Tag Archive | "building related illness (BRI)"

Healthier Indoor Air Quality Improves Efficiency

Indoor air quality (IAQ) is very important for many reasons. If the building you work in or your home isn’t ventilated correctly, this may lead to many illnesses. Everyday exposure to indoor pollutants will cause you to lose life expectancy and you may die years earlier then you should.

If your home or work place building is energy efficient, this will help improve the IAQ and your health. Having a healthier indoor environment will lead to less illnesses and sick days, thus creating more productivity and profits for the company. Having an energy efficient home and building will help you save money on utility bills.

When you are looking to buy appliances, electronics and furniture, try to buy energy efficient products. Try to buy products which don’t give off harmful gasses. Don’t allow smoking inside the building or your home. Smoking should always be outside and away from windows and doors.

Don’t run gas motors of any kind inside your garage whether it’s attached or detached from your home. Make sure there is always lots of ventilation as these harmful gasses can kill you. If you have gas or wood burning appliances, make sure proper ventilation is in place and an IAQ monitor is installed.

There are many different options available to achieve a good healthy IAQ and an energy efficient home / building at the same time. For suggestions on gas detection systems or indoor air quality monitors, please visit www.critical-environment.com.



Maas, Willem. “Improving Your Home’s Indoor Air Quality: From Basic to Bigger and Better Steps”. US Gren Building Council’s Green Home Guide. 4 Sep 2009. Web. 15 May 2012. <http://greenhomeguide.com/know-how/article/improving-your-homes-indoor-air-quality-from-basic-to-bigger-and-better-steps>.

Seppanen, Olli. “Energy Efficiency and Healthy Indoor Environment”. REHVA Journal. January 2012: 4. Print. <www.rehva.eu/?download=_/j2012-01/rj1201_web.pdf>.

Wendt, R. et al. “Indoor Air Quality of an Energy-Efficient, Healthy House with Mechanically Induced Fresh Air”. ASHRAE Transactions. Vol. 110, Part 2. 2004.

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What is Formaldehyde?

Formaldehyde is a flammable, colorless gas with a very pungent odor. It has many other names, such as; methanol, methyl aldehyde, methylene oxide, formalin, and formol.

It is widely produced around the world as a preservative and a disinfectant. Used in textile finishing and production of resins which acts as adhesives and binders for wood products, pulp, paper, glass wool, and rock wool as well as some plastics, coatings, paints, varnishes, and industrial chemicals.

Exposure to formaldehyde which is a known carcinogen; can cause asthma, allergies, lung and liver problems, damage to your immune system and chronic poisoning in severe cases. It also causes cancer of the nasal cavity due to long term exposure to high levels of formaldehyde.

Formaldehyde is also commonly used in hospitals; in water based solutions called formalin or in a powder form know as paraformaldehyde. It’s used in these areas histopathology and anatomical pathology labs or in forensic mortuaries. These solutions are used for fixing human organs and tissues after autopsy or biopsy or for a preservative and disinfectant in embalming fluids, gels and surface packs.

Health Canada and the Canadian Government (as well as other countries) have been taking steps and implementing new protocols for people who work or are exposed to and those who use Formaldehyde (any form). Changes have been made to guidelines to ensure exposure levels are low and to make sure all safety equipment is available and proper safety training is conducted. Health Canada has also made changes to the guidelines and controls for labeling requirements.

Formaldehyde is also found in homes and workplaces. Many household items produce formaldehyde; therefore, suggestions for how to reduce the levels are indicated in the chart below:

Formaldehyde Solution
Cigarettes (tobacco smoke) Always smoke outside, never inside.
Cabinets & Furniture made of particle board or medium density fiberboard Buy these products covered with plastic laminate or coated on all sides.
Humidity Levels Should be monitored; high humidity can cause products to release formaldehyde into the air.
Permanent Press Clothing & Sheets Air out before use.
Ventilation System Ensure proper ventilation is in place when using products that contains formaldehyde or any forms.
Engines Don’t run any kind in spaces attached to your house or near any open windows and doors of your home.
Fireplaces & Wood Stoves When in use, make sure proper ventilation is in place.


It is always a good idea to have an indoor air quality monitor installed in your home or workplace.

For suggestions on a fixed gas detection system, please visit www.critical-environment.com.



