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Clean Living: Indoor Air Pollutants at Work & Home

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Last week, the first post in this clean living series was published, and it offered an explanation of the clean living movement and why now more than ever, people are taking steps toward living a clean, healthier lifestyle.

In the second post, we’re going to talk about clean living as it pertains to your life at home and at work. You’ll learn about indoor air pollutants, where they can come from, what they may do to your health, and how you can neutralize them to help keep yourself and your family safe.

Let’s get started…

Indoor Air Pollutants: What You Should Know

The terms “air pollution” and “air pollutant” are used a lot more often these days, and for good reason. While you may think of pollutants like exhaust fumes and plumes from industrial smokestacks, perhaps the bigger issue is that of indoor pollutants.

According to the Global Healing Center website, “the United States EPA ranks indoor air quality as a top five environmental risk to public health” and that “EPA studies found indoor air pollutants were generally two to five times greater than outdoor pollution levels” (Source).

Whether at home or at work, there are numerous air pollutants that may be causing short and long-term health issues, including some you may not even know about.

Sources of Indoor Air Pollution

Some of the most common sources of air pollution are things you may not even think about. Take a look at the list below.

PBDEs 

Known more commonly as flame retardants, these chemicals have been found in everything from furniture and carpet to bedding and clothing.

Used since the 1970s to ensure products meet flammability standards, these chemicals – including TDCPP, the most commonly used flame retardant chemical – are inhaled and absorbed through the skin on a daily basis by all of us. These chemicals are even in TVs, computers, and other electrical equipment.

But how are these chemicals affecting your health? Here are a few shocking statistics:

  • It’s estimated that 90% of Americans have some level of flame-retardant chemicals in their bodies, and many studies have been linked to health risks including infertility, birth defects, lower IQ scores, behavioral problems, and various cancers (Source).
  • The Green Science Policy Institute tested 100 baby products and found that 80 of them contained toxic flame retardant chemicals (Source).
  • A 2014 study done by scientists at Duke University found that children have at least five times as many flame retardant chemicals in their systems as their parents do (Source).

For more information about flame retardants and how you can keep yourself and your family protected, read this article.

Formaldehyde

When many people think of formaldehyde, they think of the smelly substance used to preserve the frogs they dissected in school. But this chemical is used for much more than that and can easily find its way into your home or workplace. Formaldehyde is a common ingredient in glues and textiles and is also in cigarette smoke. However, one of the top sources can be found in furniture and building materials like particle board, hardwood plywood paneling and medium-density fiberboard.

Commonly referred to as forms of pressed wood, they contain urea-formaldehyde resins. According to airpurifierguide.org, formaldehyde from these sources can cause irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, coughing, rashes, and fatigue, and could even cause cancer and other serious health problems (Source).

Air Fresheners

Air fresheners are everywhere from your bathroom and kitchen at home to your office, and may even be in your car. Sure, they smell great and help get rid of disgusting odors, but air fresheners are doing a lot more than that, and none of it’s good.

The typical air freshener comes in a number of forms, including metered sprays, wicks, mists, sticks, scented candles and stones, plug-ins and carpet cleaners. They may be “cute” and add a certain elegance to the room, but SilentMenace.com has this to say:

“In no way, shape or form does a chemically-scented fragrance and/or aerosols propelled by butane, propane or other toxins create an indoor environment of fresh air … These products do absolutely nothing to improve the quality of indoor air, and in fact, can contribute to a host of ailments from headaches to high pulse rate and nausea, among other things” (Source).

If that isn’t enough, a 2007 article in TIME magazine discusses a study done by the Natural Resources Defense Council took a look at 14 air fresheners and found that 12 of them contained phthalates, chemicals commonly found in other products as well, such as cosmetics and paints.

According to this article, “studies involving rat and human subjects have suggested that high exposures to certain kinds of phthalates can cause cancer, developmental and sex-hormone abnormalities in infants, and can affect fertility” (Source).

