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How to Take Back Your Indoor Air Quality After a Flood

basement flood air quality

This has been a record-breaking year for flooding throughout Canada. In many areas, homeowners have struggled through days or weeks of cleanup, enduring displacement, emotional distress, and high costs for remediation and repair.

Whenever there is a water breach, mould is always a danger. Mould is fast-growing and fast-spreading. The moment a single mould colony establishes itself, it begins to send out small messengers called “spores.” The spores are airborne, but they will travel only until they find another suitable spot to land and grow a new mould colony.

If mould wasn’t so toxic and unwelcome, it might be considered quite amazing. After all, a mould colony can begin to grow and replicate itself in less than 24 hours after a flooding rainstorm. It can grow practically anywhere, including on fabric, drywall, wood, tiles, cardboard, and carpet.

And mould isn’t always easy to spot, until the colony has become well established (it tends to be easier to smell than see). In this article, we review what to do if your home and indoor air is impacted by mould.

The Health Hazards of Mould

There is no such thing as “non-toxic mould.” All mould is toxic. The more mould there is, the more toxic it becomes, but even very small amounts can deliver potent health hazards.

The Ontario Lung Association reports a series of common symptoms that can arise after mould exposure:

  • Respiratory distress, including allergies and sinus infections

  • Irritation to the eyes, nasal passages, and skin

  • Lung inflammation and infection

  • Asthma episodes

  • Increased allergies

  • Chest tightness and shortness of breath

  • Sore throat

  • Flu-type symptoms

  • Coughing, wheezing, spitting up phlegm/mucus

  • Headaches

  • Feelings of fatigue

Identifying Mould Colonies

Because mould can be challenging to identify visually in the earliest hours after flooding, the more information you have about where mould grows and telltale signs of its presence, the easier it will be to find it.

Health Canada offers these helpful tips about spotting new mould colonies:

  • Look for any areas in your home compromised by moisture. Condensation, standing water, stains, discoloured fabrics or flooring, and small leaks and drips are all good warning signs.

  • Any kind of musty, grassy, stale, or “old” odour can also be an indication that mould is starting to grow.

  • Patches of white (mildew), brown, green, or black on walls, tiles, flooring, grout, windowsills, and elsewhere are indications that a mould colony could be present.

Tackling Mould Cleanup

If you can dry your home out quickly, you will have a better chance of containing indoor mould growth. But remember, mould primarily travels by air, so you will need to clean more than just the floors and walls to keep the mould out for good.

  1. This first step is often the hardest, because you need to discard anything that has been impacted by moisture or mould, including treasured clothing, art, books, and furnishings and even mattresses and pillows.

  2. Next, you can begin to dry out compromised areas using air conditioning, dehumidification and plenty of ventilation.

  3. A HEPA filter-equipped vacuum cleaner is the only safe way to vacuum carpeting or flooring inside a flooded home.

  4. You can clean smaller mould colonies (those less than 3 meters), but for larger areas, it is better to hire a professional remediation company.

Make Sure the Mould Stays Gone for Good

Here are seven key ways to keep mould out of your home for good!

  1. Install a heat recovery ventilator (air exchanger) to keep the humidity inside your home balanced and mould-intolerant.

  2. Retrofit your HVAC unit duct system with a HEPA whole home filter to catch even the smallest mould spores as they try to pass through.

  3. Convert permanently to a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA-rated filter to clean carpets and flooring.

  4. Schedule a professional cleaning for your air duct system and your dryer vents. This will securely remove and sanitize your home from remaining mould spores.

  5. Have any mattresses you plan to keep professionally cleaned.

  6. Choose new home furnishings with care, including flooring, paneling, furniture, carpeting, blinds, drapes, paints and primers, stains and varnishes. Many of these items contain formaldehyde, volatile organic compounds, and other toxic gases that can pollute your indoor air further.

  7. Use an air purifier to literally neutralize remaining mould spores as they pass through.

Consider a Timely HVAC Upgrade

Depending on the cause of your home’s mould outbreak, you may be entitled to some compensation through disaster relief grants or subsidies, or payouts through your homeowner’s insurance or overland flood insurance policy.

This can be a good time to consider upgrading your HVAC to one that is HEPA-rated (MERV 16 through 20).

Not only can this circumvent the need to install a HEPA whole home filtration system that can work with your existing HVAC unit, but you will also benefit from the considerable energy efficiency advantages that can lower your monthly utility bills.

According to the Energy Star program, if your HVAC unit is 10 years old or older, you could save up to 20 percent on your cooling and heating expenses annually by replacing it with a new energy-efficient combo.

Give Us a Call and Save 20 Percent on Mould Prevention Equipment

How would you like to save 20 percent on a whole home HEPA filtration system, whole home humidifier, whole home ultraviolet filtration system or whole home heat recovery ventilator?

