Indoor air quality testing

Why Indoor Air Quality is So Important

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According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 4.3 million people die every year from indoor air pollution.

Nearly 34% die from stroke, 26% from heart disease, 22% from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, 12% from pneumonia, and 6% from lung cancer.

Although when we think of pollution, we tend to imagine smoke-filled skies and car exhaust, there is also the hidden danger of indoor air pollution.

Indoor air quality is more important than you think. Want to learn more? Read on to learn why indoor air quality is important and ways to improve your home air quality.

What Causes Indoor Air Pollution?

Indoor air pollution occurs when particles and gases are present in indoor living areas. There are many different causes of poor indoor air quality. Read on to learn about some of the most common pollutants.

Cigarette Smoke

Secondhand smoke is a serious contributor to indoor air pollution.

Cigarette smoke has thousands of toxic chemicals such as ammonia, carbon monoxide, cyanide, and lead. People who don’t smoke breathe in the same hazardous chemicals as smokers do.

According to WHO, 3,000 people die every year from lung cancer due to indoor air pollution caused by secondhand smoke. Compare this to the 100 lung cancer deaths every year caused from outdoor air pollution.

Asbestos

Asbestos is a group of silicate minerals that was used in construction material. In Canada, a variety of products used asbestos such as building insulation, industrial heating systems, floor tiles, and even car brake pads.

Canada was the top producer and exporter of chrysotile asbestos in the world.

However, when asbestos fibers become disturbed, such as during construction or remodeling, microscopic fibers can get into the lungs and result in a type of deadly cancer called mesothelioma.

In fact, because of the high rate of asbestos production, mesothelioma rates in Canada are one of the highest in the world. About 2.1 out of 100,000 Canadians become diagnosed with mesothelioma every year.

Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas. It can come from sources such as gas stoves, automobile exhaust, and leaking furnaces.

At low and moderate amounts, carbon monoxide results in fatigue, problems with vision, and reduced brain function. At higher levels, this toxic gas results in headaches, dizziness, loss of consciousness, and death.

Biological Pollutants

Biological pollutants are microbes in the air such as mold, dust, bacteria, and viruses. These pollutants come from many different sources. Viruses travel from person to person. Mold grows from moisture.

Dust comes from normal human activity. Pollen and pet dander comes from your pets and plants. All these pollutants are particles in the air and are present in your indoor air.

Why is Indoor Air Quality Important?

According to the EPA, research indicates that indoor air quality is worse than outdoor air quality.

Improving indoor air quality is important because of the associated health dangers of indoor air pollution. For example, secondhand smoke causes similar health issues that smoking does such as bronchitis, pneumonia, and lung cancer.

Read on to see the most serious problems that poor indoor air quality contributes to.

Serious Diseases

Indoor air pollution exposure nearly doubles the risk of pneumonia in children. In fact, indoor air pollution causes 45% of all childhood pneumonia deaths. Poor air quality contributes to 28% of pneumonia deaths in adults.

Other serious diseases from indoor air pollution include stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), ischaemic heart disease, and lung cancer.

Asthma

Indoor air pollution can make asthma symptoms worse. Research reveals that individuals with moderate to severe asthma had a 40% higher chance of suffering from an asthma episode on summer days with high pollution than on summer days with normal pollution levels.

Allergies

If you have allergies, biological contaminants such as mold and pet dander can cause allergic reactions. Mold can even cause irritation of the eyes and skin.

What Can You Do to Improve Indoor Air Quality?

Fortunately, there are things you can do to improve indoor air quality and reduce the risks of indoor air pollution. Here are some steps you can take.

Don’t Allow Smoking in Your Home

One of the top ways you can drastically reduce indoor air pollution is to keep your home smoke-free.

If you smoke, you should quit, or at least don’t smoke inside your home. For guests who smoke, insist that they stay outside while smoking.

Check Your Home for Asbestos

You should have your house checked for asbestos. If your home was built before 1986, there is a high chance it may have asbestos.

If there is asbestos present in your home, you should have it removed by professionals only as these fibers can be dangerous when disturbed.

Keep Humidity at the Right Level

According to the EPA, you should keep your humidity levels at home between 30% to 50%. You can use moisture meters to check levels. This can help prevent mold.

