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FAQ On Indoor Air Quality

1. What is radon? How do I test for it?

Radon is a colourless, odourless gas produced from the natural breakdown of uranium in rocks and soil. Radon can enter a home through tiny openings in floors and foundations and build up to dangerous levels usually in the basement or on the main level. Long-term exposure to radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in Canada.

The only way to find out if your home has high radon levels is to test for it. You can purchase a test kit from hardware stores to do the test yourself. Follow the instructions provided with the kit. All you need to do is place it in the lowest level of your home where anyone spends at least four hours a day, and do not move the kit until the test period is over. Then, mail it to the address found in the kit and the results will be sent to you.

2. If I smoke with the window open, will this keep the smoke out?

No. Smoking indoors even with the windows open will still allow a lot of smoke into the home. Smoke outdoors only.

3. I have some mould in my basement, should I be worried?

If you find mould in your basement, you should look at cleaning it up (if it's a small amount) with unscented dish soap and warm water. If it is a large section, call a contractor for assistance (see mould section). It is very important to find the cause of the mould and fix it.

4. Some air cleaners and vacuums come with a "HEPA" filter. What does this mean and does it really make a difference?

HEPA stands for High Efficiency Particulate Air which traps the very small particles that are of most concern to lung health. Vacuum cleaners with HEPA filters have been shown to reduce the amount of dust found indoors and also keep particles inside the vacuum cleaner instead of blowing them back out into the air.

5. Don't all bathroom mirrors steam up when the shower or tub is in use?

This doesn't always happen if there is an effective exhaust fan used while showering or bathing. The main concern would be if the moisture stays for too long and causes mould to grow.

6. Where's the best place for me to put my carbon monoxide detector?

A CO detector should be installed on each floor of the home near the sleeping area, such as a hallway, where people can hear it. If you have a fireplace, place the CO detector there to ensure dangerous levels of CO aren't leaking out and into your home.

7. How many carbon monoxide detectors should I have in my home?

You should have at least one CO detector, but if possible, put one on each floor.

8. What's wrong with using an air freshener?

Air fresheners do not solve the problem – they simply mask one odour with another. As well, air fresheners may contain harmful chemicals. It's best not to use them.

9. Is an unscented product safer for me to use?

This depends on each individual – some people do not react to scented products, while others can be more sensitive. Always test the product before using as reaction varies between people.

10. What should I avoid when buying cleaning products?

Read the label to check for which chemical ingredients are contained in the product. If there is a strong odour, it could create air quality problems in the home and anyone that comes in contact with it. Try making your own natural cleaning products. (Click here to get more information).

11. What is off-gassing?

Off-gassing is related to chemicals from products such as furniture, paint and carpeting that can release odours into the air causing potential health problems.

12. What is the best cat or dog for someone with allergies or lung disease?

This really depends on the person. If someone is allergic to a pet, they really should not have that pet in their home. If nobody in the home has allergies, it should not be an issue unless someone develops an allergy to a pet over time. You can be allergic to cats, dogs, rabbits, gerbils, hamsters, birds etc. Pet fish can be an option, however large aquariums can give off a lot of humidity and this can lead to mould growth.

If you or a family member is allergic to a pet, it is best not have it in your home. If you cannot find your pet a new home:

  • At least keep the pet out of the bedrooms
  • Bathe the pet frequently
  • Limit exposure to the pet
  • Remove all carpeting
  • Vacuum regularly