Ever since the pandemic resulted in many of us working from home, we got to thinking about how our home’s indoor air quality could be affecting our lives. Air quality concerns have long been a health issue in the workplace, especially for those of us who toiled away in large office towers or older buildings during our careers.
I can recall myself and my co-workers back in the ‘80s and ‘90s complaining of bad headaches, constant sinus problems, flu-like symptoms, irritability, fatigue and more while working in a downtown Toronto office tower.
The building, like so many of its kind, didn’t have windows that opened up and therefore no fresh air ever came in. Due to the recycled air pumped in and out daily, the office environment’s air was stale, dry and didn’t smell that great either. And in those days, smoking was still allowed! Non-smokers suffered incredibly. An investigation was finally launched and problems were discovered relating to the building’s air circulation and heating/cooling system. All was repaired and employees began feeling better. Smoking indoors was also banned.
It’s 2022 Now & We’re Working from Home
No matter what your age, be you in your twenties or your seventies, lots of us have left the office (tower or otherwise) behind: 39% of the respondents to a 2021 Government of Canada survey reported that they’ve either been working from home all or some of the time due to the pandemic. So, what better time for us all to take a look at the quality of the air in our homes since we’re now spending much more time there?
And, even if we’re not, we still want it to be a safe, healthy and fresh environment. Right?
Home Air Quality Affects Your Work Space Too
If you and your family are experiencing symptoms which include frequent headaches, dizziness, fatigue, irritated eyes/noses and throats, asthma attacks and other respiratory problems, it’s possible that the air quality in your home is poor. Poor air quality can also be responsible for digestive issues, heart problems, and according to some research, possibly even cancer. Even your pet’s health isn’t immune.
Some of the Sources & What To Do?
Apart from opening the windows and doors regularly and turning on fans to move stale air out and bring fresh air in, there are things you can look at if you need to improve your home’s air quality.
- Avoid creating wet or damp environments: Eliminate indoor sources of mould and dampness often found in basements, kitchens and bathrooms. They can lead to eye and throat irritation, coughing, fatigue, headaches, skin problems and nosebleeds. The more toxic, the more dangerous to your health.
- Cooking: Use the range hood’s fan over your stove when cooking. If you don’t have one, get one installed. They’re especially important in clearing the air if you’re frying, roasting, baking, broiling, or toasting food – all of which release harmful particulate matter into the air.
- Heating: Fuel-burning appliances, wood fireplaces and stoves, gas and oil furnaces, and gas water heaters can cause carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, particulate matter, and other pollutants to be released into the air.
- Smoking: If you can’t stop, at the very least take it outside. Tobacco products like cigarettes and cigars (even e-cigarettes) emit a wide range of chemicals that can negatively impact indoor air quality.
- Pets: Just like humans, pets can be impacted by poor air quality, However, they themselves can be the source of our respiratory issues. Furry pets, like cats and dogs, shed dander which can lead to allergic reactions. If you’re allergic, choosing a hypoallergenic cat or dog breed makes more sense.
- Cleaning supplies: Choose natural cleaning products. Avoid using toxic chemicals and take care when using pesticides indoors.
- Home furnishings: Newly installed carpet, upholstery, and flooring, or that big screen TV can release harmful particles and gases. Keep carpets, mattresses, upholstered furniture, and pillows clean. They can harbour dust mites, which can trigger asthma and allergic reactions.
- Old home insulation: Ensure your home is inspected by a reputable organisation if it’s old. Old insulation may contain asbestos, which can cause lung cancer.
- Hobbies: Many hobbies involve the use of harsh chemicals. Stuff such as glues, paints, varnishes, solvents often used in model making, woodworking, painting, furniture refinishing and many other arts and crafts projects. Use them outdoors, not inside!
- Attached garage: Your garage can be dangerous in terms of indoor air quality – possibly life threatening – especially if it has an entry directly into your home. Don’t leave your car or gas-powered lawn mower or snow blower idling, they can produce noxious pollutants that can make their way into your home.
- Radon: Test for radon which is a cancer-causing, odourless/colourless radioactive gas that can seep into your home from outside.
You’ll Work It Out
Working from home is, for many people, the new reality. You’re the master of this new work environment so you’re responsible for it being a healthy place. If it’s not, perhaps addressing some of the issues we’ve outlined above could help change it for the better – not only for you but everyone!