Other tips for mold prevention include using ventilation in areas like the bathroom and kitchen. You should also check your home for leaky pipes or faucets.

Keep Your Home Clean

Regularly vacuum and dust your home to keep away dust, pet dander, and other contaminants.

You should vacuum carpeted areas at least twice a week with a vacuum that has a HEPA filter. If possible, consider installing hardwood or any other non-carpet flooring throughout your home.

You should also wash your linens and beddings regularly. Another tip is to have a clutter-free home. Clutter attracts dust and allergens.

Keep Your Windows Open

When possible, keep your windows open to let in fresh air. During warmer months, turn on the ceiling fans to circulate the air. When cooking, use fans and proper ventilation.

Have Your Indoor Air Quality Tested

To know for sure what pollutants are lurking in your home, you should have your indoor air quality tested.

If you know what contaminants are in the air, you can take the steps to remove them and create a healthy indoor environment for your home.

Have questions or concerns about your indoor air quality? Contact us to learn more.

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What are the Health Consequences of Living in a House With Poor Air Quality?

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What are the Health Consequences of Living in a House With Poor Air Quality?

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the air quality inside your home is usually two times to five times worse than it always is outside. Activities including painting, floor removal among other things make the air inside your house more polluted. The reason behind this is because of the off-gassing of the volatile organic compounds that are used in manufacturing paint, adhesives as well as other objects in your home.

Exposure to poor indoor air quality can bring about short term eye infections, throat and nose irritations, headaches dizziness as well as fatigue. It can as well exacerbate the effects of asthma especially in children. Exposure to poor air quality can bring about respiratory conditions, cancer including even cancer.

There are numerous consequences that can affect you and your family if you are living in a house with poor air quality. Among those mentioned above, the following are some additional sources that can lead to poor air quality in your home:

  1. Deteriorating or damaged insulation as well as fireproofing is a good source of asbestos indoors. Asbestos are known to cause cancer. After long periods of inhaling these fibers you are at risk of getting cancer and Mesothelioma- a deadly cancer that affects the thin lining between the lungs and other organ.
  2. Bacteria and viruses are living organisms that can bring about a disease called influenza. Without proper ventilation this bacteria and viruses will be packed in your house traveling through the air and constantly infecting you and your family with common cold.
  3. New construction or remodeling products are a source of fumes as well as dust that can endanger health. Older building materials are also a source of pollutants when exposed to any disturbance of any kind. These dust and fumes can cause allergic reactions as well as asthma.
  4. Carbon monoxide gas is a colorless, odorless but very dangerous gas. This gas has numerous sources that are found within your house including burning fuel, gasoline natural gas, wood or charcoal. Proper ventilation will prevent you from inhaling high doses of CO which can cause Anxiety or depression, confusion, vomiting, impaired vision, sleepiness, Nausea, Disorientation and Death.
  5. Cleaning supplies are essential in protecting our health but pose as health hazards especially in a house with poor or no HVAC system. Some of these chemicals are corrosive and flammable. Aerosol sprays, chlorine bleach, rug and upholstery cleaners are some of the sources of irritants which leads to respiratory conditions as well as house fires in the case of the flammable substances.
  6. Second hand smoke is the main health hazard that leads to more than 41,000 deaths every year. It has damaging health effects in children as well as adults. This pollutant causes lung cancer, respiratory infections and asthma. Poor air conditioning and ventilation can accumulate this pollutant in your house thus posing more challenges for your family.
  7. Mold and dampness is common in every indoor space. Moisture accumulation in your home will nurture growth of molds. Spore from the mold are the common indoor pollutants. Exposure to these spores can trigger allergic reactions as well as asthma attacks. You can as well be affected by lower and upper respiratory problems including irritation of eyes, nose, skin, throat and the lungs.
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Formaldehyde – What is it and how does it affect you?

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formaldehyde

Formaldehyde is a colourless gas that is emitted from many household building materials. Lower levels of formaldehyde in indoor air are actually very common. Formaldehyde found at higher levels in air can be detected by a sharp smell. High Levels can cause irritation of the eyes, nose and throat and can worsen asthma symptoms.

