You’re changing your diet. You’re making DIY cleaners and buying non-toxic alternatives. You’re shifting away from pharmaceuticals and toward prevention, chiropractic, and natural remedies. The five essentials are on the forefront of your mind. You’re doing great!
And your house is still toxic.
It’s a simple matter of technology, development, and life in this era. There are many toxins we will never be able to avoid completely. They are in the air we breathe, the food we eat, the water we drink, and the houses we live in.
But don’t give up hope. We can eliminate a good deal of environmental toxins to help ease the load on our liver and lungs, and we can take some proactive steps to help our bodies process the inevitable. Even when it feels like fighting an uphill battle, small changes have an impact and are well worth the effort.
INDOOR POLLUTANTS HURT YOUR FAMILY
Outside of the quantifiable toxins – the bottles of bleach, toilet cleaners, and phthalate-ridden personal care items – there is much more happening in our homes that we even realize. Not only do we have the toxic ingredients and components themselves to worry about, but then there is the way those items interact with the others in the house.
Chemical reactions occur every day on every level of our lives, and reactions between toxic items in our houses create new concerns of their own.1 The result is a seemingly unending cocktail of indoor air pollutants causing a number of health issues in our households.
Breathing problems are a given – you probably can tell the difference in levels of air pollutants based on breathing ability, especially if someone in your household has asthma. Stepping outside is quite literally a breath of fresh air. When researchers took children with asthma and atopic dermatitis out of their polluted urban homes and neighborhoods to a trip to the forest, they were breathing and feeling better in just a short amount of time.2
We might metaphorically breathe easier in cleaner air, too. Extensive studies around the turn of the new millennium examined how air quality affects productivity, even when the participants couldn’t tell how poor or clean the air quality was. On every level of air quality, simulated office work was less productive in a polluted environment, improved only when toxins were removed or clean, outside air was supplied to the room.3
The air in our homes is slowing us down, and simply changing cleaning products isn’t enough to combat the draining, sickly effects. Our homes are STILL toxic.
TOXINS HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT
So what are these phantom chemicals making our kids sick and minds sluggish? If you haven’t already looked into household pollutants, you’re going to be surprised to know that it’s essentially your whole house.
All of your electronics
Even the house itself!
In 1992, around the time we started to realize that air fresheners and cleaning products were not helping anything, researchers analyzed over 1100 pollutants found in a household environment. Outside of the known and common suspects, they also found toxic chemicals in paint, fabric and leather treatments, electronic cleaners, adhesives, and more.4 Clearly, cleaning the air was and is a more formidable task than we first realized.
Fabric. PDBEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers) have been a recognized pollutant for decades, but even with attempts to remove them, they still persist. One study measured PDBE levels in dryer lint, indicating their presence either in the dryer itself or, more likely, being carried on clothes.
All of the samples included PDBE, and another disturbing note was made for American consumers: American samples had ten times more PDBE than German samples.5 We have a long way to go in the US!
Electronics. Look around you. How many electronic devices surround you right now? The screen you’re reading this on, a phone or laptop, TV, desktop, sound system, kitchen appliances…We’re so inundated by electronics of various sophistication levels that we hardly notice them anymore. We certainly don’t think about what they are doing to our home environments.
Electronics are so filled with toxins that researchers are working on ways to help consumers effectively recycle them without polluting landfills. A 2010 paper warned, “Electronic equipment contains a variety of toxic ingredients, including hazardous heavy metals that pollute the environment and are very dangerous to human health.”6
If avoiding pollution in landfills due to electronics is a concern, avoiding pollution in our homes should be a major priority!
Home construction. Even the very walls around us are polluting the air. Coming full circle to the understanding that everything works together to form reactions and chemical blends in household air, the materials used to construct the ceiling and floors or insulate the walls can off-gas formaldehyde and other pollutants into the home, reacting with each other and anything else we add.7 Toxins are, quite literally, surrounding us.
EVERYDAY ITEMS HELP CLEAR THE AIR
What are we to do with this disturbing information? Few of us can afford to replace every last thing in the home, and even if we could, many toxic sources cannot be replaced at all. Construction materials are still a concern, and electronics are here to stay.
Instead, like the simulated office environment, we have to introduce clean air.
Opening the windows as much as possible can draw fresh air in, and unless you live in a very heavily polluted environment, outside air is preferable to inside. We can also arrange our furniture and rooms so that electronics aren’t concentrated next to sleeping or regular sitting areas, giving us a chance to move away from them throughout the day.
Finally, we can literally make clean air in the home simply by growing houseplants. Building on a famed NASA study from the ‘70s, researchers are analyzing the ability plants have to clean the air with the goal of creating biofilters.8 We can mimic these results by simply tending indoor potted plants, which actively pull toxins from the air and convert it to clean oxygen – a feat that no amount of DIY cleaners or organic produce can accomplish!
So tend a plant, open the windows, and evaluate which devices and furniture are necessary. Cleaner air is just a breath away.
And as always…don’t forget to get adjusted!
1. C J Weschler. Chemical reactions among indoor pollutants: what we’ve learned in the new millennium. Indoor Air 14 Suppl 7:184 (2004). 2. Sung Chul Seo et al. Clinical and immunological effects of a forest trip in children with asthma and atopic dermatitis. Iranian Journal of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology 14(1):28 (2015). 3. D P Wyon. The effects of indoor air quality on performance and productivity. Indoor Air 14 Suppl 7(s7):92 (2004). 4. Thomas M Sack et al. A survey of household products for volatile organic compounds. Atmospheric Environment. Part A. General Topics 26(6):1063 (1992). 5. Arnold Schecter et al. PBDEs in US and German clothes dryer lint: a potential source of indoor contamination and exposure. Chemosphere 75(5):623 (2009). 6. Phillip Olla and Joseph Toth. E-waste education strategies: teaching how to reduce, reuse and recycle for sustainable development. International Journal of Environment and Sustai… 9(1-3):294 (2010). 7. Jan Gunschera et al. Impact of building materials on indoor formaldehyde levels: Effect of ceiling tiles, mineral fiber insulation and gypsum board. Building and Environment 64:138 (2013). 8. Ralph L. Orwell et al. Removal of Benzene by the Indoor Plant/ Substrate Microcosm and Implications for Air Quality. Water, Air, and Soil Pollution. Volume 157, Issue 1, pp 193-207. (2004).