In our last blog series, we learned about Indoor Air Pollution that is caused by insufficient ventilation in modern homes which can result in a build-up of toxic chemicals. The build-up occurs because modern homes are so tightly sealed up that when you use these toxic chemicals to clean your home, they are unable to escape to the outside and then simply accumulate each week as you clean your home.
One of the best ways you can reduce the ‘toxic load’ in your indoor environment is simple – replace your toxic cleansers with others that are less toxic.
Grocery Store Cleansers
Rows and Rows and Rows of Cleaning Products line the shelves of the grocery store. It can be intimidating. Do you go with whatever is being advertised heavily? Do you buy what your mother used? Do you decide to take the cheapest (or most expensive) product? A better informed consumer makes an educated purchaser, saving money and time. Here is what you should know.
People use a vast array of different cleansers, deodorizers, anti-bacterials, and other products that can provide cosmetic or a healthy improvement to your home, and they often also remove the harmful bacteria and microorganisms that cause infection and illness. However, many cleaning products leave behind chemical residues that can be as bad for you or worse than the bacteria that they got rid of.
The most dangerous chemicals in your home are corrosive cleansers such as oven cleaner, acid-based toilet bowl cleansers, and of course drain cleaners. Even after use, these aggressive chemicals can cause severe burns, both external, as on the skin or eyes, and internal, burning even the esophagus, stomach, and intestines.
You might think that you’re safer with more common cleansers like bleach or ammonia, but both of these can still be punishing irritants. Not only that, but for children, the elderly, and anyone with asthma or heart or lung diseases, bleach or ammonia can cause extreme and severe reactions and should never be used in areas where they can be exposed to them. Additionally, those two can react with other cleaners off-gas, and make highly toxic fumes, creating deadly chlorine gas.
Many fragrances that are found in cleaning products and odor eliminators – especially those used in laundry detergents, fabric softeners, and fabric sprays – can cause allergic or even toxic reactions. Companies often claim that their chemical makeups are trade secrets to avoid divulging the specific harmful chemicals and allergens in their products. (Don’t believe us? Do a google search with the search terms “Are product ‘scents’ safe?”)
Immediate reactions to direct exposure are only one form of danger, however. Far more treacherous is that many cleansers have chemicals in them that are known carcinogens or can have neurological or hormonal consequences after prolonged contact. Avoid any product that has diethanolamine (DEA), triethanolamine (TEA),1,4-dioxane, or butyl cellosolve in it. Again- many products that contain those potentially lethal chemicals don’t even list them, so do your research.
Since it’s difficult to find out the specific chemical makeup of any product, your best bet is to only use an EPA-registered, cleaner that you can be sure is non-harmful. True cleanliness isn’t just about a home that appears to be safe and clean, it’s about making sure that everyone that lives there or even just comes to visit is protected from harm.
The good news is that using Nok-Out odor eliminator or SNiPER disinfectant and odor eliminator does not leave toxic residues behind. Fragrance-free SNiPER enjoys the lowest toxicity rating that the EPA gives out. It works to kill bacteria, viruses, mildew and other microbes that can cause illness and infection, but will not cause you or your family harm. Our goal is to do good where we can, with you in mind.
Throw them away!
So throw away those products that are ‘fresh scented’ because those scents might well be causing you harm and no one is protecting consumers from this. Get rid of the bleach you use to kill mold, because it doesn’t really kill the mold anyway and absolutely does not kill the spores. Why spend your money on several products when there is one product that can replace many of those items under your sink? Try SNiPER instead. Your home environment will improve as toxicity levels stop climbing.
See all SNiPER products here.
NASA, the US Space Agency, has good news for us!
Because of modern building practices, your home, and our workplaces are built securely to keep outside air OUT, and inside air IN. This makes your home or office quite energy efficient, but also promotes the buildup of whatever chemicals are released from cleaning chemicals, from the outgasing of newly bought products, from chemicals released from printers and toners and other office machinery and so on. This buildup can occur when there is insufficient ventilation that otherwise would allow these chemicals to disburse outside of the home or office.
NASA has been concerned with how to reduce buildup of toxic chemicals inside spacecraft – for obvious reasons! Studies conducted by NASA scientists have identified over 50 houseplants that remove many of the pollutants and gases mentioned above. The study discovered that the interaction of plants and air in closed in situations such as our homes, found that houseplants, when placed in sealed chambers in the presence of specific chemicals, removed those chemicals from the chambers.
Ah ha! This is good news! If we introduce any or all of the following list of 10 plants into our homes, we will have purer air, air free of noxious toxins and chemicals. That something so beautiful and decorative can also be a source of good health, and a longer life is welcome news for all of us!
Check out this link to find a listing of house plants to organically, and with no polluting chemicals, decontaminate your home, and purify your surroundings.
