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Toxic Home Syndrome: How The Air in Your Home Could Be Making You Ill

Toxic Home SyndromeThe air within your home may be increasing your risk of heart disease, asthma and cancer.

Do You Have Toxic Home Syndrome?  Toxic Home Syndrome is the residential counterpart to Sick Building Syndrome and it occurs when a person’s health deteriorates due to poor indoor air quality within their home. Over 15 million homes are affected by Toxic Home Syndrome when simple, everyday tasks such as drying your wet clothes, or cooking your dinner using your gas stove, may be impacting your health.

Contaminants within the air inside our homes may be putting us at increased risk of developing breathing problems, heart disease, cancer and asthma. The presence of mold spores, carbon monoxide, VOC’s, and radon seeping in through the basement all may cause potential issues, particularly when there is insufficient ventilation present to dilute contaminants.

A lack of sufficient ventilation within a home can also lead to increased Carbon Dioxide levels within the home which can impact our comfort levels, making us feel tired, sluggish and stuffy.  When potential contaminants are present in lower levels, we can start to exhibit symptoms such as sneezing, dizziness, watery eyes and coughing, while more significant levels and symptoms may include nose bleeds, wheezing, lung disease, asthma, muscle pain and rashes. Here are some areas of potential concern the may lead to the development of Toxic Home Syndrome:

Toxic Home SyndromeMold Spores The presence of a mold contamination within the home releases spores and fungal particulates into the air which are known exacerbating agents of respiratory problems.  These spores are known to cause allergic rhinitis and asthma in sensitive individuals while the presence of toxigenic molds in the environment may release harmful mycotoxins into the air which can be inhaled, ingested or absorbed through the skin.

Drying Your Laundry While a large number of VOC’s can irritate the lungs and cause headaches and nausea, some such as Acetaldehyde and Benzene, which can be off gassed by washing your clothes and drying them indoors, are known carcinogens. Bringing in new furniture into your home, or repainting can also be a large source of increased VOC levels in the environment.

Toxic Home SyndromeUsing Your Fireplace From our wood burning fireplaces the particle pollution in smoke has been known to damage lung tissue and lead to serious respiratory issues when breathed in high concentrations.

Living With Carpeting Dust mites, fungus, dirt, dander and pet hair are all potentially harmful particulates that hide in your carpeting and have been known to trigger asthma attacks, cause severe allergic reactions and irritate the lungs.

Cooking Your Dinner   If you cook with a gas stove, you may be releasing nitrogen dioxide, formaldehyde, acrolein and carbon monoxide into the air within your home.  All have been linked to cancer and other serious respiratory symptoms.

Toxic Home SyndromeUsing Your Basement According to the Canadian Lung Association, Radon poisoning accounts for 16 per cent of lung cancer and is second to smoking as the number two cause of fatal lung cancer. Radon is a radioactive gas and occurs from the natural breakdown of uranium usually found in soil and rock.  Radon typically enters a home from cracks in our basement floors, walls, or foundations.  Radon is odorless, tasteless and invisible, so the only way to learn of its presence is through proper testing methods.

Research suggests that a small change towards increased ventilation in our homes could reduce the overall burden of disease caused by Toxic Home Syndrome by 38%.  Other minor changes can also greatly impact the indoor air quality in our homes.  If unsure of the level of potential contaminants, proper air quality testing can really benefit.  Here are some small changes that can make a big difference:

Increase Ventilation – Check your HVAC system, open a window, or use your blower or a fan.

Toxic Home SyndromeDry Your Washing Outdoors – Whenever possible, dry your washed clothes outdoors on a clothes line.  It keeps the VOC’s out and the fresh air scent in your clothes. If weather prohibits, open a window in your laundry room to let some fresh air in.

Hardwood is Best – When it comes to reducing allergies or asthma triggered by particulates, hardwood is best as carpeting can harbor dust, fungal particulates, pet hair and dander, and dust mites.

No Shoes Inside – When we wear our shoes indoors, we can bring dirt, pollen and soil in from outdoors, spreading contaminates and debris throughout our homes.

Toxic Home SyndromePaint When Weather Permits – Try to restrict painting to the time of year when you can open your windows to allow for increased air flow.  Always try to use products with low VOC’s and remember to not use a room until the paint has completely dried.

Check Your Appliances – Make sure that a vent fan above your gas stove is in good working order and is properly venting to the building exterior.

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