Shipton's CleanAir Solutions Blog


April 2020

Make Your Home Coronavirus Unfriendly With These Steps

family at home in front of couch

As you likely have already heard by now, Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, foresees a long delay before “life as usual” returns for us here in Canada.

With a health care system hard hit by emergency needs and no vaccine to protect people from COVID-19, it is hard to justify a less restrictive forecast. Even so, this can be hard news to fully absorb and accept.

The truth is, daily life as we know it has been interrupted for the unforeseeable future. Even though health officials are making predictions, no one truly knows what is ahead.

But there are some helpful things we do know now, like how we can stay safer at home and protect our vulnerable loved ones.

First, we must do everything we can to keep our immune system strong. Second, we must set up our daily environment to minimize risk.

Thanks to dedicated frontline health care workers, scientific researchers, building engineers and indoor air quality experts, we do know exactly what to do to achieve this second goal without waiting.

In this post, learn exactly what you need to do to make your home as coronavirus-unfriendly as possible.

Airborne Coronavirus Particles Must Be Stopped at Your Door

It can be a hard reality to adapt to – knowing that every single time you leave your house, you may return home carrying some very unwelcome microscopic visitors with you.

Of course, there are some protective measures you can take right away, before you even set foot inside your house.

We are following these steps as well and highly recommend that you give them a try.

  1. Remove your mask and/or gloves and discard them immediately.

  2. Remove your shoes at the door, wipe them down and leave them outside to dry.

  3. Disinfect all personal items such as purses and bags before bringing them inside.

  4. Remove your clothing and launder everything immediately in hot water.

  5. Take a shower in warm water and soap and wash your hair.

As we’ve been talking about in recent blog posts here, these steps are critical because the coronavirus cannot remain viable in the presence of heat and humidity. The virus starts to break down quicker under hot, humid conditions.

In fact, in a recent Live Science article, scientists made some surprising findings about how and where COVID-19 outbreaks have been mild to minimal.

Less than 6 percent of total COVID-19 cases worldwide have occurred in areas with sustained temperatures of 18°C (64.4°F) or higher and relative humidity of 50 percent or higher!

As we well know, these climate conditions are not common here in Canada, which can serve up brutal extended winters that are bitterly cold and not at all humid.

But just because the outdoor weather is not complying does not mean you can’t create a consistently coronavirus-unfriendly microclimate in your home!

"Healthy Building" Steps to Make Your Home Coronavirus-Unfriendly

As a complement to removing and disinfecting any potentially contaminated items of apparel and immediately bathing when you get home, you can take these additional steps to make your home a very unfriendly place for coronavirus.

As Canadian Consulting Engineer Magazine states, “healthy buildings” are part of the solution that could potentially stop the spread of COVID-19.

How can you make your home a healthy building? These are the four steps we recommend that you take immediately.

Step 1: Do your best not to bring the coronavirus into your home

By following the steps we outlined earlier here, you can prevent unknowingly carrying the coronavirus inside your home on your skin, hair, shoes or clothing.

By leaving all the supplies you need to do a thorough disinfection right near the doors of your home, it will be easier to remember to stop and take all safety precautions before entering your home.

Step 2: Improve your in-home ventilation system to exhaust stale air continuously

This step is especially important once anyone in your family becomes ill, even if the illness is not COVID-19.

You simply must keep your immune system as strong as possible.

Upgrading your in-home air ventilation system is the best way to send any circulating toxins, bacteria, viruses, mould or mildew and other contaminants back outside quickly, where they can disperse and cause no further harm.

Heat recovery ventilation is one of the best ways to ensure continual, safe, in-home ventilation.

Step 3: Purify your indoor air supply with ultraviolet light

The most protective air purification method available today is called UVGI, or ultraviolet germicidal irradiation.

This type of air purification system uses short-wave ultraviolet band C light (band C is the most powerful band of natural ultraviolet light) to irradiate the air and destroy toxins.

UVGI purification systems are now recommended for use in all medical and laboratory facilities. The technology is also available for residential use in many areas.

For homes with central (ducted) HVAC systems, whole-home air purifiers are the best choice. Portable models also exist for homes that lack ductwork.

Step 4: Filter out toxins with HEPA filtration

HEPA stands for high efficiency particulate air. HEPA filtration is a higher grade of air filtration than the filters inside the N95 protective masks that frontline health care workers and high-risk people are now wearing.

HEPA filtration systems are standard for use in medical facilities and laboratories around the world. Luckily, the same basic technology is available for residential use as well.

For homes with central (ducted) HVAC systems, whole-home HEPA filtration systems are the best choice. Portable models also exist for homes that lack ductwork.

Get in Touch

Are you concerned that your indoor space at home or work may be a haven for coronavirus particles?

This is a legitimate concern, but fortunately, we now know a lot more about how to make your personal space as safe and virus-free as possible.

