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Living Room

What can be harmful to you and your family in your LIVING ROOM?


Many Canadian homes have fireplaces for ambience and extra warmth. Some homes burn wood as the main source of heat. It is important to follow a number of key steps when burning any wood indoors.

  • Inspect your chimneys and flues annually for corrosion, blockages, and cracks that could let dangerous gases (e.g. carbon monoxide) enter your home.
  • When using your fireplace, open a window a little bit to ensure a good supply of fresh air into your home.
  • Do not burn plastics, newspapers, magazines, painted wood, or cardboard as they can all release dangerous chemicals into your home’s air.
  • Make sure wood is stored outdoors, dried, kept off the ground, and loosely covered.
  • When installing a fireplace, be sure that it is installed by a certified contractor who will ensure proper installation and safety. Check to see if they are a Wood Energy Technical Training (WETT) certified member.
  • Poorly maintained and inefficient fireplaces can lead to difficulty breathing, coughing, irritation of the lungs, and asthma attacks in sensitive individuals.
  • Ensure your wood burning appliances are being used properly and not causing breathing problems or making air unpleasant for your neighbours.

Although dust is found everywhere, it can be controlled, both at the source and through regular cleaning.

  • Vacuum using a central vacuum system or one with a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter at least once a week.
  • Where possible, replace carpeting with smooth flooring.
  • Regularly clean items with damp cloths that collect dust and dirt. Common dust collectors include: television and television stand, electronic equipment, coffee table, bookcase or shelving unit, paintings hung from the wall, lamps and lampshades, and blinds.
  • Regularly vacuum soft furniture such as sofas and cushions to remove food crumbs, pet dander and dust mites. If possible, vacuum or wash curtains.
  • One part lemon juice with two parts vegetable oil makes a safe furniture and floor polish.
  • Regularly replace furnace filters and vacuum your heating vents.
Outdoor Air

Although indoor air is often more polluted than outdoor air, sometimes opening windows can let in unwanted allergens and irritants.

  • If you are allergic to pollen or mould or affected by outdoor pollution levels, monitor forecasts through your local weather channel or online at www.weather.ca
  • When pollen, mould, or pollution levels are high, it may be more important to keep your windows closed than to ventilate your home.
  • Pollen levels tend to be higher in the morning, whereas air pollution levels tend to build up to higher levels in the late afternoon.
  • Pollen levels are higher on warm, sunny, windy days.
  • Smog alerts often occur on hot sunny days.
  • Although pollen levels drop on rainy days, wet weather can lead to increased outdoor moulds.
  • Air conditioning can be helpful to reduce your exposure to pollen and air pollution on hot days, as well as reduce your indoor humidity.

Carpets may be a source of air pollution in your home as they emit a variety of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as formaldehyde, benzene, and styrene. Sources of pollutants include: a new carpet, the underpad, and any adhesives used for installation. Biological irritants commonly found in carpets include bacteria, dust, dust mites, pet dander and moulds.

  • If possible, limit or remove all carpeting in your home.
  • Ask your retailer for low emission carpet and padding.
  • Do not let babies or toddlers crawl on a brand new carpet since they can breathe in large amounts of chemicals. Air out the carpet and ventilate the home for several days or weeks before allowing children to play on it.
  • When getting rid of an old carpet, vacuum it before removal to limit the amount of particles released into the air.
  • When new carpet is being installed, open windows in your home and turn on exhaust fans and the central ventilation system to provide as much fresh air as possible. Try to stay away from your home during installation.
  • Vacuum carpets regularly with a central vacuum system or one with a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter.
  • Use a low odour carpet cleaner that has no caution or toxic symbol. Make sure the carpet dries fully after wet cleaning.
  • To remove odours, sprinkle baking soda onto carpet, let stand for 15 minutes or more, and vacuum afterwards.
  • Clean spills promptly and thoroughly. If your carpet is water damaged and mouldy, it should be removed and thrown away.
  • Do not wear shoes inside the home as they track in dirt and other potentially harmful items from the outdoors and can become trapped within your carpet.

Many people are allergic to pets such as dogs or cats. Some people may not be able to visit a family member or friend’s home if there’s a pet due to their allergies.

  • Although there are steps you can take to reduce exposure to pet allergens, if you are allergic to a pet, it is best not have it in your home.
  • Other steps include:
    • Wash and groom your pet frequently to limit pet dander and other allergens.
    • Keep your pet off furniture and out of bedrooms.
    • Vacuum carpets and soft furniture, and wipe floors regularly (at least once a week) to reduce pet allergens.
    • Sprinkle baking soda in the litter box to prevent odours from spreading.
    • Teach pet-allergic family members to limit touching the pet, and to wash their hands right after interacting with it.
    • Find a new home for your pet if a family member is very allergic.