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3 Important Reasons To Test Your Home’s Indoor Air Quality

Profile of a beautiful woman relaxing lying on a couch at homeLet’s be honest. We all take the air we breathe for granted, don’t we? We know that it’s there, but we rarely ever pay attention to it. It’s safe to say that that is because we usually can’t see it or smell it. But that can actually be a problem. Just because nothing out of the ordinary is detectable, it doesn’t mean that the air we breathe is free of contaminants. Air pollution, unfortunately, is all around us.

And this is certainly true in our homes. Even for the most meticulous of “neat freaks”, poor indoor air quality is a factual concern. Everything from contaminated air from outside seeping in to pet dander to the growth of mould and mildew due to humidity can make our homes susceptible to housing air that is bad for our health. This is why an indoor air quality inspection is so important. Most often, poor indoor air quality is undetectable without one.

Here are three important reasons to test your home’s indoor air quality:

1. Undetectable gases. Not all gases have colours or odours. Carbon monoxide and radon are among them. And they often find themselves in our homes. CO, for example, is often emitted from such household items as furnaces, gas stoves, fireplaces and water heaters. “CO causes an array of symptoms — from headaches and nausea to confusion and unconsciousness,” explains Russell McLendon of Mother Nature Network.

Radon enters our homes by seeping in through cracks and other openings. It is emitted from nearby soil that contains low levels of decaying uranium. While generally harmless in the outdoor air, it can become a health hazard when concentrated. As Joseph Loiero of CBC News reports, “radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in Canada after smoking.”

2. Volatile organic compounds. Also known as VOCs, these are the types of air pollutants that we actually invite into our homes. We may not have done so purposely, but if you’ve ever installed new carpeting, painted your furniture, hung a new shower curtain or used cleaning products, you have subjected yourself to VOCs. You’ll know because of the smells that are emitted from these items and tasks.

“Countless products in your home emit VOCs, from cleaners to paint to furniture,” explains Michael Rosone on Aristair.com, “Even through you can’t smell all of them, they’re present in most homes at least at “background” levels, and can cause short-term health symptoms including headaches and nausea. Longer term (and scarier) health effects are also possible with repeated exposure.”

3. Asbestos. Over the past few months, we have been paying particular attention to a controversy in Canada over its intention to propose a complete nationwide ban on asbestos. Although the federal government made promises to do so a few months back, we continue to await any official word on an official ban. By now, it should be needless to say that asbestos in an incredibly hazardous material.

Especially if you live in an older home, there may be asbestos in your insulation materials. When disturbed by renovations, for example, asbestos can release airborne fibres that are known to cause deadly diseases such as lung cancer and mesothelioma. “Given the risks involved, DIY asbestos remediation is rarely a good idea,” advises McLendon, “Even taking your own samples for testing isn’t recommended.”

At DF Technical & Consulting Services Ltd., we offer expert services to detect and inevitably do away with the causes of poor indoor air quality. Please don’t hesitate to contact us in order to learn more about our Air Quality Services, Asbestos Containing Materials (ACM) Services and Radon Services among many others. Give us a call at 1-855-668-3131 or email info@dftechnical.ca.

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4 Summertime Tips For Improving Indoor Air Quality

Beautiful view over a window of a green field with a blue skyWarmer temperatures are often causes for celebration in Canada. And with signs of summer slowly appearing, many of us are already planning all of the outdoor activities that will help us to enjoy the heat and sunshine. It’s also very likely that most of us will also be opening our windows a lot more often. Being able to circulate the stagnant and stale air in our homes with the fresher air from outside can do a lot to improve our indoor air quality.

But what other ways can we improve indoor air quality in the summer? Here are four tips:

1. Keep the floors clean. Remember that with summer comes a lot more time being spent outdoors. That also means you’ll be giving yourself many new opportunities to track the dirt from outside into your home. In Canada, we generally maintain the habit of removing our outdoor shoes when we enter homes. Nevertheless, it’s important to keep the floors of your home clean in order to keep the air inside as fresh as possible.

