How to avoid exposure to chemicals, dust mites, mold and other toxins
Your cozy home may be your refuge, but did you know that many of the things in your house can make you sick? As homes have been tightened for improved energy efficiency, the residential indoor air quality has suffered. Today, the air quality inside a home can actually be even more polluted than the air quality outside.
To create a healthier home, consider the following tips to reduce exposure to hidden air quality dangers.
A healthy start to your day
It’s common knowledge that a top-quality mattress is critical to a great night’s sleep, but if it’s loaded with harmful synthetics, you could be slumbering on a cloud of chemicals that pollutes your home’s air quality. Many mattresses contain polyurethane, formaldehyde, toxic dyes, stain resistance treatments, and fire retardants such as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs). As a result, you’re in close contact with an array of airborne irritants as well as surfaces that can irritate your skin.
Instead, ensure a sound and healthy sleeping routine by shopping for a mattress made of all-natural, hypoallergenic materials, such as organic cotton, synthetic-free latex fills, and naturally flame-retardant wool casings (which also minimize dreaded airborne dust mite droppings). Carefully scrutinize mattress contents as you shop, and better yet, research products certified for low chemical emissions by the GREENGUARD Environmental Institute (GEI)
. This industry-independent, non-profit organization subjects consumer products to rigorous testing and high standards in support of ideal indoor air quality and human health.
After waking up from a healthier night’s sleep, improve your home’s air quality as you hit the shower by replacing the plastic curtain with one made from cotton, hemp or another easy-to-clean, easy-breathing natural fiber. Polyvinyl (PVC) shower curtains may look snappy, but the hormone-disrupting plasticizers they contain will continue to off-gas into your shower zone for as many as five years.
Impove air quality in the kitchen
The demand for convenience has led to a variety of chemically enhanced cookware and food storage products. They may quicken food prep and cleanup, but their contents likewise shorten your years of healthy living. Nonstick coatings release carcinogens at very high temperatures and tend to wear away within a few years of use, peppering homemade cuisine with dangerous chemical bits.
Aluminum cookware can also be a danger as the metal is absorbed by food, and plastic food containers also make unwanted contributions when used for reheating or given a run through the dishwasher. Instead, gear up your kitchen with cookware made of cast iron, ceramics, stainless steel, enameled or porcelain steel, tin-lined copper or thick glass. Glass is also great for safe food storage and reheating, and you can find glass containers in as many handy sizes and shapes as those plastic ones you’ve been using.
Consistent and thorough housecleaning definitely improves the homes indoor air quality, just as long as your cleaning supplies don’t recirculate irritants or contribute new ones to the scene. Start with a vacuum fitted with a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter, which absorbs 99.97 percent of particles sized at 0.3 microns or greater. That will vacuum everything from pet dander to pollen, for a cleaning that reduces trigger allergens in your household.
Make sure you’re getting the best possible HEPA vacuum by looking for a model with the filter situated after the motor, gaskets that keep air from bypassing the filter, and an in-store demo with a laser particle counter, which should read nearly zero when held up to the vacuum’s exhaust stream while it’s running.
In other cleaning products, avoid those with fragrances, solvents such as alcohol and glycol ethers, and irritants like formaldehyde. There are several brands of all-natural cleaners on the market (think Method
and Seventh Generation
), and you can achieve sparkling, health-friendly results by getting back to basics with homemade cleaners incorporating borax, baking soda, vinegar and lemon juice. And don’t forget to add the best ingredient of all: as weather permits, open windows for a daily dose of fresh air and release of the stale air pent up indoors.
Decorating and improving
Last but not least, when you’re tackling a room revamp or other improvement, carefully consider what invisible irritants could possibly accompany the new look. Synthetic carpeting and other treated flooring products can off-gas into the residential indoor atmosphere, paints and adhesives release volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and fabrics trap dust and breed dust mites.
Keep the air clean and the housekeeping routine easy with low- or no-VOC finishes, wood and metal furnishings, natural fibers, minimal window treatments (or none at all), and clutter-free accents to enjoy improved indoor air quality all year long.