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Indoor Air Quality − Is Poor Air Quality Making You Sick?

indoor air qualityIndoor Air Quality describes the comfort and health you and your family experience in your Edmonton home. Many of us have a great interest in the quality of food and water we eat and drink (five to seven pounds per day).  However, perhaps even more important is the quality of indoor air that we breathe (30 to 40 pounds per day).  Indoor air contains up to five times more pollutants than that of outdoor air.

Lung Associations report that the poor quality of indoor air is a major cause of lung cancer and chronic lung diseases like asthma and infections. It is also linked to dry eyes, nausea, fatigue, headaches and nasal congestion.

Health Canada, Housing Corporation, the Alberta Lung Association, National Research Council, the Research Division of the Canada Mortgage and other Canadian organizations have all carried out research extensively on the quality of air indoors. The findings, along with the research by the World Health Organization, have all been consistent.

This research has led to the following knowledge:

  • Radon induced lung cancer (the second common cause for lung cancer behind smoking) causes the death of more than 3,000 Canadians each year. Radon is a radioactive, odourless and colourless gas that seeps through cracks into basements;
  • 20% of Canadians are affected by respiratory diseases;
  • Some homes have between two and five times more chemical pollutants than those of the average industrial site;
  • Indoor air quality affects all ages; and
  • A child’s respiratory health is impacted by mold and dampness as much as parents smoking.

Why Is Inside Air Quality Poor?

Heating and air conditioning accounts for 60% of costs for homeowners in Edmonton. Keeping a home well sealed is the best way to reduce the costs since it helps to keep a home cool during the summer and warmer in the winter.

Stuffiness, high humidity during the fall or winter, and lingering odours are all signs of insufficient fresh air in the house.  A lack of fresh air can make asthma, chronic colds and bronchitis much worse.

Opening your windows can increase fresh air.  On the other hand, depending on your neighbourhood, this could lead to security issues. Moreover, it can also increase cooling or heating costs.

Mechanical ventilation systems, such as heat recovery ventilators and exhaust fans, are more effective in improving indoor air quality.

There are other factors that affect poor air quality in Edmonton homes. Some of those include:

  • Indoor pollutants. Homeowners in Edmonton have more pollutants in their homes due to chemical cleaners, recreational activities, personal hygiene products and furniture. Around 6,000 chemicals can be found in the houses. Since homeowners are indoors more, pets and plants are more likely to add dander, pests, dust and other types of pollutants.
  • Insufficient equipment maintenance. Heating, air conditioning units and ventilation systems aren’t maintained correctly.
  • Windows aren’t used as much due to security risks and homeowners preferring quieter homes.
  • Failing HVAC System.
  • Health and comfort expectations have increased.
  • More moisture or damp damage from flooding, high humidity and leaks.
  • Remodeling, construction and other activities in the home.

Symptoms of Poor Inside Air Quality

Edmontonians spend 90% of their time inside, meaning they breathe about 27 pounds of air indoors on a daily basis. There are some common symptoms felt by those with concerns about their indoor air quality, including the following:

  • Irritated or dry eyes, throat, nose or skin;
  • Headaches;
  • Shortness of breath;
  • Sinus congestion;
  • Fatigue;
  • Allergies and hypersensitivity;
  • Sneezing and coughing;
  • Nausea; and
  • Dizziness.

These symptoms are also signs of other health conditions, such as the flu and common colds, so they are not necessarily a sign that your indoor air quality is poor. In fact, these common symptoms make it more difficult to resolve quality issues with indoor air.

It is important to investigate the indoor air though, especially if you find that the symptoms are alleviated by going outside.

How Do You Detect Poor Air Quality?

As an Edmonton homeowner, you will likely ask two questions:

  • How do I know the air inside is good?
  • What steps can I take to improve my indoor air quality?

The easiest answer is to ask a professional HVAC contractor. If they don’t specialize in air quality, they will recommend someone who is experienced in dealing with the control and movement of heat, moisture in buildings and the controlling of air.

There are different ways that the quality may affect you. You and your family should answer the following questions:

  1. Do you or anyone in the family suffer from allergies, respiratory problems or asthma?
  2. Are the symptoms worse in certain rooms or when at home?
  3. Have there been alterations to your home, including renovating the basement or replacing windows?
  4. Is there excessive condensation on windows during winter or is your basement musty and damp during the summer?
  5. Do you need to use scented candles or air fresheners for odours lingering in your home?
  6. Are there regular damp spots or stains on the walls or a lot a dust on your floors?
  7. Do you have any indoor pets?
  8. Do your friends suffer from allergies when in your home?

If the answer to three or more of those questions is yes, you should hire a fully experienced and trained indoor air quality professional.

There are a few things that you can do to improve the quality of your indoor air. However, some items will need professional assistance to help improve the situation.

Improvements to your indoor air quality usually need an integrated and systematic approach. Although one measure is unlikely to solve every problem, cleaning the ducts and furnace will help. A HVAC contractor with experience and training will be able to help you find the best and most affordable way to improve your home’s indoor air quality.

16 Comments

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