Tuesday, May 15, 2012

How to improve your toxic environment

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We all know that our households can have some of the highest concentrations of toxins (indoor air is more contaminated than outdoor air because it is sealed inside our houses so well).  The EPA estimates that indoor air is 3 times more polluted than the air outside, and other sources suggest up to 10 times more.  The off-gassing of our furniture, carpets, paints, and cleaners can cause or worsen many health problems.  And those of us with chronic illnesses can have a more difficult time removing toxins from our bodies, so it's all the more urgent that we do something to help our bodies help themselves.

Well that certainly doesn't sound like the most ideal environment for healing!   But don't despair...there are lots of ways to improve your indoor air quality.


  • Have you heard that having plants in your house can help your health?  There are many indoor house plants that are amazing at detoxifying the air around them, purifying it, and increasing oxygenation. NASA did a study of 12 different indoor plants and rated their ability to purify the air of toxins, including benzene and formaldehyde. The complete study is at this website: NASA Indoor Landscape Plants for Indoor Air Pollution Abatement.  A quick list of some of the plants includes:  Golden Pothos, Peace lily, English Ivy, Bamboo Palm, Janet Craig, Warneckel, and Gerber Daisy.  Other sources list philodendrons, ficus, spider plants, and mother in law's tongue (snake plant).  There are lots of choices out there, so find the best one for you and your house.
  • Use more natural cleansers. VOC's (volatile organic compounds) and other chemicals released when using cleaning supplies can contribute to chronic respiratory problems, allergic reactions, and headaches according to a 2009 study in Environmental Impact Assessment Review.  Choose cleansers that have reduced VOC's and low fragrance.  I like products by Better Life and Ecover, but there are many natural brands to choose from now.  Also, you can make your own cleansers using vinegar, baking soda, and lemon juice to clean surfaces.
  • Avoid using air fresheners.  They have also been found to contribute to respiratory problems.  If you must have a fragrance, try using essential oils in a diffuser to have a more natural scent.
  • Use paint with no VOC's.  There are lots of brands now that offer low to no VOC's, so you should still be able to find the perfect color without suffering.
  • Buy furniture and carpets that are "green" and have reduced off-gassing, or buy used furniture that has finished giving off gasses.
  • Eat organic fruits and veggies.  Ok, it's not about air quality, but it's important nonetheless.  The less toxins you put into your body, the better.  Here's a list of what fruits and veggies to buy organic: the dirty dozen.
  • Use more natural beauty products.  We sometimes don't really think about the products that we put on our skin, but your body absorbs whatever you put on your skin to some degree, so make sure you put the best quality products onto your skin.  Avoid common carcinogens and toxins such as Sodium Lauryl Sulfates and Parabens.   Here's a list of a Toxic 12 to avoid. 
  • Remove your shoes when you enter the house.  Your shoes can have all kinds of nastiness on them, including bacteria and viruses.  It's best not to track that through your house if you can prevent it.
  • Vacuum and clean frequently (or make your spouse do it!) to remove dust and allergens and keep your respiratory system working at its best.  If you have to do it yourself, I recommend wearing a dust mask to prevent symptom flare-ups.  A HEPA filter for your vacuum is best, if you have one.
  • No smoking (duh!)
  • Change your air filters monthly.
  • Make sure your humidity level is below 40% and you have no mold growth in the house.
I hope these steps help you have a more healthy environment in which to heal.  We Potsies need all the help we can get!  Please feel free to post any comments about other tips and tricks that you have found to be helpful in your home.

2 comments:

Emanuelle said...

Great job!!!

Lauren Butare-Smith, DVM said...

Thanks Emanuelle! I hope you found it useful.

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