Warning: The Air In Your Home Isn’t Healthy! Four Ways to Fix It

Warning: The Air In Your Home Isn't Healthy! Four Ways to Fix It

—Part 3 of the Series—

Four Ways to Clean Up Your Indoor Air

In Part 2 of the series, you learned that indoor air is generally dirtier and less healthy than outdoor air. Although initially, you might have been incredulous, you must admit that the facts about poor indoor air quality are glaringly clear.

After all, air is trapped within your home, and so many of your home products and activities add to the mess like air fresheners and cleaning products.

By now, you’ve probably cut back on air fresheners and switched cleaning products.

Or, at least you are seriously considering it, right?

In this part of the series, you will learn four ways to clean up your indoor air.

Some are so simple. One or two may surprise you.

1. Let the fresh air in

Simply open your windows to improve the quality of your indoor air.

Since you know that the indoor air is actually dirtier than outdoor air, airing out your house will go a long way toward improving what you breathe indoors.

Pretty easy, right?

The next one may surprise you.

2. Live with plants

That’s right. You’ll want to load up on indoor plants.

But not just any plants. You’ll want the ones that are scientifically proven to absorb VOCs.

Dr. Bill Wolverton who is an Environmental Scientist and wrote “Plants: Why You Can’t Live Without Them” explains the science and studies that support using plants as air cleaners.

You’ll need two plants in 10-12″ pots per 100 sq. ft.

Here’s the list of plants. Pay special attention to the type of VOCs the plant is best at absorbing.

  • English Ivy
    • Thrives in low sunlight
    • Absorbs formaldehyde (carpeting, curtains, plywood, particle board furniture and adhesives)
  • Peace Lily
    • Adapts well to low light but is poisonous to pets
    • Rids air of the VOC benzene (paints, furniture wax and polishes) and acetone (electronics, adhesives and some cleaners)
  • Lady Palm
    • Tree-like species
    • Targets ammonia (cleaners, textiles and dyes)
  • 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)
  • 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 benezene

So, if you recently bought new carpet, furniture or laminate flooring you may want to consider English Ivy, Boston Ferns, Snake Plants or Spider Plants.

Peace Lily’s are perfect for your entertainment area since they will absorb the acetone from the electronics.

No green thumb? Too much plant life? Consider the next approach.

3. Love your air cleaner

Air cleaners are a smart option. In fact, you may just end up loving your air cleaner.

If you buy the right air cleaner, it will:

~Absorb VOCs.

~Remove airborne dust, mold and pollen.

Can you picture less dust gathering? It’s a nice visual, isn’t it?

~Eliminate odors.

Think about it. It solves the air freshener problem, doesn’t it?

A word of caution though.

Not all air cleaners/purifiers are created equal. Many are only equipped with a single HEPA filter that can’t handle VOCs and odors.

Doesn’t do you much good, right?

Find out which air cleaners are worth it.

The final way to clean up your indoor air is an unusual one.

4. Let your drywall do the work

Yes, drywall exists that absorbs VOCs for 75 years even when painted with up to 25 coats.

How does it work?

The drywall captures and converts VOCs into inert compounds and safely stores the compounds within the board.

You’re skeptical, right?

No need to be skeptical because the claims were validated by UL Environment and certified by Greenguard Indoor Air Quality. Both reliable certifications. Check out www.airrenew.com for more information.

Unless you are renovating or building new, it may not be practical to redo your entire home, but it could make sense to do the bedrooms and nursery.

Ready For Clean Air and Cheerfulness?

 

You’re loaded with ways to do some clean up and start breathing cleaner air.

What’s the benefit?

Living with cleaner indoor air means you’ll be healthier and if Joseph Addison is right, more cheery too!

“Health and cheerfulness naturally beget each other”

–Joseph Addison

Could you do me a favor and share this with your friends?

Don’t miss the rest of the series! You’ll learn about all natural/organic pest care, safe paints and cookware, the best non-toxic personal care products and more. Sign up for the full series!.

Eight Reasons You’ll Love Your Air Cleaner

Eight Reasons You'll Love Your Air Cleaner

Several years ago, I bought home air cleaners and I love them. I put them in the bedrooms, in the dining room near the kitchen and in my office. At first I was nervous about the background noise, but I find I can sleep soundly with the air cleaner on low and the medium setting works great in the office and dining rooms. Below are some of the benefits from having air purifiers.

  1. Your home will smell fresh and clean without having to use air fresheners that can be harmful to your health. (Read more about dangers of air fresheners.)
  2. You won’t ever come home after a trip and smell a bad odor in your house and wonder about what your guests might think.
  3. You won’t have to dust as often because a good air cleaner reduces the amount of dust in the air.
  4. You will be healthier since you will be breathing cleaner air with less mold, pet dander, bacteria and viruses.
  5. You will have fewer allergens in your house, so you may have fewer allergy symptoms.
  6. If you buy an air cleaner that removes chemical irritants, then you will be helping your immune system by reducing inflammation. According to Dr. Mimi Guarneri, the body sees polluted air, chemical irritants, second-hand smoke and pesticides as foreign invaders. They turn on our immune system and create irritation that can lead to chronic inflammation. (Read more about VOCs and how they impact your health.)
  7. Odors from neighboring apartments or houses will be removed like cigarette smoke or cooking fumes.
  8. Pet odors will disappear so your house will not smell like your pets.

