Why is Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) important to me?
Have you thought about Indoor Air Quality?
According to the most accessed document on the Environmental Health Directorate Web, Exposure Guidelines for Residential Indoor Air Quality provides Canadians with vital definitions and parameters for grasping the importance of paying attention to indoor air quality. The following are what we consider to be important references from the document in order to assist Canadians with the understanding of indoor air quality.
Definition and Sources of Indoor Air Contaminants
In almost all inhabited enclosed spaces, there is a continuous exchange of air with the outside. Therefore, all contaminants of outdoor air are likely to be present indoors. Important pollutants in this category include carbon monoxide, oxides of nitrogen, oxides of sulphur, particulate matter, ozone (and other photochemical oxidants) and lead.
These pollutants originate, to a large extent, from automobile and factory emissions and other combustion processes. Generally, in the absence of indoor sources of these contaminants, concentrations indoors will be close to or lower than those outdoors.
The trend in recent years toward minimizing ventilation within houses in order to reduce energy consumption for heating and cooling can lead to increases in carbon dioxide levels within residences and to a general deterioration in indoor air quality.
Internally generated airborne pollutants fall into one of three categories:
- those formed in combustion processes for heating and cooking;
- those derived from construction materials and furnishings;
- those related to human activity or presence.
Furnaces, fireplaces and other combustion appliances can be sources of indoor pollutants, notably carbon monoxide, oxides of nitrogen and sulphur, aldehydes and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, especially if they are not properly vented or routinely serviced causing emissions to the indoors.
Construction Materials and Furnishings
Synthetic polymers used in furnishings and decorative materials can slowly degrade, releasing small quantities of the original constituents or reaction by-products. Draperies, rugs and fabrics, the great majority of which contain man-made fibres, are sources of a variety of organic, and potentially microbiological, contaminants. Formaldehyde is released from wood laminates and particle board in which formaldehyde-containing resins have been used.
The variety of contaminants that result from human activity is extremely broad. Tobacco smoking is a major source of indoor air pollution.
Human metabolic activity such as respiration, perspiration and food preparation add water vapour as well as odour-producing substances to the indoor atmosphere and, in turn, reducing the concentration of oxygen and increasing the level of carbon dioxide in indoor air quality. A large variety of biological agents may be present in the home, for example, micro organisms from occupants, pets and insects; microbial growths may also occur on moist surfaces or in stagnant water. Pollens, spores, cell debris and insects are present in dust originating both indoors and outdoors.
Air fresheners, furniture waxes, polishes, cleansers, paints, pesticidal formulations, fabric protectors, deodorants and other products frequently used in the home are sources of various inorganic and organic chemicals. Many substances found in the workplace may also occur in the home as a result of hobby or craft activities. Moreover, workers exposed to chemicals in the workplace may bring these contaminants into the home on their clothing. In some circumstances this may be a means by which significant amounts of potentially harmful substances are introduced into indoor air.
Why do I need an air purifier?
Are you breathing ASEPT-AIR®?
ASEPT-AIR® is achieved by sufficiently freeing indoor air from internally generated AND outdoor contaminants in order to strive for optimal health and safety of its inhabitants. Generally, people can be at home for as much as 70% of their time and, for some segments of the population (the very young, the old and the infirm), this percentage can be much higher therefore increasingly, individuals are looking for and purchasing products or selecting services that make a demonstrable difference to the quality and comfort of their homes including indoor air quality.
According to a study performed by the Healthy Indoor Partnership, the researchers interviewed 1,000 adult Canadians with respect to “a variety of issues related to the indoor environment such as: air filtration and ventilation systems used within their homes, why they purchase them, how often they use and maintain them, and indicators of health risk within the home.” The results of these interviews demonstrate the impact indoor air quality has on health risks, as well as, Canadians attitudes and perceptions to traditional “air purification” units. The following are what we consider to be important references from the Promoting Solutions for Healthier Indoor Environment study in order to assist Canadians with the understanding of Indoor Air Quality (IAQ).
Signs of Health Risk and Their Frequency
Leading medical authorities [are] now linking exposures found indoors to a wide variety of adverse health effects such as asthma and cancer. Most Canadian households (73%) reported signs of potential health risk from indoor contaminants (see chart below) especially, when “ … leading medical authorities now linking exposures found indoors to a wide variety of adverse health effects such as asthma and cancer.” Further, while almost one in five households (19.4%) said family members had asthma or other respiratory problems, those with a fireplace or wood stove reported higher rates of asthma (28.4%).
What are some signs of poor Indoor Air Quality?
Have you been experiencing the symptoms of poor Indoor Air Quality?
The Canadian government has produced various informative documents that address the quality of both residential and commercial air environments outlining the factors and symptoms of poor indoor air quality environment and its specific sources. The following are what we consider to be important references from the indoor air quality in office buildings: A technical guide and the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety government site (www.ccohs.ca) in order to assist Canadians with the understanding of effects of indoor air quality.
