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Indoor Air Quality when Living Near A Landfill

Posted in Air Quality, on August 25, 2017

As the hot days of summer drag on, there can sometimes be a funny whiff on the breeze - especially on garbage collection night, when trash has been sitting on the curb for hours in the hot sun. For some folks, however, that foul scent might be lingering, garbage night or not. If there’s a funny smell persisting in your indoor air quality, it could from something other than rotten leftovers.

Your indoor air quality could be affected by a local landfill site. In the early days of metropolises like Toronto, landfills were on what seemed like the endless outskirts of the city. But as the city grew, so did the land needed to build homes, parks, and shopping centres. But even as these landfills were covered up and paved over, the garbage remained, which can have a great affect on the indoor air quality of the spaces built on top.

How does all that old rubbish affect your indoor air quality? Well, as the garbage decomposes, it releases gases and odours that can collect in the indoor air quality of buildings nearby or on top of the old site. Some of the gasses that old landfills produce are ammonia, sulphides, and carbon dioxide - all things you don’t want to be breathing in or affecting your indoor air quality.

Ammonia and hydrogen sulfide are the two gasses responsible for those rotten egg smells - but others are scentless, meaning that you may not even be aware they are in your indoor air quality. Landfill gases can move through the soil into the outdoor air, and make their way into your indoor air quality through windows, doors, or your ventilation system. Cracks in your basement foundation or where utilities, sump pumps and drains enter your home may also be the source of bad smells in your indoor air quality. This process is called soil vapour intrusion, and once these chemicals enter your indoor air quality, they often pool in areas with poor ventilation, like basements or crawlspaces.

Short-term exposure to landfill gas in your indoor air quality may cause coughing, eye, throat, or nose irritation, as well as nausea and headaches. Those with poor immune systems or respiratory ailments may experience increased symptoms. Either way, these smells in your indoor air quality can be harmful as well as annoying - and as we spend most of our time indoors, having good indoor air quality is a key aspect of having good health. If you know you are living on an old landfill site, or believe some other industrial or environmental waste may be lingering in the ground and affecting your indoor air quality, it’s a good idea to check with your local municipality to see what’s nearby.

The city of Toronto and other local municipalities monitor and check up on major landfill sites, and install systems to collect and mitigate gas buildup underground. That being said, illegal dumping or annexed parts of older communities may have hidden dumping sites or other underground issues that could be causing bad smells in your indoor air quality.

Call us at SafeAir for an assessment if you’re interested in having your indoor air quality checked. Funny smells can be caused by any number of things, so it’s important to make sure that the health of you and your family is protected.

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