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Basement

What can be harmful to you and your family in your BASEMENT?

Mould

The basement is an ideal location where mould can grow since it is usually the dampest area of the home and often has poor air circulation. This is especially the case if your basement has been flooded. Exposure to mould can trigger asthma symptoms such as wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath, as well as allergic reactions.

  • Maintain an ideal humidity level in your basement (between 30-50%). To measure humidity levels, purchase a hygrometer from a hardware or electronics store.
  • Use a dehumidifier in your basement if humidity levels are high. Remember to clean the bucket, coil, and fan blades regularly so it runs efficiently and does not put bacteria or mould spores back into the air.
  • Limit exposure to mould by having kids play upstairs or removing the basement family room.
  • Look for any mould spots that can be black, white, green, red, or other colours. Mould can grow on wood (flooring, window sills, wall frames, baseboards, cabinets underneath sinks, and furniture), ceiling tiles, wall insulation, cardboard boxes, carpet, and drapes.
  • Throw away any products where mould has grown or has been damaged by water.
  • If mould is found that is less than the size of a large garbage bag folded in half (one square meter), you can clean it with water and unscented dish soap. Wipe the surface with a rag or sponge and then dry quickly. Wear a mask, eye protection, rubber gloves, and a long-sleeved shirt when cleaning mould. Have sensitive individuals, children, and elderly members leave the home during the mould clean-up.
  • Areas with mould found that are larger than one square meter should be cleaned by a trained professional. If mould comes back regularly, seek professional help.
Radon

Radon is a colourless, odourless gas that is 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. If the radon level in a home is high it can be easily fixed at a reasonable price. Techniques to lower radon levels are effective and can save lives.

  • Test kits are available from hardware stores as well as online. Buy a long-term test kit that allows for testing for at least three months.
  • Follow the instructions provided with the kit and make sure the kit is placed in an appropriate spot. Place the kit in the lowest level of your home where anyone spends at least four hours a day. Do not move the kit until the test period is over (write a reminder in your calendar indicating when the test is over). Once the test is over, mail it to the address found in the kit and wait for the results to be sent to you.
  • If your reading is more than 200 Bq/m3, Health Canada recommends you take measures to reduce the radon level in your home. If your reading is 200 Bq/m3 or less, you may still wish to take measures to reduce the level of radon in your home. The lower the radon level in your home, the lower the risk to your health.
  • If your radon level is between 200-600 Bq/m3, action should be taken to lower radon levels within two years. If radon levels are over 600 Bq/m3, action should be taken within a year.
  • Steps to lower the radon level include Active Soil Depressurization which is the most effective radon reduction strategy done by a contractor.
Hobbies

There are many materials used in hobbies that can affect the air quality in your home and your lung health. They include paints, glues, dust (e.g. wood dust), cleaning agents and permanent markers. Exposure to these materials can irritate the skin, eyes, and lungs, cause headaches, dizziness, and nausea, as well as loss of consciousness and even death.

  • Read the safety information provided with all products.
  • Work in a well-ventilated area when using these materials – open windows and turn on fans in the area to limit fumes. If possible, install an exhaust fan specifically to address your hobby-related fumes.
  • When appropriate, wear gloves and a dust mask to limit direct exposure to certain materials.
  • When possible, use less toxic materials, such as water-based glue or white glue instead of epoxy glue.
  • Take frequent breaks away from the area to give your lungs a rest from the hobby materials.
  • Buy only the amount of materials you need at one time. Leftover paint and glue can dry out and chemicals can leak out of the containers.
  • Store leftover materials such as paint and glue safely, or dispose them properly at a local hazardous waste facility.
Appliances

Appliances such as the furnace, water heater and dryer should be inspected and maintained at least once a year.

  • The best time to check the furnace is at the beginning of the fall season when you are just turning on the heat and sealing up the home again from the cold weather.
  • Change or clean your furnace filters according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Some filters may need to be replaced or cleaned as often as every month while others can wait for up to three months (seasonal).
  • Install a carbon monoxide (CO) detector to help protect you from harmful carbon monoxide levels.
  • If you suspect a problem with your furnace, water heater, or other appliance, immediately contact a qualified service company to have it checked and repaired.
  • Make sure you remove lint regularly from your clothes dryer filter. Also, inspect your vents and hoses attached to the dryer to make sure there are no blockages, leaks or loose parts that may be pushing lint and other fibers back into the indoor air.
Storage and Clutter

Typically, basements are where people store items, such as summer patio furniture, holiday decorations, books, camping gear, and sports equipment. It is a great place for storage but make sure you don’t crowd the basement and store items properly.

  • Reduce clutter in the basement to allow for proper air flow which reduces the chance of moulds forming. Donate, sell or recycle items you don’t need.
  • Things made of cloth or paper and items such as pillows, blankets, photos, and some musical instruments may get damaged in damp basements as they can easily pick up moisture and mould.
  • Instead of storing items in cardboard boxes, which can become wet and mouldy, use plastic bins that have lids which close securely. This will also keep out pests and insects.
  • When bringing an item up from storage, remove as much dust as possible in a well-ventilated area such as the outside or garage if possible.