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Healthy Environments

Indoor Environment

Dust, mold, carbon monoxide, radon, wood smoke, and bacteria such as Legionella pneumophila (the cause of Legionella) are a few examples of contaminants that can negatively impact indoor air quality and your health. We can provide information on indoor air contaminants and how to reduce your risk of exposure to them in your home.
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a dangerous gas that you cannot smell, see, or taste. Once you inhale CO, it enters the bloodstream and rapidly builds up in your blood. CO reduces your blood's ability to carry oxygen through your body, which can cause serious health effects. CO exposure can lead to sudden illness (at low levels) or death (at high levels). Everyone and their pets are at risk for CO poisoning. However, unborn babies, infants, people with chronic health disease, anemia, respiratory problems, and smokers are more at risk of health effects from CO exposure. Health Canada provides more information about CO on their website.

Mould is a type of fungus that can be found indoors and outdoors. Mould should never be found indoors and when it is, it can lead to health problems for those who may be allergic or more susceptible (e.g. asthmatics). Mould needs moisture (e.g. water damage/leak or condensation) and a material (e.g. drywall or wood) for growth. Mould can spread by releasing spores into the air. It is important to keep mould growth indoors to a minimum. Try to clean up small areas of mould growth quickly and repair water leaks or damage.

Not all mould causes health effects, we can respond to mould in different ways. Although the extent of health effects from mould exposure is less known, efforts should be made to keep mould growth indoors to a minimum. There is a greater risk of illness for young babies, elderly, and people with asthma or weakened immune systems. If you or a family member feel unwell after being exposed to mould, speak with your health care provider.

Health Canada provides information about some of the health risks associated with mould exposures, locations where mould growth commonly occur, suggestions for controlling mould, and information for cleaning mould.

After your home (or cottage) has been flooded, it is important to clean up and dry things as soon as possible. This will not only reduce your risk or exposure to potential contaminants like mould, it will also assist in the prevention of further damage to your home and belongings. The Canadian Mortgage Housing Corporation provides more information about cleaning up after a flood. If you have been evacuated from your home, it is important to ensure the following has occurred prior to returning to your home:

  • Cleanup and appropriate drying of items and surfaces has been completed;
  • A supply of safe drinking water is available (if you water supply was previously deemed unsafe to drink); and
  • Items that may have been contaminated by sewage or other contaminants have been properly disposed of.

The quality of air in a home can be severely compromised by wood-burning stoves or appliances that are improperly used or maintained. It is important to know the risks and what you can do to protect your family from exposure to wood smoke.

Not only can indoor wood-burning appliances impact the air quality within your home, open burning outdoors (e.g. through the use of chimineas or other wood burning units) can impact indoor air quality if the smoke enters your home, cottage, or even a neighbour's home. The Canadian Lung Association provides information on their website about residential wood burning and also provides a resource for municipalities who are interested in developing by-laws.

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