“Formaldehyde”. Health Canada. 25 August 2010. Web. 1 Oct 2012. <http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ewh-semt/air/in/poll/construction/formaldehyde-eng.php>.

“Formaldehyde”. Wikipedia. 27 October 2012. Web. 8 Oct 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Formaldehyde>.

“Formaldehyde in Consumer Products”. Australian Competiion & Consumer Commission: Product Safety Australia. 2012. Web. 5 Oct 2012. <http://www.productsafety.gov.au/content/index.phtml/itemId/973697>.

“Formaldehyde Toxic Chemical”. Organic Natural Health. Web. 8 Oct 2012. <http://www.health-report.co.uk/formaldehyde.html>.

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Gas Detection Best Practices at Work

Most work place accidents could be prevented with proper working gas detection equipment. Gas detection is a critical component for safety programs for any environment; it should be given the highest priority and attention to detail to avoid any accidents and unnecessary work place injuries or deaths.

Here are some suggestions on how to keep your work environment safe:

1.   Read the gas level before entry. Conditions can change rapidly. A controller reading the gas level should be placed outside the room. Workers can view the reading prior to deciding if it’s safe to enter.

2.   Make sure the gas detector is detecting the right types of harmful gases for the environment.

3.   Regular maintenance is mandatory for the equipment to be working at its best. Equipment that has been stored for a long time can be improperly serviced or outdated this can cause the equipment to fail or give false readings.

4.   Have the work place tested for odors. This can be caused by the following: dead animals, gas leaks, hidden mould growth, cracked sewer lines, rotting or decaying vegetation.

5.   Have the work place tested after a fire. Fires have the potential to generate lots of contaminants which linger for a long time. These contaminants are airborne as well as surface. For your safety, do not come back in until it has been inspected and tested.

6.   Keep your environment clean and dust free. Keep it cleaned regularly and have proper storage for chemicals.

Indoor air quality is extremely important to everyone’s health and should be taken seriously! Everyone should do whatever it takes to make their work environment safe.

Written by: Ambur Vilac & Teresa Kouch



ABM Environmental Inc. 2010. Web. 11 May 2012. <http://www.abmenvironmental.ca/>.

EnviroMed Detection Services.Web. 11 May 2012. <http://www.enviromed.ca/>.

Savetech Environmental Ltd. 2010. Web. 11 May 2012. <http://www.safetechenv.com/>.

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Indoor Air Quality Myths Debunked

Today’s buildings, whether it is a home, office, manufacturing plant, hospital, etc., are more energy efficient; however, they also foster a potentially harmful environment. Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) has become a rising concern in the HVAC industry.

Poor IAQ can cause a number of health issues such as, allergies, dryness and irritation to the eyes, nose, throat, and skin. It can also cause headaches, shortness of breath, hypersensitivity, sinus congestion, coughing, sneezing, nausea, and dizziness. Depending on the type of building, the main factors of poor IAQ are different. For residential homes, carbon monoxide, pet dander, dust mites and mold spores are the common factors. For parking garages, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and propane are the common factors. By educating ourselves about poor IAQ, we can be proactive to install systems, such as gas detectors, air purifiers, etc., in the building for a healthier living environment.

Below are IAQ myths about gas detection systems that have been debunked:

