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What the Yuck? Find Out What Is Hiding Inside Your Air Ducts!

child holding nose because of smell

Everyone loves those science shows with titles like “The Secret Lives of….” They take you behind the scenes and show you footage of animals, plants and even bacteria!

But all of that seems very far away from your clean, neat and comfortable city abode. Or does it?

Have you had a peek inside your air duct system lately? Air ducts can be pretty mysterious places. They can also be pretty scary, especially when they haven’t been cleaned in a decade… or ever.

In fact, most air duct systems in homes and businesses across Canada have remained relatively untouched since the day they were initially installed, 10 or 20 or 30-plus years ago. It has been only in the last five years that information about how air duct toxicity can impact human health has even become widely available to the general consumer.

In this post, we introduce you to some of the most potent toxins that could be hiding inside your air ducts. And we tell you what to do to get rid of them for good!

Meet Your Duct Neighbors: You Can’t See Them, But They Can See You!

If you were a small insect or animal looking for a safe place to hide from predators or the elements, where would you go first?

As you were crawling along the gutters or across the roof shingles or up the side of a structure, you might suddenly see a crack or crevice and crawl inside it. Then, lo and behold, you might find yourself inside a DUCT!

This duct would probably seem a lot like Shangri-la to you—a warm, moist, dark and lovely spot where you could rest, sleep, even breed and raise your young in relative safety!

But insects and small rodents are just a few of the visitors that tend to make themselves at home inside existing ductwork systems. There are other toxins that are far more potent that may also be making themselves at home inside your ducts!

  • Dirt and debris

  • Dust and dust mites

  • Pollen

  • Pet dander

  • Human hair and skin flakes

  • Mildew and mould colonies and spores

  • Bacteria

  • Discarded beetle shells and dead insects

  • Rodent droppings and old nesting sites

  • Combustion gases, including carbon monoxide

  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)

  • Bits of degraded insulation or sealant

  • Wood dust or construction debris

  • Wood smoke and tobacco residue

In the several years since Shipton’s Heating and Cooling launched its sister business, Clean Air Solutions Hamilton, we have completed hundreds of professional air duct cleaning service jobs.

Some of the things we have found lurking inside the air duct systems of homes and businesses are really harmless yet quite mind-boggling (science fiction novels, jewelry, action figures?). But mostly, what we find is actually potentially very harmful to the health of our clients and their visitors, such as the toxins in the list above here.

When we find these types of duct visitors, we always recommend proceeding with an air duct cleaning service!

What to Expect During a Professional Air Duct Cleaning Service

There is no doubt a professional air duct cleaning service is an intangible investment at first. In other words, it isn’t the type of thing you can show off at your next happy hour. No one really wants to watch a video tour of your air ducts before and after cleaning.

Yet you will be able to feel the impact right away when you breathe. Many clients say their indoor air at home or work actually smells cleaner after the air duct cleaning!

The first thing we do when we’re talking with a client about scheduling a professional indoor air duct cleaning is an initial inspection of their duct system. During the inspection, we insert a tiny camera inside the air ducts to see what there is.

Urgent warning signs we look for include these types of issues:

  • Insects crawling in and out of the air registers or exhaust vents

  • Visible mildew or mould growth

  • Obvious damp surfaces or wet patches

  • Visual obstruction, such as from built-up dust or debris

  • Insect shells, dead insects or rodent droppings

Our client is always present for this inspection and can see what we’re seeing on the remote camera’s video screen. We don’t always recommend scheduling an air duct cleaning service right then and there, but if we see any of these warning signs, we encourage the client to proceed as soon as possible!

The average indoor air duct cleaning service takes less than one day. For business clients, we often schedule this service on a weekend so as not to disrupt regular business operations.

We like to think we make the air duct cleaning process look easy, but actually it is a very sophisticated process that shouldn’t be entrusted to an amateur. Every air vent and register must be thoroughly cleaned. The contents of the ductwork must be sucked out into a vacuum-sealed disposal unit for transport away from your space.

We take every precaution to ensure all toxic matter is safely and completely removed from your duct system with no opportunity to escape and re-contaminate your space.

When we depart that day, you are left with a clean, sanitized and deodorized air duct system that you can trust with your family’s health.

Best of all, once you have your air duct system professionally cleaned, as long as you don’t have any major home renovations on the horizon, you won’t have to think about your cleaning air ducts for another 5 or so years!

Get in Touch

We are here to answer all of your questions about air duct cleaning, indoor air quality and your family’s health! Contact us online or give us a call at 905-544-2470 to find out more!

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Health Risks of Poor Air Quality and How to Prevent Them

woman scratching arm

As the years pass, the challenges of ever-worsening air quality continue to pile up, seemingly faster than we can address them.

