Indoor air quality can often be more polluted than the air outside and the truth is that most of us spend more than 90 percent of our time in our homes, offices, schools, and cars. We’re always dying to get outside because no matter what industry you work or study in, we are constantly inside and indoors.
Unfortunately indoor air quality can be 100 times worse than the air outside, says naturopath & clinical nutritionist Tabitha McIntosh at Awaken Your Health co-author of One Bite At A Time: Reduce Toxic Exposure & Eat The Word You Want.
“Any time you buy new linens, carpeting, and other home furnishings such as furniture, electronics, plus personal care and cleaning products, you also bring the chemicals used in their manufacturing into your house,” McIntosh says.
“Even if you can’t smell them, these chemicals: fragrances, particulates, solvents, flame-retardants and volatile organic carbons are present in indoor air as pollutants. Studies of human exposure to air pollutants indicate that indoor levels of many pollutants often are significantly higher than outdoor levels.” Little research has been done on the chemicals present in indoor air environments and their effects on long term health. But there is evidence to support a correlation between air pollution and respiratory conditions such as asthma, COPD, and lung cancer.
“In Australia, the CSIRO estimates that the cost of poor indoor air quality in Australia may be as high as $12 billion per year,” McIntosh says.
Air pollution gets worse inside our homes in winter because we close the windows, turn on the heaters and get less fresh air circulating from outside. Gas stoves and heaters are also have a big impact when it comes to indoor air quality and pollution levels.
“Good air quality comes from good airflow, circulating fresh air is critical to removing carbon dioxide, particulates, and air toxics such as mould, vinyl and plastics chemicals, synthetic fragrances, volatile organic compounds, flame-retardants, house dust, and mould.”
Wet and damp weather makes things worse by encouraging mold in wardrobes, closets, bags, shoes, bathrooms, bedrooms and even inside of your walls, and if you live in a damp climate check behind your artwork too.
“Molds reproduce by forming tiny spores that are not visible to the naked eye, however these spores produce mycotoxins that can be inhaled, causing health complaints such as headache, migraine, respiratory conditions, plus inflammatory complaints that affect the whole body – such as fatigue and joint pain,” says McIntosh.
If where you lay your head has poor ventilation, leaks, flooding, poor drainage, an abundance of condensation build up in the bathroom or laundry area, or high humidity, these problems need to be fixed stat, for your health!
“Exposure to toxic mould in a home may also cause croup, asthma, bronchitis, other lung conditions, and recurrent infections and infants and children are exquisitely vulnerable to the effects of mold as their lungs, immune systems and neurological systems are still developing.”
If you ever lack motivation to vacuum or dust, read this:
Research has identified over 65 endocrine disrupting compounds in household dust tests, including flame-retardants, pesticides, cleaning chemicals and chemicals commonly used in toys and vinyl flooring. “Some of these can trigger headaches, sinus problems, and breathing problems such as asthma. Endocrine disrupting chemicals however have been implicated in numerous adverse health outcomes, including those of the endocrine, reproductive, neurological, and metabolic systems.”
Tabitha suggests that regular exposure to these chemicals contribute to all aspects of the thyroid dysfunction, infertility, reproductive disorders such as fibroids, endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and even some cancers.
“Most alarmingly, these chemicals have potential to interfere with normal reproductive and neurological development of babies in utero, so they are a particular concern to people wishing to start a family, as well as young infants and children. The timing of exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals is critical to the health outcome.”
Avoid artificial fragrances in personal care products and air fresheners, synthetic candles (choose beeswax or soy with essential oils) and products free from phthalates, parabens, BPA, plastics, and other nasty chemicals.
Enforce a no shoes ever policy inside your house to reduce outdoor pollutants being tracked in the home.
Vacuum weekly with a HEPA high performance vacuum filter (HEPA stands for high performance particulate air. A HEPA filter is a type of mechanical-mesh air filter that traps very fine and potentially harmful particles such as pollen, dust, dust mite, and pet dander) to remove air and dust pollutants.
Wet mopping and wet dusting both collect smaller particles, paying particular attention to electronics and places where children play.
Indoor plants, which there are a ton to choose from, help improve indoor air quality by absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen, filtering the air to pull out contaminants via the tiny pores in their leaves.
To reduce exposure to EDCs minimize your use of electronics and say no to flame retardant and anti-stain treatments offered on new furniture. Choose natural fibre carpets and rugs. Avoiding using second hand furniture is also another way to reduce your exposure.
If you live near a main road or can smell new carpet, consider using an air purifier equipped with high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter in the room where you spend the most time to lower the amount of indoor fine particulate matter. Air filters and purifiers are ideal for people with pre-existing respiratory conditions.
Ditch all air fresheners and synthetic candles. If possible open the windows and ask your HR department that the professional cleaners use natural cleaning products and a HEPA filter to vacuum regularly. Finally, pop a plant on your desk so you have your own personal air filter.
Tetrachloroethylene, also called perchloroethylene or ‘perc’ is a clear colorless liquid chemical widely used for dry cleaning of fabrics that has been classified by the Environmental Protection Agency as a human carcinogen. Perc can enter the body through respiratory or dermal exposure, and when inhaled – even low concentrations – is known to cause respiratory and eye irritation, headache, dizziness and vision problems. Kindly ask your dry cleaner what solvents they use and request a non-toxic alternative.
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