How Clean is the Air in Your Home?

Most of us are well aware of outdoor air pollution caused by cars and industry which can damage our heath. But we rarely stop to consider how the air inside our homes is affecting us.

The air inside our homes can be five to 10 times more polluted than the air outside our windows, depending on how many solvents, cleaners, pest sprays and other toxic products we use. These levels are of particular concern because some people spend as much as 90 per cent of their time indoors.

Our exposure to indoor air pollutants has increased over the past several decades for a variety of reasons:

new homes and buildings are more tightly sealed to conserve energy;
ventilation has been reduced to save energy;
synthetic building materials and furnishings; and
in some areas, higher temperatures and humidity levels.

Here are more details.

Sources in home

There are many sources of air pollution in any home. They include:

heating fuels - oil, gas, kerosene, coal, wood all emit pollutants when they bum.
fuel-burning appliances - an improperly adjusted gas stove, for example, can emit significantly more carbon monoxide than a properly adjusted one.
tobacco products - tobacco smoke is known to be harmful to human health.
aerosol sprays, cleaners, paints, air fresheners, pesticides - these contain chemicals that can remain in the air for long periods of time.
central heating/cooling systems, humidification devices - these must be well-maintained to keep the air clean in your home.
dust, mould, certain insects, pet dander - these can trigger asthma attacks and allergies in some people.

Some sources such as building materials, furnishings and household products like air fresheners release pollutants more or less continuously. Other sources like smoking and cleaning/painting activities release pollutants intermittently.

Harmful effects

If too little outdoor air enters a home, pollutants can reach levels that can make you feel uncomfortable and/or threaten your health. Ongoing health problems may include coughs, eye irritations, headaches and allergic reactions.

Depending on the weather (temperature/humidity), pollutants can reach high levels even in homes that are well ventilated. Frequent colds and respiratory ailments may be set off by bacteria and viruses that flourish in warm, stagnant air.

Some simple precautions

To ensure a healthy and comfortable indoor air environment, take these simple precautions:

provide adequate ventilation and introduce fresh air into your home regularly.
control your use of aerosol sprays, chemical-based household cleaners and other products.
keep fuel-burning equipment and appliances well-maintained.
avoid smoking inside your home and do not permit others to do so, especially around children. If smoking cannot be avoided, increase ventilation.
install and use exhaust fans that are vented to the outdoors - this will eliminate moisture build-up and reduce levels of organic pollutants in damp air.
ventilate your attic and crawl spaces to prevent moisture from building up.
if using a cool mist or ultrasonic humidifier, keep the appliances clean according to the manufacturer's instructions and refill with fresh water daily - any evaporation tray should also be cleaned frequently to prevent organic pollutants from breeding.
thoroughly clean and dry any waterdamaged carpets and building materials as soon as possible to avoid mould and bacteria build-up.
keep your home clean - this will reduce dust mites, pollens, animal dander and other allergy causing agents.
ensure any indoor hobby areas - woodworking, jewelry making, pottery, model building - are well ventilated.
have your central air handling systems - furnaces, flues, chimneys, air conditioners, etc. - inspected annually and promptly repair any damaged parts and cracks.
install a carbon monoxide detector to protect you between inspections.
use effective air filters with your central air furnaces - fiberglass are the least effective. Clean or replace them regularly.
install ceiling fans to distribute air more evenly throughout your home.




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