If this sounds good, now is the time to take advantage of the savings, during our Breathe Clean Air Event! Right now, save 20 percent on any of these powerful air quality aids and wave goodbye to the threat of household mould forever!

Give us a call at 905-544-2470 or fill out this simple online form to claim your discount!

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Are You Allergic to Your Furry Family Member? Get Fast Relief With These Indoor Air Quality Tips!

pet allergy relief

Owning a pet cat or dog (or any species of pet) comes with many measurable health benefits. Often, pet owners exhibit lower stress levels, increased physical fitness, better mental health, and more chances to smile daily.

According to the Canadian Animal Health Institute (CAHI), Canadians are noticing these benefits and are responding by bringing more pets into their homes.

As of the most recent pet ownership survey, 41 percent of all Canadian households report the inclusion of at least one canine family member; 37 percent of households reportedly include at least one feline family member.

But even with the many undeniable health benefits of pet ownership, there is also a dark side—allergies. This can be a particularly tricky issue during the fall, when ragweed allergies are also on the rise.

How can you enjoy the fall season and the company of your beloved pet without always having to keep a box of tissues handy? These tips will help you find fast relief from pet-related allergies.

The Goal: Cut Back on Pet Dander-Related Proteins

If your pet has hair or feathers or fur, it also has dander. And dander has proteins called allergens that can produce lots of allergy symptoms.

These same proteins also exist in pet saliva and urine, which means that when your dog lovingly licks your face, you may be in for a rough night in the respiratory department.

The ultimate goal here is to reduce your exposure to these protein allergens without reducing your exposure to your pet. Each of the tips that follow are designed to help you achieve this.

1. Head for a HEPA filter!

HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) is still the gold standard for air filtration today. HEPA filters were first developed during the second World War to protect laboratory workers.

Following the war’s end, plenty of other uses have been found for these wonderful air filters. Labs, hospitals, clinics, businesses, and homes all use HEPA filtration systems to clean and filter the indoor air that circulates throughout these spaces.

There are several ways to add HEPA filtration into your home environment:

  • Equip your HVAC and furnace with a HEPA-rated or MERV 16-20 level filter. This will work only if your appliances are rated appropriately to work efficiently with these higher level filters.

  • Add portable HEPA filters to relevant rooms. Bedrooms, living areas, kitchens, and laundry rooms are all great places to add a portable HEPA filter to trap airborne protein allergens.

  • Retrofit your ducted HVAC/furnace system with a HEPA whole home filtration system. This type of system will work with any type of appliance because it filters the air after it leaves the air conditioner or heater but before it enters your duct system.

  • Use a HEPA-equipped vacuum cleaner. This is the best way to remove pet protein allergens from your floors and carpeting.

2. Have your indoor air ducts cleaned professionally

Many homeowners are now becoming more aware of the need to periodically clean and sanitize the system of ducts that carries air from room to room. In many cases, a home may be occupied for several decades with no record that this service has ever been performed!

Can you imagine what your lawn would look like if you didn’t mow it for 20 years? Or how about deciding to just skip dusting and vacuuming for the next decade? But since the air ducts are hidden from plain sight, it is really easy to forget they are even there.

A professional indoor air duct cleaning will vacuum out every last particle of pet protein allergens as well as other potent pollutants, toxins, debris, and dirt, leaving your indoor air duct system squeaky clean, sanitized, and deodorized. Many of our clients say they can not only feel but also SMELL the difference after having their ductwork cleaned out!

3. Ban your pet from your bedroom

While this isn’t typically high on the list of pet lover favorite tips, it is sufficiently useful to alleviate pet-related allergies that Pet WebMD lists it FIRST as a method for reducing the amount of concentrated pet-related allergens you may be exposed to from day to day.

The simple truth is that when you let your pet lie on your bed or, worse, sleep with you all night, you are breathing in air that is literally packed full of pet allergens. If you absolutely cannot bear to sleep apart from your pet, you can try using mattress and pillow covers that are anti-allergen to help reduce the concentration of these proteins.

Other options include switching from carpeting to wood or tile flooring, keeping your air registers clean, sweeping and vacuuming regularly, brushing your pet frequently (outdoors if possible), washing your pet’s bedding weekly, and giving your pet at least twice-weekly baths.

Remember, Your Pets Can Get Allergies Too!

In all this talk of pet allergies, it is important to remember that humans may not be the only family members suffering from the misery of fall allergies.

Pets can also develop allergies and inflammation as the weather changes seasonally. Common triggers include changing humidity levels, airborne dust and pollen, mould and mildew exposure, and sensitivity to specific seasonal pollens (such as ragweed).

The tips here can ease your pet’s discomfort, too. In addition, you may want to consider installing an air purifier, either a whole home version or a portable unit, in your pet’s bed area to snuff out allergens that have hitched a ride into the house on your pet’s fur.

