Health yliving is not just about the food you put in your mouth, but also about the chemicals that you touch, inhale and ingest.
You might be surprised to learn that the air inside your home and office building can be more polluted than the outdoor air. According to Health Canada, the sources of pullutants indoors can be biological, chemical or gases that are commonly created by the heating, cooking and hobbies that we do.
Since Canada has cold winters, you probably spend a good amount of time indoors. That means the air quality can be a health hazard. The good news is that there are some simple steps that you are probably already doing to improve the air quality and health of your home.
1. Ban smoking
Don’t allow anyone to smoke inside your home. Some experts compare emissions from second hand smoke with diesel fuel. You wouldn’t let someone run their car in your living room, so don’t let them smoke either. The toxins from smoke can cause cancer and even a short exposure can linger on fabrics and walls for weeks.
Volatile organic compounds (VOC) are the off gases found in paint, particle board furniture or furniture built with medium density fiber (MDF) board. They’re also found in carpeting and other synthetic fibers. You might also know it as the “new” car smell.
VOCs have been linked to neurological diseases, respiratory diseases and even cancer. When we had our windows replaced, I wasn’t asked to leave the house. The foam spray they used to seal in the windows had a strong smell but I quickly got used to it, and couldn’t smell it anymore. By the end of the day I had a headache and my words were jumbled when I tried to speak. We stayed overnight with family and luckily the effects wore off the next day but it was a frightening experience for me and my spouse.
Avoid VOCs whenever possible. Choose low VOC or VOC free paints and stains, and consider buying products, like furniture, flooring and fabrics, made from natural fibers.
3. Use natural cleansers and fragrances
Your personal home care and body care products often contain the biggest indoor air pollutants. They contain fragrances and other toxins that immediately enter your lungs or skin, and can contaminate our lakes and rivers.
There’s a growing market of unscented products, and natural cleaning and personal care products. You can make your own products with distilled water and vinegar or natural oils so that you know with 100% certainty what’s going onto your surfaces, into your body, and in the air of your home. Consider also non-chemical products, like Norwex, that use only water.
4. Check the quality of your air
Install a carbon monoxide (CO) gas detector. This odorless, tasteless and colourless gas is a by-product of burning fuel – from vehicle exhaust, cooking appliances, blocked chimney flues, furnaces, water heaters or boilers. CO can kill or seriously injure people because our bodies can’t sense it. Symptoms include flu-like symptoms, dizziness or difficulty breathing, and even death. A CO detector can protect you and your loved ones, especially in winter when our windows stay closed and the heat stays on. We keep one in our bedroom and one in the furnace room.
Radon is another gas to check for. Radon is a radioactive by-product of uranium found in the earth’s crust. It is naturally present in soil and can enter your home through cracks in your foundation. Radon gas breaks down to form radioactive elements that can be inhaled into the lungs, making radon the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers, according to Health Canada. You can find a radon test kit at your local home or hardware store.
5. Clean your air
You can keep the air in your home clean by opening the windows at least once a week. Leave them open and let the fresh air circulate and clean out the indoor air.
Plants are also a great way to clean the air. For example, the simple spider plant rids your home of benzene and formaldehyde which are two gases that are emitted from common household building materials, furniture, and even bedding and clothing. Just make sure whatever plants you choose are safe for your pets. Here’s a list of non-toxic plants for cats and dogs from the ASPCA »
I have my kitchen and bathrooms filled with plants, where watering is easily accessible (and it seeing them daily helps me remember to water them).
Simple steps can ensure a healthy and safe home. Protect your health and the health of your loved ones.