Why Dusting Makes a Difference to Your Health – It’s Not What You’d Expect

Why Dusting Matters to Your Health

When you saw this title, you probably immediately thought about allergies caused by dust mites.

But, dusting matters for other reasons.

After reading this, you may want to move dusting closer to the top of your housekeeping list.

Chemical Flame Retardants Settle Into Household Dust
It may be time to pay more attention to dusting especially if you live with young children.

Here’s why.

Chemical flame retardants escape from all sorts of home products and settle into household dust.

The products with flame retardants include electronic devices (computers, TVs) and anything made with polyurethane foam (sofa cushions, mattresses, pillows, car seats), among many others.

Sadly, many of your home products contain flame retardants.

Inhalation And Ingestion Risks
The flame retardant dust can be inhaled by you or even ingested by your small children who put everything into their mouths.

Neither is good.

The EPA Is Concerned

The EPA “is concerned that certain flame retardants are persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic to both humans and the environment.”

Kinda scary, right?

Time to Focus on Dust, If You Can

Just think, all this time your cleaning has probably been focused on eradicating germs when you probably should have devoted just a bit more time to cleaning up toxic dust!

Learn how to reduce the levels of dust without dusting.

Yes, it’s true, there is a way!

And try to dust more often… if you can.

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What to Do When Experts Disagree About Product Safety

What To Do When Experts Disagree About Wood Laminate Product Safety

You may have heard about or watched the 60 Minutes feature on formaldehyde and laminate wood flooring. Global Community Monitor filed a lawsuit against Lumber Liquidators saying it had conducted more than 50 tests on flooring products, and the results showed average initial formaldehyde exposures to be more than 100 times the amount allowed by CA Prop 65.

It’s a staggering number, and it probably caught your attention, didn’t it?

On the surface, it seems straightforward–the tests show the flooring is unsafe. However, here’s where it gets a bit tricky.

The experts disagree.

The Debate About Testing Methods

The tests that were the basis of the lawsuit used a “deconstructing test method” rather than industry standard test methods. Some experts alleged that the deconstructing method alters the way the product would be used in the home, and as a result, leads to unreliable test results.

Recently, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) launched an investigation into Lumber Liquidators’ wood laminate flooring, and the CPSC intends to use industry standards to test the flooring rather than the deconstructing test method. It will be several months before the investigation is complete, but some experts believe that the CPSC will prove that the floors are safe.

So, when the experts disagree, what should you do?

You should use the preventative principle.

Take action to protect yourself and your family so there’s less chance of suffering from high levels of formaldehyde in your home.

Buy the safest products, learn the facts about formaldehyde, and follow steps to reduce formaldehyde in your home.

How to Protect Yourself When Buying Wood Laminate Floors – Buy the Safest Products
When buying wood laminate flooring, you can be sure you’re getting the safest flooring by following the EPA recommendations. Buy products that are labeled or stamped in compliance with:

  • California Air Resources Board Air Toxics Control Measure (CARB ATCM)
  • American National Standards Institute (ANSI):
    • Particleboard should conform to A208.1-2009 or CARB ATCM
    • MDF should conform to A208.2-2009 or CARB ATCM
    • Hardwood Plywood should conform to ANSI/HPVA HP-1-2009 or CARB ATCM

Is Formaldehyde Really That Toxic? Learn the Facts About Formaldehyde
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry provides convincing information that formaldehyde is dangerous to your health.

  • At room temperature, formaldehyde is a colorless, flammable gas that has a distinct, pungent smell.
  • Formaldehyde is quickly broken down in the air, usually within hours.
  • Emissions generally decrease as product ages.
  • Formaldehyde dissolves easily but does not last a long time in water.
  • Formaldehyde does not build up in humans.
  • The primary way you can be exposed to formaldehyde is by breathing air containing it.
  • Indoor air contains higher levels of formaldehyde than outdoor air. Levels of formaldehyde measured in indoor air range from 0.02-4 ppm. Formaldehyde levels in outdoor air range from 0.0002 to 0.006 ppm in rural and suburban areas and 0.001 to 0.02 ppm in urban areas.
  • Health effects: Nasal and eye irritation, neurological effects, and increased risk of asthma and/or allergy have been observed in humans breathing 0.1 to 0.5 ppm. Eczema and changes in lung function have been observed at 0.6 to 1.9 ppm.
  • The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has determined that formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen based on human and animal inhalation studies.
  • Children’s health effects: A small number of studies have looked at the health effects of formaldehyde in children. It is very likely that breathing formaldehyde will result in nose and eye irritation. It is not know if the irritation would occur at lower concentrations in children than in adults. There is some evidence of asthma or asthma-like symptoms for children exposed to formaldehyde in homes.

