Indoor Air Quality: 12 tips to improve the air quality in your home

As Canadians, we spend a lot of our time indoors; at home, at work and in recreational environments. Most, however, are unaware of the effects poor indoor air quality can have or that indoor air pollution can sometimes be worse than outdoor air pollution.  Effects can range from headaches, nausea and allergic reactions all the way to chronic respiratory disease, lung cancer and heart disease.

We all have the ability to control the quality of our own indoor air.  Here are 12 tips on ways to improve the air quality of your home.

  1. Find out if you have lead paint and use non-toxic, eco-friendly paints when painting or repainting  your home.  Homes built or painted prior to 1960 often used a paint that contained lead.  Remove a chip of paint, have it tested and if it turns out that you have lead paint, try to keep your home dust-free (lead is found in household dust) and hire a professional to remove the paint. Click here for more information on how to test.
  2. Keep your home mold free. Mold grows where there is too much humidity often as a result of water leaks and can grow on wood, paper, fabrics, drywall, insulation, inside walls and above ceiling tiles.  If you find a problem fix it and use dehumidifiers in the warm months.
  3. Test for radon.  Radon is a gas that is produced naturally by the breakdown of uranium in the ground.  It comes into your home undetected; you can’t see, smell or taste it and it is also known to cause lung cancer.  Almost every home in Canada has some radon but concentrations vary from one house to another so it is best to test and deal with any issues promptly.  Click here for more information on how to test.
  4. Avoid smoking indoors.  Second-hand smoke spreads from one room to another even if the doors are closed and potentially harmful chemicals can cling to rugs, curtains, clothes and many other items.
  5. Clean your floors frequently.  Mop your floors to clean up any dust left behind after vacuuming or sweeping; vacuum rugs to remove the toxins and allergens that are buried.
  6. Change your air filters frequently.  Left unchanged they will get dirty, collecting dust and toxins and redistributing them throughout your home.
  7. Install a carbon monoxide detector.  Carbon monoxide forms whenever you burn fuel (ie. propane, natural gas, gasoline, oil, coal and wood) and if your furnace, fireplace, gas stove or water heater isn’t properly installed, or if they malfunction, they can release CO into your home.  Ideally you install the detector(s) in the hallways, outside of sleeping areas.
  8. Groom Fido & Felix! Brush your pets outdoor and often and wash their bedding frequently to minimize their fur and dander going throughout your home.
  9. Think natural! Use natural cleaning agents and natural air fresheners as many conventional products are made of toxic ingredients and known carcinogens that can penetrate your home.  Vinegar and baking soda are excellent cleaning substitutes; cinnamon, coffee and lemons make lovely air fresheners.
  10. Invest in a good vacuum. Use a vacuum equipped with a HEPA filter to pick up those particles that can irritate asthma and other respiratory issues.
  11. Avoid vinyl flooring.  Vinyl flooring and wall coverings along with the adhesives used with them can emit carcinogens such as vinyl chloride and polyvinyl chloride.  Use natural materials for your flooring such as solid wood, bamboo or cork flooring and where floor is adhered to the sub-floor choose low-emission adhesives.
  12. Ventilate. Air out the room and ventilate to pull dangerous pollutants out of the house. Run the exhaust fans in your bathroom and kitchen. Open your windows. Make sure you have a good exhaust system in place for appliances and stoves. (Avoid doing this on smog filled days).


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