February, 2022

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The surprising dangers of cooking and cleaning

Most of us are aware of the dangers of outdoor air pollution. You may even check the Air Quality Health Index before heading outdoors. 

Yet focusing on outdoor air pollution overlooks a simple fact – most of our exposure to air pollution actually happens indoors. And the levels of indoor air pollutants can be two to five times higher than outdoors.

According to the World Health Organization, around 3.8 million people a year die from exposure to household air pollution. Poor indoor air quality has been linked to a range of illnesses, including asthma, pneumonia, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cardiovascular disease.

Indoor air pollution comes from a wide range of activities. Fine particles are released from everyday activities like cooking and cleaning. One study found that cooking a roast dinner could produce higher levels of PM2.5s (tiny particles that are hazardous to human health when inhaled) than are found on the streets of Delhi, one of the most polluted cities in the world. Harmful airborne particles are also emitted from many household cleaning products, personal care products like shower gels and fragrances, glues, inks and air fresheners.

As society has shifted more towards working from home the quality of our indoor air is more important than ever. There are often higher concentrations of pollutants inside our buildings than outside of them, but there are things you can do to minimize your and your family’s exposure to indoor pollutants.


One Hour Do-It-Yourself Projects

No matter the season, there are numerous things you can do to make a difference in your home's air quality. The items on the “Winter” list below should take less than an hour to complete – see how many you can get done before our snow is gone!

  • Change or clean your furnace air filters – this should be done every 1-3 months during the heating season.
  • Set up a radon test kit for a minimum 3-month period during the winter months.
  • Test your carbon monoxide detector and change the batteries.
  • Monitor your home for excessive moisture (look for condensation on windows which shows too much moisture is found inside the home).
  • Check your humidity level with a hygrometer to make sure it is between 30-50%. If the humidity is below 30%, use a portable humidifier and make sure it is cleaned and emptied regularly.
  • Vacuum regularly with an efficient vacuum cleaner.
  • Wash bedding and stuffed animals in hot water once a week
Read the full air quality checklist

Sources for this newsletter:

BBC Health

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