Indoor air pollution: Are there hazardous chemicals inside your home?
Living Simply, Living Franciscan
by Mary Ellen Dunford, affiliate
The quality of the air we breathe each day, whether inside air or outside air, is critical for our health. Did you know that the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the air in the average American home may be two to five times more polluted than the outside air? Indoor air quality in office buildings can have higher levels of pollutants and contributes to employee sickness and lost time at work.
There are many factors that contribute to indoor air pollution. Chemical emissions or gases released from drapes, carpet, furniture, plastic products and building materials are a few of the culprits. However, some of the biggest contributors are household cleaners. Cleaners are generally used frequently and release volatile organic compounds. VOCs are released when cleaning products are opened and used as well as during storage. By having them stored in your house with the lids tightly closed, you are being exposed to VOCs. Everyday you and your family are breathing toxins from these products. VOCs are linked to health problems such as asthma, chronic respiratory, endocrine and reproductive disorders and cancer. Three common VOCs found in household cleaners are glycol, ammonia and formaldehyde.
Glycol ethers labeled as butyl cellosolve, 2-butoxyethan, ethylene glycol or monobutyl ether are found in hundreds of household cleaners. It is a solvent. It dries skin and can strip the hands of natural oils. It is also an endocrine disrupter and can cause infertility and birth defects.
Ammonia is commonly found in all-purpose household cleaners, degreasers and glass cleaners. The fumes from ammonia can irritate the eyes, nose and throat and cause headaches and respiratory problems. Ammonia is a poison to aquatic life and pollutes the water every time it goes down the drain.
There are alternatives to using a cleaner with ammonia. One alternative is a vinegar and water solution. This solution can be used as an all-purpose cleaner and for washing windows. Another alternative is
a washing soda and water solution. This solution can be used as a degreaser.
Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen.Formaldehyde can also cause asthma, headaches and skin and eye irritations. It is found in air fresheners and disinfectants. An alternative choice for air fresheners is an essential oil diffuser. Use any essential oil that you enjoy. For disinfectants use tea tree and lemon oils. Borax is useful as a deodorizer in garbage disposals and cans, toilets and laundry.
This month I invite you to remove toxic household cleaners from your home and improve your indoor air quality. VOC-free cleaning is a healthy and safe choice for you, your family and the environment.