Spring Clean Your Air: 5 Tips to Reduce Allergens & Hidden Health Hazards in Your Home Part 2

Here are three more hidden health hazards in your home to pay close attention to. Most people are totally unaware of these and the increased opportunity for allergies and illness they present!

  1. Furniture and Home Furnishings That Can Bring You DownOne major source of hazardous exposure is the chemicals and neuro-toxic solvents used furniture and home furnishings. These include but are not limited to the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in paint, solvents used to stain and finish furniture, flame retardants (polybrominated diphenyl ethers or PBDEs) and stain resistant coatings like perchloroethylene (the main chemical used in dry-cleaning) added to your drapes, carpets, upholstered furniture and bedding, and even the PVC (polyvinyl chloride)in your plastic shower curtain. Collectively, your home furnishings outgas a variety of chemicals that can become a significant source of pollution in the home.To make matters worse, your carpets, drapes and upholstery can be a gold mine for dust mites, and if your home is damp, a fertile breeding ground for mold –-both common sources of allergy and illness. For this reason, many allergists recommend that their patients get rid of carpets altogether. At a minimum, you can install a dehumidifier and make sure to steam and clean carpets thoroughly and regularly.

    Next time you’re ready to paint, switch to low or no VOC paints. Consider upgrading your home with furniture made from natural fibers like wool, organic cotton, untreated wood or wood finished with a water-based stain. Or buy used or antique furniture that’s at least five years old, where it’s a good bet that most of their chemicals have already been released. Avoid furnishings made from particleboard, polyurethane foam, and PVC.

  2. The Bedroom: An Oasis of Calm or a Chamber of Horrors?It may sound a little dramatic, but the place where you spend a third of your life may be teaming with toxins and dust mites! Most traditional mattresses are made with metal coils coated in toxic chemicals to keep them from rusting and degrading over time. On top of that, they are filled with polyurethane foam, flame retardant materials, and/or cotton loaded with pesticides. Then there are the chemicals added to the outer layer of the mattress to make them water and stain resistant. That adds up to a lot of chemicals that you are frequently lounging around on!Ditch your mattress in favor of a greener, cleaner option like natural (not hybrid) latex, natural rubber, organic cotton, or organic wool. Natural latex is naturally anti-microbial, anti-bacterial, dust mite proof, and relieves pressure points along the body. Natural rubber is exceptionally breathable, naturally hygienic, will not house dust mites, and has been shown to reduce pressure-point pain up to 30% better than memory foam. Wool is an excellent choice because of its high moisture content and the protein (keratin) that it contains, making it naturally flame resistant and hostile to dust mites.

    If you can’t swing a new bed, make yours more comfy and allergen-free by adding a wool or natural rubber mattress topper. The wool in mattress toppers (and in mattresses) is well encased in cotton so if you’re allergic or sensitive to it there shouldn’t be a problem. At a minimum, swing for organic cotton zippered encasings to protect your lungs from dust mite allergens and put a little barrier between yourself and the toxins being out gassed by your current mattress.

  3. Do You Practice Fireplace Safety & Common Sense?If you have or use a fireplace then you may be setting yourself up for possible carbon monoxide poisoning. In addition, wood fires can release a substance called benzopyrene–a carcinogen that can irritate your eyes, nose, throat, and lungs.Make sure your fireplace and/or wood stove are installed properly and the flue is open when you light a fire. Have both inspected annually to remove creosote build up which can block the chimney and force toxic fumes back into your living room. As a precaution, install a smoke and carbon monoxide detector nearby.

Spring Clean Your Air: 5 Tips to Reduce Allergens & Hidden Health Hazards in Your Home Part 1

Springtime with its fresh blooms and high pollen counts, is typically the time when the allergy-prone suffer most. Most of us dismiss our sneezing, wheezing, drippy noses and goopy eyes as the inevitable result of this sequence of events and pop a few antihistamines or cold tablets to manage the symptoms without a second thought. But what if the cause of your allergy misery was the result of something else?

The simple truth is, there are numerous hidden health threats in your home that can cause allergies and other health problems year-round. If you suffer from chronic allergies, there are ways to reduce or eliminate your exposure to these hazards if you know where to look for them.

Here are two of the five hidden (and not-so-hidden) hazards in your home that may be contributing to your misery and what you can do to eliminate them:

    1. Common Household Cleaning and Laundry Products to Die For

      Many of the everyday house hold cleaning products we use are loaded with ammonia, bleach, and a host of dangerous chemicals that can burn your lungs, eyes, nose, and skin –if not used with great caution. Most laundry detergents, fabric softeners, and even dishwashing liquid are made with synthetic fragrances containing phthalates — chemicals used by industry to soften plastics that have been shown to be endocrine disruptors.All those noxious smells can be extremely irritating and harmful especially when you come in frequent or constant contact with them. The good news is there are a growing selection of plant-based, chlorine-, ammonia- and phosphate-free detergents and multi-purpose cleaners to choose from. Or you can make your own safe, highly effective and “green” cleaning products from ingredients like baking soda, washing soda, borax, white vinegar, castile soap, and essential oils.

 

  1. Synthetic Air Fresheners & Scented Candles with Leaded Wicks

    According to one Consumer Product Safety Commission study, as many as 40% of candles on the market still contained lead wires inside their wicks. A candle with a lead-core wick has been shown to release five times the amount of lead considered hazardous for childrenand exceeds EPA pollution standards for outdoor air.It’s now believed that frequent candle burning –especially synthetically scented candles– is a major source of soot and toxic exposure because the chemicals (i.e. phthalates) used in “fragrance” oils tend to soften the wax, increasing the need to add metals to the wicks to stiffen them. Though candle soot is primarily composed of elemental carbon, it can include phthalates, lead, and other toxic ingredients such as benzene and tuolene.

    Scented aerosol sprays, gels, and plug-in air fresheners contain harmful chemicals linked to breathing difficulties, developmental problems in babies, and cancer in laboratory animals.

    Using essential oils in a diffuser or in a water-based aromatherapy spray is a perfectly safe and healthy way to scent your home. And certain essential oils like eucalyptus, peppermint, rosemary and lavender, can assist with sinus congestion associated with allergies, reduce stress, and enhance wellbeing. Always use candles made from 100% vegetable (soy) wax or beeswax with coreless cotton wicks, and scented with essential oils only.