Sometimes when you write a blog you come across information that you find intriguing or even downright shocking! And sometimes that information becomes the mental equivalent of pulling on a snag in a sweater. It just starts to unravel and you end up with more and more shocking information! This happened to me recently when I started working on my post about the health benefits of time spent outdoors! I aptly named it 25+ Mind-Blowing Benefits of Time Outdoors. Because, well, my mind was actually blown by what I had discovered! That’s what made me wonder about about indoor air pollution!
It got me to thinking… why is spending time outdoors SO beneficial to your health? Clearly it isn’t just being out in the sun and getting all of that vitamin D. I mean, sure that’s good for you but even with sunscreen and tons of skin coverage in the winter it’s still insanely beneficial! One thing led to another and next thing I knew I was knee deep in research about indoor air pollution! Come to find out it’s a BIG deal, like REALLY BIG! Apparently the air inside is about 2 – 5 TIMES more polluted than the air outside and this is where we spend about 90% of our time! Indoor air pollution is making people sick and even causing 3.8 million illness related deaths per year worldwide! That isn’t even counting deaths related to toxic fume or gas exposure! So… What is causing all of this air pollution and aside from moving into a tent, how can you avoid it?
19 Sources of Indoor Pollution
1. Paint & Other Hazardous Chemicals
I’m going to start by saying that I’m sure that you are using lead free paint and had the lead checked before moving into your home. Assuming that, you still need to be concerned about paint. Like many of the items on this list it produces volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These compounds are dangerous to your health both long and short term. Most of them have dissipated once the paint dries but some are still in the air.
There are many other hazardous chemicals we keep in our homes or garages besides paint. Things like gasoline, paint thinner and caulk or adhesives all produce VOCs!
2. Cleaning Products, Personal Hygiene & Fragrances
It’s not just things with an unpleasant odor that you need to be concerned about! Turns out that synthetic fragrance is one of the worst things we can have in our environment. Single exposure can sometimes even cause seizures in children! For more extensive information check out Synthetic vs. Natural Fragrance! Switch Today for Your Health! Recent research has shown that there are more than 17 different VOCs in personal hygiene products. Most of which are related to synthetic fragrance. And the fumes produced by cleaning products, especially when mixing cleaning products can be extremely dangerous and are harmful! The truth is you are likely over cleaning anyways and THAT can be detrimental to your health in many ways. To find out more check out How Clean Is Too Clean.
3. Non-Stick Pots and Pans
Listen up… I’m not just talking about Teflon here! Those beautiful ceramic pans you have off gas too! When using any non-stick pans make sure that you keep the heat under medium! High heat cooking damages the non-stick surface. The off gassing has actually been known to kill pet birds! Ever hear of the canary in the coal mine? Well, long story short… if it kills birds it’s likely to kill you too! For high heat cooking it’s best to use cast iron!
4. Dry Cleaning
The chemicals used in dry cleaning are notoriously bad for your health! There are now processes in place to recapture the gasses produced by dry cleaning. If your clothing has a strong chemical odor refuse to accept it and wait until it is fully dried. If this is a regular occurrence, consider switching dry cleaners. It is also a good idea to request that they not wrap your cleaning in plastic. This has two benefits, it allows your clothes to air out and helps you avoid single use plastic!
5. Paraffin Wax Candles
I was disappointed to find that burning paraffin wax candles releases a toxic chemical that can build up over time! This is one of many items on this list that I will be sad to say good-bye too!
The use of indoor pesticides has become VERY common! Currently 3 out of 4 U.S. homes uses them! In fact, more than 80% of pesticide exposure comes from indoor sources now! Many of the pests we are trying to eliminate create other forms of indoor air pollution or health hazards. It is important to know that pesticides build up and that we also track them in from outside. For this reason there are more pesticides in your home than you are currently using! It is best to consider alternative ways to minimize pests such as prevention and bait traps.
7. Crafting Supplies
We all know that glues, markers, clay and craft paint all have sometimes strong odors and can be hazardous to our health! It is often best to craft outdoors whenever possible! Remember, even products marked “non-toxic” can be hazardous, especially if they are scented!
8. Furnishings & Carpet
Most furnishings off gas some sort of chemicals! Fabric furnishing often have flame retardants and scotch guard (same as teflon) applied to them. And wood furnishings often off-gas formaldehyde. These items can produce air pollution for up to 2 years!
The vinyl backing and glue in carpets can off gas for up to 5 years. Some people are very sensitive to the chemicals related to carpet, especially children with asthma and allergies. The off gassing is the worst for the first few days and diminishes greatly after 3 months. It can be helpful to stay elsewhere and ventilate well in the few days following carpet installation. If you or your family has asthma or allergies you may want to consider bare floors with rugs or natural fiber carpets.
9. Gas Stove & Oven
I LOVE cooking on gas but I did get an electric oven! Gas stoves contribute to both carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide. Both of these gases are incredibly harmful to your health! Running your gas oven without venting causes the levels of these gasses to exceed federal and state health standards for both of these gasses. I know you may be tempted to keep the vent off to fill your house with the warm fragrant air from baking in the winter but don’t! Use your vent every time you turn on your gas range! And, don’t forget to make sure that your vent is in proper working order!
