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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
use effective air filters with your central air furnaces -
fiberglass are the least effective. Clean or replace them
install ceiling fans to distribute air more evenly
throughout your home.