Christmas Day is the most toxic day of the year to be at home. Families could breathe in as many harmful particles as if they stood all morning on a busy road in London, UK. People count on good building management to insure that fumes from the ovens, fireplaces and party poppers are not the highlights of their holiday parties. So, what is a property manager to do?
1- Keep the air flowing.
With all of the festive cooking and decorations, hazardous particles are bound to spread around your well-insulated building. They have the potential of giving your tenants and their guests flu-like symptoms and allergies. Electric stoves, for example, emit ultrafine particles smaller than 100 nanometres in size, studies show. They can get deep into our respiratory systems and cause inflammatory effects. Speak of bad timing to fall ill!
To prevent this, make sure your ventilation is set to deliver a sufficient amount of clean air from the great outdoors. According to a Survey on Minimum Ventilation Rate of Residential Buildings the most common Air Change, based on the sample set evaluated, was 0.5 air changes per hour. This means that half of the indoor air should be replaced by fresh air every hour, or in other words that all air should be replaced 12 times per day. This is for the health of both buildings and people.
2- Ditch the Mouldy Christmas Tree.
Researchers discovered that mould spore levels can increase up to five times the normal level within a two week span with the presence of a natural Christmas tree. No wonder many people tend to get the holiday “flu”. Mould sensitivity is a known cause of allergies and asthma attacks. To keep your tenants healthy, go for the artificial tree, or just ditch it altogether.
If you must have a natural Christmas tree in building, here is how to reduce its ill effects:
- Clean the trunk with water and bleach.
- Get rid of any surface particles before you bring it indoors.
- Set the tree up later and dispose of it as soon as possible. Mould spores increase with time.
With tenants spending more time indoors, it is a good idea to do an overall Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Test and step into the New Year with your building smelling fresh!
3- Leave Old Decorations in the Attic.
Vintage ornaments might be the most dangerous. When the dangers of asbestos were still undiscovered, its heat resistance made it perfect for Christmas tree decorations and sprinkles. The oldest decorations made in 1920s to 1970s, may still have small amounts of asbestos.
On a separate note, dust from insulation (i.e. vermiculite) in the attic or from hanging decorations can also contain asbestos. If your home is old and you have not tested for asbestos, be extra careful. The children in the home are most vulnerable when it comes to asbestos dust. They have a higher breathing rate and will inhale more of the fibers. Younger kids breathe in dust when they play on the floor or with the ornaments. If in doubt, leave the decorations in the attic, where the asbestos is better left undisturbed, and get asbestos tested soon.
4- Stop Spraying Snow.
While asbestos is not an ingredient in modern snow sprays, they contain acetone or methylene chloride. Inhaling these chemicals can cause respiratory reactions, headaches and nausea. Longer or more concentrated exposures can be more serious. Both your tenants and your employees are safer without this stuff. If you are dead set on making snow happen, use proper PPE.
5- Avoid Air Fresheners and Cut Out the Candles.
Lighting candles and spraying a festive air freshener are two simple ways people make their homes feel cozier during winter. Air fresheners produce airborne contaminants that irritate the respiratory system.
There is a dark side to candles too. Colour pigments can release metals when the candle burns and soot is produced when the candle flame flickers. These particles and soot have health impacts.
6- Leave Lead Lights Alone.
Cornell researchers found that many Christmas light sets contain such elevated levels of lead, meaning that they exceed limits set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Lead could be ingested from hand-to-mouth contact after handling the lights or released into the air during installation and removal. Since lead is especially dangerous for children, we recommend that children are not permitted to touch the lights. As a basic safely rule, anyone who handles Christmas lights should wash their hands immediately afterwards.