Printer Inks & Toners

This may seem like a no-brainer to some, but there may be a larger percentage of people who never even thought about it. The ink and toner cartridges that you use on a daily basis at home and at work are pollutants as well.

According to an article on the Houston Chronicle website:

“Carbon black – which the International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified as a 2B carcinogen, or a ‘dust that is possibly carcinogenic to humans’ – is found in toner ink. While you’re not exposed to it during normal use, if a toner cartridge breaks, you may inhale it or have it touch your skin” (Source).

If that doesn’t sound bad enough, touching or inhaling toner ink may lead to headaches, itchiness, eye irritation, and small growths on your tongue.

There is also the chance for other issues as well. According to the London Hazards Center, photocopiers that use toner ink may emit carbon monoxide when they overheat in poorly ventilated areas. They may also emit high levels of pollutants during electrical charges, which may cause nausea, headaches, severe irritation and fertility issues (Source).

Teflon

A standard in pots and pans, Teflon and nonstick coatings can make cooking and clean-up a lot easier, but they can make things dangerous, too. Teflon, a trademarked name for DuPont’s non-stick coatings, is made from a synthetic polymer called polytetrafluoroetheylene (PTFE). According to the EWG, at high temperatures Teflon can release dangerous fumes that can cause flu-like symptoms and may even be deadly to pet birds.

And while many manufacturers warn against using coated cookware at high temperatures, EWG studies found that dangerous temperatures may be reached much more quickly than warnings indicate:

“EWG-commissioned tests conducted in 2003 showed that in just two to five minutes on a conventional stove top, cookware coated with Teflon and other non-stick surfaces could exceed temperatures at which the coating breaks apart and emits toxic particles and gases” (Source).

But cookware isn’t the only place you’ll find these chemicals. PTFE is also used to repel water and stains on things like furniture, rugs and clothing, often bringing the chemical into direct contact with skin.

Lead

The use of lead has been banned in a number of products and industries where its use was once commonplace. In 1978, the government banned consumer use of lead-based paint, and lead for pipes and soldering began to get phased out in the 1980s, but, as evidenced by the disaster in Flint, Michigan, lead can still pose a threat.

According to the EPA, lead is still present in millions of homes in the form of lead paint or pipes. The EPA estimates that 24 percent of homes built between 1960 and 1977, and 69 percent of those built between 1940 and 1959 have lead paint. For homes built before 1940, the rate jumps to 87 percent (Source).

Mold

Mold represents a diverse group of organisms. From the mold on cheese to the stuff that keeps allergy sufferers reaching for tissues throughout the day, many types of mold aren’t too big of a concern. But under the right conditions in a home or building, especially dark and damp conditions, much more dangerous varieties of mold can grow, bringing with them much more dangerous health effects. In fact, long-term exposure to hazardous mold can lead to mold toxicity, which you can learn more about here.

EMFs

You may not think of electricity as a pollutant, but the many electronic devices we rely on at home and at the office fill the air with an electrical charge that creates areas known as electromagnetic fields, or EMFs. And because our bodies generate their own electromagnetic fields, the varying electrical outputs of appliances and gadgets could create disturbance and affect our health. You can read more about the potential dangers of EMFs here.

For more information on indoor air pollutants and toxins that affect the everyday life of you and your family, the Environmental Defense Fund has a good amount of information that you can find here.

Ways You Can Purify Your Home & Office

While it may be difficult to fully detoxify your home, there are still ways to live as clean as possible, and the majority of them are pretty simple.

1. Open the Windows

While outside air may still be polluted, it’s still likely to be much cleaner than the air circulating inside your home. let-the-toxins-out

Open your windows as often as possible and let some fresh air in! You’ll get the benefits of a naturally fresh and clean feeling throughout the house and office, plus the feeling of a breeze on your skin is always pleasant, too.

