The Coach’s Clean Air Plan
5 Simple Steps to Cleaner Air
Did you know that the air quality in our homes and offices, where many of us spend 90% of our time, is often 2 to 5 times greater than the pollution outside?
Our energy efficient buildings tend to trap the chemicals that disperse into the air from common everyday products such as building materials, furnishings, cleaning and personal care products. This prolonged and continuous exposure to indoor air pollution is a serious threat to our well-being with potential health effects ranging from asthma and allergies to COPD and cancer.
The Good News is that you CAN improve your indoor air with this simple, effective plan!
Step 1. Ventilate – open those windows!
At least for a few minutes every day, unless you are in an area experiencing extreme contamination. Normally, it’s important to regularly exchange indoor air with cleaner air from outside, especially to replenish oxygen. This is done in three ways—with natural ventilation (opening windows and doors), infiltration (through openings in the building envelope), and mechanical ventilation (using an air exchanger).
In addition to supplying oxygen, ventilation helps to control humidity levels, preventing moisture build-up and the growth of biological pollutants such as dust mites, mould and bacteria. And if you’re reacting to indoor sources of synthetic fragrances or other volatile chemicals, bringing in fresh air or going outside can bring you some relief.
Of course, if the source of irritation is outside, such as pollens or wildfire smoke, and you need to keep the windows and doors closed most of the time, then Steps 2 and 3 in this Clean Air Plan will be especially important for you. In cases of extreme pollution outside, you may need to find a place to stay where the air quality is better, until your local air clears.
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Buildings today are often designed and constructed to minimize the amount of air that can ‘leak’ into and out of them through the building envelope. While this practice increases energy efficiency and lowers heating and cooling costs, the issue of adequate ventilation comes into question. Unless a proper mechanical ventilation system is incorporated into the building system as a whole, the tightly sealed building envelope retains and simply re-circulates the stale, polluted indoor air. The periodic ‘airing out’ of your home by opening the windows is highly recommended to further exhaust any buildup of carbon dioxide and other indoor air pollutants.
Most older homes will have accumulated some mould over the years, especially if there has not been consistent and sufficient ventilation. Mould loves to grow in warm, damp environments. Moisture from bathing, cooking, air conditioning, humidifying, and a damp climate can all be conducive to mould growth. Removal of the mould is essential, and then adequate ventilation to prevent re-occurrence of mould buildup.
Follow important safety procedures for combustion appliances in your home, such as your gas stove and space heaters:
- Make sure that your combustion appliance has a vent in good condition and properly connected to the outside.
- Always use a hood fan exhausted to the outside when cooking, and be sure that enough air is coming into the house while the appliance is in use. (If needed, slightly open a door or window, especially if other appliances are in use.)
- Open the damper in a wood burning stove when adding wood. Visible smoke or a constant smoky odour inside the home when using a wood burning stove is a sign that the stove is not working properly. Smoke and soot are signs that the stove is releasing pollutants into the indoor air.
- Use a certified fireplace insert for your wood burning fireplace..
- Never burn charcoal inside homes, trailers, tents, or other enclosures. The carbon monoxide can kill you.
Step 2. Eliminate – get rid of those hidden hazards!
Remove sources of your indoor air pollution. Do a ‘sweep’ of your own personal care and household products and get rid of any that contain toxic ingredients, especially air ‘fresheners’ which are really, ‘air toxifiers.’
Note: Products labelled ‘natural’ ‘pure’ or ‘unscented’ can still contain harmful chemicals. For example, there is a popular soap on the market that says, ‘Unscented’ yet their list of ingredients contains ‘fragrance.’ And ‘fragrance’ or ‘perfume’ can include many toxic chemicals which legally do not need to be disclosed by manufacturers. ‘Fragrance free’ might be a better alternative.
CLEAN AIR ROOM. Designate at least one room in your home as a ‘clean air room,’ where extra care is taken to keep indoor air pollutants to an absolute minimum. The best place to start is in your bedroom.
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YOUR BEDROOM: When you have a good, deep sleep, your immune system has a chance to recharge, and your body is better equipped to resist whatever challenges it may face during the day.
Keep all scented products, aerosol sprays and powders out of the bedroom. Essential oils can be used lightly, if you’re sure your body tolerates them well. Even these can be toxic, so do your research first.
Keep collectibles to a minimum. No dried flowers (which collect dust and can also leave a lingering fragrance). No carpet. Air out bedding daily. Dust at least once a week with a damp cloth (water only). Open windows if outside air quality and temperature permit.
TIP: If you are particularly sensitive to scents, smoke or other airborne chemicals, this tip might help to reduce your reaction: After exposure to an irritant, take a shower, wash your hair, and hang your clothes outside or wash them with fragrance free soap (hair and clothing absorb airborne fragrances and chemicals). It’s so simple, but can make a huge difference!
Step 3. Filtrate – clean up your air with a high efficiency air purifier!
A good air filtration system will clean your indoor air of residual VOCs and airborne particles such as spring pollens, wildfire smoke, mould spores, formaldehyde and other hidden, or not-so-hidden hazards, which cannot be completely eliminated by simply opening windows or choosing ‘clean’ products.
And of course there are those times when the outside air needs to be kept outside, especially during and after wildfires!
Austin Air purifiers remove a broad spectrum of indoor air pollutants with safe technology and fast clean air delivery. You can contact Austin Air Canada directly (austinair . ca) or Austin Air U.S. (austinair . com).
Step 4. Activate – strengthen your immune system!
It’s so important for everyone to get enough hours of restful sleep in clean air, in addition to eating nutritious food, taking appropriate nutritional supplements, and being as physically active as possible. Check with your healthcare professional for your personal situation to maximize your health.
Step 5. Communicate – be free to talk about it!
If you’re super sensitive to synthetic scents and smoke, you’re not alone! This is becoming more of a health issue across the country. Feel free to talk about your health challenge in situations where scents, smoke and other chemicals can be eliminated or reduced. Cleaner air is better for everyone, and more public places are becoming ‘Smoke Free’ and ‘Scent Free’.