The current meteoric rise in public concern and interest regarding air quality and healthy environments has created an opportunity for industry to market and promote a myriad of diverse products and services. Everything from scented candles and snake oils, to ozone generators and air fresheners are being advertised as the air quality answer to all our healthy home needs.
On average, Canadians spend 80% of our time indoors; a great deal of that time is spent in your own home. Controlling the air quality conditions of our work places can be difficult however; improving your healthy environment at home simply requires a basic understanding of how your home works.
Universally, homes behave as an integrated system, what happens in the basement, affects air quality upstairs. The definition of a healthy home is not about having more. It is about living with less: less humidity and moisture, less chemicals and odours, less particulates and dust. Reducing air quality concerns in our home means living with less irritants our bodies’ defense systems must address. Imagine if we were born with a “wheel barrel for environmental sensitivities”. Throughout our lives, each person loads their wheel barrel at a different pace (Environmental Exposure Level). Some people have the capacity to fill a larger wheel barrel of environmental sensitivities (Dose Response). Due to past environmental exposure, other people may not have room in their wheel barrel and may have difficulty handling the environmental burden (Multiple Chemical Sensitivity). The fundamental similarity between all wheel barrels is the universal benefit of environmental load reduction. We must seize every opportunity to reduce air quality and environmental irritants from our homes in an effort to keep our wheel barrel of sensitivities empty. If our environmental load is light weight, our capacity to shoulder unforeseen air quality exposures is increased.
If we are to adapt the “less load” philosophy to our own homes we must embrace some life style changes that promote healthy environments. We must be able to recognize the conditions that generate poor air quality and we must make the correct steps to improve them. Recognizing these conditions of poor air quality is the first step to improving your environment.
Air quality concerns can be divided into two main categories: chemical and biological. Chemical air quality concerns are introduced into your environment typically by “off gassing” of manufactured products and materials, cleaners, new furniture, construction materials, solvents, dry cleaning, air fresheners and by products of combustion. Biological contaminants are generated within the building environment, such as skin cells and fragments, dander, dust mites, pollen, bacterial, mold and viruses. These types of contaminants thrive in moist, damp environments. By controlling the humidity levels in most homes, the growth of some of these culprits can be minimized.
Once a homeowner has identified a number of indoor air quality contaminants in the home, a lifestyle change is required to remove them and subsequently to reduce the burden on our personal wheel barrel of environmental sensitivities. We should take the opportunity to reduce exposure to both the biological and chemical loads present in our living environments. This load reduction is not completed overnight. Instead, our lifestyle change should incorporate the “less is best” philosophy on a daily basis.