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CleanAir Solutions Blog

June 2019

Straight Talk About Radon: How It Harms You & What to Do to Get Rid of It

radon indoor air quality

Radon is a radioactive gas. This makes it seem like the stuff of thriller movies, where everyone is racing around wearing gas masks and setting up airtight decontamination chambers.

In this case, fiction and the truth are drawing closer than any of us might like. Radon is an increasing problem throughout Canada because of the type of soil we have.

The truth is, radon exposure is the leading cause of new lung cancer cases among non-smokers (16 percent of cases annually). If you smoke and are exposed to radon, your risk of getting lung cancer effectively doubles.

This is why we are devoting an entire post to the topic of radon exposure. There are effective options to reduce your risk and remove radon from your indoor air. Read on to find out how.

What Is Radon?

Radon comes from uranium, a naturally occurring element present in the rocks and soil all around the globe. It is one of the 118 elements in the periodic table you probably learned about in school.

Uranium is not one of the stable elements on the periodic table, however. It is incredibly unstable to its core. This means uranium is constantly in some state of decay, and when it decays, it releases an odourless, colourless, tasteless, invisible yet highly toxic gas.

That gas is called radon.

What Makes Radon So Dangerous?

Pretty much everyone knows the story of how Hiroshima was destroyed in 1945 when a single atomic bomb was dropped on the city center. 

This bomb – the first ever deployed – was full of uranium. 

It is important to know that the radioactive properties of uranium are also used for some good things, like medical tests and cancer treatments. But when uranium decays to the point where radon gas is released, this is definitely not a good thing.

When radon is released, it continues to break down into its core radioactive particles. These particles can attach to airborne particulates such as dust and debris. 

Then you breathe these particulates in and they enter your lungs, where they attach and start their damaging work. Over time and with continued exposure, radon exposure can lead to lung cancer.

How Does Radon Get Into Your Home?

Because radon is naturally occurring and most soil has at least some uranium content, it is important to know that every single home in Canada has some level of radon gas. But in many places throughout Canada, our soil has high natural uranium content, which means more radon gas is being emitted.

Radon is a gas, which means it can move freely through the air and, sometimes, water as well. Radon naturally moves toward areas of lower air pressure, such as into your home. Radon is often present in higher concentrations in basements and ground floor levels.

Where there are natural or man-made apertures, such as cracks in foundation slabs, unsealed floor joists or utility pipes, drains or windows, radon will readily enter your home.

This helpful graphic shows exactly how radon leaves the rocks and soil and enters your home.

How Do You Test for Radon In Your Home?

You can’t know your personal level of exposure risk without doing a radon test.

For this reason, the government of Canada and the Canadian Cancer Society both recommend testing your home’s indoor air for radon concentration. 

The best way to test for radon is to schedule a 72-hour indoor air quality home test

This silent test takes air samples every 60 seconds in key areas throughout your home. When the test concludes, you receive a full air quality assessment summary, complete with recommended action items.

How Do You Remove Radon From Your Indoor Air?

Removing radon from your indoor air typically requires a multi-phase approach. 

Currently, Canada’s safety guidelines indicate that homes with airborne radon content of 200 Bq/m3 (a universal measurement of radioactivity) or greater should be remediated.

Of course, since radon is present in the air to some degree nearly everywhere, the first step you definitely want to take is to have your home professionally tested for radon to be sure you need to proceed to remediation.

HEPA Air Filter

The HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter was invented during World War II when scientists were working to develop the atomic bomb we mentioned here earlier. 

Working with radioactive materials such as uranium released dangerous gases into the air, and the government needed an effective means of protection for their workers to clean the air inside the laboratory.

HEPA filters still represent the gold standard in air filtration today. 

Research continues to support the use of HEPA filters for this purpose in hospitals, laboratories, workplaces and homes around the world.

Heat Recovery Ventilator

Heat recovery ventilation is another vital protective element when you are working to rid your home of toxic radon. 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends installing a heat recovery ventilation system to exhaust radon-rich air to the outside. 

HRV systems can be especially beneficial when installed in homes with crawl spaces and basements.

Radon Redirection

A number of radon redirection systems exist today. These systems work to attract radon, often using depressurized air as “bait,” and exhaust it safely away from your home.

Is Radon Present In Your Water?

While airborne radon is currently the most pressing health and safety concern for many homeowners today, if your home is dependent on a well for water, you may be at risk of waterborne radon exposure as well.

Get in Touch

Do you need help with indoor air quality testing and radon remediation?

Contact us online or give us a call at 905-544-2470.

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Airborne Cancer Risk Is Increasing Throughout Ontario: Safety Steps to Take Now!

smokestack

Just a few weeks ago, a breaking news report shocked many Ontarians by announcing the risk of a certain type of leukemia is skyrocketing in certain cities throughout Ontario.