Lumber Liquidators was recently caught to have sold laminate flooring with high levels of toxic formaldehyde. Click here to learn more about this.

Dangers of FormaldehydeFormaldehyde health risks

At very high concentrations, formaldehyde can cause cancer of the nasal cavity. It has been linked to this rare type of cancer in industry workers who are regularly exposed to high levels of formaldehyde. The risk of developing cancer from formaldehyde exposure at concentrations found in most Canadian homes is very low.

Long-term exposure to moderate formaldehyde concentrations (at levels lower than those causing irritation) may also be linked to respiratory symptoms and allergic sensitivity, especially in children.

Level of formaldehyde

Low – below 50 μg/m3 (40ppb) No adverse effects should be noticed.

Moderate – above 50 μg/m3 (40ppb) Long-term exposure may result in respiratory symptoms such as coughing and wheezing, and allergic sensitivity, especially in children.

High – above 123 μg/m3 (100 ppb) the risk of irritation or burning sensation in eyes, nose and throat from short-term exposure grows with increasing concentration. There is also an increased likelihood of respiratory symptoms from long-term exposure.

Health Canada has developed an indoor air quality guideline for formaldehyde in residences. The guideline sets recommended maximum formaldehyde levels for two types of exposure:

  • The short-term exposure limit protects against health problems that may arise from exposure to high levels over a short time period (e.g. one hour). This type of exposure could occur, for example, when working with paint or varnish containing formaldehyde.
  • The long-term exposure limit protects against health problems that may be caused by repeated exposure to lower levels of formaldehyde over a long period (days, weeks, months, etc.). Since formaldehyde levels change over time, with occasional peaks and valleys, long-term exposure levels are best measured by sampling indoor air over a longer period (8 hours or more).

To avoid possible eye, nose and throat irritation from short-term exposure, indoor air levels of formaldehyde should be below 123 μg/m3 (100 ppb). This is actually lower than the formaldehyde level that has been shown to cause irritation in scientific studies. The lower value was chosen to be more protective of health, as people may differ in their sensitivity to formaldehyde.

To prevent respiratory problems from long-term exposure, i.e. over days, months or years, indoor air levels should be kept below 50 μg/m3 (or 40 ppb). As formaldehyde levels increase above this level, the risk of having respiratory problems or allergic sensitivity also increases, especially for children.

Formaldehyde levels in the air are usually measured in micrograms (μg) of formaldehyde per metre cubed (m3) of air. A microgram is a very small amount equal to 1 millionth of a gram, while a metre cubed is the amount of air in a box that is 1 metre high by 1 metre long by 1 metre wide. Formaldehyde levels are also sometimes expressed as parts per billion (ppb). For example, a level of 1 ppb of formaldehyde means there is 1 part of formaldehyde in a billion parts of air.

Formaldehyde levels in Canada

Health Canada has measured formaldehyde in a large number of homes in different cities across Canada – Charlottetown, Ottawa, Quebec City, Regina – as part of an ongoing study on the quality of indoor air. All houses had at least some formaldehyde in indoor air. On average, formaldehyde levels measured over a day in Canadian homes were 20-40 μg/m3 (16-32.5 ppb). Daily levels as high as 95 μg/m3 (77 ppb), however, have been recorded.

Formaldehyde levels indoors will depend on the number of formaldehyde sources in the home. Ventilation is also a factor, as fresh air brought in from outdoors will dilute and reduce indoor formaldehyde levels. Higher temperature and humidity will also increase the release of formaldehyde through off-gassing from some products.

How to Reduce Exposure to Formaldehyde

The best way to control formaldehyde in the air is to reduce or eliminate as many sources as possible, and prevent it from getting into the air in the first place.

Some actions you can take to reduce formaldehyde levels in your home include:

  • Don’t allow anyone to smoke inside.
  • Make sure fireplaces and woodstoves are in good working condition to prevent smoke from getting into your living environment. Keep your chimney clean and clear of obstructions.
  • Don’t idle cars or other gas powered equipment in attached garages or near doors or windows. Engine exhaust contains a number of toxic chemicals, including formaldehyde.
  • For some building and household products, there may be no or low formaldehyde options available, ask retailers or manufacturers for details.
  • To keep emissions low from pressed wood furniture or cabinets, purchase items with a plastic laminate or coating on all sides, or seal them yourself when you get them home.
  • Make sure there is plenty of ventilation during major painting or varnishing projects, or when installing wall-to-wall carpets using glues or adhesives.
  • Allow products that contain formaldehyde to “air out” before bringing them into your home.