MYTH: Permanent gas detectors are effective.
FACT: True. Gas detectors are effective in detecting the gas that’s in the air. Regular maintenance as recommended by the manufacturer is important in keeping these gas detectors up to date. Whether it is a simple calibration process, replacement sensor or parts, or even a firmware upgrade, it is highly recommended.
MYTH: Sensors do not need to be replaced once they’re in the field.
FACT: False. Every sensor has a different life expectancy depending on the gas type and manufacturer. The life expectancy of sensors range from a year to ten years; therefore, it is advisable to contact the manufacturer for details.
MYTH: Ozone is safe for our health.
FACT: False. It is effective in fighting a number of pollutants including odors, chemicals, bacteria, etc. However, ozone generators are known to emit harmful substances into the air. When ozone is used for treating asthma, it is done in clinics that are under strict medical surveillance.
MYTH: Air pollution is only an outdoor problem.
FACT: False. Indoor air can be 12 times more polluted than the air outside.
MYTH: There is no real need to worry about IAQ.
FACT: False. People can spend up to 90% of their time indoors so maintaining the highest quality of indoor air is critical. Some pollutants can be easily identified as it can cause bad odors, such as smoke, dust, paint, and animal dander. However, some are more difficult to identify with our senses, such as bacteria, fungi, mold spores, pollen, influenza viruses, or even off gassing from the walls, furniture and appliances.
MYTH: It is too difficult to improve IAQ.
FACT: False. To improve air quality, it is not difficult but can be expensive especially when more than one system needs to be in place. However, spending more on the system can be cheaper in the long run in terms of operating cost.
MYTH: All gas detectors are the same.
FACT: False. There are many different types of gas detectors in the market and not all operate the same way. Research is necessary!
MYTH: You should choose gas detector according to the square footage of the room.
FACT: False. Gas detectors should not be chosen based on the square footage of the room. Coverage is dependant upon the type of gas as every gas behaves differently.
MYTH: Gas detectors help reduce energy consumption in commercial and industrial buildings.
FACT: True. Gas detectors can trigger the ventilation system to turn on or off according to the level of gas it detects. For example, in a parkade, if the level of carbon monoxide increases, the gas detector will switch the ventilation fans on automatically to circulate the air and diffuse it from one central location and push it outside. Once the level of carbon monoxide drops, the ventilation fan is turned off.
MYTH: Gas detectors should be placed near the source of the gas.
FACT: True. If a gas leak were to occur, the sensor(s) will detect it right away and alert the personnel in charge and / or start the ventilation fans automatically before the gas leak gets circulated throughout the premise.Gas detectors should not be placed near ventilation fans or openings to the outside. They should be placed in areas where there is good air circulation, but not in the path of rapidly moving air. Pay particular attention to dead air spots where there is little or no air movement.Depending on the properties of the gas, mounting height matters. For a list of mounting heights for common gases, visit http://www.critical-environment.com/technicallibrary/sensor-mounting.html.
MYTH: Green buildings do not improve health.
FACT: False. Green buildings improve health through safer materials and products and by circulating cleaner air.

Written by: Ambur Vilac & Teresa Kouch



Angela. “5-Myths Debunked About the Home’s Heating and Cooling System.” Hoffmann Brothers: St. Louis Geothermal Heating & Cooling Company. 31 August 2010. Web. 10 May 2012. <http://www.stlouisgeothermal.com/blog.html>.

Hudson, Adam. “Indoor Air Quality: Myth or Money Generator.” www.co2meter.com. 01 December 2008. Web. 10 May 2012. <http://contractingbusiness.com/columnists/hudson/indoor_air_quality_myth/>.

“Top 8 Air Cleaner Myths You Are Not Supposed to Know About.” Air Cleaners, Air Purifiers – Air Cleaner Systems. 2010. Web. 26 September 2011. <http://air-cleaner-systems.com/air-cleaner-myths>.

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Why is a carbon dioxide monitor a good investment?

The easiest way to check if your house is encapsulating gases is to monitor the carbon dioxide (CO2) levels. This one gas is used as a marker for air quality, is the easiest to monitor, and provides a more accurate air quality reading.

It is a good trend indicator because it changes in measurable amounts as the air quality gets worse. All other gasses in the house follow the same trend as the CO2. Most commercial air quality controls are based on CO2 levels.

It is the easiest to monitor simply because as the air quality gets worse, the levels increase. Outside air has an average of 350 – 450 ppm of CO2. Inside, the levels raise to values of 550 – 700 ppm. In office buildings, the HVAC systems will keep the levels below 800 ppm.

Monitoring the CO2 levels is relatively inexpensive and more accurate compared to monitoring any of the other gases that are in your home such as carbon monoxide (CO) and TVOC. It is more accurate in that it does not change based on individual problems.

CO Monitors

CO monitors are commonly sold at the local hardware store. The problem with CO monitors is that it always reads 0 ppm. This reading does not mean that you are safe because it is only looking for the CO gas that is produced by cars and things that are burning. The reason CO monitors are so common is that a large part of the world uses natural gas to cook their food and if this gas is not burned correctly it can produce CO. This monitor does not tell you what your air quality is. It is used for a specific purpose which is to detect CO.

