According to a 2002 report published by the Ontario Lung Association, a survey showed the public believed “indoor air pollution was a relatively minor problem compared to outdoor air pollution.” However, with many people now spending more than 90% of their time indoors, and “concentrations of indoor pollutants can sometimes greatly exceed outdoor concentrations”. This makes indoor air quality a major concern.
According to the US EPA’s “The Inside Story: A Guide To Indoor Air Quality”, there are three basic strategies to ensure your home’s air is clean and healthy: source removal, ventilation, and using air cleaners.
1. Source removal
-Dust regularly. Keep sheets and draperies clean.
-Clean your carpets regularly with a central vacuum or HEPA-equipped vacuum. Carpets collect dust, and also commonly contain bacteria, mites, and fungi. Many new carpets are a significant source of harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as toluene, formaldehyde, benzene, and more. When installing new carpets, select low chemical emission carpeting and padding. See the Canadian Lung Association’s Carpet Fact Sheet for details. Better yet, replace carpets with hardwood flooring or tiles. Better yet, replace carpets with hardwood flooring or tiles.
-Do not smoke indoors. Do not use candles, incence, or air fresheners.
-Maintain gas heating systems regularly, and make sure all gas appliances (such as ovens) are properly vented.
-Do not store paint, pesticides, or solvents in your home.
-Use chemical emissions-free cleaning & personal hygiene products. See the Air Friendly Household Products Fact Sheet to see non-toxic cleaning alternatives.
-Run an exhaust vent when cooking or showering, in order to prevent moisture build up. Make sure there is no condensation, standing water, or excess humidity anywhere in your home. If there is, take a action to correct it.
-Test your home for radon. For non-smokers, radon is the most common cause of lung cancer. Unsafe levels are found in many BC homes, especially in the interior. See the BC Center for Disease Control’s radon page to learn more.
You can see the Canadian Lung Association’s 19 page Healthy Home Audit to see more ways to improve your home’s air quality.
To reduce heating costs, new houses are built tighter and better insulated than ever before. Unfortunately this also leads to stuffy, uncomfortable air. Filtration and source removal can remove some pollutants, but some chemicals (such as carbon dioxide produced by breathing) will inevitably be produced and can only be removed by ventilation. A heat recovery ventilator (HRV) can provide a large amount of ventilation without increasing heating costs substantially. These use countercurrent heat exchangers to transfer heat from warm air exiting the home into the cool air entering the home. Up to 90% of the heat can be transferred. Sealing leaks and installing an HRV is also the ideal solution to keep home humidity levels at the right level. See the CMHC’s article on home ventilation for details.
The EPA states that “Some air cleaners are highly effective at particle removal, while others, including most table-top models, are much less so.”