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Alberta and Saskatchewan 2nd most radon-exposed populations on Earth claims latest research

Radon Gas

Radon levels in North American residential environments may be increasing

A University of Calgary-led study has found that the Western North American Prairie provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan are the 2nd most radon-exposed populations on Earth, just behind Poland.

The study generated many interesting findings, one of the most concerning being that radon levels in North American residential environments may be increasing, with newer homes being the most susceptible to rising radon levels. The study was based on testing 11,727 residential buildings throughout Alberta and Saskatchewan.

The study found that numerous property metrics contribute to indoor radon levels, including the year of construction, the size and building type of the home, ceiling heights, and the window opening behaviors of the occupants.

Keep your home free of harmful smoke particles with the help of HEPA

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With the heat of Summer comes the threat of Forest Fires.

The Western regions of Canada go through a yearly danger zone of smoke that affects everyone, but in particular those with respiratory conditions, cardiovascular disease, and children.

The use of an Air Purifier may seem small, but finding the right one with a true HEPA filter can filter out the smoke particles and make your home a safe place to breath. These particles can be incredibly small, in between 0.4 and 0.7 microns which allow them to get themselves deep into your lungs. This also makes Dust Masks unreliable. A HEPA Air Purifier paired with a few small changes to your home is the best bet for keeping your air as breathable as possible.

 

Some Tips:

  • Best to install a Whole-House Air Cleaner with a true HEPA filter (removing down to 0.3 microns) with an appropriate area of effectiveness for your home or room.
  • Avoid Ozone or Ionic air purifiers, while they help with general air purification they will not remove the finer Smoke particles.
  • If you have an Air Conditioner, close off the fresh-air intake to prevent it from bringing in more smoke.
  • If you must go outside and want a mask to protect yourself in heavy smoke areas, find one that is NIOSH certified and marked N95, N100 or P100.
  • For a look at the current Smoke Forecast and areas that will be affected, you can view a live feed at Firesmoke.Ca. Remember always follow your Provincial Fire Bans, and never leave a flame unsupervised.

WHO Report – Radon as a health risk.

WHO report - Radon as a health risk

Radon as a health risk is a global problem that each year is estimated to cause around 230,000 cases of lung cancer.

The WHO’s latest report ‘Guidelines on Housing and Health’ describes how people’s housing and health are affected by a variety of factors. The report describes radon, among other factors, as a health risk. The report draws attention to the fact that radon should be regarded as a carcinogen on a par with tobacco smoke.

The harmful effects of radon are emphasised by, among other things, the WHO wanting to reduce the reference level for radon in home environments to 100 Bq/m³. That is one-third of the reference level established in Directive 2013/59/EURATOM, which is 300 Bq/m³.

Radon causes lung cancer

Radon as a health risk is a global problem that each year is estimated to cause around 230,000 cases of lung cancer, which has a high mortality rate. Radonova’s measurement expert José-Luis Gutiérrez Villanueva comments on the latest WHO report:

“It is important that radon is not singled out, but regarded as one pollutant among many. In this respect, the WHO’s report is clear and important. The report describes the harmful effects of radon, as well as how preventive measures can be used to reduce harmful radon levels. Bearing in mind the fact that radon causes a very high number of lung cancer cases, it is vital to speak plainly about this issue.

“While radon is a global problem, the WHO’s report makes it clear that radon needs to be tackled at national level. In order to be effective, each country needs a well-developed programme that can be adapted to the circumstances in each case.”

José-Luis Gutiérrez Villanueva has worked on radon issues for the last 15 years. He wrote his PhD on ‘Radon concentrations in soil, air and water in a granitic area: instrumental development and measurements’ (University of Valladolid, 2008), and is an expert in areas including data analysis and different ways of measuring radon. As secretary of the European Radon Association, José-Luis also has extensive experience of international work with radon.

