What can be harmful to you and your family in your GARAGE/OUTSIDE THE HOME?
Car or Other Idling Equipment
The garage is typically where all engine equipment is kept, including gardening equipment and snow clearing machines. With so many engines present in the garage, it is important to ensure they are used effectively to prevent harming lung health.
- Never run motorcycles, lawnmowers, and snow blowers in your garage, even if your garage door is open. Bring the engine outside of the garage and close the garage door before turning on the engine to limit emissions from getting back into the house.
- If you have a door in your garage that leads into the house, keep it closed at all times and never prop it open as emissions can enter the house. Also, be sure that the door is sealed properly and that there are no cracks where gases and fumes can get into the house.
- Check for any cracks or holes in the garage wall or ceiling that may bring air and other potentially harmful chemicals from the garage into the house. If you have a central vacuum system, be sure the exhaust is sealed properly.
- If possible, do not install the furnace or water heater in the garage since high levels of pollutants can build up.
Large items such as bicycles, tools, and sporting equipment are often stored here. Other items such as pesticides and other harmful chemicals may also be stored here.
- If smaller items are stored here, use plastic bins and containers instead of cardboard boxes to prevent items and boxes from becoming destroyed in case of a flood or mould growth. Plastic bins will also be easier to clean in case of flooding or due to airborne particles.
- To reduce odours, sprinkle the bottom of storage plastic bins or inside camping equipment with baking soda.
- If chemicals such as pesticides, paint thinners, and other cleaning products are stored in the garage, be sure they are labeled and sealed properly to prevent any odours from escaping into the garage and potentially the home. Try not to leave large quantities of chemicals sitting in the garage for a long period of time and dispose of them safely in a hazardous waste disposal site.
Door Between Garage & Living Space of the House
Reduce the entry of pollutants from the garage to the living areas of the home.
- Seal cracks or openings in any walls or ceiling that are shared with the living areas of the house. This includes where walls meet the ceiling or floors, electrical and plumbing outlets, or central vacuum systems.
- Do not leave the door from the garage to the home open.
- To prevent pollutants from building up, such as when working on an engine or using toxic materials, have the garage door open and run the garage exhaust fan if you have one. Even if the garage door is open, use the exhaust fan.
Pests in the Garage
The best way to manage pests in the garage is to prevent them from entering in the first place.
- Make sure there are no entry points for pests into the garage.
- Keep the garage closed when you are not present.
- Remove or seal sources of food (e.g. organic waste bin) and water (e.g. leaky faucet/hose).
- Reduce clutter so there are no good places for pests to build a home.
- If pests have found their way in, have them removed. Use low-toxicity pest control products.
Room Beside or Above Garage
Some homes may be built with a room located on top of the garage or beside the garage. It is important to realize that homes with attached garages are often found to have a higher level of benzene and other airborne chemicals indoors.
- Check for any openings or leaks between the garage and the home. If any entry points are detected, seal them properly. If possible, move the room away from the garage
- You may choose to install an exhaust fan to better ventilate the garage. This will help limit the level of harmful gases from getting into the home.
- Install a carbon monoxide detector in any bedroom located adjacent to the garage. Ensure adequate ventilation is available especially in that room to prevent high levels of carbon monoxide from building up over time.
Outside the Home
The chimney is designed to get rid of harmful pollutants from your home which is why it should be maintained properly and regularly checked.
- Check for obstructions such as bird nests, leaves, and pieces of brick that may be blocking pollutants from getting out of the home. If you find any items blocking the chimney, remove them if you can or ask a professional to do this.
- If you have a screen or grate to block any pests or animals from getting into your home, make sure it is in good condition and not broken or scratched.
- Replace the screen if it is not in good condition.
Eavestroughs and Downspouts
Rain gutters, also known as eavestroughs and downspouts, help to remove water that has fallen onto the roof and direct it either away from the house or into a rain barrel. Improperly maintained and clogged rain gutters could lead to your home becoming flooded, with mould growth and moisture building up indoors causing lung health problems over time.
- Keep gutters clear of leaves, twigs, ice, mud, and other sediment that may build up. You may want to check the gutters each time you do yard work or experience higher than normal moisture inside your home.
- If your eavestroughs overflow even when clear of debris, replace them with larger sized eavestroughs and downspouts.
- Make sure your downspout extends at least six feet away from your basement walls and does not point towards your home or a neighbour’s home. Water should drain away from the house toward the street or backyard.
Trees and Plants
Many homes have trees surrounding it that provide shade and protection from the sun and wind. There are both positive aspects of trees and plants placed around a home, as well as some considerations to keep in mind if you decide to add more greenery to your home.
- More trees surrounding a home can keep the home cooler during the summer. This reduces the need for air conditioning and fans, leading to less burning of fossil fuels required to generate electricity and improved air quality.
- Try to plant trees on the north side of your home to block cold winter winds. This will help keep your home warmer during the winter months, requiring less heat in your home and less fossil fuels to be burned.
- To reduce the chance of water getting into the basement, ideally there should be no plants within about 2 m (6 ft.) of the foundation of the home.
- If you use lawn and garden pesticides, be aware that they can be tracked into the home through pets, shoes, or clothing.
Cracks and Holes
It is natural for a home’s outer walls, doors or windows to have cracks and holes develop over time. However, you should have any repairs done as soon as you can to prevent anything from entering your home and causing air quality problems.
- Cracks in the outer walls allow moisture to get into your home, potentially causing mould to grow or even leading to a flood. Seal up any cracks properly once they are found. If you notice cracks re-appearing or growing larger after repair, have a qualified professional look at the foundation of the home.
- Foundation cracks can also lead to radon entering your home and accumulating to potentially high levels that can cause lung cancer over a long period of time. Seal up any cracks found indoors which will help prevent radon from entering the home.
- If you notice broken screens or holes around your doors and windows, get them repaired as soon as you can to prevent pests and rodents from getting in. If this happens, use non-toxic pest control measures. If you have rodents, stuff steel wool into the cracks until you can repair them or place traps where they enter the home. For ants, sprinkle cayenne pepper at their point of entry. Use pesticide-free glue traps to catch crawling insects.
Barbeques and Fire Pits
Barbequing and sitting around the backyard fire pit are common Canadian summertime activities. It is important to use them properly to prevent any health issues from exposure to pollutants.
- Monitor your air quality and weather forecast to determine wind conditions and any air alerts that may be occurring when you’re planning on using a barbeque or fire pit. Try not to do any outdoor burning on a hazy or smog day, when the air quality reading is poor, or when there is no wind as it will keep wood smoke particles close to the ground where people can inhale them. Also, do not light a fire pit during windy conditions as this can cause sparks to fly around and cause the fire to get out of control.
- Make sure your barbeque or fire pit is not located too close to the home as any drifting smoke can easily get indoors through windows or doors.
- For a barbeque on a deck, try to place the barbeque on the farthest side of the deck away from the home.
- For a fire pit, check your local municipality’s bylaws before putting one in your backyard as there may be rules outlining a minimum distance the fire pit needs to be placed from any structure. This includes trees, power lines, or sheds.