10 Surprising Facts About Indoor Air Quality
Posted in Air Quality, on December 03, 2018
With an increased awareness of how indoor air quality affects our day to day lives, downright frightening research is emerging from laboratories across the world about the long and short term effects of living in poor indoor air. Many of the common things we use to build our homes, make them comfortable, clean them, or improve them are being listed as indoor air contaminants, which has far reaching implications when it comes to growing and raising a family. How do you know if you and your family are safe? What are the solutions? Today we’re sharing a list of ten surprising facts about indoor air to raise awareness and share some of the consequences that indoor pollution can have on your home, life, and health.
Shocking Facts about Indoor Air Quality
1. Poor Indoor air is one of the top 5 health risks facing Canadians
When it comes to living in a healthy environment, indoor air is more important than outdoor air, smog warnings, pollution, and other environmental dangers. It’s estimated that our indoor environments have up to five times more pollutants than outdoor ones, and they affect all parts of us: our skin, lungs, eyes, nose, throat, and more. Once airborne pollution is ingested or breathed in, it continues to have harmful effects as it’s processed through our systems. Have you ever felt lethargic or stuffy in a room, only to feel refreshed and clear when you’ve left it? That lethargy is a direct effect of poor indoor air. When compounded over hours or years of exposure, it can have a huge effect on our day to day lives.
2. Air fresheners add to indoor pollution
The fresh scent of lemons or pine is usually sign of cleanliness - right? Most commercial air fresheners or scented products contain toxic chemicals known as phthalates that disrupt hormonal function, reproductive development, and aggravate respiratory illnesses such as asthma. Even folks who don’t have allergies often have adverse reactions to scented products. In addition, air fresheners have been known to release chemicals that interact with other household products to form carcinogenic formaldehyde and acetone. Yuck!
3. Printers and photocopies are a huge source of toxic chemicals
Like a trojan horse, your home printer (or the photocopier at the office) is putting scores of industrial chemicals into the air of your home. Known as glymes, these chemicals are used in toners and ink cartridges, and have been linked to developmental and reproductive damage. Try placing your printer somewhere well ventilated and let freshly printed pages cool before handling them to reduce your exposure.
4. Asthma rates have increased by 72%
Parents of young children or those thinking of starting families should be particularly concerned about your home’s air quality - not only will it affect the development of your child in and out of utero, but it can also contribute to their likelihood of developing diseases like paediatric asthma. Studies have shown a shocking increase in the prevalence of childhood asthma from 40% to 72% in recent years and this rise can be directly linked to indoor air pollution. Ensuring you have safe inside air can set your family up for years of good health and reduce your risk for life-threatening chronic conditions like asthma.
5. Your furniture may be the guilty party
We don’t usually associate our favourite cozy couch with indoor air pollution, but the sad fact remains that our indoor soft furnishings may be giving off toxic vapours that affect your home’s air. Couches, loveseats, arm chairs, mattresses, and countless other soft furnishings are treated at the factory with flame retardants before they’re sold to consumers in the name of fire safety since these chemicals (like PBDEs or known carcinogens like chlorinated tris) can off gas into our homes and become a major source of indoor air pollution.
There’s a new colourless, odourless gas in town, and it’s not carbon dioxide - it’s radon gas. Whether or not your home is old or new, it’s quite possible that you’re being affected by radon gas, the second leading cause of lung cancer. Shockingly common across Canada, radon gas is created as uranium breaks down deep inside the earth, and this radioactive byproduct makes its way into our homes. It’s attracted to the negative pressure of the basement foundation, which acts like a straw. The good news is, radon testing is available and there are a number of different ways to counteract radon if it’s found inside your home.
7. The most familiar household items are the biggest polluters
Poor indoor air quality is often one of the easiest problems to solve when it comes to home improvement - you can easily make a big change in your air quality by being more mindful about what you bring into your home. Cleaning products are the first place to start, since they’re often full of poisonous chemicals, including Volatile Organic Compounds that are released into your home’s air where they easily affect your respiratory system. Many products release VOCs that interact with other chemicals or finishes in your home and create toxic byproducts, like formaldehyde, which is colourless and odourless.
The next place to look is your tool shed. Renovating or repairing your home can inadvertently bring in a lot of indoor air pollution. Whether it’s from paint, paint stripper, glue, sanding, or staining, these products all release chemicals in the air or put them in your home, where they can release small amounts over a long period of time.
