Mediaplanet: How polluted is indoor air versus outdoor air?

Mike Holmes: Indoor air quality plays an important role in how we feel inside our homes. Most people worry about the air quality outdoors without realizing that the air inside your home can be two to five times more polluted or higher.

MP: What is the biggest misconception people have in regards to indoor air quality?

MH: The biggest misconception people have is that the air quality in your home is good and safe. However, I’m sure all of you have seen the particles floating around in the air when you see a sunbeam or light through a window. Most of our homes today are constructed more tightly to make them more energy efficient. This is great for conserving energy, but it also means that our homes have trouble cycling in fresh, clean air. Our homes contain various materials that can release toxins into the indoor air, such as VOCs (volatile organic compounds) in paint and furniture or the adhesives in carpets and flooring. In significant concentrations, these toxins can contribute to poor indoor air quality.

MP: What is formaldehyde, where can it be found, and what is its impact on indoor air quality?

MH: Formaldehyde is a naturally occurring, strong-smelling, colourless gas that can be found in various organic compounds and many of our building products, such as adhesives and pressed woods.

While each separate product may meet industry standards, when you combine them, you may find that formaldehyde levels are elevated in your home, especially because we’re building our houses to be more airtight. In fact, my home inspectors are actually seeing formaldehyde readings increase in new homes.

Moderate exposure to formaldehyde can cause your eyes or nose to burn, and a sore throat. Higher levels of exposure can cause asthma-like symptoms, or can sometimes be toxic causing some cancers.

MP: What are some signs that your indoor air is contaminated?

MH: If you or a member of your family is experiencing headaches, itchy or burning eyes, irritated skin, nasal congestion, dry throat, nausea, or feel unusually tired on a regular basis, it may be due to the poor air quality in your home.

MP: How can an air purifier help maintain indoor air quality?

MH: For a new build, it’s really smart to consider installing an HRV (heat recovery system). If you are unable to install an HRV system adding a quality air purifier is the next best thing but remember to change the filters regularly. There are many on the market but make sure it’s a high quality purifier.

MP: When choosing an air purifier, what is important to look for?

MH: The Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) is something you want to look at when choosing a portable air purifier. This is the measurement for the rate of cleaning speed and effectiveness of your purifier and reflects its effectiveness against three common indoor air pollutants: tobacco smoke, dust and pollen. You will also want to look at the unit’s long-term durability and compare the efficiency rates between brands.

MP: How can indoor air filtration benefit those with sensitivities like asthma and/or allergies?

MH: In my opinion, poor indoor air quality is responsible for the increase in asthma, bronchitis, and allergy symptoms in families. These increases mean we need better filtration systems in our homes.

MP: How can I make sure that the brand of air purifier I am purchasing is reliable?

MH: Do your homework and read the manufacturers recommendations. Typically, high quality, trusted brand names come with good reputations and good warranties.