The Top ten Plants for removing VOC’s including formaldehyde, benzene, and carbon monoxide from the air:
Areca Palm – Chrysalidocarpus lutescens
|Areca Palm (Chrysalidocarpus lutescens) Also called the “Butterfly Palm”. An upright houseplant that is somewhat vase shaped. Specimen plants can reach 10 to 12 foot in height. Prefers a humid area to avoid tip damage. Requires pruning. When selecting an Areca palm look for plants with larger caliber trunks at the base of the plant. Plants that have pencil thin stems tend to topple over and are quite difficult to maintain.
Lady Palm – Rhapis excelsa
|Rhapis excelsa: Also called the “Lady Palm”, this durable palm species adapts well to most interiors. The Rhapis are some of the easiest palms to grow, but each species has its own particular environment and culture requirements. The “Lady Palm” grows slowly, but can grow to more than 14′ in height with broad clumps often having a diameter as wide as their height.
Bamboo Palm – Chamaedorea seifrizii
|Bamboo Palm: (Chamaedorea seifrizii) Also called the “reed palm”, this palm prefers bright indirect light. New plants will lose of some interior foliage as they acclimate to indoor settings. This plant likes to stay uniformly moist, but does not like to be over-watered or to sit in standing water. Indoor palms may attract spider mites which can be controlled by spraying with a soapy solution.
Rubber Tree –
|Rubber Tree: Ficus Robusta Grows very well indoors, preferring semi-sun lighting. Avoid direct sunlight, especially in summer. Young plants may need to be supported by a stake. The Ficus grows to 8’ with a spread of 5’. Wear gloves when pruning, as the milky sap may irritate the skin. Water thoroughly when in active growth, then allow the soil to become fairly dry before watering again. In winter keep slightly moist.
Dracena “Janet Craig” (Dracaena deremensis)
|Dracena “Janet Craig” (Dracaena deremensis) The Dracaena grows to 10’ with a spread of 3’. Easy to grow, these plants do best in bright indirect sunlight coming from the east/west. They can adapt to lower light levels if the watering is reduced. Keep the soil evenly moist and mist frequently with warm water. Remove any dead leaves. Leaf tips will go brown if the plant is under watered but this browning may be trimmed.
Philodendron -(Philodendron sp.)
|Philodendron (Philodendron sp.) One of the most durable of all house plants. Philodendrons prefer medium intensity light but will tolerate low light. Direct sun will burn the leaves and stunt plant growth. This plant is available in climbing and non-climbing varieties. When grown indoors, they need to be misted regularly and the leaves kept free of dust. Soil should be evenly moist, but allowed to dry between watering.
||Dwarf Date Palm (Phoenix roebelnii) A hardy, drought-tolerant and long-lived plant, the Dwarf Date Palm needs a bright spot which is free of drafts. It grows slowly, reaching heights of 8-10’. The Dwarf Date Palm should not be placed near children’s play areas because it has sharp needle-like spines arranged near the base of the leaf stem. These can easily penetrate skin and even protective clothing.
Ficus Alii (Ficus macleilandii “Alii”)
|Ficus Alii (Ficus macleilandii “Alii”) The Ficus Alii grows easily indoors, and resists insects. It prefers a humid environment and low to medium light when grown indoors. The Ficus Aliii should not be placed near heating or air conditioning vents, or near drafts because this could cause leaf loss. Soil should be kept moist but allowed to dry between watering.
Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata “Bostoniensis”)
|Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata “Bostoniensis”) The Boston fern grows to 4’ in height with a spread up to 5’. It has feathery ferns which are best displayed as a hanging plant. It prefers bright indirect sunlight. Keep the soil barely moist and mist frequently with warm water. This plant is prone to spider mites and whitefly which can be controlled using a soapy water spray. Inspect new plants for bugs before bringing them home.
Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum “Mauna Loa”)
|Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum “Mauna Loa”) The Peace Lily is a compact plant which grows to a height of 3’ with a 2’ spread. This hardy plant tolerates neglect. It prefers indirect sunlight and high humidity, but needs to be placed out of drafts. For best results, the Peace Lily should be thoroughly watered, then allowed to go moderately dry between waterings. The leaves should be misted frequently with warm water.
Explore this further
In the last issue, we looked at what indoor air pollution is about, and saw that it is mostly due to the accumulation and build-up of toxins in an indoor environment that can result when modern building are so tightly sealed that the toxins released by biological and man-made sources have no way to escape, so it simply accumulates. At some point, this accumulation can reach toxic proportions. Other causes include biological contaminants such as mold and mildew, heavy metals such as lead, and combustion pollutants such as carbon monoxide and even carbon dioxide.
In this article, we will explore what you can do to mitigate these issues and how they might be ‘fixed’.
