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!.

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 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.