 

Radon Gas, Canadianized . . .

mapRadonPotentialCanada

As uranium begins its cyclical decay chain in Canadian soil, homes on the surface act like a suction cup and draw in its deadly by-product: radon.

Odourless, colourless and tasteless, radon gas is just one domino in a radioactive cascade that enters structures new and old across the country, contributing to more than 3,300 lung cancer deaths per year.

“It’s the worst thing no one’s ever heard of,” said Anne-Marie Nicol, associate professor at Simon Fraser University’s Faculty of Health Sciences in Burnaby, BC.

As a public health researcher, much of Nicol’s work focuses on environmental carcinogens, specifically radon–the second leading cause of lung cancer in Canada.

“We’ve kind of shrugged this off as a smoker’s condition, but if fewer people are smoking we’re realizing there are other things that cause lung cancer as well,” said Nicol.

The latest technologies in radon remediation and mitigation offer a means to end the reign of this silent killer in homes and buildings.

Health Risks . . .

Canada is the world’s second largest producer of uranium–its soil so rich in the metal that there is always a measureable amount of radon in the air.

Outside, it dissipates and mixes with other gases, so concentrations drop to relatively harmless levels, ranging from 10 Becquerels–a measurement of radioactivity–per cubic metre (Bq/m³) to 30.

Inside, however, those levels can vary drastically from one structure to another.

Radon exists, on average, three to four days in an indoor environment before it decays, at which point it gives off radioactive alpha particles in addition to progeny, or “radon daughters.” The metal progeny “stick” to the sensitive lining of the lungs, further decaying and emitting radiation.

“People call radon radioactive, but it’s actually the decaying process that causes the problem,” Nicol said.
In 2007, Health Canada reduced its guideline for radon in indoor air from 800 Bq/m³ to 200. Comparably, the World Health Organization recommends a 100 Bq/m³ baseline, and the U.S. standard sits at 150.

Radon Gas causes more deaths than cars, say cancer prevention advocates

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November is “Radon Action Month.” Scientists say radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers.

To kick off November’s Radon Action Month, the Canadian Cancer Society, the Canadian Association of Radon Scientists and Technologists (CARST) and CAREX Canada are launching Plan to be Here: an initiative that aims to raise awareness about the cancer risks associated with radon and the importance of having homes tested.

“Many Canadians are unaware that radon is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers,” says Pam Warkentin, Executive Director of CARST and Project Manager, Take Action on Radon. “Just as it’s now second nature for Canadians to buckle their seat-belts and change the batteries in their smoke detectors, we need to encourage people to take action to reduce their cancer risk and test their homes for radon.”

“Radon is a radioactive gas that is present in the air and can accumulate in high concentrations in homes, the news release continues. “Long-term exposure to high levels of radon damages the DNA in our lung tissue and can lead to increased lung cancer risk.” According to Health Canada, over 1 million Canadian homes have high radon levels

How do HRV and ERV Systems Work?

Air Exchanger airflow

What is an Air Exchanger?

An Air Exchanger otherwise known as an HRV (Heat Recovery Ventilator) or an ERV (Energy Recovery Ventilator), is a whole house mechanical ventilation system. It is typically connected to your existing furnace return duct and contains two high-efficiency motors. The supply motor draws fresh air in from the outside while the exhaust motor pushes stale indoor contaminated air outside. The two airstreams never mix when passing through the HRV or ERV cores. 

What is the difference between an HRV and an ERV?

In an HRV, the two air steams are separated by a heat recovery core, which will transfer only heat energy. In the winter, the warm indoor air passes through the HRV core as it’s being exhausted and warms up the incoming fresh outside air. In the summer, the cycle is reversed and the cool indoor air cools down the hot outdoor air recovering the energy. HRV’s will control excess humidity in cooler seasons by introducing outdoor air into your home.

