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Tips to Safeguard Your Indoor Air Quality During Fire Season

forest fires affect air quality

Once again, Canada’s annual “fire season” is making headlines around the world. Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) has issued a series of air quality alerts and safety precautions to help you through the unavoidable toxic fallout from this season’s wildfires.

Here at Clean Air Solutions Hamilton, we want to offer you some additional timely tips for keeping your indoor air as clean and toxin-free as possible during this time.

While none of us can control the quality of the outside air when fires are raging, we can have a great deal of control over the purity of our inside air—thank goodness! Read on for tips you can act on right away to clean and purify your indoor air.

Know the Health Symptoms of Toxic Smoke Exposure

ECCC maintains a symptoms list online to alert you to the warning signs of smoke exposure. It is a good idea to familiarize yourself with these symptoms, especially if you or a loved one has a history of severe allergies or asthma.

  • Watering, sore or itchy eyes

  • Runny nose

  • Respiratory irritation or inflammation

  • Scratchy or sore throat

  • Coughing or wheezing

  • Chest pains

  • Heart palpitations or even heart attack

  • Difficulty breathing and/or onset of asthma attacks

Take the Necessary Precautionary Steps

ECCC offers this list of precautionary steps you can take to manage the risk of smoke exposure during wildfire season.

1. Follow ECCC’s FireWork

FireWork is an online tool that generates smoke forecasts over a 48-hour period. You can view a morning and evening forecast showing airborne smoke movement predictions based on wind direction. FireWork is operational each year from April 1 to October 31.

2. Use the “recirculate” air option while driving

When driving, set your vehicle’s ventilation system to “recirculate” so you are not drawing in smoke through the air vents.

3. Take your workouts indoors

There is no doubt it can be a hardship to limit your outdoor activities, but your lungs, sinuses, and respiratory system will thank you for it.

The more you can make arrangements to work out, enjoy sports, and other hobbies indoors where the air is being filtered, the healthier you will stay during wildfire season.

4. Refrain from adding additional toxins to your indoor air supply

This can include indoor use of tobacco products, wood-fired stove cooking, using your fireplace, burning leaf litter, using candles/incense, and other similar activities.

Since the air is already burdened more than usual with smoke-related toxins, every little bit you can cut back will help you stay healthier.

5. Choose your cleaning and personal care products carefully

More people are now aware that many commercial cleaning products and personal care products like perfumes and air fresheners are not always safe to breathe.

By opting for all-natural cleaning products and using essential oils rather than chemical perfumes and air fresheners, you can safeguard your indoor air starting now.

6. Don’t wait if you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms

Your local province likely maintains a health hotline with up-to-date information on air quality alerts.

Here in Ontario, you can consult Air Quality Ontario for daily updates on air quality issues related to airborne smoke as well as other factors like smog.

Be Proactive About Indoor Air Purity

It can be frustrating to watch the wildfires once again spreading smoke across the clear skies above you. It can also be easy to stop taking air quality seriously when you live with the same annual cycle year after year.

But smoke poisoning is nothing to take lightly—it can be life limiting and sometimes deadly. Since Canada’s wildfires are an annual occurrence, it can also make smart health and financial sense to take a proactive approach toward managing your own indoor air quality.

These are the three best helps we have found to achieve consistently clean, pure, and healthy indoor air.

HEPA Filtration

High efficiency particulate air filters have been the gold standard in airborne toxin filtration since World War II, when HEPA filters were developed to filter radioactive micro-particles out of the air in scientific laboratories.

You won’t find any better indoor air filtration anywhere in the world than the HEPA filtration systems you can get right here in Canada.

These are the four main ways to use HEPA air filtration technology:

  • Upgrade your HVAC to a unit rated for efficiency at 16 or higher that will work efficiently with HEPA-rated air filters.

  • Install an external whole-home HEPA filtration system that works with your existing HVAC unit.

  • Add portable HEPA filtration devices in each room of your home.

  • Convert to a HEPA-rated vacuum and use it with your carpeting and flooring.

Heat Recovery Ventilator

This whole-home system isolates stale outgoing air from fresh incoming air to ensure all outgoing pollutants are disposed of safely outside your home.

The heat recovery ventilator, or HRV for short, also automatically adjusts the humidity of your indoor air to maintain healthy levels between 30 and 50 percent.

Most pertinently for wildfire season safety, the HRV comes with an inbuilt recirculated air mode to prevent airborne smoke toxins from finding their way inside your home’s air supply.

Ultraviolet Air Purifiers

UV air purifiers use powerful UV technology to destroy airborne toxins and odours. Both portable and central whole-home units are available.