Hamilton, St. Catharine’s and the surrounding areas have been identified as cities affected by increased risk.

The risk is linked to Ontario’s industrial sector, including petrochemical plants, oil refineries and similar manufacturing and distribution operations.

While efforts are underway to try to control for the risk, many individuals and regulatory agencies believe that what is being done is not nearly enough to safeguard the health of local individuals and families.

In this post, discover what you can do to reduce the threat to your family.

Benzene Linked to Increased Incidence of Leukemia

Benzene is a known carcinogen that can cause cancer in people and animals. In particular, benzene is increasingly linked to the outbreak of acute myeloid leukemia, or AML, which is a form of cancer that is on the rise in certain areas of Ontario.

The current risk in these areas stands at three times the nationwide average for AML.

But cancer isn’t the only serious health condition that is now linked to benzene exposure.

Ongoing toxic chemical spills and leaks, many of which are well documented by local news media, have caused other equally serious forms of cancer such as myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), some with fatal outcomes.

What Is Benzene?

Benzene is one of many chemicals classified as a VOC, or volatile organic compound, by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Benzene is also one of the chemicals produced most frequently throughout North America because it arises from the burning of fossil fuels. The CDC cites industrial operations as the primary source of benzene emissions. Other common sources include vehicle emissions, smoking and fires.

Benzene has a distinctive odour that some people say smells like sweetened gasoline. Most people are exposed through inhaling airborne benzene.

Health Impact of Benzene Exposure

As investigation into chronic benzene emissions continues, we now know that it’s linked not just to cancers like AML and MDS, but also to lower-level health issues that include the following:

  • Bone marrow degeneration

  • Anemia and low platelet counts

  • Impaired immune function

  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Headaches

  • Eye and skin irritation

  • Dizziness and tremors

  • Confusion and drowsiness

  • Fainting and coma

  • Death

The longer the period of benzene exposure, the worse the health impact becomes.

Steps to Protect Your Family from Benzene Inhalation

Even just a decade or two ago, concerns about indoor air quality maintained a low profile in the mainstream news media. Individuals and families who instituted indoor air quality controls didn’t talk much about these efforts in social or networking circles.

But today, indoor air quality has become a timely hot topic. As toxic chemical leaks and spills perpetually capture international news headlines, people are becoming increasingly aware that our governments often don’t do enough to protect citizens from exposure.

We have to step up and protect ourselves and our families using the tools we have.

Luckily, we have some pretty great options today to filter and purify our indoor air at home and at work. These are the systems we recommend to reliably keep benzene and other chemicals from polluting your indoor air.

Indoor air quality testing

Indoor air quality testing is an affordable solution to identify the concerning toxins present in your indoor air. This silent test runs for 72 hours, taking air samples every 60 seconds and analyzing each one.

At the end of the testing period, your full-color printout identifies toxins of greatest concern and recommendations for treatment.

Professional air duct cleaning and sanitizing

Trapped toxins, whether liquid, gaseous or particulate, have no way out of your indoor air duct system on their own unless they are blown out as air passes through the ducts.

A professional air duct cleaning service pulls 100 percent of trapped toxins out of your ducts using a secure negative pressure system and then sanitizes the interior against residual matter.

Heat recovery ventilation

Heat recovery ventilation (HRV) lowers energy bills, balances indoor air humidity levels, helps filter toxins from the air and, most importantly, ensures stale, toxic air is transported securely out of your home, never to return.

HEPA air filtration system

HEPA stands for High Efficiency Particulate Air. This system was first developed during World War II to protect scientists working on the atomic bomb against the health impact of airborne radioactive particulates.

There is still no better or more comprehensive air filtration system today than the HEPA air filtration system, which is used in laboratories, hospitals and clinics all over the world.

 

HEPA filters work best when added onto an existing ducted HVAC system. For non-ducted systems, portable models can do the same job.

Ultraviolet air purification system

For gaseous airborne particulates such as benzene, ultraviolet light is still the most potent neutralizing force we have available.

An indoor air purification system uses ultraviolet band C, the most powerful band of UV light, to change the molecular composition of airborne toxins like benzene, rendering them harmless.

Central air purification can work seamlessly with any ducted HVAC system. For non-ducted spaces, portable models are available.

Schedule Your FREE, No-Obligation Indoor Air Quality Quote

We know news like this can feel overwhelming, and it is important to know you don’t have to do everything we have outlined in this blog post all at once.

We are happy to consult with you to determine which system(s) will deliver maximum results for your budget and health concerns.

You can simply complete this easy online form to schedule a free consultation with one of our highly trained, prompt and polite air quality technicians.

Get in Touch

Contact us online or give us a call at 905-544-2470.

