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Most people spend as much as 90% of their time indoors but according to a 2009 study in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, the average house  contains over 500 toxic chemicals,. As a matter of fact, this study and several others determined that indoor air (home/apartment) is 5 times more polluted than outdoor air and some pollutants can be as much as 100 times greater than outdoor levels.

Poor indoor air quality is one of the top risks to public health according to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency).  A combination of carpet, cleaning chemicals, insecticides/pesticides, air fresheners, plastics and furnishings contribute to the chemical soup you breathe indoors.

With so many questionable chemicals swirling around us, “you definitely want to take simple measures whenever possible to lower your exposure,” says Phil Brown, PhD, director of the Social Science Environ-mental Health Research Institute at Northeastern University in Boston.

And reducing your contact with chemicals— even a little—can yield clear benefits. Depending on your sensitivities, you might experience fewer allergy and asthma symptoms, headaches and skin irritations. Long-term, Brown says, you may even lower your risk of infertility and cancer.

 Where do I start?   

While some people would have you ripping up carpeting and chucking furniture, we talked to environmental health experts to find low-effort, high-impact ways to minimize your toxic load and boost your health, then ranked them from the super easy to the more ambitious. Try a couple of these, or more, to really clear the air.

Don’t Idle your Car in the Garage

Carbon monoxide fumes emitted from car exhaust has nearly the same specific gravity of air.  This allows it to quickly travel along air currents and into your home.  Make sure to point your car exhaust out toward the garage door and always open your garage door first before starting your car.

Kick off your Kicks

Leave shoes at the door.  This will prevent many toxic chemicals from being tracked into your home like road sealant, pesticides and lead dust, to name a few.

Crack the Windows

Increase ventilation by opening a few windows for at least 5 – 10 min per day (especially on opposite sides of the house for cross circulation).  Longer when weather permits.

Bring Nature Inside

NASA, along with the Associated Landscape Contractors of America (ALCA) conducted the classic study on the benefits of plants on indoor air, and they reported that houseplants were able to remove up to 87 percent of air toxins in 24 hours. They recommended using 15 to 18 “good-sized” houseplants in 6- to 8-inch diameter containers for an 1,800 square-foot house

Air Purifying Houseplants  (Pet Owners Beware:  these are poisonous to cats and dogs)

  • The Feston Rose plant (Lantana): eliminates formaldehyde

  • Devil’s Ivy (pothos, golden pothos): eliminates formaldehyde

  • English Ivy: eliminates benzene, trichloroethylene and formaldehyde

  • Snake plant: best for filtering formaldehyde, ammonia and xylene

  • Rubber plant: eliminates VOCs, bioeffluents

  • Dracaena (corn plant): eliminates formaldehyde

  • Peace Lily: removes VOCs, formaldehyde, benzene, trichloroethylene, toluene and xylene.

Detoxifying Plants:  safe for cats and dogs

  • Areca Palm: removes toluene and xylene

  • Money Tree Plant: filters benzene, formaldehyde, toluene and xylene

  • Spider plant: removes formaldehyde, benzene, carbon monoxide, toluene and xylene (safe for pets)

  • Bamboo Palm: removes formaldehyde, xylene and toluene

  • Variegated Wax Plant: filters benzene and formaldehyde

  • Liriope (lily turf): filters ammonia, formaldehyde, xylene, and toluene

  • Boston Fern: removes formaldehyde, xylene and toluene

  • Dwarf Date Palm: eliminates xylene, toluene and formaldehyde

  • Phalaenopsis (moth orchids):  remove xylene and toluene

  • Gerber Daisey: removes trichloroethylene (dry cleaning chemical), and benzene

  • African Violets removes formaldehyde, xylene and toluene

Avoid Toxic Cleaning Chemicals

Most commercial cleaning supplies increase the levels of VOCs in your home.  VOCs in these products have been linked with cancer, headaches, asthma and neurological disorders.  The EWG has an extensive list on household cleaning products with lowest and highest toxicities.

