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Contaminants Are Everywhere

Posted in Air Quality, on March 13, 2017

The indoor air quality of your home or office is an important part of having a healthy living and working environment. Good indoor air quality can have a huge effect on both you and your family, leaving you feeling more refreshed and in better health. A recent article looking at the indoor air quality of museums in America found that their air quality was often quite poor. Museums have unique challenges when it comes to indoor air quality.

They have to balance the needs of their visitors while also protecting priceless art and artifacts. Research from the Philadelphia Museum of Art found that microclimates created by storage and display cases were particularly susceptible to poor indoor air quality because pollutants brought in or left by visitors could build up and risk damaging objects. The kind of pollutants found in the museum are similar to those found in your home: dust, mold, dead skin cells, or hair. Another study found pollutants like sulphur dioxide and formaldehyde lurking within five major American museums. These pollutants can come from common household materials like paint, solvents, varnish or cleaning supplies and have a huge effect on indoor air quality and your health.

Like in your home, museum workers have cause for concern, because extensive exposure to these kind of compounds can have deleterious and longterm effects on your health. While the indoor air quality of your local museum may only effect you once or twice a year, there are tips you can take from this research to help protect the air quality of your home. First, let’s look at the objects in your home and how poor indoor air quality can affect them or how they can affect you.

One of the biggest causes of bad indoor air quality in developing countries where food is still cooked over open flames is soot and other fine particulate matter that comes from burning wood - or even dung! While cooking over an open flame in Canada is thankfully limited to campfires, your wood stove, space heater or fireplace can still be releasing fine particulate matter and carbon monoxide into the closed environment of your home and be causing poor indoor air quality. Making sure you are using these things to manufacturer’s specifications or properly ventilating your home if you do use them can make a huge impact on your indoor air quality. Double check that your flue is open or that ventilation ducts are not leaking polluted air into another part of your building, and change filters (if any) often to ensure you have good indoor air quality.

If you are renovating or repairing and using varnishes, paints, solvents and sealants, making sure your work area is correctly sealed and well ventilated afterwards can make sure your indoor air quality stays safe for work and play. Choosing products with low Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) can make a big difference to your short and longterm indoor air quality, as does choosing more environmentally safe products or solvents.

Objects in your home could be the cause of indoor air quality issues. Soft furniture exposed to water or high humidity can be a breeding ground for toxic mold that may not be visible to the naked eye, but which could be releasing spores into your home that are affecting your indoor air quality. Old objects painted or treated with lead or formaldehyde can chip or wear down, and as fine particles are swept up into the air, they can become life-threatening pollutants and seriously compromise your indoor air quality. While our homes don’t need to be kept as sterile as a museum, the indoor air quality of your home can have as serious an effect on you and your belongings as it does on the objects of our past.

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