Save 20 Percent Through Our Breathe Clean Air Event

Right now, you can save 20 percent on ALL indoor air quality appliances and devices we sell! Learn more by completing this simple online form or just give us a call at 905-544-2470.

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Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About HEPA Filters

HEPA filter

HEPA is an acronym that stands for high efficiency particulate air. The HEPA filter is the most efficient and effective air filter in the world.

Even your garden variety HEPA filter has the ability to filter out 99.97 percent of all airborne particulate matter. But what is even more amazing is that it can trap particles as small as 0.3 microns—this is the diameter of a single human hair!

Why is this important to know? Today, the air we breathe is getting more and more congested with toxins. Not only are we breathing in pollen, pet dander, dust, mould, bacteria, viruses, and chemicals daily, but we are breathing in more of these toxins than ever before.

Even worse, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that the indoor air we are breathing is up to five times more toxic than the outside air.

Why is this so significant? Because today, we spend up to 90 percent of our average day indoors!

While we can’t always do a lot to combat outside air pollution, with the help of the HEPA filter, we absolutely can control how clean and safe the air is inside our cars, workplaces, and houses.

In this post, learn everything you ever wanted to know about HEPA filters, including their history, how they work, and where you can find them!

A Brief History of HEPA

HEPA technology was invented during World War II in the 1940s. The goal at the time was to filter out tiny airborne radioactive toxins emitted during the manufacturing of atomic bombs.

HEPA filters turned out to be very good at their job. The filter design was based on gas masks worn by U.S. soldiers fighting in the war. The gas masks contained a special type of complex paper that filtered out airborne toxins in four different ways to ensure the soldiers’ lungs were protected.

Today’s HEPA filters still use essentially the same filtration techniques to achieve a level of air purity no other filter can match. After the war, HEPA filters were quickly adapted first for use in medical and research labs, nuclear facilities, hospitals, and surgical clinics and then for commercial and residential applications.

Today, seven decades since their invention, HEPA filters are more popular than ever.

Appliances That Use HEPA Filtration

HEPA filters can be found in a variety of appliances and devices today. The most common place where HEPA filters are found continues to be in high efficiency air conditioning (HVAC) units.

But HEPA filters are also being used in vacuum cleaners, car air filters, air filtration devices (portable/whole home), as well as certain types of exhaust venting filters.

The good news here is, if you want to make use of HEPA filter technology to clean and filter your air at home or at work, you can do it.

How a HEPA Filter Can Improve Your Health

The following examples represent just a handful of the many ways that you can use a HEPA filter to keep your indoor air clean and safe.

1. Offers relief from allergies

Health experts like WebMD recommend HEPA filters as a tool for individuals who are particularly prone to allergies, whether from seasonal pollens or other airborne toxins.

2. Strengthens cardiovascular health

With regular use, you can improve your cardiovascular health and reduce your risk for heart disease and lung damage.

3. Improves sleep and reduce asthma attacks

HEPA filters can help make measurable improvements in your sleep and reduce the risk of asthma attacks.

4. Reduces risk of lung cancer from breathing in secondhand smoke

If your household includes both smokers and non-smokers, the use of a HEPA filtration system can reduce non-smokers’ risk of contracting lung disease from secondhand smoke.

What Type of HEPA Filter Should You Get?

It is hard to resist a list of health benefits as long as the one that use of HEPA filters can provide. However, just fitting your air conditioner with a HEPA-rated internal air filter may not be the right solution for you.

This is because a HEPA filter carries an efficiency rating above a “16,” which is the highest rating currently in use for residential HVAC systems. The higher the efficiency rating, the more the filter will restrict air flow as it filters out airborne particulate matter.

For this reason, most residential HVAC units don’t easily accommodate internal HEPA filters. However, there is another way to accomplish the same result. You can simply add an exterior HEPA filtration system that works directly with your HVAC system to filter out the air to the level of a commercial grade HEPA filter (17 to 20 rating).

Another option is to take a combination approach by adding several room HEPA filters to your home. For the best results, you should place these portable HEPA filters in each bedroom, the bathroom(s), the kitchen, and the common area. This will give you a commensurate air quality result to a single whole-home external HEPA unit.

You can also upgrade to a vacuum cleaner that has a HEPA-rated inbuilt filter. This will pull many of the allergens and aggravating toxins out of your carpet and off your flooring so they no longer cause health symptoms.

Give Us a Call

Here at Clean Air Solutions Hamilton, we love to talk about air quality! We also love helping our clients clean and purify your indoor air!

Our summer Breathe Clean Air Event is going on right now. You can save 20 percent off all Whole Home HEPA Filters, Whole Home UV Filtration Systems, Heat Recovery Ventilators, and Whole Home Humidifiers.

