When we think about pollutants in the air, we typically think about outdoor allergens, like pollen or ragweed. However, considering we spend a significant amount of time indoors - at home, in the office, in shopping centres - indoor air quality should be top of mind.
While you may not be able to control the quality of the air you breathe everywhere you go, you can most certainly make a big difference in your home. Exposure to harmful contaminants is not good, that is simply common sense for both pets and people. Pets spend the bulk of their lives inside the home; most of them remaining home while their people are off at work, school, or a night on the town.
Because of their size, pets are especially vulnerable to pollutants in the air. The smaller the pet, the more sensitive they are to poor air quality. The exposure risk is also compounded, given the fact that pets metabolize toxins at a higher rate compared to humans. Many pollutants are also heavier than air, thus will be found in greater concentration closer to the floor.
Let’s have a look at how we can improve air quality in the home for not only our pets, but the whole family.
We all know smoking is not good for your health. This most certainly applies to pets. Studies have shown a significant increase in serious health problems in pets exposed to environmental smoke from tobacco. These health problems include everything from irritation of the lungs, to cancer of the respiratory tract, especially nasal and lung cancers.
Whether it’s smoke from cigarettes, cannabis, shisha, or anything else, keep all forms of smoke and vape away from pets. Do not smoke indoors around your pet, and be sure the room is well ventilated before any pets enter. Pets should have access to fresh, clean air at all times.
Candles and Essential Oils
The candle and incense industries are not regulated, and manufacturers are not required to list any ingredients on their products. Scary, but not surprising. Many candles contain known carcinogens, reproductive toxins, and neurotoxins. When inhaled, these pollutants go directly into the bloodstream. If you choose to have candles, avoid petroleum-based waxes, like paraffin. Lead, benzene, and artificial colours and scents should be avoided as well.
Because toxicity among essential oils varies greatly, I do not recommend using them around the home where pets have regular access. Exposure to a toxic essential oil may cause everything from digestive upset, to aspiration pneumonia, to organ failure. The most toxic essential oils include wintergreen, citrus, cinnamon, pine, eucalyptus, tea tree, and pennyroyal. Common symptoms of exposure to diffused essential oils are excessive drooling, coughing, vomiting, sneezing, and lethargy.
Many of our everyday household cleaners contain a litany of toxic ingredients, like ammonia, chlorine, glycol ethers, and formaldehyde. From the laundry detergent we use to clean our clothes, to the all-purpose cleaners we use to clean our everyday surfaces, we not only put ourselves at risk of exposure to toxic pollutants, but our pets, too.
Ditch those traditional cleaners, and go for biodegradable, nontoxic products listed as pet or baby friendly. Or, go the DIY route and make your own safe and natural cleaning products at home! White vinegar, apple cider vinegar, and lemon juice are all wonderful, safe options.
Did you know the air we breathe inside our homes can be up to five times dirtier than the air we breathe outside?
The simple act of replacing your furnace filter regularly will greatly improve the air quality in your home - something both pets and people will benefit from. Furnace filters collect all sorts of nasty airborne particles like dust, bacteria, pet dander, mold spores, and allergens, so consider a clean furnace filter your first line of defense towards improved household air quality.
New products have a unique smell. Think of the classic new car smell, or the smell of a new leather sofa. That smell is what’s known as 'off-gassing', which is the process of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) being released from glue, paint, finishes, and other chemical-particle emitting substances. The list of off-gassing items around your home is staggering: flooring, furniture, paint, insulation, mattresses, cleaning products, air fresheners, and more.
Many of the items around your home - like carpeting - may emit VOCs for years. Many VOCs are odourless and undetectable, making it difficult to detect what you and your pets are breathing in. Exposure to VOCs may cause skin irritation and respiratory problems.
With today’s awareness of VOCs, and the health risks associated, many household items now offer third-party certification for protection against off-gasses. Look for emission certifications on furniture, mattresses, and other large household items.
Air quality around the home should be a big consideration for the health of the entire family. By making a few simple changes around the home, and making informed purchasing decisions, you can take a deep breath knowing you have reduced the risk of exposing yourself and your pets to airborne pollutants.
Brandon Forder – also known as The Pet Expert - is vice-president of Canadian Pet Connection, a family-owned and -operated business located in Meaford. He has over twenty years' experience specializing in pet nutrition, behaviour and lifestyle. Canadian Pet Connection is an industry leader committed to providing their clients with the highest levels of personal, attentive service. Learn more at www.CanadianPetConnection.ca.