor air pollution is to eliminate the source of the contamination. Store cleaners and solvents in your garage or shed; avoid smoking indoors; keep your home dry and make sure that appliances such as furnaces, fireplaces and water heaters are well maintained and working properly. Have all combustion appliances inspected by a qualified person at least once a year. Never idle your car in an attached garage, as this can let deadly carbon monoxide into your home. You can also use low-emission alternatives for paints and green cleaning products.

Glues, insulation, standard paints, varnishes, carpets, fabrics and anything plastic all give off Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOC’s. This is the ‘new product smell’, and while it does decrease over time, it never goes away. VOC’s have been implicated in many health issues. VOC’s are the product of modern life, and eliminating the source is not a practical solution. Only certain specialized filters can reduce VOC’s in your home.

Another strategy is ventilation, which increases the amount of outdoor air that comes indoors and reduces indoor air pollutants. Ventilation also helps limit the build-up of indoor moisture which can contribute to mould growth. New home designs often feature an energy-efficient heat recovery ventilator, or HRV, which brings fresh air into our homes, and exhausts stale, polluted air. An HRV will also reduce indoor humidity during the winter months.

An additional way of improving IAQ is to purify or filter your indoor air. There are many products available which can remove particles from your air, but some advanced units can also reduce VOC’s, and kill bioaerosols and microorganisms, such as mould, viruses and bacteria.

Air pollution is a major concern, and what your family breathes day after day may surprise you. Take steps to help improve your air quality and reduce your IAQ-related health risks. Your family will breathe easy, and maybe even feel better, with clean, fresh air in your home.