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Make Your Home a Healthy Environment

 Pollutants are everywhere but there are steps you can take to reduce the toxicity of your home. Here are some helpful hints for purifying your home environment.

Date: 03/02/05
Source: Laurel Vuckovic and Sofia M. Pico

 

Breathe Clean Air: Air pollution is an inescapable hazard of modern life, air pollutants are carried on wind currents around the world to places far from the source of origin. Estimates by the EPA show that more than half of the U.S. population is breathing toxic levels of air pollutants. These pollutants harm the respiratory system, poison the blood, and damage the genetic structure of cells. Asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, allergies, cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, and headaches are all linked to toxins in the air. While air pollution is everywhere, it makes sense to make every effort to live in as non-polluted an area as possible. Even within the same town or city, there are locations that are less polluted than others. Areas with abundant trees and shrubs and locations near water tend to have cleaner air. Wherever you live, you can provide your cells with as much-needed boost of oxygen by spending as much time as possible in parks, gardens, wooded areas, or by water.

Another disturbing fact of modern life is that the level of indoor pollutants in many homes is often higher than the polluted air outdoors. The current practice of tightly sealing homes to make them energy efficient creates the perfect environment for the accumulation of toxins. The synthetic materials used in building and furnishing most homes also contain numerous toxins and are a primary source of indoor pollutants. Other common household pollutants include fumes from gas appliances, tobacco smoke, aerosol sprays, paints, solvents, moth crystals, household cleaning products, pesticides, formaldehyde-treated building materials and fabrics, soft plastics such as shower curtains, and gardening chemicals.

For optimal health, try to make your home environment as healthy as possible. While you might not have a lot of control over the outdoor pollutants you are exposed to (although, we can all take measures to reduce these), you do have a great deal of control over the pollutants in your home. Begin by replacing synthetic products or chemicals with nontoxic alternatives. For every item you buy, think natural! Good alternatives can be found at your local Health Food Store and also at Harmony/Real Goods Company www.Gaiam.com or www.RealGoods.com. Following are general suggestions for reducing indoor toxins and creating a healthy home environment.

Purifying Your Home Environment: To reduce the level of pollutants that may accumulate within your home, open the windows daily to allow fresh air to circulate. If you live with a smoker of live in a heavily polluted area, installing an air purifier is a good idea. Air filters can be installed in the ventilation system of the house or portable air filters can be used in individual rooms. One of the most aesthetically pleasing methods of air filtration is to fill your home with living plants. Tests by NASA have shown that through their natural process of photosynthesis, common houseplants remove a variety of pollutants from the air, especially gases such as carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, carbon dioxide, and benzene. Philodendrons, spider plants, scheffleras, chrysanthemums, ferns, and dracaena are all excellent air filters The more the better, but plan on using several medium-sized plants per room for optimal air purification. Some plants are poisonous to animals if ingested. Check with www.aspca.org/toxicplants  Keep philodendrons, spider plants and Scheffleras away from the reach of your pet.

Substitute natural materials for synthetics whenever possible. Buy solid wood furniture instead of particle board or plastic. Upholster furniture with natural fabrics instead of synthetics, and use natural fillings instead of foam. Use only nontoxic cleaning products throughout your home, and make and effort to find the healthiest alternative to common toxins such as paints, solvents, and pesticides. There are many nontoxic solutions available today. Again check your local Health Food Store and also at Harmony/Real Goods Company www.Gaiam.com or www.RealGoods.com.

Creating a Healthful Kitchen: Making healthful meals begins with creating a healthy kitchen environment. Make sure your kitchen has good air circulation, and have any gas appliances checked for leaks. Replace nonstick or aluminum pots, pans and baking dishes with cast iron, glass, stainless steel or enamel cookware. Use wooden cutting boards (which have been proven to have natural antibacterial properties) and wooden or stainless steel cooking utensils instead of plastic. Avoid plastics whenever possible, including plastic storage containers, plastic bags, and plastic wrap. All soft plastics leach harmful molecules into foods, and when heated, release plastic molecules into the air. Use glass food storage containers, cloth or mesh bags, and parchment or wax paper instead. Install a good water filter for a clean source of drinking and cooking water. Contact Monumental Massage at www.monumentalmassage.com  for information about Multi-Pure water filters. Substitute nontoxic vegetable-based dish soaps and cleansers for chemical products. You can also make your own natural cleaning products, including natural substitutes for highly toxic products such as oven cleaners.

Making Your Bathroom Into a Spa: Begin by replacing your plastic shower curtain with a tightly woven cloth curtain. The unpleasant plastic odor that emanates from vinyl shower curtains is vinyl chloride, a poisonous chemical that has been linked to cancer and chronic respiratory problems. Install an activated carbon water filter on your shower to remove chlorine, which is absorbed into your skin and creates hazardous fumes. Replace synthetic towels and bath rugs with those made of cotton. The purest towels and rugs are those made from natural, untreated, unbleached, organic cotton. Instead of synthetic air fresheners, open the windows, or use natural essential oil sprays (available from Monumental Massage) or aromatherapy candles. Substitute natural vegetable-based tub, tile, and toilet cleansers for toxic chemical products.

Create a Pure Sleeping Environment: You spend almost one-third of your life in bed, and much of your body’s regeneration and deep-cleansing work takes place while you sleep. It makes sense to make your bedroom a safe haven from toxins. Most conventional mattresses are made with polyurethane foam, which releases poisonous chemicals into the air for years. The healthiest bed to sleep in is one made of natural cotton, such as a simple futon or a mattress made with spring coils and stuffed with cotton batting. At the very least, treat yourself to 100 percent untreated, unbleached, organic cotton sheets. Avoid “no-iron” or “easy care” sheets. They are impregnated with a permanent formaldehyde finish that envelops you in toxins each night. Formaldehyde is a carcinogen, and causes symptoms of toxicity such as fatigue, insomnia, headache, nausea, respiratory irritation, and skin rashes. Once you experience the silky comfort of natural cotton sheets, you’ll never want to sleep on synthetic sheets again. Natural cotton flannel sheets are a cozy and healthful option for winter. To outfit the rest of your bed, choose natural blankets made from cotton or other natural fibers. Replace synthetic foam pillows with pillows stuffed with cotton, or other natural fibers. Keep fresh air circulating in your bedroom, particularly at night. Even during the coldest months, keep a window open an inch or two. You’ll sleep better, and awaken refreshed.

Creating a Healthful Home

  • Avoid plastics
  • Avoid aluminum and nonstick cookware
  • Avoid household and garden chemicals
  • Avoid synthetic carpets and upholstery
  • Avoid particle board furniture
  • Install water filters in kitchen and bath
  • Use stainless steel, glass or ceramic cookware
  • Use nontoxic cleaning supplies
  • Open your windows Fill your home with plants
  • Buy cotton bedding and towels
  • Use natural fabrics on furniture
  • Buy solid wood furniture

From: 14-Day Herbal Cleansing, by Laurel Vukovic, Prentice Hall Books, 1998.