Check out the air cleaners we recommend and air purifier ratings and reviews.

Suggested Reading:
Room by Room View of Indoor Air Contaminants and Toxins
How to Improve Indoor Air Quality

What’s In Your Air Freshener?

What's In Your Air Freshener

You like your home to smell fresh and clean so you buy spray air fresheners, scented candles and plug-ins. The scents smell great, and you don’t have to worry about your house smelling funny when entertaining. You’ve smelled bad odors in other people’s homes, and you don’t want that happening to you.

Unfortunately, while you may love the way your air freshener makes your home smell, you may unknowingly be subjecting yourself to dangerous chemicals.

The facts about what’s in your air freshener may surprise you.

Research Shows Air Fresheners Contain Harmful Substances

The National Resources Defense Council tested 14 air fresheners and found that 12 of the fresheners contained phthalates while none listed phthalates on the label.

Phthalates are hormone-disrupting chemicals that are known to cause birth defects and reproductive harm.

If you are pregnant or have young children at home, you should be especially careful to avoid contact with these chemicals.

The Environmental Working Group tested Febreze Air Effects and detected 89 airborne contaminants including acetaldehyde which the EPA has deemed to be a likely human carcinogen.

In 2010, a University of Washington study found that eight widely used air fresheners released an average of 18 chemicals into the air. On average, one in five of these chemicals were hazardous substances highlighted in federal and some state pollution standards.

Half the air fresheners tested released acetaldehyde, a likely carcinogen.

Kinda frightening, isn’t it?

Reading Labels Doesn’t Help

Even if you read the labels, it won’t help because it’s impossible to get a full list of ingredients for most air fresheners sold in the US because there is no disclosure requirement. You may have noticed the word Fragrance listed as an ingredient. The word Fragrance includes more than 3000 ingredients including many chemicals that have not been assessed for safety.

You may think that purchasing products labeled as all-natural or unscented is a good solution.

Sadly, the term “all-natural” is meaningless because it is unregulated, but is used frequently as a marketing term to convey product safety where none exists.

Even worse, products labeled “unscented” that were tested as part of these studies also contained hazardous chemicals.

Aerosol, Spray, Solid, Candle or Plug-in Air Fresheners Contain Dangerous Chemicals

All types of air fresheners contain dangerous chemicals. So, whether you are using an aerosol, spray, solid, candle or plug-in air freshener, chances are you are breathing in unwanted chemicals.

Options for Freshening Without Air Fresheners

So, what are your options for a clean smelling home?

  1. Improve ventilation by opening a window or using a fan.
  2. Use baking soda to remove odors.
  3. Purchase Air Purifiers/Cleaners to remove odors. One of our favorites is the Austin Healthmate Plus™ and Healthmate Plus Jr™. Learn more about Austin Air HealthMate™. It is capable of trapping 99.97% of all polluting particulates so your home will smell clean and be free of dust, mold, pollen, tobacco smoke, chemical vapors, gases, viruses and bacteria. The Healthmate Plus™ cleans 1500 sq ft and the Healthmate Plus Jr™ cleans 700 sq ft. The Junior versions are perfect for a nursery so your baby can sleep in a clean, fresh environment without chemicals.

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Sources:

Common Air Fresheners Contain Chemicals That May Affect Human Reproductive Development; Natural Resources Defense Council Sept 2007

Your Best Air Freshener Isn’t An Air Freshener; Environmental Working Group Sept 2011

The Facts About Your Indoor Air Quality May Surprise You

Indoor Air Quality

Since we spend so much time indoors, it is important to address indoor air quality. Here are some facts about your indoor air quality you may not know:

  • Indoor air typically has considerably more pollutants than outdoor air.
  • The most prevalent pollutants are Volatile Organic Compounds or VOCs.
  • These VOCs come from many sources: carpets, plywood, perfumes, air fresheners, cleaning products, fabrics, mattresses, paint, solvents, lacquers, upholstered furniture, foam insulation, particle board, adhesives and more.
  • Aldehydes including formaldehyde are the most prevalent VOC pollutants in residences; since the 50’s, formaldehyde has been a basic material for many resins and glues used in particle boards and plywood. According to estimates, 85% of wood materials have adhesives containing formaldehyde.
  • The International Agency for Research on Cancer (the specialized cancer research agency of the World Health Organization) has designated formaldehyde as a carcinogen. In addition, formaldehyde can lead to “multiple chemical sensitivity” and “sick building syndrome”. The prevalence of formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds is greater in new construction.
  • Results from a growing body of research suggest that VOCs from common indoor materials and finishes, cleaning products, personal care products and other consumer products result in increased risk of asthma, pulmonary infections, and allergies (Mendell 2007). Some chemicals may have health impacts at extremely low levels; studies have found that exposure to very small traces of VOCs in homes and schools can disrupt the endocrine system (hormones), gene activation, and brain development.