Give us a call at 905-549-2470 or visit us online.

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Dirty Air Now Linked to Higher COVID-19 Mortality Rate

Air pollution Toronto highway

This week, scientific researchers and public health officials released confirmed findings about the link between air pollution and coronavirus fatalities.

Researchers analyzed more than 3,000 counties in the United States. Their data showed a clear connection between what they are calling “dirty air” and more severe or fatal cases of COVID-19.

If this sounds scary, it’s because it is.

What makes it scarier is that some areas right here in Ontario, including Hamilton, Sarnia and St. Catharines, have known air quality issues due to local industry, including petrochemical plants.

In the case of the new study, of most concern is a group of toxins called PM2.5. In this post, find out how to protect yourself against PM2.5 exposure both indoors and outdoors.

What Does PM2.5 Mean?

In the research study mentioned above, officials use the term “PM2.5” to describe a group of dangerous – and dangerously tiny – micro-particle toxins. The name refers to their size of 2.5 microns or less. 

But how tiny is 2.5 microns? To help you visualize it, think of a single hair on your head.

As we explained in this blog post, one strand of human hair is roughly 70 microns in width. The largest particulates in the PM2.5 category measure about 30 percent of that size.

So these are very, very small airborne particles that can easily find their way inside your respiratory passages and down into your lungs, causing chronic irritation and, eventually, long-term damage.

Steps to Stay Safe After PM2.5 Exposure

As you can now see, understanding the impact of exposure to PM2.5 toxins can be especially vital during the unusually dangerous situation we are all facing right now with COVID-19.

Many of us here in Ontario may unwittingly be in a higher-risk category than we have realized up until now for this very reason. This is true not just for the elderly, pregnant moms-to-be or people with existing health issues, but for us all.

With our local petrochemical and manufacturing industry pumping out particulates into our outside air, it is more important than ever before to take the following proactive steps to keep our indoor air supply clean and breathable.

1. Stop smoking, vaping and burning wood indoors, ASAP

Smoking or vaping indoors releases even more tiny particulates into your inside air. If you can’t avoid breathing these in while outdoors, at least you want to give your lungs a rest while you remain inside.

The same holds true with burning wood indoors in your fireplace or cook stove.

2. Apply sealant and weatherstripping to your home

Sealing up air leaks in your home and adding weatherstripping is a fairly simple weekend project, especially while you are stuck at home anyway.

The impact to your family’s health will more than make your sweat equity worth it. The particulates present in our outdoor air will no longer be able to find their way indoors and into your lungs.

As a side perk, weatherstripping and sealing can lower your HVAC energy bill by up to 20 percent.

3. Install an ultraviolet air purifier in your home

Ultraviolet light from the sun is still the best and most powerful purifying agent on the planet. But to neutralize the threat of COVID-19, you need UV band C, which is usually blocked from reaching the earth’s surface by the atmospheric ozone layer.

UV air purifiers deliver a synthetic band of UV-C that purifies your indoor air before it enters your air ducts.

While ultraviolet light is not as effective with particulates, it is ideal for addressing liquid or gaseous airborne particles – just the kind of particles that COVID-19 uses to transmit itself.

If your home does not use ductwork, you can opt for a portable ductless UV air purifier.

4. Install a HEPA filtration system

For tiny solid particles like PM2.5 toxins, what you need is a HEPA filtration system. These systems have been used since World War II to protect scientists from incredibly small radioactive particles and other tiny solid toxins.

Today, HEPA filters are used in hospitals and laboratories around the world. The N-95 mask uses a type of filter that is similar (although slightly less effective) than the HEPA filter.

HEPA filters will trap micro-particles before they enter your home’s air ducts for distribution.

If your home does not have ductwork, you can use a portable ductless HEPA filtration system.

Stay Safe With Healthy Habits

There isn’t a lot we can do right now about any past exposure we might have had to outdoor airborne toxins.

But there is still a lot we can do right now to boost our immune system function so it can effectively fight back against COVID-19.

Here are our current favorite immune-boosting tips you can add to your daily routine right away:

  • Remember to wash your hands!

  • Add more citrus to your diet to get extra vitamin C, or take more of the supplement.

  • Drink lots of plain water or lemon water to flush toxins out of your body.

  • Eat a healthy diet of fresh, whole foods.

  • Limit caffeine, alcohol and refined sugar.

  • Do everything you can to get at least eight hours of high-quality sleep a night.

  • Keep your stress lower by limiting your consumption of scary coronavirus news.

  • Take social support using your phone and online tools to stay connected.

  • Be kind to yourself – you are under a lot of stress!

By taking good care of yourself, you take care of all of us, too.

Get in Touch

During the stay-at-home order here in Ontario, our staff is also working remotely. But we are still here to serve your indoor air quality needs.