There are positive impacts, such as when Ontario decided to phase out coal production in favor of natural gas and renewable sources of fuel.

But then, our neighbors to the south have been revitalizing coal production throughout the United States.

The health risks of these air quality issues are worrisome, to say the least, but we can’t always do a great deal to control what goes on at a national level.

Where we can have a great impact on the purity of our indoor air is in our homes and workplaces, and this post will show you how!

Toxic Air & Your Health: What Are the Risks?

Polluted air and fine particulate matter are two of the major causes of a wide range of serious health risks ranging from allergies to early death.

In 2013, a study published by the medical journal The Lancet stated that air pollution was responsible for the deaths of an estimated 21,000 Canadians and 2.9 million people worldwide in that year alone!

These are just some of the serious health risks that have now been linked to breathing toxic air: allergies, asthma attacks, lung conditions, stroke, heart disease, insulin resistance (pre-diabetes), preeclampsia and premature birth, dementia, early-onset inflammatory bowel disease, appendicitis and premature death.

Our Indoor Air Is More Toxic Than Our Outdoor Air!

The Canadian Council of Ministers (CCME) reports that outdoor air quality is improving in some parts of Canada, including Ontario, as a result of ongoing actions being taken to reduce smog output and carbon emissions.

However, even as our outdoor air enjoys marginal improvements, there is another area where our air quality is becoming progressively worse, and that is inside our homes and workspaces!

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has studied the levels of dozens of known air pollutants inside homes in cities and rural areas. Results show that levels of known airborne toxins were anywhere from two to five times higher inside, rather than outside, each of the test case homes!

Further research confirmed that, in many cases, the occupants were introducing these toxins into their homes through their own actions. Cleaning products, tobacco, air fresheners, candles, paints, solvents, adhesives and glues, even personal care products like perfumes and cosmetics, were shown to be culprits.

This wouldn’t be so worrisome if we spent less time indoors. But data shows that the average Canadian spends up to 90 percent of the typical day indoors! This makes indoor air toxicity a huge concern for each person today.

Symptoms of Air Pollution

Even if you have never made a trip to the emergency room due to respiratory issues or an asthma attack, you have likely felt the impact of indoor air pollution at some level.

The most commonly reported patient symptoms include headaches, nausea, dizziness, trouble concentrating, breathing issues, skin issues, fatigue, respiratory irritation and coughing.

Sometimes these symptoms can come on suddenly and then as quickly subside, such as when you spritz air freshener. And sometimes the symptoms can linger, such as after you complete a craft project or finish repainting an interior wall.

Popular DIY renovation and home improvement projects are some of the most worrisome culprits. Here, studies show that the levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) present in the indoor air can linger for hours after the project concludes and cause more severe health reactions.

Air Pollution in the Workplace

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety provides employer guidelines designed to ensure workers have a safe place to work.

Indoor air quality at work is now a huge safety issue, and can even cause a condition called “sick building syndrome,” where groups of workers are similarly impacted by time spent inside the workplace.

While not all workplaces may have sufficient indoor toxicity to trigger sick building syndrome, what you need to watch for is simply feeling less well health-wise during the workday than when you do after hours or on weekends.

If you notice you begin to get headaches, mental fogginess, sneezing fits, skin itching or any other symptoms that subside the moment you leave work and do not return until you come back to work, you could be having a reaction to something toxic in your workplace.

How to Protect Yourself & Clean Up Your Indoor Air

Even if you make ongoing efforts to detoxify your home and workspaces by changing the products you use, you still can’t control what other family members, visitors to your home or your office mates decide to do.

Someone near you may choose to wear a perfume that gives you hives or install new pressed-wood furniture that reeks of formaldehyde.

So is your only option to suffer? Far from it! There is a lot you can do to protect yourself and your family from the impact of airborne pollutants headed in your direction.

Portable air quality helps.

Portable HEPA filtration systems and ultraviolet air purifiers make a huge difference in the quality of the air you breathe in.

Whether you place a small unit by your desk at work or in your bedroom at night, you may just find that your headaches dissipate, your skin is clear and your sleep is deeper and more refreshing just by making this small change to your environment!

Central air quality helps.

HEPA filtration systems and ultraviolet air purifiers can also work with any central (ducted) air conditioning and heating system by treating the air before it enters the ducts to reach each room in your space.

Get in Touch

Are you suffering from preventable air quality-related health symptoms at home or at work? We can help! Contact us online or give us a call at 905-544-2470!

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Are Everyday Chemicals Killing Your Indoor Air Quality? Stop It Now!

cleaning chemicals

This year, the Washington Post released shocking information about the composition of environmental air pollution.