10. Attached Garage Parking
Often times we forget that our attached garage is part of our house. It is very easy for the air in the garage to seep into your home! That is why it’s very important not to keep hazardous chemicals in your garage! You also need to make sure that you ventilate your garage well when you park in it! Even in the colder months leave the garage door open for a few minutes to help air it out!
According to the National Cancer Association radon is the number 2 cause of lung cancer in the U.S. This odorless gas is caused by naturally occurring uranium breaking down. It is more commonly found in your home if you have cracks or a basement or crawl. It doesn’t matter how old your house is. Any home can have high levels of radon and, 1 in 15 do! There are things that can be done about this but you have to test to know. Thankfully you can easily test yourself using an at home radon test kit!
12. Wood & Charcoal Burning
Yet another bummer! There are few things I love more that food cooked on a charcoal grill and a wood fire in the fireplace in the winter (or fire pit on a cool spring or fall night). This one just basically messed up all of my seasonal fun! Both wood and charcoal burning produce particulates that get into our airways and cause not only irritation but also long term damage!
13. Pet Dander
I’m not suggesting that you get rid of your pets, but pet dander is actually bad for you even if you aren’t allergic. It doesn’t matter if you have a long haired or short haired pet or how much or little they shed. If they shed at all there will be pet dander in the air and on surfaces. To minimize the effects of this it is best to make sure to keep up with cleaning, including wiping down hard surfaces like walls. Also, it might be helpful to know that both cat and dog dander are an issue and it is much more difficult to remove cat dander.
14. Dust & Dust Mites
Again, whether you’re allergic or not, dust and dust mites aren’t good for you! To minimize the presence of dust and dust mites it is very important to keep up with cleaning upholstered and carpeted items as well as hard surfaces. Simple habits like washing bedding weekly and vacuuming your mattresses and furnishings can greatly reduce the amount of dust and dust mites.
Keeping your home below 50% humidity and patching any leaks will significantly help prevent mold growth! it is also important to make sure that your attic is properly ventilated and you gutters get cleaned regularly. Mold can be highly toxic and even less dangerous strains are still respiratory irritants.
16. Printers & Copiers
Printer and copier toner is not healthy. Even laser printers produce particles that are harmful when we inhale them. The impact of this is greater when the toner cartridge is fresh and full and when we are copying or printing something that is very dense with toner. If that is the case consider leaving the room until your print / copy job is finished.
17. Air Purifier
This one probably sounds like the craziest thing you’ve ever heard! It’s true though! Recent studies have shown that air purifiers don’t remove dust or carbon monoxide as is advertised. They do contribute to poor air quality though and emit ozone! Ozone is great up at the top of the earth’s atmosphere but it isn’t healthy to breath and shouldn’t be at surface level!
18. Bacteria & Viruses
Yep, there are all sorts of bacteria and viruses floating around. They are always there but in the winter when our furnaces are running and the air is dry our mucus membranes dry and crack giving them an avenue into our bodies. No, it will not help to use more antibacterial or disinfecting sprays! Again, check out How Clean is Too Clean to find out why.
19. Tobacco Smoke
I’m pretty sure that every one knows this by now and I don’t even have to say it! Tobacco smoke is BAD… all second hand smoke is BAD! This includes vape smoke, hookah smoke and marijuana smoke. If you smoke head outside. Please stay away from doors and open windows and don’t smoke in the garage! If you don’t smoke, don’t let others smoke in your home! You have every right to say no and protect the quality of the air you and your loved ones breath!
Health Consequences of Indoor Pollution
Immediate health consequences of indoor pollution can be as simple as watery eyes or as life threatening as asthma or anaphalaxis related to allergies. You may also experience headaches, nose and throat irritation, fatigue and dizziness. What seems like cold or sinus symptoms could be a reaction to pollution. If several people in the same building are experiencing symptoms it is very likely to be caused by poor air quality. This is sometimes referred to as sick building syndrome.
The more insidious and scary thing though is the long term health consequences of indoor air pollution. Things like neurological damage, heart problems, stroke, respiratory illness and many forms of cancer have all been linked to poor indoor air quality.
What Can You Do?
To improve your indoor air quality the most important thing you can do is ventilate your space well! Whenever possible open your windows and let the fresh air in. And use fans to increase circulation!
You can also improve air quality by switching to non-toxic or natural products including cleaning and hygiene products. And choosing items that are free of synthetic fragrance. Clean regularly using a damp cloth for dusting and a vacuum with a high efficiency particle filter.
To improve your air quality even more consider adding some houseplants to your home. Not only do they help to decrease carbon monoxide but they also decrease VOCs, gasses and airborne microbes and mold. You just want to make sure they aren’t increasing humidity levels!
Indoor Air Quality Can Be Improved!
These are the days when I’m happy that I write a blog! I had no idea that some of these things were creating health hazards in my environment! But they are relatively simple fixes! It is empowering to know that I can make some simple adjustments and improve my health and that of my family!
BTW… I’m still not giving up all wood fires or candles! I’ll just have to ventilate more and find some healthier alternatives! It’s all about balance!
Share this post to help empower others to create a healthy environment! Tutorials coming for how to make your own non-toxic cleaning supplies!
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