Contact us online or give us a call at 905-549-2470.

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Are You Allergic to Your Home? 8 Unseen Allergens You Need to Know About

vinegar as cleaner

It is far more common than you might suspect to be allergic to your own home.

In fact, home allergies are so common that Asthma Canada has developed an entire certification program to help asthma- and allergy-suffering Canadians identify home care products that are less likely to trigger symptoms.

The unpleasant truth is, many of the products we trust implicitly to clean, freshen and brighten our home are the very same that cause the chronic health symptoms we struggle with.

Even worse, those same products may be the ones that are overtaxing our immune systems right now and lowering our resistance to the deadly virus that causes COVID-19.

It can feel stressful to be stuck at home not knowing what you can do to protect your family. This article will teach you how to take some of that understandably nervous energy you may be feeling and use it to give your immune system a much-needed boost.

How to Identify “Home Allergy” Symptoms

The number one indicator of a home allergy is any set of symptoms that reliably worsens when you are at home.

Here are some commonly reported home allergy symptoms to watch for:

  • scratchy or sore throat

  • runny or stuffy nose

  • watering, itchy eyes

  • headache or migraine headache

  • sinus pressure or pain

  • mental fogginess

  • irritability

  • skin irritation or rashes

  • daytime sleepiness

  • coughing or sneezing

  • wheezing or difficulty breathing

  • chest tightness or pressure

What Causes “Home Allergy” Symptoms?

Most people still equate allergies with pollen or ragweed or even polluted outdoor air.

But recently the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported that our indoor air is anywhere from two to five times more toxic than the air outside our homes.

What this means is that it is far more likely your allergies are being triggered by what is inside your home than by what is outside it.

However, it may take a process of elimination before you can figure out exactly what it is inside your home that is triggering your allergy symptoms.

According to the EPA, these are the major categories of home allergens that often trigger allergy and asthma symptoms:

Combustion byproducts

Combustion is the process by which fossil fuels are consumed for energy. When combustion is incomplete, it produces by-products like carbon monoxide and particulate ash.

The most common causes of incomplete combustion include use of a wood stove or fireplace, furnace pilot light issues, smoking or vaping, cooking appliances and engine idling.

Biological elements

Biological elements such as pet dander and dead human skin cells are food for one of the most common allergens on the planet – dust mites.

Other types of biological elements can include mould, mildew, bacteria, fungi and pollen.

Volatile organic compounds

Volatile organic compounds are another one of the leading triggers for home allergy symptoms. VOCs are found in so many home and personal care products that they can be very difficult to eradicate.

Ethanol, formaldehyde, terpenes, acetone, benzene, butanal, carbon disulphide, dichlorobenzene – these hard-to-pronounce VOCs are found in everything from nail polish to deodorizers, detergents to plastics, home fragrances to air “fresheners,” paints to glues, home furnishings (carpeting) and furniture (chairs and couches).

Toxins and poisons

If you have ever used pesticides or insecticides and even some fertilizers, you are already familiar with the warning labels that are printed on these common home care products.

Ozone and radon

Ozone is healthy when it is located high up in our planet’s atmosphere. There, it protects us from harmful ultraviolet radiation.

But down near the Earth’s surface, ozone can be harmful to us. Many small home office appliances and even some so-called air purifiers emit ozone.

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that gets released when uranium breaks down. Uranium is naturally present in rocks throughout the world and is quite prevalent in some areas throughout Canada.

Exposure to radon gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer and the first leading cause in non-smokers.

What to Do to Get Rid of Home Allergies

There is a lot you can do to start cleaning up your home space, but it isn’t always easy to understand your options and what each can do to help.

1. Choose different home and personal care products

The ingredients lists in your home and personal care products are the first things you should check.

You can give your home a fabulous deep cleaning without having to use any harsh or toxic chemicals.

The same holds true for your personal care. Can’t pronounce the ingredients in your lotion, shampoo or perfume? Time for a change.

2. Invest in air filtration and air purification

Air filtration takes care of even the tiniest microscopic particulates, while air purification will break down liquid and gaseous matter to avoid transmitting infection, viruses and germs.

3. Circulate and ventilate

Are you living in new construction? New airtight construction standards are designed to minimize energy bills. But they also minimize air circulation and essential ventilation.

A heat recovery ventilator will make ventilation effortless while exhausting stale air, toxins and excess humidity. As a bonus, new HRV technology will also recycle heat energy to lower your heating bills.

4. Clean out those air ducts

You can’t see inside your air ducts…thank goodness.

But our tiny cameras can peer inside the average central air duct system to see the stomach-churning interior in gripping detail.

Thankfully, cleaning out your indoor air ducts can remove built-up allergy-causing toxins in a single day.

Get in Touch

We hope this article is helpful as you do everything you can to keep yourself and your family safe.