Reviewing the Complaint Area
The following general indicators help to call attention to pollutant sources:
- Odours (see below)
- Unsanitary conditions
- Moisture problems, visible fungal growth
- Staining and discolouration of ceiling tiles, walls or carpets
- Presence of chemical substances (see below)
Odours as Problems Indicators in Office and Residential Buildings
Commonly Encountered Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and Their Sources
Besides an air purifier, how else can I improve IAQ?
What are the BEST ways to improve your Indoor Air Quality?
According to a study performed by the Healthy Indoor Partnership, the BEST ways to improve one’s Indoor Air Quality are:
REMOVE THE SHOES
Take your shoes off at the front door. Every place you have walked in a day – lawns with pesticides, the public bathroom – follows you through the front door if you wear your shoes. Shoes also bring in lead from the dirt outside. This is because the exhaust from leaded gasoline still lines the roads.
KEEP THE HOUSE CLEAN
Dust can aggravate allergies and cause respiratory irritations. Sweep floors regularly, dust and wash the bed sheets.
BUY A HYGROMETRE
They cost $25 – $50 at the hardware store and they monitor your humidity just like a thermometer measures temperature. Make sure levels stay below 60% in summer and 30% to 50% in winter. Habits that keep humidity down are running bathroom and kitchen fans or opening windows to expel moisture. Often you need to run a de-humidifier in the basement. Prolonged exposure to humidity is one of the most common triggers for asthma and allergies.
CLEAN YOUR HEATING AND COOLING SYSTEMS
Without proper maintenance, these systems can become breeding grounds for all manner of mould and bacteria which then get blown through your house. Read all maintenance manuals for your air conditioner, humidifier, furnace, gas fireplace and follow accordingly.
Open the windows on nice warm days. Let some fresh air in the house. This is particularly important if you have been using paints, varnishes, glues or chemical cleansers. Opening windows early on summer mornings and later in summer evenings can also help keep your house cool. The more pollutants you have in your home, the more ventilation that is necessary. Common sources of air contamination include:
- Chemical cleaning products
- Plywood, particle board, Oriented Strand Board (OSB), most manufactured woodproducts
- Fuel-burning appliances that are not direct vented outdoors, including gas stoves
- Burning candles
- Air fresheners
- Oil paints
- Vinyl flooring
- House dust
Our team at ASEPT-AIR® recommends that one visits their local outdoor air quality health index sites (see AIR QUALITY RESOURCES for more information) to assess the quality of outdoor air before one decides to open the windows. If the outdoor air quality is deemed to be poor, circulating indoor air with outdoor air can make matters even worse.
NON-TOXIC CLEANING SUBSTANCES
Vinegar and water can be used to clean windows and ceramic tiles. Vinegar and baking soda in the drains helps clear clogs. Hydrogen peroxide is a good disinfectant. Soda water removes many carpet stains. Our team at ASEPT-AIR ® recommends many environmentally-friendly cleaning products that are available for more stubborn and complicated cleaning jobs. We encourage one to visit Les Industries Certico Inc (www.certico.ca) for more information on exclusive and effective environmental product lines for all of your cleaning needs or visit, “Non toxic recipes for home cleaning” recommendations offered by the Healthy Indoor Partnership on our website (see below).
Smoking causes lung cancer. It is reported to be the number one reason for asthma attacks in children. It is harmful to unborn children. The harmful effects are well-publicized, but the experts say many people still just aren’t getting it. Second-hand tobacco smoke is reported to be the leading cause of hospital visits for asthmatic children.
No fresh dry-cleaning in the house. Dry-cleaned clothes are stepped in toxic chemicals that off-gas. If you can, allow your clothes to hang outside for a while before bringing them in, or buy clothes that don’t need dry-cleaning.
CENTRAL VACUUM SYSTEM
The beauty of these systems is that they can be vented outside. Most push vacuums allow lots of dust out of the bag and you end up breathing it. If a central vacuum system is not feasible, buy a vacuum with a HEPA filter, which will cut down on particulates in the surrounding air.
Non-toxic recipes for home cleaning
According to the Healthy Indoor Partnership’s Perspectives issue in the Toronto Star on Saturday, April 10, 2004 there are ways to make your home fresh and shiny without adding more chemical vapours to your indoor air.
Dissolve a half-cup baking soda and 1 cup vinegar in boiling water. Pour solution down drain. Continue to flush with hot tap water until the clog breaks.
Garbage Disposal Freshener
Grind ice and used lemon or orange in the disposal. Besides freshening, the ice will clean and sharpen the blades.
Toilet Bowl Cleaner
Sprinkle some baking soda into the bowl. Drizzle with vinegar; scour with a toilet brush. This not only cleans, it deodorizes.
Mould and Mildew Remover
Dissolve half-cup vinegar with half-cup borax in warm water. Mix them fresh for each use.