Formaldehyde concentrations are higher indoors than they are outdoors, so you can significantly decrease indoor formaldehyde levels by letting in dry, fresh air. Also, high relative humidity increases formaldehyde emissions. Therefore, it is recommended to measure your indoor humidity level with a Next link will take you to another Web site hygrometer and keep the humidity at around 50% in the summer, and 30% in the winter. If necessary, you can use a dehumidifier to reduce the relative humidity.

Here is a good video by CBS News: http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/what-to-do-if-you-suspect-formaldehyde-in-your-flooring/

Urea formaldehyde-based foam insulation (UFFI)

Urea formaldehyde-based thermal insulation, which is foamed in place and used to insulate buildings, has been banned in Canada under the Hazardous Products Act (HPA) since December 1980. UFFI was prohibited due to the high levels of formaldehyde that were given off during the installation process, as well as the continued off-gassing of formaldehyde from poorly installed insulation.

The amount of formaldehyde released by UFFI was highest when first installed and decreased over time. As a result, UFFI installed before 1980 would have little effect on indoor formaldehyde levels today. If UFFI gets wet, however, it could begin to break down and may release more formaldehyde. Wet or deteriorating UFFI should be removed by a specialist and the source of the moisture problem should be repaired.

RetrofoamRetroFoam

RetroFoam, a foamed in-place thermal insulation product, was installed in between 800 and 900 homes in Ontario between 2007 and early 2009. Health Canada has confirmed the product contains urea formaldehyde, and is therefore prohibited under the Hazardous Products Act. Once Health Canada became aware the Hazardous Products Act had been contravened, the department took prompt compliance and enforcement action. As a result, RetroFoam is no longer available for sale or installation in Canada.

Like the earlier UFFI, the amount of formaldehyde released from RetroFoam would have been highest at installation and should decrease over time. While it may take a few months or even years, RetroFoam will eventually stop releasing formaldehyde.

Health Canada offered homeowners with RetroFoam the opportunity to test their indoor formaldehyde levels. The results of that testing are available here.

Advice to homeowners

It is the responsibility of any vendor to ensure that the product they sell, advertise and/or import meets the requirements of Canadian laws.

Before installing any insulation in your home, ask your contractor or retailer whether their product meets applicable laws. Specifically, you can ask them to demonstrate that their insulation product is free of urea formaldehyde. Ask to see the Material Safety Data Sheet or a copy of the chemical formulation for the insulation and make sure the words “urea formaldehyde” do not appear.

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Are you allergic to mold?

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Are you Allergic to Mold?

mold allergies 1Our 25 years of experience in investigating, providing assessments and indoor air quality testing when mold is suspected has shown us that many people are unaware if they are highly allergic to mold or not.

The reason for this is simple – it takes years of exposure to become sensitized, so while you may not be allergic to mold now, you may be a few years down the line if your home or office has mold growing.

While everyone is concerned with the indoor air quality of their homes and offices, we do not associate the invisible connection until exposure is violent enough to almost pin point the exact location.

While you can become sensitized with inhalation of large amounts of toxic spores at one time, most often it’s the small systemic exposure that will cause symptoms that are often not associated with mold exposure.

mold itchy eyes nose

Mold is present in our environments, whether it’s inside or outside our home/office. Did you know though that some of the more toxic spores to us are generally not found in the air outside?

Stachybotrys – a Prime Example

stachybotrys mold on wallIn a clean home, mold, such as Stachybotrys, should not be detected in an indoor air quality test if all is well. Even small amounts found by indoor air quality testing indicate a mold problem within the area which could pose a potential future health risk.

Stachybotrys is found on water damaged building materials rich in carbon such as ceiling tiles, gypsum board, insulation paper backing, drywall and wallpaper. Stachybotrys requires a lot of moisture to appear (70% or more) most often associated with Type 1 hay fever, asthma symptoms reported and is known as one of the most toxigenic species of mold.