“One of the best ways to help keep the air in your home fresh is by cleaning the floors,” advises TimeForComfort.com, “Be sure to vacuum the carpet at least once a week for the best results and even more frequently than this if you suffer from extreme allergies. It’s ideal to mop the ceramic, tile or wood floors weekly, as well. This will get rid of the dust and other pollutants in your home that could deter you from having a higher quality of air in your home.”

2. Change your air conditioner filters regularly. While Canadians tend to love the heat during the summertime, there’s only so much of it we can take. On especially hot days, it’s nice to be able to cool off in our air conditioned homes. It’s important, however, to properly maintain our air conditioners so that they are not adding pollutants to the air we breathe. “It’s very important to clean air filters regularly and replace them with new ones every two or three months,” advises TemperaturePerfection.com.

3. Keep cigarette smoking an outdoor activity. To be fair, heavy cigarette smokers are often known for being courteous. Many of them travel outdoors during the winter, braving subzero temperatures simply because they need to address their nicotine habits. That way, they don’t disturb those who they’re family members and co-workers with their toxic cigarette smoke. However, not every smoker is that considerate. Smoking indoors is arguably the worst thing a person can do for the quality of the air.

During the summertime, it’s important that smokers do the right thing. If you’re not going to quit, be sure to take your smoking habit outside. “Smoke is one of the worse toxins to let in your home, and this should be avoided,” asserts TimeForComfort.com, “Refrain from smoking in the house and ask others not to do so, as well to keep your indoor air quality high. Being able to create a smoke-free environment, this will allow you to have better air quality for your health and your loved ones.”

4. Test for radon. “You could have a radon problem if you have a new or old home,” TemperaturePerfection.com warns us, “This odourless, colourless gas raises the potential for developing lung cancer.” Radon is a naturally-forming gas that evolves from the breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water. It can seep into our homes through cracks in the foundation. In enclosed spaces, it can become highly concentrated and very dangerous.

At DF Technical & Consulting Services Ltd., we offer Radon Services which are designed to locate the exact levels of radon in the homes and offices of our clients. We are committed to ensuring that your indoor air quality is the best it can be all summer long. For more information about our new Radon Services, please don’t hesitate to give us a call at 1-855-668-3131. You can also email us at info@dftechnical.ca.

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Introducing Our Radon Services!

Radon. Chemical element. 3dThis certainly isn’t our first blog post about radon. And it definitely won’t be our last. But this blog does represent a very special first! DF Technical & Consulting Services Ltd. is very proud to announce the addition of Radon Services to the list of services we provide. Given the fact that radon exposure is a growing concern in Canada, we felt it was best to specialize in the detection of this radioactive gas.

What is radon? To bring you up to speed, radon is formed naturally by the breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water. It is a colourless and odourless gas so, needless to say, it cannot be detected by sight or smell. When radon escapes from the ground and mixes in with the outdoor air, it is not generally a health concern. This is because its outdoor release results only in low concentrations.

So when does radon become dangerous? When trapped in enclosed spaces – such as your home – radon can accumulate to very high concentrations. And because we can’t smell or see it, we can unknowingly expose ourselves to it. The problem is that radon exposure in high concentrations is known for developing lung cancer. As a result, it’s of vital importance that people test their homes with the help of professionals.

How does radon get into the home? The gas is known to enter properties through openings and cracks that exist where there is soil connecting to the property. According to Health Canada, such openings can include “cracks in foundation walls and in floor slabs, construction joints, gaps around service pipes, support posts, window casements, floor drains, sumps or cavities inside walls.”

Is radon exposure really that big of a concern? In a CBC News report, Michael Pereira confirms that radon is actually the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers in Canada. This is of great concern, as radon levels are apparently increasing throughout the country. In his report, he highlights the fact that a 2012 Health Canada report found that 6.9 per cent of Canadians are living in homes that have radon levels that are considered to be too high.

What level of radon is considered dangerous? Pereira informs us that the Canadian guidelines for radon is 200 becquerels per cubic metre (Bq/m3). “CBC News has obtained and plotted the data showing the results of approximately 14,000 radon tests in homes across Canada,” he writes, “Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in Canada, causing an estimated 3,000 deaths a year.”

Pereira goes on to state that since radon levels can vary from house to house, Health Canada recommends that all Canadians test their homes for radon. Naturally, at DF Technical & Consulting Services Ltd., we treat these findings very seriously. We consider it our duty to provide our clients with the greatest possible help in detecting contaminants in the air of their homes and workspaces.

