Indoor and outdoor air quality can cause health problems for some that are sensitive to environmental contaminates in the air. Contaminates that contribute to indoor air quality include substances such as mould, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, as well as asbestos. Contaminates that contribute to poor outdoor air quality include increased particulate matter, aeroallergens, burning garbage and forest fires.
Indoor Air Quality
There are many types of mould that can be found almost anywhere, both outdoors and indoors. Not all moulds are harmful but some can cause property damage and may make some people sick. Mould requires a source of moisture and materials to feed on. Health Canada does not recommend testing for mould in the home setting as there are no standards and most homes will have some moulds detected. Instead it is important to remove the conditions that cause mould to grow and clean up any areas where mould has been found. The following links provide information on how to prevent and clean up mould:
- Moisture and Air: A Guide for Understanding and Fixing Interior Moisture Problems in Housing
- Mould in Indoor Air – Health Canada
- Mould and Your Health
- Moulds – Residential Indoor Air Quality Guidelines – Health Canada
- Flood Cleanup – Prevent Mould Growth
Every year, hundreds of people become ill due to carbon monoxide poisoning; some of those people die. Carbon monoxide is a colourless, odourless gas that is produced as a by-product of combustion. Furnaces, wood stoves, space heaters, barbeques, automobiles and cigarette smoke are all sources of carbon monoxide.
At low levels, carbon monoxide can cause fatigue in healthy people and chest pains in people with heart disease. Chronic exposure to low levels of this gas can result in flu-like symptoms that disappear when the victim leaves the contaminated area. At higher concentrations, victims can suffer a range of health effects including nausea, impaired vision and coordination, dizziness, confusion and headache. Loss of consciousness and death can result from exposure to very high levels.
Asbestos is a material that was used before 1990 to produce products such as cement and plaster, residential and commercial heating systems, insulation in our homes, siding on our houses, etc. Asbestos was thought to be a valuable product because it was fire and weather proof. When asbestos fibres become airborne and are breathed in by a person it can cause lung cancer and other lung diseases.
There are no significant health risks if materials containing asbestos in your home are tightly sealed preventing the fibres from becoming airborne. If you choose to remove Asbestos from your home or workplace it is best to have it done by a professional company as there are legal health and safety requirements for anyone dealing with asbestos.
Outdoor Air Quality
Poor outdoor air quality can contribute to poor health. It can cause lung disease and make breathing difficult for some. Below you will find a list of issues that contribute to poor outdoor air quality. The Ontario government monitors outdoor air quality using the air quality health index, when an air quality alert is called for our area, the Health Unit will send out information to the public.
Sources that contribute to poor outdoor air quality are:
- Smog and Your Health
- Forest Fires
- Healthy School Bus
- Climate Change – Particulate Matter and Aeroallergens
- Open Air Burning