What can be harmful to you and your family in your BEDROOMS?
Since we spend a significant amount of time in our bedroom, it is important to keep it a healthy place.
- Use an effective vacuum such as a central vacuum system or one with a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter built in to limit dust from being blown back out. Vacuum the bedroom regularly, at least once a week.
- Cloth drapes can collect dust and dust mites. Either replace them with blinds or shades, or vacuum or wash them periodically.
- Bedding such as sheets, pillowcases, blankets and duvet covers, bed skirts, pillows, and mattresses collect dust and dust mites. Wash bedding in hot water at least once a week to kill dust mites.
- If possible, wash your pillows regularly (check tags for washing instructions) and try to replace pillows every year to limit dust mites.
- Vacuum your mattresses regularly to reduce dust.
- Minimize objects that collect dust, such as stuffed toys.
- Since dust mites love a humid environment, keep the humidity below 50% (humidity can be measured with a hygrometer, an inexpensive device available at hardware stores or electronics stores).
- If you are allergic to dust mites, encase mattresses and pillows in dust mite resistant covers, available at specialty home health stores, some department stores and online.
A master bedroom closet often contains clothes, linens, and bedding, along with other various items. With so much filling the closet, it is important to keep it well organized and cleaned regularly (monthly if possible).
- Clean out your closet occasionally to reduce clutter.
- Vacuum and dust closet regularly.
- Do not put mothballs or air fresheners in a closet, especially since it is a closed environment where irritants may build up to high levels.
- Do not place clothes that have been recently dry-cleaned immediately inside a closet. Remove clothes from the dry-cleaning bags and let them air out, ideally away from the living areas of the home for a few days, such as in a clean, dry garage. Many dry cleaners use harsh chemicals when washing clothing so it is important to let these chemicals evaporate as much as possible before wearing dry-cleaned clothes.
Carbon Monoxide Detector
Carbon monoxide (CO) can come from leaky furnaces and exhaust pipes, fireplaces not ventilated properly and when embers are still burning, or car exhaust coming from a garage. A CO detector should be installed on each floor of the home near the sleeping area if possible, such as a hallway. If there is a fireplace in the living room, place a CO detector there to detect any dangerous levels of CO. The purpose of the CO detector is to alert family members before the CO level affects your ability to function properly.
If your CO detector sounds an alarm, treat it as a serious event. Evacuate everyone and all pets and call 911 if anyone has any flu-like symptoms such as a headache, weakness, dizziness, nausea or confusion.
- Choose a detector that alerts you to both low levels of CO over a longer time as well as short-term high levels. However, they can be more expensive.
- CO detectors should meet Canadian Standards Association (CSA) requirements (look for the logo on the package).
- Replace the batteries and test your alarm regularly.
- Replace your CO detector as per manufacturer’s instructions. Generally, devices should be replaced at least every five years.
- Do not burn charcoal indoors, operate gas-powered engines in garages or basements, or leave your car or mower running in a closed garage.
- Ensure the door leading from the garage into the home is sealed well and kept fully closed when not in use to prevent pollutants from entering the home.
- Have your appliances, heating system, vents, chimney, and flue inspected by a qualified contractor each year.
There are thousands of fragrances/scented products available on the market. Whenever possible, purchase products that do not contain scents. Chemicals used to add scents to products can cause serious health problems for some people, especially for people with lung diseases such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Being near a scented product can make some people sick. Scents are found in deodorants, hairsprays, shampoos, lotions, cleaners, detergents, cosmetics, candles, and more.
- If you use perfume and other fragrances, apply sparingly. Apply them away from other family members in a well-ventilated area.
- Store perfume and other fragrances in a sealed container to prevent scents from escaping.
- Wash and store clothes that carry perfume odours separate from clothes of family members who are affected by scents.
- If someone can smell your perfume more than an arm’s length away, you should decrease the amount of perfume you wear to prevent it from affecting sensitive individuals.
Soft furniture can attract dust, dust mites and pet allergens. Leather or vinyl-covered furniture will trap less particles. Wood furniture, although not as comfortable, will attract even less dust.
