Many of us are becoming better educated about indoor pollutants and what we need to know to protect our health, but there are some surprising things that you may not have thought about that could affect the indoor air quality of your home.  A majority of this information has been excerpted from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s website.  Please visit their website for more specific information on each of these topics.

Attached Garages – Houses with attached garages had measurable concentrations of benzene (a gasoline related pollutant) in their indoor air. Houses with no garages or detached garages had little or no benzene. This is true of a host of other airborne chemicals. The study revealed that pollutants in attached garages can find their way into the house.
There are also secondary sources of pollutants in garages, apart from car-based emissions. There are many gas-powered appliances, such as lawn mowers, chain saws and edging tools whose emission systems are not as good as those found in cars. Chemicals such as pesticides and herbicides are also sources of pollutants.

Burning Candles – By-products of combustion include carbon monoxide, VOCs, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and soot. Do not burn candles, liquid fuel or incense in the home.

Too Energy Efficient – If your house is stuffy, odors linger, or humidity is high in fall and winter, it is likely that your house does not have adequate fresh air. If you or your children have respiratory conditions, such as asthma, bronchitis or chronic colds, getting the proper amount of fresh air is even more important. Opening windows can be part of the solution, but open windows can be a security risk (in some neighborhoods), can cause comfort problems and can increase heating and cooling costs. Furthermore, opening windows may not improve indoor conditions under all circumstances. Using a mechanical ventilation system, such as an exhaust fan or a heat recovery ventilator (HRV), can be more effective.

Your newly remodeled kitchen– In new or other well-sealed houses, significant indoor formaldehyde levels may still occur when new carpets or wood composite materials, such as plywood, particleboard and waferboard, are used in home construction, cabinetry and furnishings. These are the most likely sources of high formaldehyde levels in the home today.

Radon – Radon is a radioactive gas that is released from the normal decay of uranium in rocks and soils.  Uranium is found in nearly all soils everywhere in the U.S.  Radon is invisible, colorless, odorless and tasteless and seeps up through the ground and diffuses into the air. Radon gas can accumulate in buildings, especially in confined areas such as attics, and basements. It can also be found in some spring waters and hot springs. It is often the single largest contributor to an individual’s background radiation dose, and is the most variable from location to location. Please see additional postings on this blog about radon.

Important note about filtration – Most people assume that contaminants can be removed by filtration. Typical residential furnace filters are designed to filter particles, not gases. Gases can be filtered only by special filter media, such as activated charcoal or activated alumina. These filter media require special installation and, like furnace filters, must be replaced frequently. Filtration as a means of removing airborne contaminants throughout the house is inefficient. The most effective way to remove chemical contaminants, whether particles or gases, is to stop or capture them at the source before they are dispersed over a large area. This means getting rid of the sources, and when this is not possible, isolating or encapsulating them.