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Humidity & Your Health: 6 Surprising Health Hazards of Humidity You May Not Know

woman scratching back

After the drying effects of winter, especially indoors when the heat is running, we are now running headlong into the moisture-drenched air of spring and summer.

This is great for green growing things, animal families and land parched from too little rainfall. But it isn’t always so great for us.

Just as overly air can bring with it certain unpleasant side effects, so too can high humidity create health and home hazards you should be aware of.

In this post, learn what you need to know about airborne humidity to adjust your home’s humidity levels for optimal health.

Fast Facts About Humidity

Did you know there are two types of humidity? These are called absolute humidity and relative humidity.

Absolute humidity

Absolute humidity is a measure of the amount of vapor moisture present in the air. Air has a maximum amount of moisture it can hold based on how warm or cold that air is.

Warm air can hold more moisture than cold air.

Relative humidity

Relative humidity is this same measure adjusted for the temperature of the air.

Adding more humidity to your indoor air can make it feel warmer even if you haven’t touched the thermostat. Similarly, removing humidity from your indoor air can a feeling of lowered temperature, even when it hasn’t changed.

What Impacts Humidity Levels in Your Indoor Air?

At this point, you may be wondering what can cause the humidity levels in your indoor air to fluctuate.

There are three main triggers that can create rising humidity conditions inside your home.

1. Organic air leaks

If you have leaks, cracks, loose window or door seals, old insulation and similar issues in your home, your indoor air humidity levels probably fluctuate seasonally as outdoor air leaks in and indoor air leaks out.

2. Everyday activities

Another very common cause for changing indoor air humidity levels is what you do inside your home. Running the washer and dryer or the dishwasher, showering or drawing a hot bath, cooking and running humidifiers can all increase the humidity content of your indoor air.

3. Transpiration

Transpiration is a fancy term for how plants move water around from the roots to the leaves. You transpire when you sweat in an attempt to cool your body down (for your dog, this is accomplished by panting).

6 Health Hazards of Humidity

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has long recommended that homeowners and employers strive to maintain relative indoor air humidity levels at between 30 and 50 percent.

When humidity drops too low or rises too high, you may experience hazards to health and home or workplace structure.

1. Infection, Allergies & Asthma Attacks

When relative humidity rises above 50 percent, your indoor air will feel warmer than it is, but this on its own may not be significant cause for concern.

Where the health hazard lies is when mould and mildew spores as well as other bacteria, fungi and viral germs gravitate to these nice warm conditions to breed and spread, causing allergies, asthma symptoms, infection and cold or flu.

2. Overheating

Being as far north as we are, Canadians don’t run the risk of overheating to the frequency or degree that our more tropical neighbors often do.

But overheating is still a significant concern as summer rolls in, especially when the humidity rises and it feels hotter and our bodies have to work harder to stay cool.

Factor in sun exposure or prolonged labour or physical activity outdoors and the risk of overheating in humid conditions increases still more. A year ago, more than 70 deaths were directly linked to a heat wave that passed through Canada.

3. Eye & Skin Irritation

Your eyes and skin rely on a certain amount of available moisture to stay healthy and comfortable. When the air becomes too dry or too wet, eye and skin irritation can readily occur.

In too-dry conditions, common issues include eye dryness, redness and irritation as well as skin cracking, flaking and bleeding.

In too-wet conditions, surface infections can lead to more serious health issues if left unchecked.

4. Foggy Mind

When the air becomes saturated with moisture, your body has to redouble its efforts to maintain the right internal temperature for health.

This can quite naturally divert available resources away from other so-called “higher” tasks such as thinking, problem solving and doing your best work at your job or at school.

5. Fire Risk

You have probably experienced the discomfort of a mild electric shock. This electrostatic discharge is often caused when the air is too dry.

The major risk here is of that tiny spark igniting a home fire.

6. Structural issues

Whether your indoor air is too humid or not humid enough, you can expect certain structures and possessions in your home to suffer for it.

Wood floors or furniture cracks and warping, wallpaper peeling, cabinet and drawer shrinkage and gaps around crown moulding can begin when the air becomes too dry.

Too-wet conditions can cause mould and mildew growth, condensation, rot, moisture stains and, worst of all, insect and rodent infestations.

Solving Indoor Humidity Issues

The first step toward solving all indoor humidity issues is to do a space assessment. Brand-new construction that is built to be airtight often quickly develops significant ventilation issues that can trap humidity indoors.

Older spaces, on the other hand, can develop air cracks, leaks or gaps over time and weather stripping may need to be updated to keep indoor humidity levels balanced.

Other correction options include installation of portable or whole-home humidifiers or dehumidifiers to keep your humidity levels balanced seasonally and reduce fire hazards and health risks.

Get in Touch

Do you find your home too humid or dry? Do you need a space assessment to find solutions for regulating your indoor air? Contact us online or give us a call at 905-544-2470.

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