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Interview with Air Quality Expert Connie Choy

Question 1: I've noticed condensation on the windows and windowsills inside our home. What does this mean and what should I do?

Connie: Condensation found on windows is a sign there is too much moisture inside your home—the humidity level is high—and there is most likely poor ventilation indoors. These things can encourage mould to grow throughout the home, causing health problems (and weakening the home's structure).

In order to prevent mould from growing and lowering indoor humidity levels, here are a few things you can do:

  • Use kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans when cooking and bathing. Run any other fans—such as ceiling fans—throughout your home to ensure air is constantly being moved around.
  • Indoor humidity levels should be kept between 30-50% at all times. Purchase a hygrometer from an electronics or hardware store to monitor the humidity levels. If they are always high, use a dehumidifier.
  • Make sure clothes dryers are properly vented to the outside.
  • Check that tubs and sinks are sealed tightly so water does not leak into the walls.
  • Regularly clean and empty humidifiers and dehumidifiers.


Question 2: I would like to install a fireplace in my home but I want to make sure it is efficient and will not add any air pollution into my home. What should I look for when purchasing a fireplace?

Connie: Burning wood in residential areas – whether it’s in a fireplace, wood stove, wood-fired boiler or chiminea – is not recommended. Air pollution from wood smoke can cause breathing problems, especially for people who already have a lung disease. However, if you are determined to install a fireplace make sure you choose a model that meets Canadian Standards Association (CSA)'s emission standard.

When selecting a fireplace, follow these guidelines:

  • Choose the right size and model – small if heating one room, medium for smaller to medium-sized homes, or large for older, less efficient homes in colder climates.
  • Make sure your fireplace is installed by a certified professional, such as a Wood Energy Technical Training (WETT) member.
  • Ensure your fireplace and chimney are inspected and cleaned regularly by a professional.
  • Use only dry seasoned wood for efficient and safe burning. Never burn household garbage, cardboard, plastics, magazines, wet or painted wood. They release toxic chemicals when burned.
  • Install a carbon monoxide detector to ensure this dangerous gas is not leaking into your home.


Question 3: I'm thinking of removing the carpet found in my living room and putting in flooring. What type of flooring is good for air quality and what are my options?

Connie: Carpets act as a "sink" for various pollutants, absorbing airborne particles, pet dander, dust mites, and fungi easily. If you choose to get rid of your carpet, vacuum it before removal to minimize the release of pollutants. Ensure there is proper ventilation by opening windows and setting your ventilation system to maximum or high for at least 48 to 72 hours after removal.

The type of flooring you choose can impact your family's health, as some materials and glues can emit chemicals and gasses into the home for a period of time after installation. Look for flooring with low emissions and use water-based glues when putting in the flooring. Flooring options include: linoleum, cork, laminate, hardwood, and ceramic tile.