2. Leave Your Shoes at the Door

shoes-at-the-doorThis is more likely a suggestion for at home, but it’s a good one! Many people don’t realize it, but your shoes are one of the main ways contaminants and toxins get tracked into your home (and office). That list can include things like pesticides, pollen, industrial toxins, dust mites, heavy metals, animal dander, and much more.

When these substances are tracked in on your shoes, they tend to settle into your carpets. It’s important to clean your carpeting as often as you can to help get rid of these toxins. These contaminants may cause a number of health issues and aren’t good for you, your children, or your pets.

Don’t forget to buy a doormat! According to the EPA, using a doormat and leaving your shoes at the door helps to reduce indoor contaminants by as much as 60% (Source).

3. Get Rid of Those Toxic Products

How many different household cleaners do you use on a daily basis? It ecover-familymight not be something you think about, but you’ll sure want to start! While laundry soaps, air fresheners, and even products like Spic & Span and Pine-Sol are mean to help get rid of odors and germs, and provide a fresh clean smell and feeling, they may be doing more harm than good.

If you’re not sure what to get rid of, the safest bet is to ditch everything. The EWG has a helpful list of products you should be avoiding. You can find that here. A large number of the products on this list are banned in the European Union, but are still allowed for sale and use here in the United States.

Natural Healthy Concepts carries a few different environmentally friendly and trustworthy brands. They’re free of toxic chemicals and are on the EWG good products list. Two of the most popular brands are Ecover Household Products and Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, and both provide a wide range of products for laundry, bathing, and household cleaning.

4. Spread Plants Throughout Your Home and Office

Nature to the rescue! A number of plants can be used for more than decoration around your home and office. In fact, some plants may help remove up to 80% of the air pollutants in your home!

According to NASA, there are some plants that help rid your home of toxins. (Read more about that here.) Their list includes the following:

  • Bamboo Palm: Helps rid the air of chemicals like formaldehyde, benzene, carbon monoxide, and chloroform, among others
  • Peace Lily: Helps get rid of acetone, formaldehyde, xylene, ammonia, methyl alcohol, and other chemicals in the air
  • Orchids: Gets rid of xylene, chloroform, and formaldehyde, and gives off oxygen during the night
  • Anthuriums: Helps get rid of ammonia, xylene, toluene, and formaldehyde

NASA recommends placing between 15 to 18 plants throughout your home to help rid the air of harmful toxins.

This graphic from Detox Market also shows you some of the plants that can be used:

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5. Try Using a Salt Lamp or Essential Oils

salt-lamps-300x300Have you ever heard of Himalayan salt lamps before? Not only do they add rustic beauty to whichever room you put them in, but they’re also useful for ridding the room of positive ions that may affect your health.

Salt lamps have been thought to emit negative ions, which help counteract positive ions from electronics. They also help clean the air around you, leaving you feel more energized and naturally happy.

Essential oils have been used for thousands of years as a way to support and maintain an optimal level of health. They’re also great for helping to get rid of toxins and germs.

Thieves Oil, a blend of five different essential oils, has been found to get ridTheives-Oil of 99.96% of airborne bacteria, according to studies conducted at Weber State University.

Natural Healthy Concepts carries a range of essential oil blends to help purify your home and keep you healthy. Household Purifier Synergistic Blend and Defend Naturally Synergistic Blend from Wyndmere are two popular choices.

If you’re interested in more essential oil recipes to support your health, take a look at this post.

6. Get an Air Purifier

Air purifiers are a great way to get pet dander, dust and dust mites, tobacco smoke, pollen, mold, and other indoor air pollutants out of the air throughout your home.

Choosing the air purifier that’s right for your home or office may be tough. After all, there are quite a few choices, but there are factors to consider when choosing the best for your needs.

Square footage, CADR rating, controls, and filter replacement frequency are just a few things to consider when choosing your purifier system. If you’re looking for quality filter replacements, take a look at Cleaner Filters for all of your filter needs.

How are you keeping your home and office healthy and toxin-free? We’d love to hear your stories. Please leave us a comment below!

 

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