How Clean Is the Air in Your Home?
Everywhere we turn, it seems like allergies and sickness are on the rise. Sensitivities to food, plants, and chemicals are rampant, and it’s no wonder why. With all of the toxins in our very homes, we are all vulnerable to a gamut of symptoms that affect our daily lives. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, indoor air is 2 to 5 times more polluted than outdoor air. This indoor air pollution can exacerbate countless short and long-term health problems, including respiratory problems, watery eyes, colds, and headaches—and it can even trigger asthma attacks, worsening an individual’s condition.
For anyone ready to take action against indoor pollutants, Modernize discusses the sources of toxins in your home and how you can stop your kids’ exposure to these harmful chemicals.
The Culprits: Harsh Cleaning Supplies and Hygiene Products
Cleaning supplies and even some hygiene products aren’t always required to list every single ingredient they contain—and even if they did, we might not all have a grasp on what the ingredients are or the harm they can do. In fact, fragrances are considered trade secrets, and the word “fragrance” or “parfum” on a bottle could mean pretty much anything. Many cleaning supplies are associated with asthma and respiratory problems, while skin irritations can often be traced back to seemingly harmless hygiene products. Bleach, ammonia, fragrances, and VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are just a few of the harmful or potentially harmful chemicals contained in cleaners, air fresheners, detergents, and personal grooming products.
Remember that “green” doesn’t always mean healthy. Any company can slap a “natural” label on a bottle. Research the ingredients that are best avoided and closely review all the products your family uses and buys. It sounds like a lot of work, but once you find brands you trust, it will be worth the trouble. Look for cleaning products without VOCs, fragrances, bleach, ammonia, and flammable ingredients. As you shop for shampoos and soaps to be used on the skin, make sure to look for sulfate, fragrance, and paraben-free products. Avoid DEAs, MEAs, and TEAs, which are hormone disrupting chemicals found in personal hygiene products more often than not.
Remember, you can always make your own cleaning supplies and hygiene products. If your family members have problems with asthma, skin irritations, or frequent ailments of any kind, it’s certainly worth a shot. Vinegar, baking soda, castile soap, lemon, and olive oil are wonderful ingredients for effective homemade cleaners. Make sure to follow trusted recipes, as not all these substances should be mixed.
The Culprit: Paint and Sealants
Those darn VOCs are everywhere. Traditional paints, sealants, and even fabric treatments emit VOCs for a long time after they are applied to the walls or furnishings in your house. This is especially dangerous when it comes to painting entire rooms in your house.
Look for water-based eco-paints without VOCs. Back in the day, these didn’t used to go on as smoothly as paints with harmful chemicals, since the harmful chemicals were what allowed for the smooth texture. But more and more natural paints are mastering the look without sacrificing your health. If you really want to go the extra mile, make sure to buy carpet, rugs, and furniture that you trust hasn’t been treated with toxic chemicals.
The Culprit: Poor Ventilation and Dirty Air Ducts
Weather-stripping and tightening up your home can sure save on energy costs. But it also reduces proper ventilation, which essentially turns your home into a chemical stew (not to be dramatic). Meanwhile, dirty air ducts can be a source of mold, fungi, dust, and other pollutants.
Open windows as much as possible. This will keep the contaminated air moving out and the fresh air moving in. Change your filters when needed, and be sure to get your ducts professionally cleaned (if not done correctly, it may only stir up the pollutants instead of getting rid of them). If you have pollen allergies, however, keeping your windows closed when the pollen count is high may be necessary, so check your local pollen counts, as well as the filters in your air conditioning system.
The Culprit: Tracked-in Chemicals
Our shoes come into contact with all manner of offensive chemicals daily, from oils in the street to heavy-duty public bathroom floor cleaner to pesticides.
Even if it makes you seem a little uptight, asks your kids, spouse, and guests to take off their shoes at the door. If your kids seem to have trouble following this rule, install cubbies where they can place backpacks, coats, and shoes as soon as they walk in the door.
The Culprit: Carbon Monoxide
All of your fuel-burning appliances have the potential to emit harmful gases. While some are detectable, others may not be. And by the time you detect them, the damage may already be done.
The Solution: Carbon Monoxide Detector
Install a carbon monoxide detector to ease your mind and secure your family’s safety from this deadly gas. Make sure to get all of your fuel-burning appliances inspected by a professional to prevent dangerous gas leaks in your home. You can also get your home tested for radon, an odorless and invisible gas that is the second leading cause of lung cancer.
Once you become aware of all of hazards within your very home, it’s hard not to feel somewhat paranoid and conspired against. But once you have faced the realities and come up with solutions that work for you and your family, you will feel at peace and in control. Even if you don’t tackle of the solutions listed above, consider getting an indoor air quality test and installing portable high-efficiency air particulate filters in the bedrooms of your home.