In an ERV, the two air streams are separated by an energy recovery core, which will transfer both heat and moisture energy. In the winter, the warm indoor air passes through the ERV core as it’s being exhausted and warms up the incoming fresh outside air. As well, it will redirect approximately 50% of the indoor moisture back into your home. In the summer, the cycle is reversed and the cool indoor air cools down the hot outdoor air recovering the energy. In addition the ERV will redirect approximately 50% of the outdoor moisture (humidity) back outdoors. Thus, ERV’s are a better choice in all but the most northern climates for providing year-round comfort.

Benefits of Air Exchangers:

  • Air Exchangers bring a continuous supply of fresh outside air into your
  • Air Exchangers exhaust environmental contaminants for improved indoor air quality.
  • Air Exchangers save energy in the winter by recovering heat from exhaust air.
  • Air Exchangers save energy in the summer by recovering cool indoor air from exhaust air.
  • Air Exchangers help prevent mould and mildew.
  • Air Exchangers help minimize odours and cooking residue.
  • Air Exchangers can reduce harmful Radon Gas levels where active soil depressurization is unlikely to be successful.

The Role of Humidifiers in the Home

Humidifier

As the name suggests, humidifiers are designed to increase the humidity (moisture) in a building. In your home, the HVAC system or furnace humidifier runs throughout the whole house. Humidifiers are mainly used to focus on a specific area or room within a building.

There are two main types of humidifiers offered:

  1. Warm mist
  2. And cool mist.

Both options are effective in moistening the air —the main difference being the temperature of mist produced. When deciding to go for a warm or cool mist humidifier, consider certain aspects of your living situation:

What is the climate like that you live in?

If your environment is naturally cooler, then a warm mist humidifier can also work to warm your home. This same thinking applies if you live in a warmer environment; you will probably want a humidifier that produces cooler air.

Do you have children?

In the case of warm mist humidifiers, hot water or steam can burn a child if he or she gets too close. If you are considering a warm mist humidifier in your house, you must ensure that your children do not interact with it.

Why is a Humidifier Important?

Maintaining proper moisture levels in your home can prevent health issues.

  • Relieve Sinusitis: Dry air can impede the sinuses ability to drain properly. Adding moisture to the air is good for maintaining overall sinus health—particularly if you are dealing with congestion and sinusitis.
  • Support Lovely Skin: Sleeping with a humidifier can be great for dry skin. Consistent moisture levels in the air prevent dehydration in your skin. The following morning you will notice your skin doesn’t feel as dry or cracked.
  • Nasal Issues: A humidifier assists in keeping your nasal passages lubricated, which can help with preventing nose bleeds and quickening healing. If you’re suffering from a cold, allergies or asthma, keeping your nasal passages lubricated can accelerate your body’s healing.
  • Lessen Snoring: The moisture created by a humidifier can prevent your throat from drying out overnight. Depending on who the snorer is in your house, a humidifier can help you or your partner have more restful nights.

To get more information on the different types of humidifiers, as well as the role of dehumidifiers, check out our blog, “What’s the Difference between a Humidifier and a Dehumidifier?

 

Everything You Need to Know about Radon in the Home

Everything You Need to Know about Radon in the Home

Radon belongs to the family of noble gases, which includes other odourless, colourless chemicals like helium. Unlike the others, though, radon is radioactive, making it a health hazard in high concentrations.

Radon is naturally occurring and traces of it can be found everywhere. When the uranium in soil, rock and water decays, radon is created. Homes constructed over bedrock and soil are exposed to radon as it seeps through cracks in the foundation walls and floors or spaces around the pipes and cables.

Radon does have a short lifetime but, in enclosed areas like basements, it accumulates. Thus, ventilation is extremely important in homes and buildings; modern builders make spaces too air-tight for this chemical to escape.

The Health Risks of Radon

In high concentrations and over long periods, studies have correlated radon with lung cancer. In fact, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer, second only to smoking.

