What do we need to open our minds?
It's a fact - we all do it. We hear and read about healthy living. For most of us, it's only when we have a real problem to solve that we prick up our ears and really listen.
This happened to us when our children were little and we simply had to make changes in order for them to be healthy.
Were we lucky or unlucky? We feel we were lucky in that we had to make their indoor environment a lot safer than it was. We had to research, to learn and to act. It eventually lead to the establishment of The Healthy House so that you too can make your indoor environment a lot safer for yourselves and your families.
What are the major polluting factors in your home? Could they be affecting your health and your children's future?
Carpets are treated with anti-staining chemicals, insecticides and fungicides. Even 100% wool carpets will offgas poisonous substances into the air unless you can find untreated ones. Carpets can also harbour toxins from the indoor air. A New Scientist study showed that a typical carpet sample will contain pesticides, heavy metals and polychlorinated biphenols (PCBs) many times higher than the official safety level.
Solution: If possible remove carpet and install wood flooring or a natural untreated flooring such as hessian. Alternatively seek out a natural untreated carpet and underlay.
Most carpet underlay is treated with pesticides which may include insecticides, herbicides and fungicides. One customers' research showed that fungicides last the lifetime of the products and offgas for many years. This can be particularly unsafe for babies and small children who spend time crawling and playing on a carpeted floor.
Solution: Because of an allergy to foam rubber, we had to remove the underlay from our carpet in Canada. At the time we were unaware of the treatments that would have been present in the underlay. If you can find untreated natural wool underlay and untreated carpet, this can be a viable solution.
- Upholstered furniture and furnishings
Sofas and chairs have to conform to our country's fire retardant regulations. They are also often treated to make them stain resistant as well as being filled with synthetic fabrics such as foam rubber.
Solution: Ventilate your room well and use an air purifier that removes chemicals from the air.
- Engineered building materials - MDF cabinets and flooring
Most kitchen cabinets, many drawers in chests of drawers, wardrobes, cupboards are made of MDF. MDF is constructed with glues and chippings of wood. Glues used in MDF furniture contain VOCs which are offgassed into the room.
Solution: Many people are not in a position to replace kitchen cabinets with solid wood cabinets. One option is to use MDF Passsivating Primer on exposed MDF and to use an air purifier that removes chemicals.
- Plastics and vinyl flooring
We're all familiar with PVC and that familiar smell when opening a new shower curtain or bringing new plastic coated products into the home. These VOCs can cause considerable misery and long term health issues.
Solution: Try to reduce the number of plastics present in the home. Wash new shower curtains and air them out before use. Vinyl flooring can offgass for a long time. If practical, it should be replaced with a wood floor or ceramic tiles. Otherwise use an air purifier and always ventilate the room well.
- Household gas and combustion by products
One of the well known environmental doctors in the UK, the late Dr John Mansfield, always suspected household gas when assessing his chemically sensitive patients. An article in The Lancet in 1996 linked the use of gas appliances to increased asthma, respiratory illness and impaired lung function, especially in women.
Solution: There is no simple solution to this. Electric cookers come with their own issues of high electrical fields. Make sure the room is well ventilated and use an air purifier to remove chemicals and gases. A ventilation hood may help though the fumes may enter the room before they can become exhausted.
- VOCs, Solvents, paints and varnishes
Exposure to VOCs can also have long term effects. For example, benzene (given off by tobacco smoke and car exhaust) is a human carcinogen. Other types of VOCs, like methylene chloride (found in aerosol spray paints) have been linked to cancer in animals.
Solution: When redecorating use Organic paints and varnishes. Oil based paints in particular can offgass VOCs into the air for many years, particularly when the room is warm. Ventilate well and use an air purifier.
- Treated mattresses and bedding
Bedding can be a problem for chemically sensitive people and have long term health effects for others. Because we spend a third of our lives in bed, what we are surrounded in when we sleep is very important.
Solution: If possible use an organic mattress and organic bedding. If an organic mattress is outside your budget, there are some alternatives on the market that do not have chemical fire retardants in them. Organic bed linen and duvets and pillows reduce your exposure to the sort of chemicals that can be found in easy care bed linen. When not buying organic always look for the Oeko-tex Standard 100 which is a European standard for Confidence in Textiles.
- Cleaning products
Commercial cleaning products can contain some pretty nasty chemicals. Always read the label and search for the more natural alternative.
Solution: Vinegar and Bicarbonate of Soda can offer a solution to many household cleaning jobs. Otherwise look for organic cleaning products or good ecologically safe products.
Unless you search out organic and natural toiletries, what you are using can contain a wide number of harsh chemicals with potential long term health effects.
Solution: Use organic or natural products (Read the ingredients label as some "organic" products only contain a very small percentage of organic ingredients. Synthetically fragranced products can cause problems for chemically sensitive people. If you cannot tolerate even natural essential oils, use organic fragrance free products.
Air Purifiers for Chemicals