The third place to investigate is the bathroom. Products you use on your hair or body not only come into contact with your body’s largest organ (the skin), but they are usually scented or applied via a spray - more VOCs and airborne contaminants. Assuming what you use on your body is safe and good for you is NOT a given in the beauty industry - check out the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database for more information on what’s in your products, and reduce your use of products that contain chemicals like parabens, petrolatum, siloxanes, and triclosan - four of the chemicals that make up the ‘dirty dozen.’
The good news is that you can directly influence your health and make a difference to your home’s inside air by looking for and using products with less VOCs or harmful ingredients. Using natural cleaning products, beauty products, or choosing low VOCs paints or building materials will have a huge impact on your indoor air.
8. Indoor air contaminants damage more than your airways
When talking about indoor air quality, it’s easy to focus on the effects it has on your nose, throat and lungs, since the air we breathe has direct contact with these parts of our bodies. But the effect of poor air quality is wide ranging and can have a shocking effect on the rest of you as well.
When you breath in polluted air, that pollution gets filtered by your respiratory system. However, some of it does pass into the bloodstream and from there can travel throughout your body. Particles that enter the bloodstream have been associated with things like stroke and depression, and may increase your risk of heart disease or dementia. Wood smoke, for example, has been shown to slow your immune system response, which could lead to a greater vulnerability to disease and an increase in sick days.
Poor air quality also has an effect on your skin, hair and nails, and can exacerbate or contribute to problems like eczema. Pollution has been shown to cause premature ageing and can be linked to an increased risk for skin cancer, discolouration, dryness, acne, and dullness. Good skin starts with healthy air!
9. Your kitchen could be causing air problems
The appliances you use in your kitchen and in the process of cooking could be contributing toxic air contaminants to your indoor environment, such as:
- nitrogen dioxide
- carbon monoxide
- particulate matter
- polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
Yikes! The best way to ensure that your culinary activities aren’t doing more harm than good is to use ventilation or filtration in the kitchen. Regularly service appliances like your gas stove to ensure there are no leaks or carbon monoxide being created, and pay attention to the manufacturer’s suggested uses and rules - they could make the difference between good or bad indoor air.
10. Poor air indoors puts learning at a disadvantage
We all want our kids to succeed in school - but their academic performances could be seriously hampered by toxic air at home or at school. Air quality has a surprising link to the achievement and learning outcomes that our children experience in an educational setting. One study in the USA found that better indoor air quality lead to a 60% improvement on cognitive tests - which is a big leap! Poor air may lead to more sick days or longer illnesses, making it harder to catch up with classmates as well as leading to a decrease in attention span. Bad air quality at school can make kids lethargic or appear disinterested, and may be indicative of bigger problems going on behind the scenes, like a mold infestation or unsafe environment.
The Air Pollutants Affecting Your Indoor Air
Volatile Organic Compounds: Also known as VOCs, these chemicals are released into the air at room temperature, where they can easily be breathed in or absorbed by the skin. Common complaints caused by VOCs are headache and mucous membrane irritation
Mold: This unwanted houseguest releases airborne spores that affect your health, and can eat through family heirlooms and the structure of your home. Mold spores cause flu-like symptoms, including congestion, sneezing, and headaches.
Carbon Monoxide: Created by the burning of fuels, carbon monoxide is colourless, odourless, and each year kills a handful of people across Canada. Install a carbon monoxide detector in your home - there are NO warning signs or symptoms that tell you if there’s a problem.
Formaldehyde: This common preservative is found in countless home products, from glue to flooring. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen, and has dangerous interactions with other common household chemicals.
If there’s a Problem - Fix It
The good news in all of this is that your home’s air can be greatly improved in just a few easy steps. At SafeAir, we have a decade of experience helping families and homeowners make measurable improvements to their home environments that help them feel - and live - better.
Part of the trouble with identifying indoor air quality issues at home is that it’s nearly impossible to do by nose alone; most problems with air produce very little scent and aren’t visible to the naked eye. This is where a specialist’s experience and knowledge pays off - not only can we recognize some of the most common symptoms of poor air quality, but our specialized tools and equipment can give you exact readings and pinpoint problem areas. As members of the Indoor Air Quality Association, our team approaches each home with the best in modern research and methodologies behind them. We use third party laboratories to provide us with objective test results that you can trust. This type of comprehensive assessment can give us the knowledge we need to work together to create positive changes in your indoor environment that suit your home and budget.
Don’t let pollution affect your home life! Give us a call at SafeAir to learn more about what sort of inside air contaminants are common in the GTA, or to ask about a specific issue you may be having. We’re committed to ensuring the best air quality for our clients and will work with you until you’re happy. Call us at 416-414-5690 or visit our services at https://www.safeair.ca/iaq_quality for more information.