Health and Wellness In The Home: Improving Indoor Air Quality

Young woman nurturing plants at home.

It’s no secret that pandemic restrictions meant many people stayed home more often than usual. As a matter of fact, according to a survey issued by the Government of Canada, from October to December 2021, 39% of respondents reported that they’ve either been working from home all or some of the time.

With people spending more time at home, have you considered the indoor air quality of your home? Poor air quality can result in a range of issues, including headaches, dizziness, fatigue, eyes, nose and throat irritation, asthma attacks and other respiratory diseases. Poor air quality can even lead to digestive issues, heart problems, and potentially cancer too. The quality of the air can also affect pets’ health.

The good news is the indoor air quality of your home is something you can control, and there are many simple ways to prevent and reduce air pollutants that can cause health issues.

The first step is to identify the sources..

What Causes Poor Indoor Air Quality?

  • Smoking: Tobacco products like cigarettes emit a range of chemicals, that can negatively impact your indoor air quality.
  • Attached garage: If you are in the garage and you’ve left your gas-powered lawn mower, snow blower, or car idling, it can produce pollutants that can make its way into your home.
  • Mould or dampness: The basement, kitchen and bathroom are the most common places to find mould and mildew. That can lead to eye and throat irritation, coughing, fatigue, headaches, skin problems and nose bleeds. The more toxic, the more dangerous to your health.
  • Cooking: This is an issue, especially if you’re frying or deep-frying food, roasting, baking, broiling, or toasting – all of which release particulate matter into the air. That also, of course, includes burning food. This becomes more serious if you don’t use the fan on the range hood.
  • Heating: Fuel-burning appliances, wood fireplaces and stoves, gas and oil furnaces, and gas water heaters can cause carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, particulate matter, and other pollutants to be released into the air.
  • Pet dander: While pets are impacted by poor air quality, they themselves can be a source of respiratory issues. Animals with fur can shed dander which can lead to allergic reactions.
  • Household cleaning products, personal care products, newly installed carpet, upholstery, and flooring can release harmful particles and gases. Carpets, cushions, mattresses, furniture, and pillows can attract dust mites, which can trigger asthma and cause allergic reactions.
  • Home insulation that may contain asbestos, which can cause lung cancer
  • Hobbies like stripping and refinishing furniture or woodworking.
  • Home renovation projects that involve paints and varnishes, glues, and solvents.
  • And don’t forget outside air pollution, pesticides, or radon (a cancer-causing, odourless radioactive gas) that can seep in from the outside.

Pollutants can accumulate to dangerous levels in the home if there isn’t proper ventilation to flush out the stale air, and that can lead to health problems. Though air pollutants are often odourless, at the very least, their existence can lead to comfort issues and health risks.

How Do I Control Indoor Air Pollution?

  • Start with indoor air quality testing so you can determine any sources of pollutants.
  • Invest in a new HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system or air cleaners, which have built-in filtrations systems, or make sure the one you have is operating at full capacity. Get it serviced regularly. HVAC systems can be a big investment but can also deliver real benefits.
  • Don’t smoke indoors! This is an obvious one.
  • Open the windows (if the weather permits) to improve the home’s ventilation. This is a cheap and easy way to flush out the stale air and let the fresh air flow in. Keep the doors inside the home open so air can flow through to all the rooms. Minimize clutter and carpeting. Keep the baseboards and heating vents clear of furniture. Turn on fans in the bathroom, kitchen or living room. All will make a difference.
  • Make sure your air filters are high-efficiency particulate arresting (HEPA).
  • Try not to use chemical cleaners. Consider natural alternatives instead.
  • Use carbon dioxide detectors, watch for water leaks (sources for mould and mildew), use a dehumidifier and an air conditioner to reduce moisture, and test the home for radon gas.
  • Fill your home with plants. Interior designers say plants in the home are trending from a design perspective. But they are also calming, beautiful, and great for naturally keeping the air clean. Plants absorb carbon and produce oxygen, and many of them produce fragrances that can help you relax.

Whatever steps you take, knowing the air quality in your home is healthy will help you and your family breathe easier.

This information has been provided for your convenience only and should not be construed as providing legal or insurance advice.