Say No to Non-Stick Cookware

Non-Stick cookware (Teflon, Calphalon, etc.) emits toxic fumes within 2-5 minutes when heated on a stove top, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG).  Safer alternatives are Stainless Steel and Cast Iron pans.  It takes a little bit of practice  but by merely preheating the pan, then adding  oil, this will prevent a lot of stick factor.

Ditch the Dryer Sheets

Most coat clothes with chemicals like quaternary ammonium compounds—which have been linked to the development of asthma—and acetone, also found in nail polish remover. Plus, your towels will be more absorbent sans the chemical covering.

Detox your Dry Cleaning

Remove the bags and air out clothes in the garage or better yet, outside for a day or two to shed some of the solvent, called perchloroethylene, that sticks to the fibers. Inhaling it can trigger respiratory and eye irritation, headaches, dizziness and vision problems, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a research and advocacy organization. You also could go to a “green” cleaner—just make sure they use liquid carbon dioxide or the wet-cleaning method, since other eco-alternatives can be just as toxic, warns Sonya Lunder, EWG’s senior analyst.

Veto VOCs

Trade your vinyl shower curtain for one made of cotton, nylon, polyester or EVA or PEVA plastic. (Not sure if it’s vinyl? Look for the number 3 printed on the recycling seal on the curtain or its packaging, or the letters PVC.) In a 2008 study, vinyl curtains were found to release 108 volatile organic compounds (VOCs), chemicals that become gaseous at room temperature, potentially triggering headaches, nausea, dizziness and irritated eyes and throat. They’re also found in most paint, so look for cans labeled as low or zero VOC.

Pass On The Pesticides

Contact with some formulations may lead to nerve, skin and eye damage, headaches and nausea.  Switch to natural agents to rid those pesky pests like diatomaceous earth (kills ants and flees), cedarcide (kills fleas) and boric acid (kills roaches, ants and termites).

Avoid Plastics and Never Expose to Heat

Although your plastic container or water bottle may claim to be BPA (bisphenol A) free, there are still thousands of other chemicals found within the plastic containers.  BPA was replaced by BPS (bisphenol-S) which has been reported by Scientific American to be even more toxic than its predecessor BPA and is known to tamper with our hormones. Chemicals in plastics are more likely to leach out when heated (either in microwave or left in a hot vehicle). Exposure to acidic and oily foods can also cause chemicals in plastics to leach out.

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According to the American Lung Association, some of the common contaminants in your home air include:

  • Asbestos

  • Bacteria & Viruses

  • Paint products

  • Carbon Monoxide

  • Cleaning supplies

  • Formaldehyde

  • Lead

  • Mold

  • Radon

  • Residential wood burning

  • Tobacco smoke

These pollutants can cause various health risks, such as:

  • Headache

  • Dizziness

  • Weakness

  • Nausea

  • Anxiety

  • Cancer

  • Heart disease

  • Stroke

  • Asthma & Respiratory diseases

If your home has carpeting, furniture and commercial household cleaners, you can assume you have some degree of indoor air pollution.  The American Lung Association developed these questions to help you determine sources of your chemical pollution in your home or apartment.

  •   Do you permit smoking indoors?

  •   Is your house/apartment carpeted?

  •   Can you see or smell mold?

  •   Does the humidity of your home regularly rise above 50%?

  •   Do you have an attached garage?

  •   Do you store paints, solvents, gas containers, lawn      mowers in your garage, basement, home?

  •   Do you use air fresheners?

  •   Do you use pesticides in or around your home?

  •   Do you have your home tested for Radon?

Chance are you have answered yes to one or more of these questions.  Start taking steps to clean up the air in your home.  It’s the single best thing you can do for yourself, family, children and pets.

For more information, visit our other blog topics by clicking here -> Blog

or call the San Antonio Neuropathy Center at 210-492-0111.


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