How you can support your health with the air in your home

In winter, toxins build up in our homes due to lack of ventilation and poor air filtration. Here on Vancouver Island, we are experiencing record low temperatures and so much snow we are quickly running out of places to put it. Add the recently increased restrictions due to the Covid pandemic and we are spending a heck of a lot of time inside our homes.

According to the Canadian Lung Association, the most common toxins found in Canadian homes are formaldehyde, radon, carbon monoxide, and tobacco fumes. Allergens like dust mites, pet dander, mould, pesticides, fungi and pollen are also floating in the air around us. This time of year we run our furnaces, stoke the fireplace or wood stove and maybe use plug-in space heaters contributing to the cancer-causing melee in the air.

We already know spending so much time indoors breathing stale air isn’t healthy. We feel lethargic, irritable and tend to indulge in things that aren’t good for us to soothe our prickly dispositions as we wait not so patiently for Spring. This winter in particular it is more important than ever that we focus on our physical and mental health to be able to prevent viral infections and reduce the severity if we do get sick.

Your lungs are your body’s first line of defence against harmful particulate in the air. They filter chemicals and toxins from the air as well as maintain appropriate levels of carbon dioxide to oxygen in the bloodstream. Breathing stale, uncirculated air can overwork your lungs creating excess carbon dioxide and toxins within the body. This results in the malabsorption of oxygen and reduces the strength of your immune system. Bad breathing can make your body more vulnerable to disease and negatively impact your mental health. Clean air and healthy lungs can improve the health of every system in the body. Improved lung function will decrease stress, improve sleep quality, reduce blood pressure, enhance cognitive performance, strengthen your immune system, and help you recover more quickly from viral and bacterial infections.

Here are some things to think about to improve the air quality in your home environment without having to learn breathing exercises.

Add décor elements to clean the air naturally

Formaldehyde levels are higher in newly manufactured wood products such as flooring and furniture, and can also be found in some fabrics. Snake plants are formaldehyde filtering superstars. They are one of the only plants that continuously produce oxygen, even at night, which makes them ideal for bedroom décor. Commonly available in most plant stores, snake plants are succulents that prefer indirect sunlight and are resilient enough to dry out a bit if you’re not great at taking care of plants.

If Snake plants don’t suit your aesthetic, Spider plants, philodendrons, bamboo palms, and aloe are all easy to care for and great at helping to remove toxic and cancer-causing particles in your air.

Consider replacing some of your chemical-based household cleaners and air fresheners with essential oils. A little bit goes a long way in an attractive diffuser. Oils like lemon, eucalyptus, lavender, any kind of mint and tea tree are all anti-viral and anti-bacterial. You can also add a few drops to some water in a squirt bottle and use it to disinfect surfaces around the home.

Speaking of surfaces, did you know copper is considered a “contact killer”? The surface of copper is so inhospitable to bacteria, yeast and viruses that it will punch holes in the bacterial cell and destroy the DNA and RNA inside within a few hours. Humans have known the badass super-killing properties of copper since ancient times. These days copper is being studied for its potential use in sterile medical environments, and it looks gorgeous in your kitchen.


Change your furnace filter. Your furnace filter should be changed at a minimum every three months throughout the year. During winter your HVAC is working continuously and the filter is literally filtering more air. Consider changing it once a month while it’s working overtime. Once a month may sound like overkill but I would rather the filter be filtering the air than my lungs. The same goes for my kids and pets. You can buy a 12 pack online for less than $100. Well worth it to keep the air your family is breathing clean and healthy.

Test your exhaust fans. Clean the dust from the exterior of your kitchen and bathroom fans to make sure they are removing moisture. If you notice your kitchen windows fogging up when you are cooking, run the stove exhaust fan to remove the moisture. To test the power of your fans, hold a tissue up to the fan when it’s on. If the fan is strong enough to hold onto the tissue then you’re good. If not there could be a blockage. Make sure the fan is actually venting to the outside, rather than venting into the cupboard above the stove, or into the attic or wall cavity. This can lead to moisture issues and mould and nobody wants that.


New builds are becoming more and more heat efficient but they are also becoming more airtight which is not great for air quality inside the home. If your house is new construction, it can take up to a year for construction particles and toxins from paint and drywall to filter out. If you’ve ever moved into a newly constructed home, or done an extensive renovation, you may have noticed how fast the dust seems to build up.

Opening the windows and running the fans makes sense in the summer but is not possible in the winter. While you can crack the windows on a nice day, your air will see a minimal exchange of fresh air and stale air. 

A Heat Recovery Ventilator may be well worth the money. An HRV is a very efficient system that pulls out the stale air from inside your home and replaces it with fresh air from outside simultaneously. These two separate airstreams cross paths and transfer heat between them. The fresh air steals the heat from the stale air so no energy is wasted. HRV systems can be installed on an exterior wall, like in the laundry room, or work with your existing ducting and furnace. Contact a local HVAC company to get HRV information specific to your home.