The presence of this fungus can be significant due to its ability to produce mycotoxins. Exposure to the toxins can occur through inhalation, ingestion, or skin exposure. Human toxicosis has been described; by dermatitis, cough, and rhinitis, itching or burning sensation in mouth, throat, nasal passages and eyes to name just a few. Additionally, Stachybotrys is associated with the development of sick building syndrome.

Most often we find it in previous leaks on drywall where the homeowner did not remove the affected porous wet materials and just let it dry or painted over without understanding the consequences. Small amounts over a long time of exposure could lead in to sensitivity and allergic reactions.

mold - wall leaks

A sign that there may be mold behind the drywall

mold - behind walls

Mold was indeed found behind – lots of it!

Fortunately there are ways we can find out if we are allergic or are becoming allergic to it.

mold itchy eyes noseMost people’s immune system removes the toxins in their blood on a daily basis, for some however will take a long time and continuous exposure will aggravate symptoms.

A comparison would be when two friends go out drinking and both have a great time and drink the same amount; unfortunately one of the two does not recover in time to go to work and stay in bed with the consequences and their reaction to it while the other one is ready at 6 am with no symptoms.

How much peanut butter do you have to ingest for a reaction if you allergic to it? How many cigarettes does it take to affect you?

These are some of the reasons that there are no exposure limits on mold; we just don’t have the scientific data and studies yet.

We recommend a visit to your doctor or allergist and ask to get a blood test for the detection of toxin levels; basically you just want to find out the level of toxins in your blood stream high or low.

High toxin count will indicate your immune system just can’t get rid of it that fast and the internal inflammation from the response of your immune system to the foreign substance will cause different reactions in different people.

allergens

Alternatively there are these tests online like the one from Claudia S Miller-MD, MS, is an allergist/immunologist and tenure professor at the University of Texas School of medicine in San Antonio. She researches the environmental causes of disease and teaches the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of environmentally – induced or exacerbated illness.  Her work led to the development of QEESI http://drclaudiamiller.com/QEESItest/

Or Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker MD, Ritchie Shoemaker, M. D., is a recognized leader in patient care, research and education pioneer in the field of biotoxin related illness. While illness acquired following exposure to the interior environment of water-damaged buildings and his online Visual Contrast Screening Test (VCS) http://www.survivingmold.com/

Of course there is no better way to ensure you do not have a problem on your home or office visible or not visible with our expert indoor air quality testing assessments, testing and investigations. https://cleanfirst.ca/indoor-air-quality-testing/

mold protection

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Is indoor air quality testing really necessary?

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picture of indoor air polution

Does Indoor Air Quality matter?

We all know by now that the quality of the air we breathe is a major factor on our health and environment.
Poor indoor air quality can cause or contribute to the development of infections, lung cancer, and chronic lung diseases such as asthma. In addition, it can cause headaches, dry eyes, nasal congestion, nausea and fatigue. People who already have immune compromised conditions are at greater risk.
indoor-air-pollution-danger-levels-chart
The first step of defense against indoor air pollution is finding ways to keep the pollutants out of the air inside of our homes in the first place. This is sometimes referred to as source control.
The lack of adequate ventilation, which results in a buildup of contaminants from sources within the home, affects the indoor air quality in a negative way. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health identified inadequate ventilation as the primary problem in more than half the workplace indoor air investigations it has conducted. Investigations conducted in homes by the Illinois Department of Public Health have found the same to be true. These investigations revealed that proper ventilation is important in maintaining good indoor air quality. Appropriate ventilation with clean fresh air can reduce the levels of indoor air pollutants. Most residential heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems recirculate indoor air to conserve energy. The current trend in the construction of new homes is to reduce air leakage through cracks and other openings in walls, floors, and roofs. The combination of these construction practices and the recirculation of indoor air have led to an increase in indoor air problems. Finally, while air cleaning devices can be useful, they are no substitute for preventing the indoor air from getting dirty in the first place.