Save 20 Percent on Indoor Air Quality

Save 20 percent on whole home HEPA filters, UV filtration systems, heat recovery ventilators, and humidifiers.

Call us at 905-544-2470 or complete this simple online form to reserve your discount!

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Hay Fever Season Is Here: How Fall Cleaning Can Safeguard Your Indoor Air Quality

fall allergies

As reported by CBC News, hay fever season arrives like clockwork four times per year. In the fall season, the main culprit causing hay fever symptoms is a plant called ragweed. This plant loves to make pollen and release it into the air.

Then the airborne pollen, which is packed full of allergy-causing proteins, can reach you pretty much anywhere you go.

Even worse, ragweed particularly likes to grow in what biologists call “distressed” soil, which is mostly found in cities. So if you live in a city environment and you are allergic to ragweed, you might feel like you are doomed.

However, there are many actions you can take to reduce your risk of breathing in ragweed pollen this fall. Read on to learn what to do now!

What You Are Up Against

According to Web MD, there are at least 17 different species of ragweed that grow in North America.

Each single plant can release up to 1 billion pollen spores during the fall bloom season. All that from just one plant!

As well, the fall bloom season itself is increasing due to rising temperatures and levels of carbon dioxide in the air. This means that each plant is now blooming more vigorously than ever before and for longer than ever before.

So now, instead of two months of allergic misery, you have three months (August through October).

Finally, ragweed pollen spores are unusually tiny and lightweight, meaning they can travel with even the merest breeze. And they have no problem traveling over large bodies of water like oceans and very high up into the atmosphere (here, think 400 miles across the sea and 2 miles up into the atmosphere).

So this is the opponent you are up against. But even with such daunting odds, you can do a lot to keep ragweed spores from reaching you.

Steps to Minimize Exposure to Ragweed

Did you know that the Weather Channel website publishes a daily pollen count for different areas? For example, in the Toronto area, you can visit the Weather website daily to see pollen counts for tree, grass, and ragweed pollens.

The website also offers a “breathing comfort” meter to warn you if the day ahead is forecasted as difficult for allergy and asthma sufferers. This can be a great tool for getting the jump on ragweed pollen!

From there, these are the steps to take to minimize your actual risk of inhaling or ingesting ragweed pollen spores:

1. Stay indoors on high ragweed pollen days

This is a good strategy for any day that delivers high ragweed pollen projections.

Here, the most critical hours are between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., since these are the hours most likely to deliver the warm, humid growing conditions ragweed plants like best.

2. Change or clean your home, workplace, and auto air filters monthly

While fall is generally a time when you can let your guard down just a bit in terms of changing your air filters, for ragweed sufferers, this is the time to really ramp up your efforts.

If you have reusable air filters, clean them as often as weekly. For disposable filters, monthly is the longest you should wait between changes.

3. Leave your shoes and coat at the door and take a shower right away

Even as you walk from your car to your home, expect to pick up some ragweed pollen along the way. But when you come home at night, strive to bring as little of it as possible inside with you.

You can reduce the threat of inhaling indoors ragweed pollen by taking your shoes and coat off and leaving them by the door. Then you can head right to the shower to wash your skin and hair and remove any additional clinging pollen.

4. Always dry your clothes in the dryer and clean your dryer vents regularly

When you dry your clothes in the dryer instead of hanging them on the line outdoors, your dryer vents will suck up any clinging ragweed pollen during the dry cycle.

However, the good work of your dryer will depend on how often you clean out your dryer vents… and not just the front lint trap. Here, we are talking about the inaccessible interior vents that require professional dryer vent cleaning.

As a side bonus, fall is a great time to have your dryer vents professionally cleaned, since clogged dryer vents is one of the chief culprits of fall and winter home fires!

5. Clean out your indoor air ducts

Any ragweed pollen you don’t catch when you come indoors will eventually make its way up into your duct system, where it can get blown out into the rooms of your home repeatedly.

Cleaning out your indoor air ducts not only removes the most recent crop of ragweed pollen, but it also removes any ragweed pollen that has ever gotten trapped inside your vents, ever.

A professional indoor air duct cleaning is a one-day job that leaves your indoor air fresh and pure.

6. Install HEPA filters

Installing HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters is like bringing a cannon to a gunfight—you are guaranteed to win.

You can install portable (room) HEPA filters, use a HEPA-rated vacuum cleaner, upgrade to a HEPA-rated HVAC system, or install a whole home HEPA system that works with your existing HVAC combo.

Save 20 Percent on HEPA Filtration Now!

Our Breathe Clean Air Event can help you save 20 percent on whole home indoor air quality appliances, including a whole-home HEPA filtration system.

Call us at 905-544-2470 or complete this simple online form to claim your discount.

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