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5 Tips for Creating a Healthier Environment
By Mike Holmes
Wednesday, April 26th, 2023 @ 4:17pm
What are some products and technologies we can use to help us create healthier living environments?
The pandemic taught us a lot, but one of the most critical factors to evolve from it is how we can create healthier environments. The transfer of bacteria significantly impacts the health of our communities, particularly public spaces like hospitals, schools, and venues. These infections often spread from touching contaminated surfaces, such as door handles, push buttons and equipment. Most experts agree that a healthier environment could in turn improve our health.
We’ve realized that we need to keep our environments healthier with regular and consistent cleaning. Our homes, offices, schools and public places need regular vacuuming and dusting, including bedding covers, drapes, pillows, carpets and rugs. But people often forget other things, like door handles, and face plates on light switches —not to mention their indoor air quality, water quality, and even carbon footprint.
There are a lot of new innovative products available in the market to help us achieve just that. Here is my guide on how we can create healthier living environments, where we live, work, and play.
#1 Creating Healthier High-Touch Surfaces
One of the best things about being in the construction and building industry is I get exposed to many new and innovative products. Copper is one of those versatile materials that has been used for years. What’s great is that it can be used in many different applications and products to create healthier surfaces.
One of its key benefits is its natural bactericidal properties. It is also safe for people and the environment and is the only solid metal touch surface registered to make public health claims by Health Canada PMRA and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
When integrated into high-touch surfaces, such as door handles, sinks, countertops, desks, light switches, faucets, washroom door levers, railings and more, copper is proven to eliminate up to 99.9% of harmful bacteria within two hours. As a result, there is a growing use of antimicrobial copper worldwide to reduce the spread of bacteria in high-traffic public environments. This includes transit, commercial spaces, sports facilities, healthcare facilities, and workplaces.
How Does The Copper Technology Work With Everyday Products
Incorporating bactericidal copper technologies using CuVerro Shield™️, a registered antimicrobial copper solid surface process technology, many commonly used products can be made into healthier high-touch surfaces. This will help to prevent the spread of bacteria in modern society which is something we should all aim for.
Allegion door hardware, including levers, exit devices, and door pulls/pushes, can help achieve healthier buildings. These products with antimicrobial copper alloy door hardware (surface technologies and properties) provide an excellent solution for doors in public facilities. For example in event venues, hospitals, institutions, and schools, including daycares. They also look great!
Delta® Commercial offers a complete range of faucets and flush valves with Copper Defense™️ Technology for prolonged, rigorous use. Plus, retrofit handle kits are available for popular models for easy and affordable upgrades. This is all with the Copper Defense™️ Technology that you can see —giving users a sense of relief.
Applications Where Copper Technology Can Be Used
Children and young people frequently congregate in enclosed indoor environments like schools, colleges, childcare centres, and other educational institutions, making them vulnerable to bacteria. Given the lack of cleanliness practices among very young children, daycare centres, in particular, are breeding grounds for germs. Ask any parent with preschoolers how often their kids get sick. Then of course the parents get sick. It’s a never-ending cycle.
My daughter Sherry is starting to experience this as my granddaughters have started daycare. Introducing copper products into these environments will help create a cleaner environment for our kids, grandkids, and future generations. Now that’s Making It Right!
Real-World Case Studies Using Copper Antimicrobial Technology
Several case studies worldwide have implemented antimicrobial copper in their spaces with excellent results.
Take the Laugh & Learn Daycare Center in Logan Lake, British Columbia sponsored by Teck Resources’ Copper & Health program. Antimicrobial copper was integrated into various high-touch surfaces —including faucets, door push plates, drawer handles and meal-serving benches and carts.
Another pilot project involved the installation of several types of copper solid surfaces on regularly touched surfaces on buses, trains and subway cars on the Vancouver and Toronto transit systems. This project has shown excellent results to date.
Vancouver’s International Airport (YVR) — Canada’s second busiest airport — has become Canada’s first airport to install antimicrobial copper surfaces and equipment. They have installed nearly 1,000 antimicrobial copper applications including on baggage carts, water fountains and washrooms throughout the terminal. They have also installed them at YVR’s executive offices.
The great thing about using copper as a natural antimicrobial is that it can be applied to a variety of surfaces including worktops, grab bars, pens, you name it. While it’s great to see all these great examples of companies working to make high-traffic environments healthier, I can’t wait to see what the future holds for this environment and where we’ll see it next.
#2 Improving IndoorAir Quality
Another thing the pandemic highlighted was the need for cleaner indoor air and proper ventilation in all buildings – public and private. I’ve said this many times before but it’s crucial to maintain a dry and well-ventilated indoor environment.
Keeping a perfect balance between moisture and humidity levels is vital. If not maintained, bacterial growth, like harmful mould and mildew, can result from high moisture levels. Devices like humidifiers, ERVs & HRVs can help make better indoor air by maintaining humidity levels and by providing a consistent flow of fresh outdoor air into the space.