Want to learn more? Read the CPSC formaldehyde update. 

How to Reduce Formaldehyde in Your Home
Check out these ideas for reducing the formaldehyde levels in your home.

1. Open the windows to increase ventilation.

2. Use air conditioning and dehumidifiers to reduce heat and humidity.

The EPA states that the rate at which formaldehyde is released is accelerated by heat and may also depend somewhat on the humidity level.

3. Fill your room with plants that absorb formaldehyde. It’s scientifically proven that plants can absorb VOCs like formaldehyde.

See which plants work best to absorb formaldehyde.

4. Purchase a high quality air cleaner that is specially designed to remove formaldehyde from your air.

You’ll need a unit with a true HEPA filter and Carbon filter specially treated to remove VOCs like formaldehyde. All air purifiers are not created equal, so if you’re targeting the removal of formaldehyde be sure to check out Austin Air HealthMate Plus. It will solve your problem.

How Do I Test My Floors or Air for Formaldehyde?
Testing is neither easy nor cheap.

The EPA says it “has not tested or verified the accuracy of home test kits for formaldehyde”. However, the EPA does offer a list of California laboratories that currently participate in CA’s third-party certification program.

Please note that these laboratories are set up to work with manufacturers and not consumers. Click here for the list of California laboratories.

When Experts Disagree Use the Preventative Principle
If you’re in the market for laminated wood flooring, follow the EPA guidelines and look for products that are CARB ATCM or ANSI compliant. The state of California is typically on the leading edge in consumer safety and the ANSI compliance stamp is a meaningful certification, so search for products and manufacturers that are compliant.

If you’ve recently purchased laminated wood flooring, follow the four steps listed above to reduce the amount of formaldehyde in your air and you’ll breathe easier.

 

Sources:

  • CPSC.gov – Questions and Answers regarding laminate flooring
  • EPA.gov – Protect Against Exposure on formaldehyde
  • The Motley Fool: Lawsuit by Lumber Liquidators Holdings Inc. Is Tossed
  • The Motley Fool: Lumber Liquidators Holdings Inc. Stock Down 20% on Earnings

How a Boston Fern Can Improve Your Health

Learn How a Boston Fern Can Clean Up Your Indoor Air

You may be surprised to learn that your indoor air is dirtier than outdoor air, and you may be wondering how this could possibly be.

It’s pretty simple. It’s because just about everything you bring into your house off-gasses creating Volatile Organic Compounds or VOCs for short. And then to make matters worse, most of the time your windows are closed which traps all sorts of pollutants inside.

So, what is to blame for all of the VOCs in your place?

Here’s a partial list: carpets, paint, wall coverings, fabrics, cleaning products, scented candles, air fresheners, perfumes, pressed wood furniture, polyurethane foam furniture, adhesives, stains, and cooking. Another source of VOCs is laminate wood flooring which you’ve probably heard quite a bit about with the recent allegations against Lumber Liquidators and formaldehyde-releasing flooring.

The most prevalent VOC in homes is formaldehyde and it’s in just about everything. According to the EPA, at certain exposures, formaldehyde can cause a variety of adverse health effects, including eye, nose, and throat irritation, as well as other respiratory symptoms. The National Toxicology Program recently classified formaldehyde as a known human carcinogen.

So, it’s generally not good news for you, although fortunately formaldehyde does dissipate over time.

How long does it take for formaldehyde to disappear? It really isn’t clear–testing is difficult for many reasons. The EPA simply says that “formaldehyde emissions are highest when products are new and diminish over time so the longer a product has been in place, the lower the levels of formaldehyde likely to be emitted.”

Boston Ferns Absorb Formaldehyde

The good news is that Boston Ferns are proven to reduce formaldehyde. And so, living with plants specifically the ones that work to lower VOCs can improve your health. According to Dr. Bill Wolverton an Environmental Scientist, plants can be used effectively to reduce VOCs.

You’ll need two plants in 10-12” pots per 100 sq ft. For more information check out his book “Plants: Why You Can’t Live Without Them”. Many studies support the ability of plants to reduce VOCs. In addition to Boston Ferns, English Ivy, Snake Plant/Mother-in-Law’s Tongue and Spider plants also reduce formaldehyde.

