Every Breath You Take

Let’s face it - with increased traffic, population density and industrial processing of all types, our global air quality has taken a serious hit over the past fifty years. Luckily, there are many sweeping initiatives, including world-wide legislation, that are helping to reduce the impact of air pollutants on our planet.

But how can the air quality right in our own homes affect us? Indoor air quality can suffer from a wide variety of domestic pollutants like cleaning solutions, indoor wood smoke, chemicals used in manufacturing products like upholstery and carpet, smoking, products used in construction like fiberglass, and improperly maintained heating/cooling systems. Hot weather and humidity can also raise the levels of some indoor air pollutants, especially if your home is not well ventilated.

This poor home air quality can result in a variety of physical symptoms in you (and even your pets) such as:

  • Breathing problems including shortness of breath, coughing, sneezing and sinus congestion
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Dry eyes, nose and throat
  • Allergies or hypersensitivities

It’s important to observe when your symptoms occur – are they better when you’re away from your home for extended periods of time? Do they worsen when you come home? Of course, keep in mind that many of these symptoms can be attributed to unrelated causes such as colds, infections or flu and the fact that some people are just more sensitive to reduced air quality.

However, if you suspect this may be a problem in your home, here are a few ideas that can help improve and maintain better indoor air quality.

Consider the Source: Prevention

  • Don’t smoke indoors
  • Ensure that every fuel-burning source (furnace, water heater, fireplaces, woodstoves, gas stove) is well-maintained. Your furnace should have an annual cleaning and maintenance visit by a certified HVAC technician. These appliances can also be sources of deadly carbon monoxide, if not adjusted properly and kept in good running order.
  • Control the humidity. Mould and fungi can be sources of health issues. If your basement or home is always damp, it might be wise to have a specialist look at the problem areas. If you have a flood, make sure you thoroughly dry or replace all affected items including flooring and drywall.
  • There are readily available low emission products that you can choose as alternatives to those that emit fumes and particles into the air. They include paint, glue, insulation, cleaning products, carpets and fabrics.
  • Never leave a car or any other gas-powered equipment idling in the garage. Not only is this a source of pollution, the carbon monoxide can leach into your home, causing serious illness and even death.
  • For those individuals that have particular fragrance sensitivities, avoid using perfumes or colognes, scented candles, pot pouri or anything with a strong smell
  • For optimal humidity levels throughout your home, use either humidifier or de-humidifier units depending on the area and the season

Get the Air Moving: Ventilation

  • Today’s homes are built to keep heat in and drafts to a minimum. However, air still needs to move and change over each day. Ensure that, even during the winter months, fresh outdoor air is still able to get into your home. When the weather permits, open windows and doors, even for a few minutes.
  • Make sure that your bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans are working, engage regularly and are kept free from dust build-up.
  • If you are building or renovating your home, look into the many new and innovative systems that ensure energy-efficient ventilation.

Clean Your Air

Assuming you’ve done all that you can to reduce the sources of indoor air pollution and improve the air circulation, you might decide to add an air filtration system for even greater effect. There are a number of different types including stand-alone systems or add-on filters to your furnace. Keep in mind these are typically good at catching the minute particles in the air, but they are not meant to remove gases. Also note that Health Canada warns that ozone-generating air filters may be hazardous to your health and are not recommended for home use.

Ultimately, your home air quality is something that you can take steps to improve and maintain, improving your comfort while reducing your risks of pollutant-related issues.

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