Even something as simple as opening your windows and doors regularly can help.
Maintaining Indoor Moisture Levels
ERVs (Energy Recovery Ventilators) bring fresh, filtered, temperature-controlled air into a space while removing stale, contaminated air.
So how does it work? ERVs have two fans to create two independent air streams. The first pulls fresh outdoor air into the area, and the second expels stale and polluted indoor air outside. As the two airstreams go through the ERV, heat and moisture are transferred inside during the winter and out during the summer.
ERVs also prevent your HVAC system from working too hard to make up for the temperature difference between the incoming and outgoing air. This is because the ventilated air temperature has been regulated before it enters the space.
Air Purification Systems
Another category that has come to the forefront to help enhance indoor air quality is air purification systems. One system I particularly love, so much so I’ve even installed it in my own house, is the Panasonic WhisperAir RepairTM.
This is a small maintenance-free ceiling-mount air purifier that can help eliminate pollen, allergies, dangerous chemicals, and odours. It uses aNanoeX technology that purges the air of potentially dangerous ozone or UV rays while getting rid of the air of hydroxyl radicals found in water vapour.
A key benefit of this product is the absence of filters or lights that need to be changed, making it possible to have peace of mind knowing the air in the room is always protected.
One unit covers around 200 square feet, but many units can be utilized to protect more significant sites and can be installed in any space. That’s what makes the WhisperAir Repair a great product to have installed not only in public spaces such as for businesses, hotels, storage areas, etc., but also at home in your bedrooms, living rooms, closets, and basements.
#3 Improving Water Quality
Although Canada has one of the healthiest public drinking water sources in the world, outbreaks of waterborne illnesses continue to happen. Our municipalities continually test the drinking water going to our taps to ensure its safety, but it doesn’t mean the water is perfectly safe and healthy to consume. Your house receives purified water that is pumped in. Yet, it’s frequently only treated to minimum standards, and that’s not good enough for me. We should always try to surpass the minimum need and make things right!
Not to mention, the distribution system, or the water pipes that the water passes through to deliver service, has an impact on the water quality. Unintentional sewage spills, pesticides, fertilizers, agricultural runoff, and heavy metals from manufacturing operations can all contaminate drinking water.
In addition, many communities rely on wells for their water source, including me. In this case, the water quality and any necessary water treatment are completely your responsibility as the homeowner.
What Problems Can Exist With Your Water
Although it has extra minerals that may cause the flavour to be unpleasant, hard water is generally safe to drink. However, it can cause dry, itchy skin, cloudy, spotty dishes, and change how our clothes feel and wear after several washes. Not to mention the buildup in our plumbing and mechanics – it’s that chalky white film you see on shower heads, faucets and filters, like a humidifier.
I also discovered that my Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) levels, which measures the concentration of dissolved organic and inorganic materials, were abnormally high after getting my water tested. A high reading generally indicates that your water contains a lot of dissolved particles, such as sulphates, salts, minerals, metals, etc., and that you need to install a water filtering system in your house.
Other contaminants often found in your water include:
- Bacteria and viruses
These can lead to issues such as:
- Hard water
- Scale/limescale buildup
- Bad tastes and odours
- Red stains from iron
- Black stains from manganese
- Green/Blue stains from low pH values
- Health concerns from longtime consumption of water with contaminants
TIP: Whether you rely on well water or municipal water, it’s important to get your water tested by professionals. This will give you a better understanding of what contaminants exist in your water and what system is best suited for you.
Water Filtration Systems
A whole house water filtration system was a terrific way for me to make sure that every drop of water running through my home was cleaner and healthier. In order to lessen the impurities in my water and because I enjoy the flavour of RO water, I also had a reverse osmosis system (RO) installed.
My system included a water softener which is crucial to reduce the hardness levels of water in your home. The Kinetico water softener unit’s resin bed removes calcium and magnesium from the water through an ion exchange process exchanging these hardness ions for soft ions.
When you need it, this filtration system is available 24/7 to give you access to clean, soft water whenever you need it. Additionally, it features a multiple tank system, on-demand regeneration, is run on water energy rather than electricity, and offers large flow rates.
Another great system I installed is Kinetico’s K5 Drinking Water Station. This is a reverse osmosis system that has been third-party validated to reduce lead in water at your home.
They also have a two-tank system called the Kinetico Carbon Backwashing Filter that removes chlorine and other tastes and odours from your water. The device can deliver endless amounts of chlorine-free water on demand throughout the house —brilliant!
Other Benefits Of Water Filtration Systems
Water purification systems also reduce plastic waste. With millions of plastic bottles being thrown away each year, bottled water significantly contributes to plastic pollution. You may drastically lessen the amount of plastic waste you produce by drinking purified tap water rather than buying bottled water by using a water purification system.