Our new Radon Services are designed to determine for our clients the exact levels of radon in their homes and offices and whether or not they are safe. As always, we are committed to ensuring that your indoor air quality is the best it can be. For more information about our new Radon Services, please don’t hesitate to call DF Technical & Consulting Services Ltd. at 1-855-668-3131. You can also email us at info@dftechnical.ca.

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How Does Radon Negatively Impact Our Health?

Sick woman cough in ved under blanketIn our last blog, we revisited the topic of radon and explained the importance of preventing it from entering your home. The colourless and odourless gas which is produced naturally by the breakdown of uranium in the ground can find its way into your home in a number of ways. As Health Canada reminds us, they include cracks in foundation walls and floor slabs, construction joints, gaps around service pipes, support posts, window casements and floor drains.

But what makes radon a health risk? Believe it or not, radon is the second highest leading cause of lung cancer. As you may have guessed, cigarette smoking is the number one cause. Smokers are more susceptible to the negative health effects associated with radon, but non-smokers are also at risk. This is especially true if radon becomes trapped within the confined spaces of their homes.

“It is estimated that a non-smoker exposed to high levels of radon over a lifetime has a one in 20 chance of developing lung cancer,” reports Health Canada, “That estimate increases to one in three for a smoker exposed to high levels of radon over a lifetime.” It should go without saying that to promote optimum health, cigarette smoking should be completely eliminated. However, measures to limit or prevent the entrance of radon into the home should also be taken.

What measures should be taken to limit radon exposure? Firstly, it’s important to minimize the number of entry points into your home. As we pointed out earlier, there are numerous ways that radon can find its way into your home. However, it’s also important to have good ventilation throughout your home. How well your home is ventilated is a factor in how much radon exposure you and your family members will endure.

How can Canadian homes be safely ventilated in the winter? Obviously, the frigid outside air doesn’t allow for Canadians to keep their windows open for very long. Nevertheless, cracking the windows now and again isn’t a bad idea. According to HealthStatus.com, “you won’t die from the cold if you crack windows open a bit. You might want to install an in-window air exchange system that pulls in filtered outside air without letting heated air escape.”

You may also want to invest in an HRV (Heat Recovery Ventilator). As explained by Mike Reynolds on Ecohome.net, “the point of these systems is to remove moisture and provide fresh air to your home that is pre-heated by the outgoing air. The core of an HRV has small separated channels that air passes through, allowing incoming air to be preheated by exhaust air. There are no heating coils, you are simply operating fans, so they are relatively cheap to run.”

Health Canada reminds us that nearly every Canadian home has some radon in it. The levels do vary from home to home even if they are located beside each other. It’s important, therefore, to have the levels of radon in your home tested by a certified professional. “The only way to know if you have a radon problem is to test your home,” they insist, “It is simple and inexpensive.” We couldn’t agree more.

At DF Technical & Consulting Services Ltd., we proudly offer Air Quality Services that are designed to accurately locate all sources of air pollution in your home. Seeking out radon, among many other contaminants, our services assist in significantly improving indoor air quality. If you have any concerns about the possibility of radon having entered your home, please don’t hesitate to call us at 1-855-668-3131 or email info@dftechnical.ca.

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Preventing Radon From Entering Our Homes

Radon material on the periodic table. Part of a series.At DF Technical & Consulting Services Ltd., we talk a lot about improving indoor air quality. Naturally, there are many things that we can all do to make our homes much safer places to live. Vacuuming, dusting, opening the windows, removing carpets and avoiding VOCs are just a few of the everyday techniques that we can all adopt to make the air in our homes safer for us to breathe. And yet, completely preventing our air from being contaminated isn’t always possible.

Enter radon – the radioactive gas that is undetectable by sight or smell. It’s one of those air pollutants that is not controlled by the action taken by humans. Instead, it’s actually caused by nature. As Health Canada explains, radon is created by the breaking down of uranium in the soil and rock that surrounds our homes. When released into the outdoor air, it is not considered a health risk.