TVOC Monitors

TVOC monitors are expensive and can cost thousands of dollars. You would think you are safe because it always reads less than 0.04 ppm. If you just purchased a new desk that is manufactured in a country that is not regulated, you will see an increase in your TVOC values but how do you know which type of VOC it is? Within a week or two, the levels will then return to values of about 0.05 ppm. This may take several months to a couple of years for the VOCs to stop off gassing from the desk and return to less than 0.04 ppm. It’s impossible to say the increase or decrease was due to formaldehyde or hydrogen sulphide. It’s also impossible to identify what combination of VOC made up the TVOC reading.

CO2 Monitors

CO2 monitor is like a smoke detector and looks at the general problem. If a smoke detector only went off if the fire was caused by burning macaroni and cheese it may save your life but the odds are lower than if it detects all the source of fire. The CO2 monitor does not detect all the source of poor air quality but it tells you if you are in a location that has poor air quality or even bad air quality and this means the levels of all the gases that can have effects on your quality of life are higher.

Written by: Richard Grant, Service Department Supervisor

Posted in Environment, Health, Indoor Air Quality, ProductsComments (9)

Things to think about when it comes to an energy efficient home

Every where we turn people are conserving and reducing in order to save money and our homes are no exception.

Every day there is new methods and products that are introduced to the market for you to save on your energy bill. In the short term, these newly introduced products stop your house from losing heat. What you may not know is that, in the long term, these same products are causing you to keep all the chemicals that are being off gassed inside with you. This is no different than a gas chamber. The most common off gassed chemical is formaldehyde. It is a common indoor air pollutant and can be toxic, allergenic, and carcinogenic. Unlike a cereal box, the common everyday items, such as furniture, clothes, cosmetics, toys, building materials, etc., do not come with a complete list of ingredients or wares.

If an older home has not been looked at from an overall air treatment stand point, the owner could be encapsulating himself in an unhealthy environment. Here are some examples:

  • The CO2 levels could be getting to over 1,000 ppm with three or four people living in the same air for 10-12 hours with little or no air exchange.
  • That new desk in the basement office could be off gassing formaldehyde.
  • The cleaners used on the kitchen floor every week for months at a time could be emitting any type of VOC.
  • The humidity levels being raised from cooking could encourage off gassing.
  • Harmful adhesives used in producing insulations could be hiding in your walls and releasing formaldehyde gas.
  • The new coat of paint could be off gassing beneze, a VOC that causes carcinogen.

Only 188 air toxins out of 80,000 chemicals are registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and have been tested for harmful effects. In other words, only 2% of the chemicals are being identified and possibly regulated. Not only are these substances a problem but the bio-accumulation lingers and can be deadly.

What should you look for in a new home?

For a well designed, new house built for high efficiency and maximum energy conservation, there are four things to look for:

  1. It should have a 95% efficient furnace or better yet, a heat exchange system (heat pump) for heating.
  2. The walls and attic should meet the R-2000 standard rating. This is a voluntary standard that is certified by the Government of Canada to exceed building code requirements for energy efficiency, indoor air quality (IAQ), and environmental responsibility.
  3. All the windows and doors are double or triple glazed and has high R-value rating when closed. This value determines the effectiveness of the insulation.
  4. It has an air handler that exchanges the internal for external air at a defined rate using a heat recovery unit to reduce the loss of energy.

What should you do to your current home?

For an older, well maintained house, there are three things that you can do to save on your energy bill:

  1. When remodeling, add extra insulation into the wall but make sure that the insulation does not contain formaldehyde.
  2. Add insulation into the attic and seal off the attic entrance.
  3. Install new double or triple glazed windows as well as new doors with air tight seals.
  4. Place plants in the home. Plants are known to purify the air and remove 99.9% of toxins.

Written by: Richard Grant, CETCI’s Service Department Supervisor

Posted in Environment, Health, Indoor Air QualityComments (5)


Gas Detectors

CETCI gas detectors are used to detect many different gases. Some of the most common are Carbon Monoxide, Carbon Dioxide, Nitrogen Dioxide, Nitric Oxide, Ammonia, Chlorine, Ozone, Combustible Gases like Methane and Propane, Oxygen, Refrigerants and more.

IAQ Monitors

The YES Series of IAQ Monitors are essential for those responsible for conducting Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Investigations. These instruments are specifically designed to measure and record the quality of indoor air in offices, buildings, homes, schools, parking garages, ice rinks, etc.