Here’s the list:

  • Boston Fern
    • One of the most efficient air purifying plants for formaldehyde according to study published in HortScience
    • Requires moisture and humidity to thrive
    • Removes formaldehyde (carpeting, curtains, plywood, particle board furniture and adhesives)
  • English Ivy
    • Thrives in low sunlight
    • Absorbs formaldehyde (carpeting, curtains, plywood, particle board furniture and adhesives)
  • Snake Plant or Mother-in-Law’s Tongue
    • Thrives in low light
    • Lowers carbon dioxide and rids air of formaldehyde and benzene
  • Spider Plant
    • Easy to grow
    • Reduces formaldehyde and benzene

How do you keep your indoor air clean? Have you tried using plants?

Find other ways to reduce formaldehyde and other VOCs to clean up your indoor air. And, check out The Zen of Pure Living for helpful ways to keep from inadvertently bringing harmful chemicals into your home.

The Right Air Purifiers and Vacuums for Mold

How to Deal with Mold Clean Up

Roof leaks, plumbing problems and damp basements can lead to mold growth. Mold exposure can lead to a wide variety of health issues, some quite serious. Clearly, the source of the mold problem needs to be addressed, but the right air purifier and vacuum can help you breathe easier before and after the clean up. I live in an older home and it seems like a couple of times a year, there’s a water problem to address sometimes at the worst possible time. Our last leak occurred over the buffet table during a party. Nice, huh?

Air Purifier For Mold

If you buy the right air purifier for mold, it is very effective at removing airborne mold. Look for a air cleaner with a true HEPA filter, the larger the better. And also focus on the pre-filter. It should be designed to be cleaned to extend the life of the core filter so you are not constantly running to the store to buy new filters. We recommend the Austin Air HealthMate Plus™. It removes 99.97% of mold and other particles in the air. The large size cleans up to 1500 sq. ft. while the Junior cleans up to 700 sq. ft. The filter lasts up to five years and the unit has a five-year guarantee. In addition to cleaning up mold, this well-designed purifier will also remove dust, pet dander, odors, smoke, gases, VOCs and more so your home will smell great and your indoor air will be much healthier.

Vacuum to Clean Up Mold

While your air purifier is busy cleaning up the airborne mold spores, you should be sweeping with a HEPA vacuum. The HEPA vacuum will allow you to clean carpets, floors, shelves, upholstered furniture and books to remove mold particles. HEPA vacuums trap the mold keeping the particles from becoming airborne. Other vacuum filters allow mold as well as dust to become airborne again.

Other Steps to Take When Mold Strikes

How to Remove Smoke Smell From Your Home

How to Remove Smoke Smell From Home

Let’s face it. The smell of smoke from cigarettes, cigars or even your fireplace can linger for a long time. And then there’s the danger of second-hand smoke and fireplace smoke. Your fireplace can produce ash dust, carcinogenic tars and carbon monoxide – none of which you want in your home.

Even if you don’t have a smoker living in your house, smoke can travel from your next door neighbors or even from outdoors. My neighbor smokes and with my windows open, smoke travels into my house. I used to hate having the cigarette smell and smoke in the house until I found a solution. The right air purifier or air cleaner is effective for removing the cigarette smoke and smell as well as fireplace smoke and pollutants. You can still enjoy your fireplace and live healthier with a smoker.

I certainly wish I had known about these air cleaners for smoke when my husband had his cigar habit. And, true confession, many moons ago I used to smoke and my studio apartment was simply awful. Things would have been a lot better with cleaner air. When my husband, then my boyfriend, visited my place, he used to joke that he needed a gas mask. That’s probably enough about one of my poor choices as a 20 something.

Air Purifiers For Smoke

To effectively remove cigarette and fireplace smoke, you’ll need an air purifier with a HEPA filter as well as an activated carbon filter. This will allow you to eliminate the larger particles AND the gaseous pollutants called VOCs or Volatile Organic Compounds. After thorough research of air purifier reviews, independent tests, ratings and benefits, we found the top rated air purifier was made by Austin Air. You’ll want the Austin Air HealthMate Plus™ which is what we use in our home and consider to be the best air purifier.

Suggested Reading:
The Facts About Your Indoor Air Quality May Surprise You
Air Purifier Ratings and Reviews
Eight Reasons You’ll Love Your Air Cleaner