Modern construction strategies have helped many homeowners save funds on energy all year long.
By finding new and more creative ways to detect air leaks, seal up cracks, and insulate more efficiently, you minimize expensive energy waste.
But your sinuses and immune system aren’t always so grateful for these improvements, because temperature consistency is not the only thing being sealed in your indoor environment.
Stale, toxic air is also trapped inside those four walls. Not only does it have no way to escape, but no fresh air is sneaking in through any cracks or crevices to improve air quality.
The typical modern air-sealed home can produce particularly damaging results during the cold season when cold and flu germs begin to circulate (and recirculate) through indoor air already heavy with toxins.
In this post, find out what might be trapped inside your home’s indoor air this winter and how you can fix it.
Meet Your Indoor Air Toxins
You’ve already heard the bad news: the “modern home” is so well sealed and insulated that any toxins present in your air couldn’t escape if they tried!
But the good news is, you have a great deal of control over what toxins get into your home’s air supply AND whether they stay there once you know what they are and where they come from.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common toxins we see when performing indoor air quality tests in the Hamilton and surrounding areas.
- Pet dander
- Mould spores and mildew growth
- Tobacco smoke and smoke residue
- Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from cleaning products, craft glue, dry cleaning, etc.
- Dust mites
- Dust and dirt
- Germs, viruses, bacteria, fungi
- Nitrous dioxide, ozone, carbon monoxide
- Radon, lead, formaldehyde
- Pesticides, herbicides, insecticides
- Combustion byproducts from burning wood, gas, oil, coal, kerosene, etc.
So this is a daunting list, but how serious are these toxins?
According to the National Research Council Canada, excess radon alone costs 3,000 Canadians their lives annually.
300+ Canadians die each year due to tobacco exposure (first, second, or third-hand tobacco smoke).
And if you suffer from allergies seasonally or year-round, you already know how exposure to pet dander, mould spores, mildew, dust mites, pollen, and other allergens can impact your daily quality of life as well as your overall health over time.
Each toxin circulating in your indoor air at home, work, or in your car has earned its toxic reputation honestly.
Taking Back Your Indoor Air Quality
Now that you know more about the potential toxins that are circulating in your home’s air supply even as you read this, you now have the knowledge to do something about it.
First things first: you must understand how many of these toxins got inside in the first place!
Tobacco smoke is an easy one to figure out. It gets in whenever someone smokes in your house.
The same holds true for combustion by-products. When you use any appliance that takes fossil fuels (wood-fired stove, fireplace, space heater, et al) inside your home, the by-products enter and then remain in your air supply.
Many volatile organic compounds enter in the form of spray cleaners, air fresheners, glues and sealants used in home improvement or craft projects and other similar innocent-seeming methods.
Pollen can enter on your clothes and shoes or even in your hair. It can also enter via your pet’s fur, which then sheds out and adds pet dander coated in pollen to your indoor air toxins. Dust mites breed inside your pillows, cushions and bedding.
All that to say, there is no doubt that confronting all the ways you may be toxifying your own indoor air supply can be tough to take in.
But once you know what the toxins are and where they come from, you can stop them from impacting your family’s health any further.
4 Steps to Keeping Your Indoor Air Clean
If you regularly follow these four steps, you will soon be enjoying cleaner indoor air.
Step 1: Go “all natural” for home cleaning, home improvement and crafts.
As much as possible, steer clear of toxic commercial chemicals, cleaners and craft products. Instead, for cleaning, use essential oils, baking soda, white vinegar, baking soda, citrus juice and pure water.
Step 2: Let the outdoors inside whenever you can.
Your house may be air-sealed, but that doesn’t mean you can’t open those windows and doors to let light and fresh air in (and stale, toxic air out).
When you open the windows, also turn on your ceiling and floor fans to get the air circulating from room to room.
Another great method is to add at least one houseplant to each room. Houseplants make excellent indoor air quality monitors. They naturally clean and filter the air through their leaves and roots. Check out this list of our favorite indoor houseplants.
Step 3: Change your air filters at least monthly.
Air filters will only work as well as what they’ve got to work with. You never want to let your air filters get clogged with dust or debris. Change them at least monthly for best results.
You can also upgrade to HEPA-rated air filters to catch more potent toxins that most air filters can’t trap.
Step 4: Get your indoor air duct system and dryer vents professionally cleaned.
By having all of the toxins trapped inside your HVAC system’s air ducts and in the deep recesses of your dryer vents professionally cleaned out and removed, you basically hit the “reset” button on your home’s air quality. This work can be done in one day and will make a measurable, breathable difference.