With all the emphasis on the quality of our outdoor air, land, and water over the past few decades, it seems that the safety of the environment inside our homes — where we typically spend a majority of our time — was somewhat overlooked. Many studies have proven that the quality of the air in our homes is, in general, much worse than average outdoor air. Scientists have labeled this phenomenon “sick building syndrome,” and it is largely the result of two major factors. First, most modern homes are overflowing with toxic chemicals from construction materials, cleaning supplies, and the like. Secondly, with the emphasis on energy conservation, homes are now much more air-tight than in the past, and this lack of ventilation only compounds the problems.
I’m often asked “how can I create a healthy home without breaking the bank?” While it may seem overwhelming at first, begin slowly with those issues that won’t break the bank. In beginning to create a healthy home, if there are major issues, begin saving up in order to address those issues. When addressing a concern such as this, doing something is always better than doing nothing. But before anything,take the time to educate yourself about what type of toxins you may have in your home and the preventative steps that can help create a healthy home environment. Below I have listed some common toxins.
Common Toxins That May Be In Or Around Your Home
- First, be aware that indoor air pollution is a serious concern. Since World War II, over 80,000 new chemicals have been invented and used here in America, many of which are ingredients in multiple consumer products that have found their way into our homes. Are these substances safe? Some have shown to be very dangerous, but the truth is that only about 5% have ever been tested as in regard to their effects on human health.
- Under the kitchen and bathroom sinks lurk some of the worst chemical offenders, substances such as bleach, ammonia, and other common cleaners. These create indoor air that is toxic to breath, especially to infants and children, and can irritate and burn the skin, eyes, and other organs. In industry, these chemicals are restricted under the Federal Hazardous Substance act, but they are often silently included in products designed for the home. Mixing bleach and ammonia can produce a deadly form of “mustard gas,” an accident that has occurred numerous times with tragic results.
- Construction materials are also a major contributor to poor indoor environments. This is true in both older homes that have been remodeled, and for new construction. Some items to watch out for are carpeting, processed wood products such as plywood or paneling, paints and stains, chemical-laden adhesives, and insulation products (especially foam). Many of these contain known carcinogens such as formaldehyde or benzene and many can give off toxic gasses for long periods of time. Often these chemicals found in combination can even worsen the problem.
- Remodeling can also expose residents to dust containing lead from old paint, mold spores and other toxins that are stirred up and dispersed in the process. Be sure to wear an appropriate mask if doing the work yourself, and protect the rest of your home from contamination by sealing off the area.
- Some types of granite counter tops are often overlooked as sources of toxins. They may emit radiation including radon gas, a major source of lung cancers.
- Furniture, including bedding, can also pose significant risks. We spend about a third of our lives in bed, and unfortunately many mattresses are laden with toxic fire-resistant chemicals called PBDEs that have been banned in Europe due to their links to cancer and immune system dysfunction. This can also be true for bed covers and pillows. Older beds can also be infiltrated with bed bugs. Other furniture made of pressed wood can be a source of formaldehyde and other chemicals.
- House dust is also a villain. One of its major components are tiny creatures called dust mites (and their dung) that can cause respiratory infections and allergic reactions.
- Water from municipal systems typically contains either fluoride or chlorine, both of which are dangerous toxins, especially in a gaseous state (like hot water from a shower head).
- Lawn and garden applications are some of the worst sources of pollution. Many commercial products contain ingredients that are known carcinogens and neurotoxins. In fact, some insecticides and pesticides are chemical relatives of lethal substances such as Sarin (used in the 1995 Tokyo Subway attack) and Agent Orange, a defoliant used in the Vietnam War.
Preventative Steps to Take
- First, rid your home of all dangerous cleaning supplies. Good old soap and water covers most jobs safely, and vinegar is also an excellent natural cleaner. There are several places on the Internet that give recipes for basic non-toxic household cleaning supplies using very inexpensive ingredients.
- Be very choosy about construction materials used in your home. If you are doing the job yourself or using a contractor, look into “green” products that are available. Choose bedding and furniture that is not toxic. Natural wood furniture is safer and of higher quality.
- Clean your house with a vacuum cleaner equipped with a Hepa filter.
- Carpeting / Flooring — Don’t wait until you are environmentally ill before you consider non toxic carpets. When replacing carpets or buying new carpets look for pure wool carpeting. When entering a home with wool carpets that are untreated and natural, one will not get a headache or burning eyes from the toxic combination of chemicals used to make a regular carpet. When looking for hardwood floors consider non-toxic wood such as bamboo. If one cannot remove toxic carpeting, SafeChoice Carpet Care and SafeChoice Carpet Seal are unique sealers designed to prevent the out-gassing of harmful chemicals used in carpet backing. These chemicals include such known carcinogens as formaldehyde, toluene, benzene, xylene and styrene. Carpet Seal is odor-free and, when properly applied, effectively blocks out-gassing for up to five cleanings or one year.
- Replace old paint with non-VOC paints.
- Air out your home at least once per week. Open all windows in the early morning for several hours.
- Purchase a high quality water purification system for the water in your home, both for drinking and bathing. We use the Wellness Filters in our home and also in the OAW office.
- Use only “green,” organic products in your garden and on your lawn.
- Keep house plants in your home. They help to cleanse the air in your home and increase oxygen levels as well.
- Use ionic air purification systems in your home and office.
- EMF Protection — Electromagnetic radiation is often overlooked when considering toxins that may be in our homes. I highly suggest purchasing an EMF Adapter for Home & Office which protects your entire home from electromagnetic frequency/radiation.