Our homes can contain many chemical contaminants. While some of these chemicals are relatively harmless, others may affect the indoor air quality of your home. Taking steps to improve your home’s indoor air quality is important since most Canadians spend almost 90% of their time indoors.
There are some easy ways to reduce your exposure to chemical contaminants in the home. Avoid smoking or burning candles indoors. The use of unscented and less toxic household and laundry cleaning products can also help keep contaminants to a minimum. Minimize the use of bleach and aerosol sprays, which can give off noxious fumes and have a negative impact on the environment. In addition, avoid tracking dust and contaminants into your home by not wearing outdoor footwear inside.
If you are painting or renovating, choose your paint and building materials wisely. Choose low-emission or low-odour building materials and select low-VOC (volatile organic compound) paints. If you are using a product you are not familiar with, you may be able to obtain a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) from the supplier or manufacturer. The MSDS will tell you whether the product has hazardous ingredients.
Use your sense(s)
Generally, your sense of smell may be able to serve you as a guide to uncover the presence of contaminants in your home. However, while odours may indicate the presence of emissions, the absence of odour does not mean chemical contaminants are not present. The concentration may be lower than you can detect, and some pollutants, such as carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and radon, have no odour.
Noting how you feel when you are at home in comparison with how you feel when you leave your house for an extended period may also help you identify whether or not your home has an indoor air quality problem.
If you are interested in hiring a trained Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) investigator to look into indoor air problems in your home, consult the Yellow Pages, print or online, under Indoor Air Quality, Consultants. Confirm that the investigator has knowledge of and experience with residential indoor air quality, and check their references if possible.
You can learn more about how to improve the air quality in your home from CMHC’s Clean Air Guide ($5.95) or from a wide range of free About Your House fact sheets, including Reducing Chemical Contaminants in Your Home. To order yours, visit our websiteM.
Mark Salerno is district manager for the Greater Toronto Area at Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.