Is Your Home Healthy?
Source:  Canada Mortgage & Housing (CMHC)
UPdate Fall 1995

     It is often the familiar things in life that make us most comfortable.  What could be more familiar to us than the surroundings of our own home?  Yet, without our being aware of it, our homes may contain harmful materials capable of making us ill.  The root of the problem can often be attributed to poor air quality in our homes.

     Inferior indoor air quality can be the result of airborne irritants like mold, or chemical vapors emitted by building materials, carpets, furniture and cleaners.  It can lead to symptoms ranging from fatigue and headaches to eye, ear, nose and throat irritants.  These symptoms can be severe enough to adversely affect our regular daily activities.  When you consider that Canadians, on average, spend about 90 per cent of their time indoors, much of it at home, poor air quality becomes a concern.

     Approximately 25 per cent of the Canadian population suffer from some form of allergy or chemical sensitivity.  Asthma is found in 20 per cent of the children and 10 per cent of Canadian adults.  Clean indoor air is a must for them, but all Canadians benefit from a healthy indoor environment.

     As part of its “healthy housing” initiative, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) has prepared a booklet entitled Healthy Housing – Practical Tips.  This publication identifies ways that you can make your home a healthier place to live, including improved indoor air quality.

     You may be surprised at the familiar substances that can affect the indoor air quality.  For example, if the surfaces of the pressed wood used in new cupboards are not well sealed, noticeable chemical vapors may be emitted into the air.

     For construction, consider using gypsum drywall which contains recycled material and creates less dust and volatile chemicals during installation.  This type of drywall also minimizes taping, filling and sanding.  Low-toxicity drywall fillers and sealers are also available.

     Since both grouting and caulking usually give off chemical vapors, you might consider having tiles laid on Portland cement with the mortar acting as the grout.  Special low-odor silicone caulking is available which is fungicide-free.

     A healthy option for the kitchen is a polyester mineral-filled countertop, which emits few vapors.  Because they are repairable, they can last the entire life span of the house.

     If you are building a new house, consult your contractor on the choice of building materials.  A little time invested now can provide your new home with improved indoor air quality.


 For more information on how to make your home healthy, obtain a copy of Healthy Housing – Practical Tips from your local CMHC office in Halifax.