You may be wondering “How can I create a green and healthy home without breaking the bank?” While creating a healthy home may seem a bit overwhelming at first, taking it slow, one-small-step-at-a-time, will not only help your bank account but will also keep your stress levels low. Creating a healthy home will seem easier if you take the time to create a plan to follow. For example, if you have some major home environment issues, it’s wise to take some time to thoroughly research your options and then address those issues as finances allow. However, before doing anything, it’s smart to take some time to educate yourself about the type of toxins that might be lurking in your home, how to safely clean-up those toxins and what preventative steps you should take to help ensure a healthy home environment.
Healthy Home: Common Toxins That May Be In Or Around Your Home
Be aware that indoor air pollution is a serious concern which over time can lead to health concerns. With all the emphasis on the quality of our outdoor air, food, and water over the past few decades, the quality of the environment inside our homes — where we typically spend the majority of our time — was overlooked. Many studies have proven that the air quality in homes can be much worse than average outdoor air. Scientists have labeled this phenomenon “sick building syndrome” since it also applies to office buildings. Sick building syndrome 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. Second, 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. 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. 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 in most homes lurk toxic and harsh chemical cleaners. Ingredients such as bleach, ammonia, phthalates (endocrine disruptors), PERC (neurotoxin) and 2-butoxyethanol, to name a few. These chemicals create indoor air that is toxic to breath, especially for infants and children and those with asthma. They can also 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. Did you know that mixing bleach and ammonia can produce a deadly form of “mustard gas,” an accident that has occurred numerous times with tragic results.
Toxic Construction Materials.
Construction materials are also a major contributor to poor indoor environment quality. This is true in both older homes that have been remodeled as well as 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, when found in combination, can even worsen the problem.
Remodeling older homes is currently very popular. Remodeling can expose residents to dust containing lead from old paint as well as 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. These chemicals are 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 be infiltrated with bed bugs. Furniture made of pressed wood is often 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. Research has proven that in 90% of house dust samples contain harmful chemicals like phthalates and flame retardants. This research comes from a multi-institute team of researchers from Milken Institute School of Public Health, Silent Spring Institute, Natural Resources Defense Council, Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, and Occupational and Environmental Medicine Program.
Water from municipal systems typically contains fluoride, chlorine or chlorimide. All of which are dangerous chemical toxins, especially in a gaseous state (like hot water from a shower head).
Lawn and Garden.
Lawn and garden toxic chemicals 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.
Healthy Home: Clean-Up and Prevention Tips
- Toxic Cleaning Supplies. First, rid your home of all dangerous cleaning supplies. Good old soap and water covers most jobs safely. Vinegar, baking soda and some essential oils are also excellent natural cleaners. There are several places on the Internet that provide recipes for basic non-toxic household cleaning supplies using very inexpensive ingredients.
- Remodeling Materials. Be very choosy about construction materials used to remodel your home. If you are doing the job yourself or using a contractor, look into “green” products that are available.
- Bedding and Furniture. Choose bedding and furniture that is not toxic. Natural wood furniture is safer and of higher quality.
- Dust and Vacuum. Clean your home with a vacuum cleaner equipped with a Hepa filter. Try to dust and vacuum every other day or at least two times per week.
- Carpeting / Flooring. Don’t wait until you are environmentally ill before you research 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. With hardwood floors, consider non-toxic wood such as bamboo. If you 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 out-gassing 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.
- Paint. Replace old paint with non-VOC paints.
- Air Quality. Air out your home at least once per week. Open all windows in the early morning, when outside air is the freshest, for several hours.
- Clean Water. Purchase a high quality water purification system for the water in your home, both for drinking and bathing. If this is not feasible, place filters on your faucets and shower.
- Lawn and Gardening. Use only “green,” organic products in your garden and on your lawn.
- House Plants. Place house plants in your home. Live plants can help to cleanse the air in your home as well as increase oxygen levels.
- Air Purifiers. Use ionic air purification systems and essential oil diffusers in your home and office to help keep the air clean and smelling fresh.
- EMF Protection. Electromagnetic radiation is often overlooked when creating a healthy home environment. There are many ways in which you can protect your home from harmful radiation. Something as simple as turning off WI-FI when not in use can lesson EMFs greatly. Do your research.