Because radon is a common indoor pollutant, it’s important to test for it regularly. Radon will always be present—the bigger question is how much of it. To measure radon’s concentration in your home, you have two options:

  1. Hire a radon measurement professional;
  2. Buy a DIY test kit.

If you choose to do it yourself, the test will take appropriately three months (not including lab analysis delays). Although the cheaper option, it might be faster just to bring in a professional with the proper equipment to immediately notify you of a problem.

Your Kitchen Contributes to Indoor Air Pollution… Here’s How You Can Prevent It

Your Kitchen Contributes to Indoor Air Pollution… Here’s How You Can Prevent It

Many people don’t realize it, but the kitchen is a major source of indoor air pollution. It can come from various sources throughout the kitchen as well as from cooking stoves. Exposure to indoor air pollution from kitchens can contribute to asthma, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Here are some things you can do to prevent and reduce indoor air pollution:

Ventilation

Cooking releases a number of volatile, toxic compounds that can contribute to serious health and respiratory problems. Using ventilation such as exhaust fans on top of a stove as well as fans in the kitchen is an effective means of reducing exposure to harmful compounds. Ventilation together with fans will also work well in reducing humidity, which can lead to the growth of mold and mildew.

The absence of any ventilation will allow pollutants to remain in the air, which are then ingested by people who are around.

  • Turn on the ventilation hood every time you cook. Set the vent fan to the highest setting possible, which will make the sound more tolerable.
  • The vent should release the air outdoors. Otherwise, it will recirculate the air into your kitchen.
  • When buying a new hood, make sure that it covers the front burners. The setting should also enable it to move at least 200 cubic feet of air each minute.
  • If it isn’t possible to have a range hood, cooking by a window and keeping it open should be just as effective.

Get Rid of Odors

Instead of buying sprays to mask the odor, the goal should be to eliminate them completely. Find the source of bad odors and clean it thoroughly. Whether the source is from rotting food or a pet accident, eliminate it by using baking soda. Conventional air fresheners contain harmful chemicals and phthalates that can cause health problems later on.

Cleaning

Dust around the kitchen can result in the growth of pollen, mites, mold, mildew and other harmful bacteria, which are inhaled.  Chronic exposure to these contaminants can lead to respiratory illnesses and allergies. Use an electrostatically charged duster or a damp rag to thoroughly clean your kitchen. Make sure that you clean even hard-to-reach areas, which can harbour the growth of bacteria if it’s left untreated.

What You Need to Know about Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

CO

Known as the silent killer, carbon monoxide (CO) is a common odourless, colourless gas found inside our homes. Furnaces, stoves, cigarettes and vehicles are among the most common sources of CO, a reason why it’s important to regularly service household appliances and properly ventilate the home.

Interestingly, Ontario law mandates that homes need CO detectors because this gas is impossible to detect otherwise. So make sure that your home has a detector and that its batteries are still energized.

The Dangers of CO

According to Statistics Canada, 380 Canadians died from carbon monoxide poisoning between 2000 and 2009. Fatality is the result of high CO concentrations; low to medium concentrations often produce milder symptoms like:

  • Fatigue,
  • Chest pain,
  • Angina,
  • Blurry vision,
  • Headaches,
  • Dizziness,
  • Nausea,
  • Confusion,
  • And short-term memory loss.

CO produces the aforesaid effects once it enters the blood stream. There, it binds with hemoglobin, a protein responsible for carrying oxygen to cells. Once bound, hemoglobin cannot effectively transfer oxygen.

CO Levels in Your Home

Carbon monoxide is the by-product of incomplete fuel burning, which happens in malfunctioning appliances. Because homes today are so airtight—described as “energy efficient”—any CO in the home gets trapped. Over time, the concentration can grow from harmless to lethal. For this reason, installing an air exchanger is a necessary preventive measure, as such a system expels stale, polluted indoor air. Exchangers also reduce heating and cooling costs, helping offset the upfront investment.

To learn more about the dangerous gases found inside your home, read our previous article, “Common Pollutants You Might Find Inside Your Home.”