By Dr. Teri Jaklin ND, IFMCP
We usually think of air pollution as an outdoor thing, but levels of harmful indoor pollutants like formaldehyde, chloroform and styrene range from 2 to 50 times higher than outdoor levels. As it is we spend most of our time indoors, and this time of year that starts to be more and more which means our toxic exposure from indoor sources becomes significant.
While the powers that be still argue about the validity of in door air quality issues, we now have an “accepted” term for unexplained illness at home, in school or the workplace – Sick Building Syndrome!
Where does indoor pollution come from?
- Mold and pollen
- Tobacco smoke
- House hold products like cleaners, dryer sheets and even air fresheners
- Gases like carbon monoxide
- Building materials like asbestos, formaldehyde and lead
- Fire retardants and other chemicals on furniture and clothing and in carpet.
Usually indoor air quality problems only cause allergy-like discomfort soon after exposure, and most people feel better as soon as they remove the source of the pollution. However, the health affects from poor air quality may be chronic – as in headaches, fatigue, inability to focus or poor sleep and can even show up years later in the form of respiratory diseases or even cancer.
There are many products that promise to “eliminate odours for good” the problem with commercial air fresheners is that they only mask the odour and do not treat the cause. Manufacturers are not required to disclose the ingredients on the label and thus can be exposing you to phthalates, acetaldehydes and other cancer causing chemicals.
Steps to improving your air quality.
In the late ’80s, NASA and the Associated Landscape Contractors of America studied houseplants as a way to purify the air in space facilities. They found several plants that filter out common volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Lucky for us, the plants can also help clean indoor air on Earth. Six common house plants that are also excellent air purifiers include the spider plant (hard one to kill even if you don’t have a green thumb), Peace Lily, Aloe Vera, Ficus Benjamina, English Ivy and the Bamboo Palm.
Reduce the number of cleaning products you use in your home (make your own non-toxic versions), instead of using air fresheners, open a window, run a fan, and get rid of the real source of the smell. A box of baking soda is a safe way to reduce odors. A Hepa Filter can safely remove some odors and allergens.
Check out what the Environmental Working Group has to say about indoor air quality.
If you are concerned about the quality of the air in your home, seek out a company that can test it’s quality. You and your family spend a lot of time indoors, make sure you can breathe easy.