NOW Magazine - Toronto Living - - Front Page - By STU­ART LIEBER­MAN, ESQ.

In­door air qual­ity is now un­der­stood to be as sig­nif­i­cant a prob­lem as out­door air qual­ity. In­deed, what good is clean air out­side a home if the in­side air qual­ity is poi­son­ing your fam­ily? It is im­por­tant that you pro­tect your home’s in­door air qual­ity.


Ac­cord­ing to the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency, there are three strate­gies to ac­com­plish­ing this. Ini­tially, the most ef­fec­tive way is to elim­i­nate in­di­vid­ual sources of in­door pol­lu­tion. Some sources, such as those that con­tain as­bestos, can be sealed or en­closed. Oth­ers such as gas stoves can be ad­justed to de­crease the amount of emis­sions. In many cases, source con­trol is the most cost-ef­fi­cient ap­proach to con­trol­ling in­door air qual­ity. Plainly, if the prob­lem is gone, it isn’t go­ing to hurt you any more.

A sec­ond method, the ven­ti­la­tion im­prove­ment ap­proach, seeks to lower con­cen­tra­tions of in­door air pol­lu­tion by in­creas­ing the amount of out­door air com­ing in­side. In other words, the in­door air pol­lu­tion is di­luted. This is in­con­sis­tent with the his­toric no­tion that “di­lu­tion is not the so­lu­tion to pol­lu­tion.” How­ever, it is rec­og­nized as one vi­able method for ad­dress­ing in­door pol­lu­tion. Per­son­ally, I be­lieve in elim­i­nat­ing sources, be­cause some­times diluting tech­niques fail and the pol­lu­tion is al­lowed to persist.


Fi­nally, air clean­ing is a third method for ad­dress­ing cer­tain lev­els of con­tam­i­nants. There are all kinds of air clean­ers on the mar­ket, rang­ing from fairly in­ex­pen­sive mod­els to very so­phis­ti­cated whole-house sys­tems. Air clean­ers vary in terms of qual­ity, some be­ing much more ef­fec­tive at re­mov­ing par­ti­cles than oth­ers. Gen­er­ally, they are not de­signed to re­move gases.

Radon is a com­mon in­door air qual­ity is­sue. The EPA rec­og­nizes the use of ap­proved test kits to de­ter­mine whether radon is present, and rec­om­mends bring­ing in a trained con­trac­tor in the event that it is present at ex­ces­sive lev­els.

Smok­ing tobacco pro­duces sec­ond-hand smoke that di­min­ishes in­door air qual­ity. Ban­ning smok­ing at home, or if smok­ing can­not be avoided then in­creas­ing ven­ti­la­tion, are the pro­posed meth­ods for ad­dress­ing this pol­lu­tant source.

Bi­o­log­i­cal con­tam­i­na­tion, such as mould or mildew, is gain­ing in­creased at­ten­tion. While li­censed con­trac­tors can rem­edy se­vere prob­lems, avoid­ing damp­ness, es­pe­cially in dark lo­ca­tions, and the use of bleach can of­ten ad­dress mi­nor prob­lems.

Car­bon monox­ide and ni­tro­gen diox­ide gases and re­lease of par­ti­cles can oc­cur from home stoves, heaters, fire­places and chim­neys. Ev­ery year we hear about hor­ri­ble in­stances of car­bon monox­ide poi­son­ing. Of­ten, it takes quite some time be­fore a di­ag­no­sis of car­bon monox­ide poi­son­ing can be made.


House­hold prod­ucts are also a familiar source of in­door pol­lu­tion. Re­mem­ber, just be­cause a prod­uct is sold for res­i­den­tial use, that does not mean it is al­ways safe to use in any man­ner. And re­lated to this is the is­sue of pes­ti­cides. We are learn­ing more and more about pes­ti­cides, and how im­por­tant it is that pes­ti­cide us­age be min­i­mal and only in ac­cor­dance with the di­rec­tions on pack­ag­ing.

As­bestos is of course a se­vere health risk. Many old homes still con­tain as­bestos. If you have as­bestos, do not to touch it. In­stead, hire an au­tho­rized li­censed as­bestos pro­fes­sional to ad­dress it.

Lead is found in sev­eral ways in the home. To­day it is of­ten found in lead pipes and in lead paint. Of course, lead can cause brain dam­age and other ill­nesses, and has a hor­ri­ble ef­fect on young chil­dren.


Fi­nally, new car­pet in­stal­la­tions have been as­so­ci­ated with in­door air pol­lu­tion. Make sure that you un­der­stand what kinds of chem­i­cals will be emit­ted by your new car­pet, and that you have re­li­able in­for­ma­tion from the car­pet sup­plier and car­pet in­staller be­fore the project be­gins. Many peo­ple re­port be­com­ing ill af­ter new car­pets have been in­stalled in their homes.

In­door air pol­lu­tion is a sig­nif­i­cant prob­lem that we are re­ally just be­gin­ning to un­der­stand. Source con­trol, in­creased ven­ti­la­tion and air clean­ing are three ap­proaches for ad­dress­ing this con­cern. This is not a one-time-only is­sue; con­stant sur­veil­lance and vig­i­lance are re­quired.

Mr. Lieber­man is a part­ner with a Prince­ton, New Jer­sey, law firm. The in­for­ma­tion con­tained in this ar­ti­cle is for gen­eral in­for­ma­tion pur­poses only and does not con­sti­tute legal ad­vice.

Vig­i­lance is re­quired to keep the air in your home healthy, what you can’t see may be harm­ful.

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