Indoor Air Quality
You might have heard recent chatter about gas stoves causing health problems in homes. It's not a new problem. And gas stoves aren't the only things polluting our household air. If you want a slightly alarming but informative read on what to avoid, check out Sacha's contribution to this great article over on Porch.com.
For me, the benefits of sustainable products come from what you’re not consuming. There is clear evidence that avoiding the harmful ingredients and byproducts found in many conventional products prevents illness and disease. We know that eating organic fruits and veggies means we’re not consuming carcinogenic pesticides. And eating smaller, wild-caught fish means ingesting less toxic mercury. Oh, and the more electric cars, the less asthma-inducing pollution in our atmosphere. What a lot of us don’t know is that many of the products we bring into our homes release toxic gas into household air.
We spend 90% of our time indoors and many of the things in our homes and offices emit gases called volatile organic compounds (VOCs). According to the EPA, the list of negative health impacts from household VOCs includes eye, nose and throat irritation, headache, loss of coordination, organ and central nervous system damage, and some are suspected or known to cause cancer. Common VOCs found in homes include paint, vinyl objects like shower curtains, electronic goods, flame retardants in soft furnishings, and conventional household cleaning products. It’s a long list!
Most domestic air filters aren’t up to the job of removing VOCs. HEPA filters are great at removing particles like smoke, but VOCs are gasses and require more expensive carbon filters to trap. The good news is that you can reduce toxic air levels at home by making a few changes in what you buy and how you live. You might not want to toss everything you own and start again but making informed choices when renovating or replacing large items has a huge impact on your inside air quality.
Buy mattresses, rugs, and furniture that hasn’t been treated with flame retardant chemicals, choose zero-VOC paints, and avoid using varnish or vinyl flooring. If you must use some of these things, know that they might off gas for many months. One day of airing out isn’t enough. Electric induction stoves reduce VOCs significantly and use less overall energy that gas, so if you’re renovating your kitchen, your stove is a great thing to change. Smaller changes you can make? Natural cosmetics and hair products reduce VOCs and prevent absorbing toxins through your skin. Don’t use chemical air fresheners or heavily scented paraffin candles, skip the dry cleaner, and switch conventional household cleaners for natural ones.
Back in 1984, NASA did a study that suggested houseplants could absorb airborne compounds. Sadly, newer studies cast doubt on that study. There’s no quick fix to reducing our chemical exposure. Making small changes to live more sustainably is our best option right now. That said, you should still get the houseplant!”