In winter you and your family spend more time indoors. Less fresh air gets into your house because it is too cold to open the windows. Indoor air is 2-5 times more polluted that outdoor air. Odours from cooking, air fresheners and pets build up inside your house. Hazardous chemicals such as those found in smoke from tobacco products or wood burning stoves can also accumulate. Even the dust in your home or furniture which has been treated for stain resistance or flame retardant can harbour chemicals which are hazardous to human health.
Sources of Indoor Air Pollutants
There are 2 types of air pollutants which contribute to poor air quality in homes:
Particle Pollution is caused by dust, smoke from wood burning stoves or fireplaces , pollen, animal dander, tobacco smoke, particles generated from combustion appliances such as gas cooking stoves, and particles associated with tiny organisms such as dust mites, molds, bacteria and viruses.
Exposure to such particles can affect both your lungs and your heart. Numerous scientific studies have linked particle pollution exposure to a variety of problems, including:
- premature death in people with heart or lung disease
- nonfatal heart attacks
- irregular heartbeat
- aggravated asthma
- decreased lung function
- increased respiratory symptoms, such as irritation of the airways, coughing or difficulty breathing.
People with heart or lung diseases, children of all ages, and older adults are the most likely to be affected by particle pollution exposure.
Gas Pollution is caused by combustion processes including gas cooking stoves, vehicle exhaust and tobacco smoke. It also come from household cleaning products, incense, air fresheners, building materials, furnishings and the use of products such as adhesives, paints, varnishes, cleaning products and pesticides.
Other gases which cause air pollution:
Carbon monoxide, a colourless, odorless gas is produced whenever any fuel such as gas, oil, kerosene, wood, or charcoal is burned. It can build up in buildings when heating sources malfunction. This gas is poisonous.
Radon Gas is a colourless, odourless, tasteless, radioactive gas found naturally in the environment which is present in soil, ground water and air. It can enter buildings through cracks in foundations, windows frames and spaces around outdoor pipes. A person exposed to long-term to high radon levels has a 1 in 20 chance of developing lung cancer. If there is also exposure to cigarette smoke the risk increases dramatically to 1 in 3.
Tips for improving the air quality of your home:
- Open windows to get fresh air when possible
- Run kitchen and bathroom fans frequently to remove polluted air.
- Do not use air fresheners which contain fragrances (parfum)
- Do not use scented cleaning products especially those ins spray containers
- Do not use scented candles
- Simmer orange peel or apple juice with spices for a pleasant fragrance in your kitchen.
- Use an open bowl of baking soda to absorb odours in your bathroom or kitchen.
- Burn a non-scented candle in your kitchen while cooking
- Clean the grill of your kitchen exhaust fan frequently
- Place a box of baking soda specially designed for this purpose in your refrigerator to absorb odours
- Do not use scented dryer sheets
- Do not use scented fabric softeners
- Do not allow smoking in your home
- Vacuum and dust your floors and carpets frequently especially if you have babies or toddlers
- Remove your shoes at the door
- Change the furnace filter frequently
- Have your furnace and ducts cleaned before each heating season
- Purchase an air purifier
- Get your home tested for radon gas. Byincreasing ventilation and sealing up the building foundation where there are cracks or openings for pipes or windows the levels can be reduced.
- Install a smoke detector in your home
- Install a carbon monoxide alarm in your home
Canadian Environmental Law Association www.cela.ca/node/2493
Canadian Partnership for Children’s Health and the Environment http://www.healthyenvironmentforkids.ca/campaign/home-safety
Environmental Defence Canada www.environmentaldefence.ca/report/the-environmental-defence-guide-to-cleaning-indoor-air/
Environmental Protection Agency www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq
Environmental Protection Agency www.aboutcarbonmonoxide.com/epa/family.htm
Environmental Protection Agency www.epa.gov/pm-pollution/health-and-environmental-effects-particulate-matter-pm