Indoor Air Pollution – Think You’re Living Clean? You May Want To Reconsider

Indoor air pollution?

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Maybe you’ve heard about this problem – often the air inside our houses is much worse to breathe than the air outside! But what are the sources? Read on, you’ll be surprised.

So, what are the sources of indoor air pollution? There are a multitude.


The main problem with indoor air is it remains indoors, cooped up. Typically it gets mixed with outdoor air infrequently, because we heat it in the winter and cool it in the summer.

Since it rarely gets ‘refreshed,’ whatever we put into it tends to stick around. We also spend a lot of time inside, sleeping for example, and this elevates our exposure levels.

Smoking is an obvious problem, it’s very unlikely that’s an issue since you’re reading this blog and clearly make efforts to live clean.

Here are less obvious sources of indoor air pollution, the reasons for concern and your elimination options:
Source Concern Elimination
Incense By definition, incense produces smoke, as with any other smoke source there are both particulate and chemical-risk concerns with exposure to the smoke produced from burning anything.  Reduce use, or choose to use only when adequate fresh air supply exists.
Candles Candles, regardless of wax source whether it’s soy, beeswax or regular petroleum paraffin, burn inefficiently and produce smoke, soot and carbon monoxide. While exposure rates may be relatively low depending upon candle use, this is yet another source of indoor air pollution.  Reduce use or choose to use only when adequate fresh air supply exists.
Air Fresheners Air fresheners have been determined by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to be sources of high concentrations of endocrine disrupting chemistries. These products are designed to be aromatic, but many aromatic chemicals are polycyclic hydrocarbons by definition that can do hormonal, cellular and DNA damage.  Reduce use to only when absolutely necessary, avoid plug-in style products. If you must eliminate odors, purchase an air filter that will physically remove noxious odors from your living space instead of covering them up, or use ventilating fans.
Air Sprays Air sprays also contain chemicals identified by the CDC to be endocrine disruptors. These products are more of a concern than typical plug in type air fresheners as they are often sprayed directly in the atmosphere you’re breathing, thereby creating greater inhalation hazard.  Reduce use, purchase an air filter that physically purifies the air in your living space. HEPA filters or electrostatic precipitator type versions that are cleaned regularly are most effective.
Dryer Sheets As with the air freshener products above, dryer sheets have been identified by CDC to have high levels of endocrine distruptors. They are highly fragranced, and continually release such chemicals into the air from your clothing. These products may cause a high level of exposure over time due to the fact that these chemicals can accumulate in clothing, which remains directly against your skin for long periods of time.   Avoid use, or investigate other options. Using a dryer with a fluff setting is much safer if you wish to avoid chemical exposure.
Synthetically Scented Potpourri  Similar issues as with air sprays and fresheners. Use 100% botanical products, dried flowers, etc. If it has an extremely strong scent, it is very likely due to presence of a synthetic fragrance.
Excessive Use of Essential Oils/Fragrances Even though essential oils are naturally derived and may be certified organic, they still contain myriad and often highly toxic chemicals that should be used very sparingly and in dilute forms. Keep in mind that the most toxic chemicals known to humans are 100% natural and organic!  Never use essential oils in pure form. Always dilute them with something. Avoid inhalation whenever possible.
Radon Radon results from naturally occuring uranium present in our soils. Finite amounts of Uranium are everywhere, though some parts of the country have vastly elevated levels, Colorado for instance. Chronic exposure to Radon elevates lung cancer risk and is often an issue in lung cancers of non-smokers. It typically accumulates in living spaces that are below the ground, such as basements, because it is heavier than air. Modern HVAC equipment can spread it throughout your home however.  If you live in a region where radon is known to exist, you can have your house tested. It’s an inexpensive test, and if the levels exceed the recommended limits, mitigation usually involves installing some form of subsurface ventilation, such as a fan that sucks air from under the concrete slab of your basement and exhausts it outside. It may cost a few hundred dollars, but you get peace of mind knowing you’re reducing your cancer risk.
Oil Paint Oil-based paints have very high amounts of petrochemical solvents in them that must evaporate during the drying process.  If you must use oil based paints, do so with adequate outdoor ventilation and do not stay in enclosed spaces for long periods until all paint has had a chance to thoroughly dry. Use water-based paints whenever possible as these are much safer.
Construction materials This can be a critical source of indoor air pollution as many construction products, particularly adhesives use volatile organic carbon compounds (solvents) that may release these chemicals for a long time. Formaldehyde is a common solvent in many construction adhesives, particularly older ones.  These are harder to avoid, however if you’re building a house, you can request construction materials that are free of hazardous chemicals such as formaldehyde often in adhesives.
Cleaning products Cleaning products are a major souce of indoor air pollution as they often utilize volatile organic carbon (VOC) solvents as a vehicle for the product. Furniture polish sprays are a particularly noxious source of this air pollution.  There are many healthier cleaning product options on the market that are highly effective. An excellent furniture polish you can make yourself is organic jojoba oil with a little organic orange or lemon oil in it. We may offer this product in the future.
How much should you worry about indoor air pollution sources? Some are certainly worse than others, however contamination of our personal ecosystems is an accumulative process. The cleaner you can live, the more likely you’ll stay healthy longer.

 

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