Student : By Linda Bui
University : University of Toronto
The winter season is a special time of the year, especially for us Canadians. We can lace up our skates for outdoor rinks, celebrate holiday festivities with our loved ones, participate in a Secret Santa, and begin looking forward to the New Year. I personally enjoy listening to my favourite Michael Bublé Christmas soundtrack, sipping peppermint hot chocolates, and cozying up to read a good book.
But the season is not without its challenges. Not onlys is there a frigid drop in temperatures, but also our indoor air quality in our homes. According to the Canadian Lung Association, there are number of cited airborne toxins that are contributing air quality. They can range from household cleaning products, such as air fresheners or perfumes, to volatile organic compounds, which also known as VOCs and often found in home improvement products. And with the heaters running 24/7 in winter to keep us toasty, there’s an increase chance of toxins becoming airborne. Since our windows remain closed, there is poorer ventilation compared to our warmer seasons.
I personally notice this as someone who has lifelong eczema, allergies, and asthma, which definitely acts up during this time. I find that there may be flare ups on my skin and find it more difficult to breathe normally. However, there are many others living with more chronic illnesses that may far worse because of the poorer air quality. For instance, the Canadian Government notes that air pollution, as a result of pollutants and bacteria found indoors, as related to higher risk for asbestosis and legionnaires’ disease. There are also major links to lung and heart conditions that can include severe lung cancer, chronic bronchitis, as well as heart failure. These can develop overtime and the possible chance of fatality. It is noted that younger children and older adults are more susceptible to the effects of air pollution, but one’s overall level of health and type and exposure level to contaminants are also important influences.
Not only does air quality impact humans, but other animals, and especially house pets. I personally do not own any cats or dogs, mainly because I am allergic to them. But I can imagine that they too are spending more time indoors during the winter months. Since our furry friends are inhaling the same air that we are too, which means that they are also likely to be impacted by poorer air quality. And since their bodies are much smaller than humans, they may be inhaling more concentrated amounts of toxins. The Mothers and Other for Clean Air advocate group notes that air pollution has been linked to cardiac arrest or increased in tumors.
So what can we do to breathe easier in the winter months? There are a number of short term practical tips to longer term investments that can make a drastic difference in indoor air quality for humans and non-humans alike. These changes can be done at any point, and ideally before the winter season, but it is never too late to get started on improving your indoor air quality at home today.
1. Bring the outdoors indoors! No, I don’t mean to open up all of your windows during the winter to get the ventilation going. But what you can do is adding more indoor plants in your house, especially in rooms that feel stuffy or uncomfortable to be in the cold season. They’ll purify your air for a low-cost investment. If you’re someone who’s forgetful of watering your plants, you can buy ones that easily retain water. As well, you should look for plants that don’t require too much sunlight as winter is not known as a good time for lots of it.
2. Do some winter cleaning. Although “Spring cleaning” may be a catchier tagline, winter cleaning may save your lungs. This includes vacuuming and cleaning dusty areas more frequently, and paying close attention to areas like carpets. The cleaning also includes your pets too! They may not be trekking as much dirt in because they’re not outdoors as much, but they still shed fur and dead skin cells year round. These particles definitely impact your air quality.
3. Freshen up with essential oils. You can use a fancy diffuser or D-I-Y (do-it-yourself) by adding them in spray bottles some water. They are a win-win as they purify the air without leaving traces of harmful chemicals behind. My absolute favourites are tangerine and peppermint. Also, they’re great for destressing!
4. Invest in humidifier or air purifier. They come in a range of sizes or you can equip entire spaces too! It’s more recommended to keep them in your bedroom in the nighttime. They’re known to improve quality of sleep and overall breathing in the colder months. You can consult a professionals to select the best one for you and your household.
5. Call an expert to get your air quality tested. They will inform you about the specific issues your dealing with in your house and how to best deal with them in the long term.
Mold Busters offers testing and removal services across Ontario and Quebec! Managing the drop in air quality in the winter season does not have to be as difficult or severe as some of the consequences of not taking action would be, which will result increased stress with the health impacts. Taking action now may also save you money in the future. Dealing with the health or your home environment if the quality gets progressively worse may increase financial costs too for treatment or clean ups. By taking little steps towards improving your indoor air quality, you can see changes immediately tomorrow. Not only will yours, your family’s and pets’ lungs thank you for it, you can spend time doing what’s most important during the Canadian wintertime – celebrating the holiday spirit with loved ones.
Canadian Lung Association
Government of Canada
Mothers and Others for Clean Air
To read other Scholarship Essays, please visit our Scholarship Page.