 

Health effects of common air pollutants and ways we can control their sources:

IndoorAirQuality

 

Organic Pollutants

Mold, bacteria, viruses, pollen, animal dander, dust mites, cockroaches and other possible insects or animals excrements. These may cause infections, provoke allergic symptoms or trigger asthma attacks. They are a major cause of lost days from work and school. Means of control include washing bedding frequently, keeping pests out, frequent cleaning and sanitization of all surfaces, keeping indoor dust to minimum and controlling moisture that promotes mold growth.

Tobacco Smoke

We all know Smoke is a major indoor air pollutant. It contains some 200 known chemicals, such as formaldehyde and carbon monoxide, and at least 60 are known to cause cancer. According to the American Lung cancer Association every year it causes an estimated 3,000 lung cancer deaths and up to 50,000 heart disease deaths. In children, especially infants, it is responsible for pneumonia, lower respiratory tract infections and ear infections. It causes asthma to develop, causes asthma attacks, and makes attacks worse. Source control: No one should smoke.

Combustion Pollutants

Combustion Pollutants come from sources such as fireplaces, furnaces, fuel burning stoves, heaters, and water heaters, using gas, oil, coal, wood, and other fuel source appliances. The most dangerous are both colorless and odorless gases like carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide. Carbon Monoxide interferes with the delivery of oxygen to the body and can produce fatigue, headache, confusion, nausea, and dizziness. Very high levels can cause death. Nitrogen dioxide irritates the mucous membranes in the eye, nose and throat and can cause shortness of breath and promote infections.  Source control: The best way to control these pollutants is to make sure combustion appliances properly used are installed and maintained by reliable professionals and have monitors/leak detectors installed.

Radon

Radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas that forms in the soil, most often can enter the home through the cracks in foundation floor, drains, and other sources. Indoor radon exposure is estimated to be the second leading cause of lung cancer in North America responsible for at least 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year. Steps to control radon include testing your home to ensure no radon is present and following recommendations for further testing and repairs if necessary.
howradonentersahouse

Asbestos

A non-flammable mineral that can release microscopic fibers, that when inhaled into the lungs can cause asbestosis, lung cancer and another cancer called mesothelioma. Many asbestos products are found in homes build before 1986, including roofing, flooring materials, and insulation for ceilings, walls, plumbing and heating equipment. Source control: if your house was built before 1986 get a designated substance report before any renovation or repair. 

Formaldehyde

A chemical, found primarily in adhesives, bonding agents for many materials found inside of our houses and offices, including carpets, upholstery, particle board, and plywood paneling. The release of formaldehyde into the air can cause health problems, such as: headaches, coughing, eye, nose, and throat irritation; skin rashes, and dizziness. Source control: avoid using products that emit formaldehyde.

 

VOC’s or Volatile organic compounds

Thousands of potentially harmful chemicals are emitted by household cleaning agents, personal care products, pesticides, paints, hobby products, and solvents. They can cause dizziness, nausea, allergic reactions, eye, skin, respiratory tract irritation, and cancer. Minimize your use of such sources of dangerous chemicals, and be sure to follow manufacturer’s directions, including using protective equipment and adequate ventilation. Source control: find greener safer substitutes.

Consider the Facts:

Over 3 million Canadians cope with one of five serious respiratory diseases – asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer, tuberculosis (TB), and cystic fibrosis. These and other respiratory diseases such as influenza, pneumonia, bronchiolitis, respiratory distress syndrome and sleep apnea affect individuals of all ages, cultures and backgrounds – from children to parents to grandparents.

In 2013, lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer death for both men and women.
Cancer-Deaths-Youth-30-Years

25,500 Canadians will be diagnosed with lung cancer. This represents 14% of all new cancer cases
• 20,200 Canadians will die from lung cancer. This represents 27% of all cancer deaths in 2013.
• 13,300 men will be diagnosed with lung cancer and 10,700 will die from it.
• 12,200 women will be diagnosed with lung cancer and 9,500 will die from it.
• On average, 70 Canadians will be diagnosed with lung cancer every day.
• On average, 55 Canadians will die from lung cancer every day.

All statistics are estimates from: Canadian Cancer Society’s Steering Committee: Canadian Cancer Statistics 2013. Toronto: Canadian Cancer Society, 2013
picture of health effects of poor indoor air quality

 

Protect yourself and your family; know what you are breathing with an assessment of your indoor air quality. Call the experts at 1-800-520-7443


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