We are working remotely but remain at your service online or by phone at 905-544-2470.

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How to Clean and Maintain Your HEPA Filter

hepa filter closeup

As the novel coronavirus continues to make its progress across the province, the nation and the world, life has taken on a surreal quality. Is this really happening? Are we really in the middle of a worldwide pandemic?

Aside from physical distancing and sanitizing everything (including ourselves), there is not a lot we can do to protect ourselves. However, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends two things that help limit risk: the use of ultraviolet air purification and HEPA filtration.

In this article, we teach you how to take care of your HEPA filter so it can take care of you. You will learn the correct way to clean and maintain your HEPA filter based on the kind of filter you have.

Start Here: Read Your HEPA Filter Manufacturer Instructions

HEPA filters can be made of any number of materials, which is one reason they work so well. Materials commonly used to construct these unusually dense filters may include synthetic (nylon, polyester, etc.) or bio-fibres (animal, vegetable, etc.), metal, wool, foam, plastic, glass, oil and similar materials.

The frame in which your HEPA filter is seated may be made of wood, plastic, metal or even cardboard.

The type of materials used to make and seat your HEPA filter impact how you clean and care for it.

For this reason, it is important to review these instructions and contact the manufacturer if you have care questions to avoid voiding your warranty (if you purchased your HEPA filtration system from us, we would be happy to help you with this).

HEPA Filter Cleaning Tips: Do’s and Don’ts

Cleaning a HEPA filter is always a risky task. The reason is that any type of contact with the dense filter fibres can damage them and cause tearing, separation or holes.

Even worse, using the wrong method for cleaning a HEPA filter can trap toxins and moisture inside the filter fibres and invite mould growth!

Of course, when you go to check your HEPA filter and see all that dust and debris clinging to the fibres, it is only natural to want to give it a good cleaning. But the wrong approach here can leave you with a squeaky clean HEPA filter that no longer functions.

This can be an expensive mistake!

Instead, what you want to do is look on the HEPA filter itself to see if it is labelled “washable,” “reusable” or “permanent” or something similar.

If you don’t see any label on the filter itself, check with the manufacturer for guidance. In lieu of specific guidance, the safest action is no action.

If you do see a label to this effect, this means you can take at least some type of action to clean your HEPA filter.

No-water HEPA filter cleaning

The next safest action is to lightly brush off any visible dust or dirt, taking care to avoid disturbing the delicate network of interior fibres.

If you have a vacuum tool that can be set to low, you can run this over the surface of the HEPA filter (close but not touching) to vacuum off the worst of the dust.

Washable HEPA filter cleaning

It is almost never a good idea to try to wet or wash a HEPA filter unless your filter is specifically labelled “washable.” This is when you get the danger of mould growing inside the dense fibres, which makes it very hard for the HEPA filter to dry out fully.

For HEPA filters that are washable, always use clean, cool water without anything added to it. Try to avoid touching the inner fibres and hold the HEPA filter by its frame. The best way to dry a HEPA filter is in natural sunlight.

Protect Yourself While Cleaning Your HEPA Filter

If you weren’t concerned about inhaling airborne toxic material, you probably would never have thought to invest in a HEPA filter in the first place.

But then when you go to clean your HEPA filter, you are guaranteed to come into direct contact with those very same toxins. Unfortunately, cleaning a HEPA filter is always going to be a bit (or a lot) grimy.

To protect yourself, always take these precautions before cleaning a HEPA filter:

  • wear a face mask (N95 or N100)

  • wear long non-permeable gloves

  • be sure you clean your HEPA filter with a filtered vacuum (ideally a HEPA vacuum)

  • if at all possible, clean your HEPA filter outside

  • if your HEPA filter is washable, allow it to dry for at least 24 hours before use

When to Replace Your HEPA Filter

The majority of HEPA filter-rated appliances and devices require replacement filters at regular intervals.

How long your HEPA filter will last depends on your lifestyle habits and use patterns. Your HEPA filter will only be filtering when you are using the device (i.e., it is powered on and running).

Sometimes HEPA filtration systems come with other filters, including a pre-filter and/or a carbon filter. The pre-filter may be washable or able to be cleaned, but this does not mean the HEPA filter and/or carbon filter itself can also be washed or cleaned.

Always follow the manufacturer instructions for when and how to replace your HEPA filter and what replacement filters will work with your unit.

HEPA Filtration Systems for Every Space

There are two types of HEPA filtration systems: portable and whole-home.

Portable HEPA filtration systems are perfect for use in smaller spaces and any space that is not equipped with ductwork for a central HVAC system.

Whole-home HEPA filtration systems are designed to work with any ducted HVAC system.

Get in Touch

Right now, like so many businesses here in Ontario, we are working remotely.

If you need us, reach out online or call 905-544-2470.

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