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  • Writer's pictureSecond Opinion Magazine

11 Scary Sources of Indoor Air Pollution

Think your home is safe? Think again. In today’s quick and convenient world, the air you breathe indoors may actually be worse than the air outside.  According to the EPA, it is estimated that indoor air pollution can be up to eight times worse than the air you breathe outside. With as much time as people spend at home, this is scary news. The following are unexpected, but potent sources of air pollution.

Got a Little Dirty Laundry? Getting your clothes clean can be an awfully dirty process. Ingredients in laundry products containing artificial fragrances and perfumes can emit as much dryer vent and laundry room pollution as exhaust from running vehicles. This phenomenon happens because, unlike tailpipes and smokestacks, dryer vent emissions are unregulated. To ensure that your lungs are breathing in clean air, choose plant-based, unscented laundry detergents instead of commercial ones — and ditch the fabric softeners and dryer sheets.

Keeping Your Home Truly Clean Ammonia and bleach are two well-known commercial cleaning agents commonly used in general housekeeping.  Although they get the job done, they also create hazardous levels of ozone. Other store-bought cleaning supplies share potentially harmful, questionable ingredients found in other commercial products like air fresheners, candles, and bath products. Going green is the best way to ensure that your home is actually clean. DIY cleaning options, such as cleaning with white vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, and baking soda, will not only be easy on your pocketbook, but your lungs and general health as well.

Catastrophic Carpeting Wall-to-wall carpeting is one of the scariest things you can have in your house if you’re prone to asthma or allergy attacks.  Known for trapping dust and dander, carpets are terrible at maintaining indoor air quality. In addition, commercial carpeting can emit VOCs, while carpet padding may contain traces of hormone-disrupting, flame-retardant chemicals. For those seeking a solution to problematic flooring, they can choose between better carpeting and hardwood flooring. Green Label carpeting products emit fewer VOC levels, while vacuums with HEPA filters do an outstanding job of ridding carpets of harmful particles. Hardwood and bamboo floors are a better alternative to carpeting and can simply be damp-mopped to abolish dust particles.

Freaky Furniture Did you know that your furniture has the potential to freak your health out? The scary truth is that furniture fashioned from particleboard and plywood may emit VOCs due to the glues and binders used in making those products. For products such as these, it is recommended that they be sealed with AFM Safecoat Seal in an effort to reduce the amount of toxic compounds in the air. If you’re in the market for new furniture, however, your best bets are lead-free second hand furniture or Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood products.

Shower Water While most people have heard about installing filters for drinking water, how many have heard about installing ones for the shower? It is recommended that installing both kinds of filters can help prevent the onset of cancer. During a single 10-minute shower session, your body can absorb one hundred times more chlorine than after consuming one gallon of that same water. Filter-less showers and poor ventilation causes chlorine to become airborne and travel throughout your house. For an easy fix, invest in a NSF/ANSI Standard 177: Shower Filtration Systems — Aesthetic Effects filter. Also, conducting a water test will alert you to harmful levels of other contaminants. If other contaminants are found, make sure to buy a filter that is certified to remove them.

A Behemoth of a Basement Two of the biggest air pollutants in basements are radon and paint cans. While radon can be tested for, paint cans cannot. Paint cans, regardless of being sealed or open, can emit VOCs. Dealing with paint cans is easy. Simply relocate them in an unattached garage or shed and recycle old paint at a waste-collection facility.

Holiday Décor In 2009, a study published by Ground Water Monitoring & Remediation discovered that Christmas ornaments, such as plastic “polyresin” ones, have the potential to pollute the air with a possible human carcinogen technically known as the industrial solvent 1, 2-dichclorethane (DCA). Although holiday décor makes for a merrier home, it may not make for a healthier one. By substituting commercial ornaments with ones fashioned from glass, fabrics, and other natural materials, you can rest easy at night known that your beautiful home is safe as well.

Printer Problems Did you know that using your computer’s printer can pollute your air? Apparently, the ink cartridges within them are known to give off VOCs and contaminants known as glymes. Glymes stem from the glycol family are used in some chemical carpet cleaners. Since 2011, the EPA has taken a stronger stance against these solvents, asserting that glymes have been linked to higher rates of miscarriage. For those of us with printers, the best way to deal with them is to print at home only when necessary and to ensure that your printing area is well ventilated.

Aromatherapy A lit candle can be scenic and, if scented, enhance one’s mood. Sadly, though, that same candle can pollute one’s lungs with some of the same chemicals that come out of tailpipes. Most manufactured candles today emit chemicals such as alkanes, alkenes, benzenes, and toluene. However, your scenery and senses can be satisfied without costing your health by going au natural. Beeswax candles and organic pure essential oils are the quickest fixes for this hairy situation. An added benefit for using beeswax candles is that they emit negative ions that actually cleanse the air.

Creepy Cosmetics Looking like a million bucks may cost you in the long run. With today’s commercial assortment of cosmetics, deodorants, perfumes, and beauty products, looking good has never been so detrimental. While your enticing aroma and ruby-red lips may turn a few heads, your skin and lungs bear the brunt of artificially perfumed and fragranced ingredients. The good news, though, is that you can still stun the world while keeping your body free of questionable chemicals. An online database sponsored by the Environmental Working Group (Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database) compares and rates current shampoos, soaps, lotions, and other products on its site. Another thing you can do is to scrutinize the ingredients list and stay away from any products that cite “parfum” or “fragrance”.

Cooking with Ease Convenient cookware, such as nonstick pans, may be mess-free, but not necessarily chemical-free.  Polytetrafluoroethylene is the chemical used in making non-stick cookware. When the coating on a non-stick pan has been nicked or scratched though, polytetrafluoroethylene is released into the air and, over a chronic period of exposure, can up your chances of obesity, thyroid disease, and ADHD. When the surface starts showing signs of wear and tear, it is essential to replace your pan with something like untreated stainless steel, domestic cast iron, or stoneware.

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