- Vacuum soft furniture regularly. Have any slipcovers cleaned regularly.
- Furniture made of veneers and particleboard or fibreboard give off chemicals (called off-gassing). The amount of off-gassing tends to decrease over time. Ventilate your home regularly, especially with new furniture.
- Consider purchasing furniture made of solid wood or upholstered in leather or vinyl, since they are less likely to harbour dust mites.
- Any mouldy furniture should be removed and the moisture problem fixed.
Children love their stuffed toys. They can become very attached to them, carrying their furry friends wherever they go. Other sources of dust in the bedroom include carpeting and the underpad beneath it, drapes, soft furniture, and stored items.
- Minimize the number of stuffed toys, and only buy them if they are machine washable in hot water (55-60°C) and they can be put in the dryer.
- Make sure the humidity level is below 50%, to reduce the growth of dust mites and moulds. Use a hygrometer to measure humidity levels.
- Store stuffed animals inside a trunk or other storage case when not used to limit exposure to dust and dust mites.
- If possible, remove all carpeting from the bedroom. Carpeting is a reservoir for dust, dust mites, chemicals and moulds, plus new carpeting can give off chemicals.
- Replace drapes with blinds or shades as they are easier to clean.
- Only keep items in the bedroom that are needed. We spend many hours a day in the bedroom, so breathing clean air here is important.
Many people are allergic to dander and other pet allergens. You can be allergic to cats, dogs, rabbits, gerbils, hamsters, birds etc. Since these allergens are very small and light, they tend to stay in the air a long time, and travel throughout the home.
- If you are allergic to a pet, it is best not to have it in your home.
- If you cannot find your pet a new home:
- Keep the pet out of the bedrooms.
- Bathe the pet frequently.
- Limit exposure to the pet.
- Remove all carpeting.
- Vacuum regularly.
There are numerous air cleaning devices available in Canada, many that have unproven health claims.
- Before buying an air cleaner, look for the source of the problem causing the issue. Removing the source of the problem is more effective than using an air cleaner to improve indoor air quality. For example:
- If you find mould, clean it up and try to find the cause and fix it. If you have old carpeting, replace it with smooth flooring.
- In addition, you can look at ensuring there is enough ventilation moving through the home, which will help improve indoor air quality.
- If you are still having air quality issues after trying to address the source of the problem and increasing ventilation, you may wish to buy an air cleaner. Just keep in mind that although air cleaners can remove pollutants from the air, there is no strong proof that they will improve your health.
- Determine the appropriate size of the air cleaner based on the size of your room and maintain the unit according to the manufacturer’s instructions. If possible, choose a device with a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter since it traps the very small particles that are of most concern.
- Look for higher Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) and Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) numbers on packaging. The higher the number, the more effective the device will be in cleaning the air.
- Avoid buying devices that intentionally produce ozone, since breathing in ozone can cause lung irritation and discomfort. Also, there is no scientific evidence supporting the claim that ionizing air cleaners improve health.
Second Hand Smoke
Second hand smoke can cause cancer and heart disease, as well as worsen existing lung and heart conditions. Each year, second hand smoke causes thousands of deaths across Canada.
Children who breathe in second hand smoke may suffer from more colds, ear infections and breathing problems than children who live in smoke-free homes. Second hand smoke is also known to affect the severity of asthma symptoms.
If someone in your household smokes, make sure they smoke outside every time until they are able to quit. This will greatly reduce the amount of smoke that everyone in the home is exposed to.
Since smoke in a closed-in space such as a family car greatly increases the concentration of the harmful chemicals, keep your vehicles free of smoke as well.
Furniture made of veneers that cover pressed wood products (particleboard, fibreboard) can give off volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Choose low-VOC products for your home. Ventilate your home regularly, especially with new furniture, or during and after painting.
Although VOC levels will drop significantly just weeks after paint dries, the VOCs from pressed wood products can last longer. It may help to seal exposed surfaces of particleboard or fibreboard.
If possible, consider purchasing furniture made of solid wood.