June is finally upon us - it's time to break out the sunscreen, barbeque tongs, lounge chairs, and...tissues? Unfortunately, sunshine brings allergens and this summer is being projected as one of the worst for pollen we've seen in a long time. As many people experience the joys of itchy eyes, runny noses and sneezing fits, we thought it prudent to talk about allergens present in your home. Over 64% of the 22 individuals we surveyed last month admitted they were concerned about the air quality in their homes.
Air quality is an issue that encompasses many areas, so we reached out to our newest Specialty Service partner, LEAP Management Inc, to discuss air quality issues and how they are assessed. We spoke directly with inspector, Lilja Palsson, B.Sc., Dip., Eng., CRSP. Lilja has a degree in Microbiology from the University of Waterloo, a post-degree diploma in Environmental Engineering Technology from Conestoga College, a certificate in Occupational Health and Safety from Ryerson, and she is also a Canadian Registered Safety Professional.
Carson Dunlop: How does an air quality assessment work; what happens during this type of assessment?
Lilja Palsson:"Air quality is a very broad term. When doing this type of assessment, I first talk to the client about their concerns. Are they experiencing allergic symptoms such as headache, sore throat, or respiratory distress? Is there an odour? After discussing what issues they're experiencing, I decide what kind of parameters I would like to sample for - perhaps air sampling and assessment for mould; or maybe direct readings for volatile organic chemicals (VOCs); or maybe a more sophisticated sampling device to determine the source of an odour. I'll run a few air samples and do a visual inspection to see if there are any issues that caught my eye (staining, spray foam, etc.)."
Carson Dunlop: What is the most common misconception homeowners have in relation to air quality?
Lilja Palsson:"Homeowners tend to think that events such as flooding, sewer backup, installing spray foam, renovations, etc. will not affect the indoor air quality of their home. They often do not associate any illness or symptoms they are experiencing as being related to those events. The correlation between air quality and homeownership and maintenance issues tends to go unnoticed."
Carson Dunlop: What is the weirdest thing you've encountered during an air quality inspection?
Lilja Palsson:"I did find gold in someone's attic while sampling vermiculite. A previous owner of the home had stashed an old cookie tin full of tacky gold jewelry that I found while taking samples in the attic. I brought the tin down for the owner and we looked at it. I think it was from the 1940s or so. She had the jewelry appraised - she didn't tell me the exact amount but she called to thank me and said that I paid for myself and more!"
Carson Dunlop: What simple, preventative maintenance can homeowners undertake to help preserve their air quality?
Lilja Palsson:"In terms of preventative maintenance I would say always monitor your home for potential leaks, floods and other water issues. Replace your roof before it leaks, clean your gutters regularly, caulk your windows and replace them before they leak, make sure your basement is waterproofed before you finish it, use your washroom fan, make sure your bathtub is well-caulked, keep your home well-ventilated in the summer and sealed with the furnace running in the winter, if you add insulation to your attic, add ventilation as well - I really could go on, but I know this is an article, not a novel.
As a Home Inspection company our aim is to keep homeowners safe, warm and dry. Much like Lilja, we believe in the importance of home maintenance as it pertains to keeping families comfortable and secure in their homes. Carson Dunlop's Home Reference Book outlines many strategies for helping homeowners maintain their properties.