Basin, Tub & Tile Cleaner
Rub the area to be cleaned with a lemon dipped in borax. Rinse, and dry with soft cloth.
Ceramic Tile Cleaner
Mix a quarter-cup of vinegar in a gallon of water. This removes most dirt without scrubbing and doesn’t leave a film.
Leather Shoe Polish
Add a shine by polishing it with the inside of a banana peel; then buff.
Removing Mineral Deposits
(left by hard water)
Soak shower head in vinegar overnight, then rinse in hot water to remove deposits and keep water flowing freely. Take a small bag and fill it with vinegar and wrap it around shower nozzle. Leave it overnight. Use full strength vinegar on glass shower doors. With a cloth saturated in vinegar, wipe down door and let it soak over night. Depending upon amount of build-up, you may have to do this a couple of times. After you use a water distiller, the deposits left in the heating chamber are mineral deposits. Simply soak it over night with vinegar.
If you have hard water, pets, young children, or an ill person in your home, this all-purpose cleaner will be useful. The acid will dissolve mineral build-up and neutralize and deodorize many body fluid odours:
- Cup white distilled vinegar or lemon juice
- Teaspoon liquid detergent
- Cup warm water
Combine the ingredients in a spray bottle. Shake to blend before use. Spray the problem area generously (three or four spritz per foot), then wipe with a clean cloth. Makes 2 cups. Shelf life is indefinite with vinegar, and just a few days with lemon juice. If the cleaner is made with lemon juice, store it in the refrigerator.
For a quick clean, make a paste of baking soda and hot water. Sponge onto stains and wipe clean. For a more thorough cleaning, sprinkle the bottom of the oven with baking soda to cover. Spray with water until very damp, and keep moist by spraying every few hours. Let set overnight. In the morning, simply scoop out the baking soda – all the grime will be loosened – and rinse the oven well. Baking soda needs lots of rinsing, but it is well worth the effort because it produces no toxic fumes. For a heavy duty cleaning of tough jobs, substitute washing soda for half the baking soda. Washing soda is a little more heavy-duty than baking soda and needs more rinsing, so bring it out just for really tough jobs.
Use a soft cloth and wipe with a bit of mayonnaise. Rub furniture with a cloth dipped in cool tea. Mix 2 parts olive oil with 1 part lemon juice. Apply mixture to furniture with a soft cloth and wipe it dry.
Clean silver with white toothpaste and warm water using an old soft bristled toothbrush. To magnetize tarnish away, soak silver in salted water in an aluminium container; then wipe it clean.
Wood Furniture Cleaner
To remove water stains on wood furniture, dab white toothpaste onto stain. Allow the paste to dry and then gently buff off with a soft cloth.
Mix 2 teaspoons of white vinegar with 1 quart warm water. Use a natural linen towel or other soft cloth to clean. Mix half-cup cornstarch with 2 quarts warm water. Apply with sponge then wipe with absorbent cloth or towel. Good for car windows and bathroom mirrors. Do not do windows or glass when sun is on them or if they are warm. This causes the solution to dry too quickly, creating unwanted streaks.
Mix 1 cup white vinegar with 2 gallons hot water. For greasy floors, add one-quarter cup washing soda and 1 tablespoon vegetable-oil-based soap to the mixture.
Car Battery Acid Build-up
Pour a can of coke on the battery terminal ends.
Basic Carpet Cleaner
Many hardware stores and even large supermarkets rent steam extraction carpet cleaners, which can be used with this formula. Cup concentrated all-purpose liquid detergent (perfume-free and biodegradable). 4 gallons water. Fill the machine’s water and detergent dispenser. Follow the manufacturer’s directions. Makes 4 gallons.
Preparation Time: a few minutes.
Shelf life: Use it all up each time it is mixed. Do not store.
Sometimes the addition of alkaline minerals help remove dirt. Dissolve 2 teaspoons each of borax and washing soda in about 4 cups of hot water, and then add the mixture to the water dispenser in the machine. Be sure not to add too many minerals; they can leave a white residue that will require extra rinsing to remove.
Heavy-Duty Grease Cutting Floor Cleaner
Add one cup washing soda to the bucket before adding the warm water. Stir to dissolve. Do not use on waxed floors. Antiseptic Floor Cleaner: Add 10 to 20 drops (depending on how strong a fragrance you want) lavender, rosemary or tea tree oil. Deodorizing Floor Cleaner: Borax helps eradicate musty odours and lift dirt. Add one cup borax to the bucket before adding the warm water. Stir to dissolve.
Basic Floor Cleaner
You can use this preparation on all floors except when directed by the manufacturer to avoid even mild detergent. Cup liquid soap or detergent (perfume-free and biodegradable). Up to one cup white distilled vinegar or lemon juice. 2 gallons warm water. Combine the ingredients in a large plastic bucket. Use with a mop or sponge. Makes about 2 gallons. Discard unused portions.
What are the common contaminants Asept-Air deals with?