So what makes radon dangerous? When concealed within enclosed spaces, radon has the ability to accumulate to high levels. So, for example, when radon seeps into our homes and becomes trapped inside, it is no longer diluted. When we breathe radon into our lungs, the gas – which is known to decay and form radioactive elements – creates radioactive particles that release small bursts of energy, says Health Canada.

As further explained on their website, “this energy is absorbed by nearby lung tissue, damaging the lung cells. When cells are damaged, they have the potential to result in cancer when they reproduce. Exposure to high levels of radon in indoor air results in an increased risk of developing lung cancer. The risk of cancer depends on the level of radon and how long a person is exposed to those levels.”

How does radon enter our homes? Because radon is a gas, it can find many ways to seep into your home. The gas can enter your home through any openings that exist in places where the house is in contact with soil. As Health Canada points out, they can include “cracks in foundation walls and in floor slabs, construction joints, gaps around service pipes, support posts, window casements, floor drains, sumps or cavities inside walls.”

How can radon be prevented from entering the home? Well, one of the first and most logical steps would be to attempt to seal any cracks or openings that would allow radon to seep inside. However, on About.com, Janet Wickell admits that “sealing alone doesn’t usually lower radon levels, but it can limit the flow of radon into a home and reduce the loss of air that’s been conditioned, so it helps make other types of reduction techniques more effective.”

What other prevention methods are there? Soil suction draws radon up from beneath the house and vents it away from the house through pipes, explains Wickell. As well, house pressurization is a method that makes use of a fan that creates pressure differences that help to prevent radon from coming inside the home. Wickell also notes that a heat recovery ventilator or HRV can be used to increase ventilation in the home.

At DF Technical & Consulting Services Ltd., we would also highly recommend our Air Quality Services. Designed to pinpoint all sources of air pollution in the home, our services are known to seek radon, among many other contaminants, out. If you have any concerns about the possibility of radon having entered your home, please don’t hesitate to call us at 1-855-668-3131 or email info@dftechnical.ca.

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The Importance Of Reducing Radon In Your Home

radon element Most people are aware that carbon monoxide is a dangerous gas that needs to be kept out of our homes at all costs. One of the things that make the gas so harmful is that it is both colourless and odourless. As a result, it’s practically impossible to know if it is even present in the home. And while a carbon monoxide detector may take care of that, it’s not the only colourless and odourless gas that we should be worried about. Radon is also a danger.

What is radon exactly? In addition to being unable to see or smell this gas, we can’t do a whole lot to prevent its presence. Radon actually comes naturally from our environment, as it is released into the air by the breakdown of uranium in rocks and soil. According to the Canadian Cancer Society, “once released, radon breaks down into radioactive elements that can attach to dust and other substances in the air we breathe. It’s also a common type of radiation exposure.”

So just how dangerous is radon? Unfortunately, this gas can have disastrous effects on our health. Health Canada informs us that radon is actually the second leading cause of lung cancer after cigarette smoking! However, as long as radon is kept outdoors, it shouldn’t present any real dangers. This is because the outdoor air is able to dilute the gas to low concentrations, says Health Canada. Basically, as long as radon is kept out of our homes, we’re safe.

But how does radon get into our homes? It’s pretty common to have soil and rocks present in the areas of where we live. And when radon escapes from the soil and rocks around our homes, it can build up in poorly ventilated enclosed spaces. This is when radon becomes dangerous. According to Health Canada, if an indoor radon level exceeds 200 Bq/m3, measures should be taken to lower it.

How can we lower radon levels in our homes? Health Canada believes that “reducing the amount of radon in your home is easy. Techniques to lower radon levels are effective and can save lives. Radon levels in most homes can be reduced by more than 80% for about the same cost as other common home repairs such as replacing the furnace or air conditioner.” Thankfully, the Canadian Cancer Society unveils a few of those techniques.

The first is to install an active soil depressurization system. Also known as a “sub-slab depressurization system”, it works to reduce the concentration of radon in the soil, especially next to your home’s foundation. They also recommend that you seal all cracks and holes in the basement floors and walls. This will help to prevent radon gas from seeping into the home. You’ll also want to cover all sump pumps and drains.

