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Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Is your Home making you ill?

Clean air is essential to good health and this is especially true when it comes to indoor air.
It is estimated that North Americans spend close to 90% of our time indoors. With the advent of energy conservation and the trend towards tighter, draught free homes, the concentration of indoor air pollution can far exceed outdoor levels.
Some simple steps can control the quality of your indoor air.

Since moisture promotes mould growth, dampness is one of the most common causes of poor indoor air in homes. Minimize moisture by:
· Measure indoor humidity levels (use a hygrometer available from hardware stores) and maintain levels of around 50% in Summer and 30% in Winter. If necessary use a dehumidifier.
· Make sure that clothes dryers are properly connected and vented outside.
· Repair basement, roof and pipe leaks as soon as you notice them. Clean up after any water damage and dry the area within 48 hours.
· Discard clutter and excess stored materials. Mould can grow on fabrics, paper, wood, carpets etc whenever moisture is present.
· Always use kitchen and bathroom fans to remove moist air at the source. Run bathroom fans for at least 20 minutes after you have finished showering. Check that fans vent outside and not into the attic.
· Open windows when weather permits to provide circulation. Remember though that damp outside air will not dry the air inside.
· Don’t overwater plants and watch for mold growth in containers.
· Vacuum regularly. Central vacuum systems that vent to the outside or vacuums with HEPA filters are preferable.

The most effective way to remove chemical contaminants is to eliminate them at the source. Those that you bring into the house are easier to remove than those that originate from the materials used to build the house.
· Do not smoke or allow visitors to smoke indoors.
· Do not burn candles, liquid fuel or incense. Soot, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds and other hydrocarbons are byproducts of combustion.
· Use non chemical pest control methods such as baits, traps or fly swatters instead of pesticides.
· Do not allow any fungicide or biocide to be applied in the ducting system of your house.
· Avoid plug in or aerosol deodorizers or air fresheners. Instead deal with the causes of odours.
· Use unscented biodegradable detergents.
· Avoid the use of bleach and other strong household detergents and cleansers. Replace with greener alternatives.
· Avoid perfumed fabric softeners which leave residual chemical odours.

Building Materials
When possible select low emission materials, paints, sealants and carpets.
· Minimize the use of furniture made of particle board, MDF or plywood, which are potential sources of formaldehyde.
· Run ventilation fans (usually the bathroom fan) for a couple of hours every day to dilute indoor air with fresh air from outside.