Give us a call at 905-544-2470 or complete this easy online form to reserve your discount today!

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Virus Season is Here: How to Stay Healthy This July

stop summer virus season

If you asked the Public Health Agency of Canada about this, they’d tell you July might as well be renamed “virus month.” Outside of the winter cold and flu season, no month of the year produces a higher number of viral outbreaks than hot, humid July.

As an example, take a look at this PHAC viral detection/outbreak report for July. No fewer than six viral strains were reported: para-influenza, adenovirus, hMPV, enterovirus/rhinovirus, coronavirus, and RSV.

Each of these viruses is transmitted by human-to-human contact, and all love warm, sweaty weather. Some of these viruses are arguably low-level (common cold), while others can cause severe respiratory distress and worse.

As you will notice from even a casual scan of the PHAC graphs, mid-month in July is prime time for these viruses to get busy infecting people. So what can you do to stay healthy this month?

In this article, we share timely tips to keep your indoor air clean, pristine, and airborne virus-free!

Keep Those Air Filters Squeaky Clean!

Your very first order of business during the months of both July and August is to make sure your indoor air filters stay squeaky clean.

If you have been thinking about upgrading to HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters, this is a great month to do it, so long as your air conditioning unit is compatible.

But most of all, you want to make sure you are diligent about keeping all filters clean and clear. This includes portable air purifiers, room dehumidifiers, central A/C filters, vacuum filters, and dryer vent lint traps.

This will ensure viral airborne particulate matter is promptly removed from your home and disposed of, rather than lingering to populate and infect your indoor air supply.

Resist the Temptation to Buy New Furnishings

There are two powerful reasons to avoid upgrading your home furnishings during the heat of the summer in July and August.

The first reason is cost-related: if you wait until fall, you can take advantage of summer clearance sales to get the best prices on new furniture, bedding, carpeting, draperies, and other home furnishings.

But the more pressing reason is health-related: new home furnishings often give off toxic gases when you first bring them home.

Carpeting is particularly guilty of this, but any new home furnishing can emit powerful chemicals from factory-treated fabrics or decorative accents that can irritate your sensitive respiratory membranes while they are already under assault from the full host of warm-weather viruses.

The same holds true for DIY home projects that require primers, paints, varnishes, glues, stains and composite materials—these can also emit toxic off-gassing into your air supply at a time when your immune system is already compromised.

Dehumidify Daily As Needed

July and August could easily be voted the months most likely to reach humidity levels above 50 percent.

In general, the Government of Canada Health website recommends maintaining indoor humidity levels between 30 and 50 percent.

Here, you can expect levels nearer the 50 percent mark in summer and levels nearer the 30 percent mark in winter. But when your indoor humidity increases beyond 50 percent, which is most likely to occur in July and August, you can start experiencing a range of health issues.

One of the most common is home outbreaks of mould and mildew colonies. Mould and mildew may try to grow year-round in naturally damp areas like bathrooms or basements, but in the high-humidity summer season, these tiny colonies can grow and send out spores to colonize new locations inside your home.

Left unchecked, mould and mildew can create a costly remediation issue and do real damage to your respiratory health. During these months, when your air conditioner can’t handle the full responsibility of controlling the humidity in your indoor air, it is smart to add a dehumidifier, especially in bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms, attics, and basements.

Have Your Indoor Air Duct System Professionally Cleaned

If you are like most Canadian homeowners, you probably didn’t receive any record of a home air duct cleaning when you bought your home. This is likely because this type of cleaning has never been done.

So you can calculate how many years’ worth of dust and debris has built up inside your central air duct system based on the age of your house and how much you use your air conditioning unit and furnace/heater. The older your home is and the more you use your air conditioner and heating unit, the more dust is likely to be trapped inside your duct system right now.

Every time your air conditioner kicks on, some of this trapped dust and debris is pushed back out into your home’s indoor air supply. If you see little puffs of dust when your air conditioning unit starts cycling, or you find your eyes watering or nose running in these moments, it is likely your body is reacting to the increase in dust and allergens in your indoor air.

A professional duct cleaning can remove 100 percent of the trapped debris, dust, dirt and allergens in just one afternoon, leaving your indoor air supply pure and fresh.

Best of all, July and August are hands-down the best months all year to have this service done, because this is when your immune system can most benefit from having the cleanest, freshest air to breathe!

Give Us a Call

Here at Clean Air Solutions Hamilton, our goal is to keep you healthy year-round. Give us a call at 905-544-2470 to schedule your free consultation for a professional indoor air duct cleaning.

And don’t forget to take advantage of our Breathe Clean Air event for 20 percent off whole home HEPA filters, UV filters, heat recovery ventilators, and humidifiers.

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