The study, a collaborative effort between scientists, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and various universities, showed that chemicals from personal care products, craft products such as paints and solvents, pesticides and insecticides, and common household and workplace cleaning products are increasingly toxifying the indoor air we breathe.

These toxins, called volatile organic compounds or VOCs for short, are showing up everywhere we go, outside as well as inside our homes and workplaces.

What makes these VOCs so particularly pervasive today is that so many products that contain VOCs are used both outdoors and indoors, meaning they can migrate in either direction to toxify our air and water.

Are these everyday chemicals killing your indoor air quality at home or at work? Find out and learn what to do to stop it!

Meet the VOCs

With the ongoing spotlight on the poisoning of our planet and efforts to stop it, phrases like “volatile organic compounds” are fast becoming household words.

But what are VOCs, really? What does this phrase actually mean?

According to the U.S. EPA, volatile organic compounds are chemical compounds that are typically emitted into the air in a gaseous form. These compounds are carbon/petroleum-based and can emit toxic gases while they are in use or while they are being stored.

So even the innocent-appearing cans of cleaner and tubs of glue in your storage cabinets may be emitting unsafe gases into your indoor air supply.

One recent study estimated that up to 40 percent of the off-gassing from these products will end up circulating in the air you breathe.

VOC-Producing Household and Workplace Products

This is a partial list of some of the most common household and workplace products that contain and emit VOCs:

  • Paint, strippers, thinners, solvents

  • Glues, adhesives

  • Cleaners, disinfectants

  • Candles, air fresheners

  • Deodorants, perfumes, colognes, body sprays, body lotions, nail polishes

  • Pesticides, insecticides, herbicides

  • Dry cleaning

  • Fuels, automotive supplies

  • DIY craft and hobby materials

  • Printing ink, paper, toner, correction fluids

Recent air quality research tells us that it is no longer enough to clean up vehicle emissions as a source of air pollution. We must take action to transform the products we rely on for work and daily life if we truly want a long-term clean air solution for our planet.

Action Step 1: Identify Your Airborne VOCs

There are two methods to identify the most potent airborne toxins in your home space or workplace.

Method One

Take inventory of the products hiding out in your cabinets, closets, garage and workshop areas. Do you see scented lotions, sprays and air fresheners? Solvents and glues? Paints and thinners? Craft or renovation supplies? Pesticides?

What kinds of household or office cleaning products do you use? Can you identify or pronounce their ingredients? Do you have an office or home office printer or copier that uses ink or toner cartridges?

These are the most likely suspects for releasing VOCs into your indoor air.

Method Two

Conduct an indoor air quality test. If you want or need information about the exact composition of your indoor air, the indoor air quality test is the way to go.

This silent 72-hour indoor air quality test will take continuous air samples over a three-day period, identifying airborne toxins and collating the data from each air sample into a comprehensive action report for you.

You can use this report in multiple ways as you begin your indoor air cleanup campaign.

Action Step 2: Clean-Up Phase

The action you just took in Step 1 to identify your airborne indoor air toxins gives you the ammunition you need to launch the clean-up phase of your campaign.

The first step to take is to transition from use of toxic products to healthier, eco-friendly products. Many cleaning products manufacturers now offer safer, planet-friendly cleaning and home/office products with simple, pronounceable and recognizable ingredients.

Here are some examples of easy ways to make this transition:

  • Instead of commercial air fresheners, opt for essential oil diffusers.

  • Instead of harsh commercial cleaning products, choose natural white vinegar, baking soda and water-based products.

  • Instead of petroleum-based commercial candles, use soy or beeswax candles.

  • Instead of petroleum-based printer inks, use water-based inks.

Now you are ready for your indoor air duct cleaning and your dryer vent cleaning.

Each of these cleanings will remove potent VOCs that are trapped inside your air duct system and your interior dryer vents.

The reason you want to transition out the chemical products you use FIRST and then do your indoor air duct cleaning is that you don’t want to reintroduce the same toxins into your air supply again!

Action Step 3: Preventative Phase

During Step 3, your goal is to put in place an indoor air quality process that can keep VOCs and other toxins out of your indoor air supply from here on. In other words, you don’t want to find yourself worrying all over again about indoor air quality next week!

The best options to prevent further indoor air pollution and contamination from affecting your health is to install either HEPA filtration system or an ultraviolet purification system.

You can choose a central (ducted) or portable (non-ducted) version of either system. A HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filtration system traps airborne particulate matter before it can enter your indoor air supply. HEPA filters can trap tiny particles as small as 1/100th of a single human hair!

A UV filtration system uses ultraviolet band-C, the most potent type of UV light, to zap particulate toxins before they can enter your indoor air supply.

Get in Touch

It is always a great time to improve your indoor air quality! Contact us online or give us a call at 905-544-2470 to discuss your air quality concerns and set up your initial consultation!

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