Before you despair, consider the following list of ways to improve your indoor air quality:

  1. Open the windows to improve the quality of your indoor air.
  2. Use plants to absorb VOCs. 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. Here are the top plants to buy based on the type of VOC you want to remove and the amount of sunlight required:
    • English Ivy
      • Thrives in low sunlight
      • Absorbs formaldehyde (carpeting, curtains, plywood, particle board furniture and adhesives)
    • Peace Lily
      • Adapts well to low light but is poisonous to pets
      • Rids air of the VOC benzene (paints, furniture wax and polishes) and acetone (electronics, adhesives and some cleaners)
    • Lady Palm
      • Tree-like species
      • Targets ammonia (cleaners, textiles and dyes)
    • 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)
    • 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
  3. Purchase air cleaners/purifiers specially designed to reduce VOCs like benzene and formaldehyde. Not all air cleaners are designed to eliminate VOCs so read our Air Purifier Ratings and Reviews before purchasing. One of our favorites, which we use in our home, is the Austin Healthmate Plus™ and Healthmate Plus Jr™. The Healthmate Plus™ removes 99.97% of particles in the air — dust, pollens, mold, VOCs including benzene and formaldehyde, viruses and bacteria. The Healthmate Plus™ costs $649 for the large size that cleans 1500 sq ft and the Healthmate Plus Jr is $419 and cleans 700 sq ft. The Junior versions are perfect for a nursery so your baby can sleep in a clean environment with reduced VOCs and other contaminants.
        I was initially worried about two things before I purchased: the background noise of the fan and the cleaner looking out-of-place in my home. My concerns were unfounded. The Austin is very quiet and has 3 speeds so you can turn it down to low at night. The black Austin blends in well against my dark living/dining room walls and the white version pretty much disappears against the lighter colored walls in the bedroom. My house smells great without

    air fresheners

      (another source of toxins) and I know that I’ve greatly reduced the VOCs.
  4. Install drywall that absorbs VOCs. AirRenew drywall absorbs VOCs for 75 years even when finished and painted with most paints up to 25 coats. It works by capturing the VOCs, converting the VOCs into inert compounds and safely storing the inert compounds within the drywall/gypsum board. It also provides enhanced moisture and mold resistance. The product has been validated by UL Environment and has been certified by Greenguard Indoor Air Quality. For more information, go to www.airrenew.com. Unless you are renovating or building new, it may not be practical to redo your entire home, but it could make sense to do the bedrooms and nursery.
  5. Reduce the sources of the VOCs. There are many things you can do to reduce the sources of VOCs in your home. Please read upcoming post for the details.

Sources:

NewScience UL – Indoor Air Pollution Overview 2014

Kim, Kwang Jin, Jeong, Myeong Il, Lee, Dong Woo, Song, Jeong Seob, Kim, Hyoung Deug, Yoo, Eun Ha, Jeong, Sun Jin, Han, Seung Won, Kays, Stanley J., Lim, Young-Wook, Kim, Ho-Hyun. Variation in Formaldehyde Removal Efficiency among Indoor Plant Species. HortScience, 2010; 45: 1489-1495

Birnbaum LS, Staskal DF. 2004. Brominated flame retardants: cause for concern? Environ Health Perspect 112(1): 9 – 17. January 2004.

Bornehag CG, Sundell J, Weschler CJ et al. 2004. The association between asthma and allergic symptoms in children and phthalates in house dust: a nested case-control study.Environ Health Perspect 112(14): 1393 – 1397. October 2004.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 2005. Third National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals 2005. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Atlanta, Georgia. 2005. Available online at http://www.cdc.gov/. Search for Exposure Report.

Mendell M. 2007. Indoor residential chemical emissions as risk factors for respiratory and allergic effects in children: a review.

Indoor Air Journal 17: 259 – 277. August 2007. Available online at http://pt.wkhealth.com/pt/re/inai/ abstract.00025549-200708000-00002.htm

Waldman, P. 2005. Levels of risk. Common industrial chemicals in tiny doses raise health issues.The Wall Street Journal. July 25, 2005. New York, New York. 2005.

Wilson PM, Chia DA and Ehlers BC. 2006. Green Chemistry in California: A Framework for Leadership in Chemicals Policy and Innovation. Prepared for The California Senate Environmental Quality Committee and The California Assembly Committee on Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials. California Policy Research Center. Berkeley, California. 2006. Available online at http://www.ucop.edu/cprc/documents/greenchemistryrpt.pdf.

Zajac L, Sprecher E, Landrigan P et al. 2009. A systemic review of US state environmental legislation and regulation with regards to the prevention of neurodevelopmental disabilities and asthma. Environmental Health. 8:9. March 26, 2009. Available online at http://www.ehjournal.net/content/8/1/9.