A healthy home
From the furnace to the fridge, we look at how
a healthy home can support and protect your health
WRITTEN BY AMY SAWCHENKO & JANINE POERSCH
PHOTOGRAPHED BY EWAN NICHOLSON
For many of us, our home is where we
spend almost a third of our lives. It’s
where we raise our kids, share stories
around the kitchen table, celebrate
holidays and birthdays and make
memories. It can be a sanctuary from
busy lives and a shelter from the
“Our homes are strongly linked to
our physical and emotional wellbeing,”
says Dr. Kathryn Koliaska, a medical
officer of health and provincial lead
officer of health for Safe and Healthy
Environments at Alberta Health Services.
“From the air that we breathe and the
surfaces we touch, to the spaces we
enjoy, it’s important that our homes are
healthy,” she says.
Structurally, a healthy home means
something different to everyone.
For Bonnie Segal, a Peace River
public health inspector, a healthy home
is structurally sound; can withstand
water, wind and weather; and is clean,
warm and safe for everyone to sleep in.
If you live in a rental unit, a care facility
or other public facility, public health
inspectors such as Segal make sure your
housing meets provincial and municipal
standards. (For more information, visit
For Neil and Ashley Parke, a healthy
home is where they’ll raise their son Jack,
2, and their second child, due in May.
“It’s where our family will make the
most memories,” says Ashley. “We want
our home to be a place where we feel
comfortable, happy and healthy, and our
kids have somewhere they will always
feel safe. And as parents, we work hard
to make sure our home is healthy so they
can play, explore and learn,” she adds.
To protect your health, a home needs
to be constructed and maintained so that
the air is breathable, it is dry and clean
and provides ventilation and warmth.
Wherever you live, our practical tips
can help your home be healthier.
Canadians spend almost 90 per cent of
their time indoors. “It’s important to start
thinking about the air we breathe,” says
Leigh Allard, the chief executive officer
and president of The Lung Association,
Alberta and NWT.
Air quality in our homes is, in part,
determined by smoke, dust, chemicals,
furniture, building supplies, ventilation,
and together, all can affect lung health.
Allard suggests having your home’s air
ducts and heat registers professionally
cleaned every year. If your home is dusty,
adding a filter to your heat registers can
reduce particles in the air. Filters are
available at most hardware stores.
Working smoke alarms save lives, says
the Calgary Fire Department. Test your
alarm once a month, vacuum it regularly
and replace it after 10 years. Install a
carbon monoxide monitor on every floor
to detect the invisible gas from fuel and
gas-burning appliances such as your
furnace. Change the batteries in both
devices at the same time every year, such
as on your birthday.
Test for radon
This natural gas seeps in through
foundations and sump pumps and is
the second-leading cause of lung cancer
in non-smokers. You can purchase a
test kit from a hardware store. For more
information, visit takeactiononradon.ca.
A dry home can help prevent costly
repairs in the future and potential
“People tend to store items right against
their basement wall, which allows
humidity to build up because there’s not
enough air space. It may cause moisture
to condense on the cold wall and could
lead to mould growth,” Segal says. Move
boxes and furniture away from walls to
allow warm air to flow in-between.