A water filter can offer several health advantages in addition to environmental protection. Your drinking water will taste better and be of higher quality if it has been purified to remove any pathogens and pollutants.
When selecting a water filtration system, it’s critical to consider the system’s size, capacity, operating costs, power requirements, maintenance requirements, and the kinds of impurities it’s intended to remove. Some water filtration systems are made to eliminate particular contaminants, while others are more thorough and may eliminate various impurities.
Ultimately, improving the quality of your drinking water at home using a water filtration system is a straightforward and efficient way to lessen your environmental footprint while reaping the health benefits of cleaner water.
Radon In Your Well Water
There are other contaminants like radon that have no taste, smell, or visual presence. I was unaware that radon might be present in water, but given that it comes from the earth and that radon is present there, it seems to reason that it would be present there as well. The issue is that radon gas leaks into your home every time you open a tap.
The Airwell is an effective solution to remove radon from your well water. This is unique because it mitigates the radon directly in the well before it reaches your pipes. Most mitigation systems treat the water once it enters your home.
How does it function? It’s fairly simple. An aeration tube that reaches the bottom of the well offers a reliable source of air.
Aerated water is poured over the top of the well’s water level as a result of the air injection raising the water column in the tube. As water is extracted from the bottom of the well and returned to the top over the course of a few hours, the whole volume of water in the well will have gone through the aeration cycle many times.
Previously trapped gases are stripped from the water by the air that is introduced. One of the easiest chemical-free methods for removing radon from water is aeration, and if your well water had access to an air source, it’s a process that would often happen naturally.
#4 Lighting Has an Impact on Our Well-Being
Our sleep patterns, and by extension, our health, can be significantly impacted by lighting. Professionals advise sleeping in a dark environment to aid in restful sleep. This entails closing your door while you sleep to keep out any outside light. Investing in window coverings may block out street lights at night while allowing natural light to enter in the morning.
This is important in helping you maintain your circadian rhythms and develop healthier habits. What’s great is that today’s technical advancements will enable you to create a circadian lighting system in your home. These systems regulate the light intensity or colour temperature throughout the day to support our body’s natural rhythms and make the transition from day to night easier.
I love smart lighting because it can be easily adjusted to the ideal colour and brightness depending on your activity. For example, whether you’re reading, resting, watching TV, learning, or spending time with family or friends. Plus, by using a clever dimming system that adjusts brightness levels based on the time of day, you can maintain a particular colour temperature while tuning in yo tour body’s circadian rythms. This enables our body to adjust to the changing light naturally helping us sleep better at night.
I love the Philips Hue smart lights, they are a great addition to the house because you can simply control the lights directly through an app on your smartphone. They also have numerous light settings available and automation capabilities that look great and mean safety and convenience.
Another great lighting product is Eaton’s LED dimmable night light receptacles. These incorporate a programmable LED nightlight with a range of receptacles and safety features (including tamper-resistant shutters and GFCIs). They are perfect for bedrooms and hallways since they provide the wayfinding benefit of a nightlight without disturbing sleep with excessive brightness.
#5 Reducing Our Carbon Footprint
One of the most important steps we can take to build a more sustainable, healthier future is to reduce our carbon footprint. One area where we can make a significant impact is by choosing more environmentally-friendly products.
I’ve been working with Atlas Roofing for years. I love how they continue to innovate and introduce better products into the market that not only look good but are long-lasting, energy-efficient, and help to create a healthier environment. Their newest Pinnacle® Sun smog-fighting shingles are designed to reduce air pollution and help purify the air around us.
Atlas Roofing Pinnacle Sun Shingles
The patented 3M™️ Smog-Reducing Granules in Atlas’ new Pinnacle® Sun smog-fighting shingles have a photocatalytic coating that, when triggered by sunlight, enables the granules on the shingle to convert smog into ions that are easily dissolved in water. This in turn, helps to improve air quality. The best part is that they have the smog-fighting capability of 2-3 trees on an average-sized roof —how great is that?
They also have a Cool Roof Technology that reflects and emits the sun’s heat back to the sky instead of transferring it to your home. This decreases your home’s cooling needs and increases its overall energy efficiency.
Not to mention they are all manufactured with 3M™ Scotchgard™ Protector. This helps your roof maintain its look for years by preventing ugly black streaks caused by algae. Plus, with a lifetime warranty against black streaks and stains, 130 mph wind resistance, and a 42-inch-wide format this offers a complete roofing solution for your home.
Our world is constantly changing and we will be faced with many challenges along the way. However, I’m excited to see how our industry leaders are rising to these challenges by creating new products that will help us create healthier environments for today and all our tomorrows.
* Vincent, M., R.E. Duval, P. Hartemann, and M. Engels-Deutsch et al, Contact killing and antimicrobial properties of copper, Journal of Applied Microbiology, December 27, 2017; 124:1032—1046. Source of graphics: Drs. Grass, Keevil, Rensing, and Soliaz courtesy of the Copper Development Association