In addition, it is recommended that you increase air circulation in the home by regularly opening your windows. You can also install a mechanical ventilation system in order to promote a healthy balance of indoor air and outdoor air. Health Canada adds, however, that radon is almost always present in most homes. It’s important to discover just how much is there. Therefore, getting a test is your best bet.

“Radon levels in a home can vary a lot from hour to hour and day to day, so the most accurate way to find out if you have a problem is to measure radon levels in your home for at least 3 months,” says Health Canada. At DF Technical & Consulting Services Ltd., we offer Air Quality Services that diligently seek to locate all sources of air pollution in the home. For more information, please don’t hesitate to call us at 1-855-668-3131 or email info@dftechnical.ca.

2 Comments

  1. joe-Reply
    April 5, 2016 at 7:13 pm

    I am all for preventitive measures to reduce the incoming radon but I have issue with your recommendation to cover floor drains. Tell that to an insurance company and see how fast they drop you as a client. It’s hard to even read a recommendation that says such a thing.

    • Dennis French-Reply
      April 5, 2016 at 7:33 pm

      You are correct that a floor drain for water draining needs to remain open to allow water to drain away in the event of a line or tank failure. There are other cover plates and such in floors that are there for clean out access and these can be sealed when not needing access. Also the pipe to concrete joint int eh water floor drain should be seal, not the drain itself. The Radon leaks around the joint between the pipe and the concrete.

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Sniffing Out Radon And Its Impact On Our Health

Radon material signThe old saying “what you don’t know won’t hurt you” isn’t exactly true. Something tells us that we’ve pointed this out in a previous blog. And that’s because previous blogs have exposed some of the major health hazards that pollute our breathing air. The scary thing about many of them is that you don’t always know that they’re there. That certainly doesn’t mean that they won’t hurt you though. That’s for sure.

Take carbon monoxide, for example. It’s a colourless, odourless gas that is commonly referred to as “the silent killer”. As you can tell by its less-than-complimentary moniker, the worst ramification of carbon monoxide exposure is death. Sadly, it isn’t the only colourless, odourless gas that impacts our breathing air and our health. According to The Lung Association, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in Canada. It, too, can go undetected.

What is radon gas? Radon is a radioactive gas that cannot be detected by the senses. As Health Canada explains it, it “is formed naturally by the breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water. As a gas, radon is slowly released from the ground, water, and some building materials that contain very small amounts of uranium, such as concrete, bricks, tiles and gyproc.” And it can present quite a problem in our homes.

How does radon get in our homes? Since radon comes out of soil and water, it has the ability to seep into the cracks of our houses. It generally enters the home through openings in unfinished floors, basements, crawlspaces, pipes, windows and sump pumps, says The Lung Association. The impact of radon in the home can be especially harmful if there is poor ventilation. This will trap the dangerous gas inside.

Health Canada provides a bit more of a definitive depiction of how our homes can become radon-filled: “A house can act like a vacuum for underground gases. The air pressure inside your house is usually lower than in the soil surrounding the foundation. This difference in pressure is caused by things like the use of air exchangers, exhaust fans and clothes dryers. When air is pushed out of the house, outside air is pulled back in to replace it – much of the replacement air comes from the ground surrounding the house and brings gases such as radon with it.”

How does radon affect our health? Well, we know that lung cancer is an unfortunate result of radon exposure. And while Health Canada assures us that there is no evidence of any other harmful health effects, they do note that symptoms can worsen if you are a smoker. Not surprisingly, a person’s risk of developing lung cancer after being exposed to radon significantly increases if they smoke.

How common is radon-induced lung cancer? “On average, 16% of lung cancer deaths are attributable to radon exposure in Canada,” reports Health Canada, “In 2006, an estimated 1,900 lung cancer deaths in Canada were due to radon exposure. Radon is the 2nd leading cause of lung cancer, after smoking.” Needless to say, for the best chances of clean breathing air, smoking must be avoided at all costs.

At DF Technical & Consulting Services Ltd., we are focused on making your breathing air the cleanest that it can be. Radon is one of the most worrisome issues when it comes to indoor air quality because of its “can’t see it, can’t smell it” nature. We offer Air Quality Services that exhaust all resources in locating air pollutants in the home. For more information, please don’t hesitate to call us at 1-855-668-3131 or email info@dftechnical.ca.

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