The single most important thing is – ventilation. Simply venting inside air to the outside and thus drawing in fresh air, can reduce the toxicity levels. The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) publishes a ‘ventilation standard that can be compared to your system. See it here. If your home or building’s issues continue due to continuing release of toxic chemicals, The EPA has published an excellent guide to air cleaners and filtration systems. A simple Google search for ‘air purification systems’ will yield good results. Here is a pretty good example: http://www.home-air-purifier-expert.com/iq-air-purifier.html.
Air filters are important to reduce particulates in the air. A great DIY approach is to purchase a 20 inch box fan and tape a high quality air filter to the back of it. Youtube has a video of this here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K9bIWINK8hI and a somewhat more detailed model can be seen here: http://tombuildsstuff.blogspot.com/2013/06/better-box-fan-air-purifier.html. Good air filtration is complemented by good vacuuming using a HEPA filter. This is important for allergy sufferers and can reduce the ‘load’ that causes symptoms.
One of the primary sources of indoor air pollution is something called VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds). Many newly manufactured things will release gases for some time. A good example is a mattress. Various glues and chemicals are used to manufacture these things and they may ‘outgas’ for anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. It may be a good idea to allow this outgasing to take place outside the home if possible. Unwrap it and leave it outside, out of the weather if possible.
Another way to reduce VOC’s and toxic chemicals released into your home is to take care of what you bring into the home. Bleach and other powerful cleaning agents have toxic chemicals. Check to see if you can find other cleaning agents that do not contain these things. (This is where Nok-Out and SNiPER products excel – they are unlikely to ever release toxic by-products and are hypo-allergenic. Additionally, SNiPER kills mold and other biological growths.)
Where VOC’s are concerned, prevention is the easiest thing – don’t bring them in! Don’t allow anyone to smoke in your home. Paint that old dresser outside outside and allow it to dry for at least 24 hours before bringing it inside.
As the name implies, biologicals are, or were, alive at one time. A partial list of biologicals might include various types of mold, mildew and fungus and their spores, pet and people dander, dust mites, insect body parts, pollen.
What can you do about Biologicals?
Prevention is easier and better than clean-up where biologicals are concerned. For molds and other living things, be aware that they depend on moisture for growth. Control the moisture and you control the growth of these things. So, fix that dripping leak, Use a de-humidifier in places that are prone to moisture condensation (like the basement). If you are using a room humidifier in the winter, watch the windows and wipe them dry frequently. Use a squeegee in the shower. And so on.
SNiPER disinfectant is a great way to treat biologicals issues without increasing the toxic load in your indoor environment. See: http://www.nokout.com/Cleaning-Mold-and-Mildew.html.
In the next issue we will learn what NASA has to say about ways to mitigate indoor air pollution.
Modern buildings are amazingly energy efficient and are awesome at keeping your HVAC bills low. But for some buildings, there is a decidedly negative side effect. These homes and buildings are so tightly sealed that in some cases, the ventilation does not allow noxious substances to escape. These toxic substances can build up and accumulate. Over time, this build-up can result in what has become known as “Sick Building Syndrome”. SBS symptoms first began to be reported in the 1970’s when some people – not all – experienced allergy-like reactions, headaches and other symptoms from non-specific causes that disappeared when they left the building. Symptoms include nausea, dizziness, irritation of the nose, throat and mucuous membranes.
Since the symptoms disappeared upon leaving the building, the issue became know as Sick Building Syndrome.
According to the “home air purifier expert” there are four main sources of indoor air pollution that contribute to SBS:
- Biological air pollutants
- Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s)
- Combustion pollutants
- Heavy Metals
Biological Air Pollutants are, as the name suggests, come from biological growths and are a frequent source of allergens. If you suffer from allergies, it is likely that this is a source of much misery. This category includes the toxic black mold which grows when there is moisture damage or high indoor humidity. But this category includes much more than just mold, mildew and fungal infections. There are also other sources including dust mites, pet and people dander (skin cells that have been sloughed off), pollen, viruses, bacteria and ‘bioaerosols’. (Wikipedia defines ‘bioaerosols’ this way: “A bioaerosol (short for biological aerosol) is a suspension of airborne particles that contain living organisms or were released from living organisms”. A reputedly potent source of indoor allergens is insect body parts. Yech!
Biologicals may be the most common household sources of toxicosis (from black molds), infections of body tissues, and can result in a hypersensitivities.
Volatile Organic Compounds
These are ‘organic chemicals’ that release vapors at ordinary room temperatures. Wikipedia tells us that, “VOCs are numerous, varied, and ubiquitous. They include both human-made and naturally occurring chemical compounds.” Some sources of information on VOC’s assert that there are more than 400 different chemicals in this category. The EPA has prepared a list of hazardous air pollutants here: https://www3.epa.gov/airtoxics/187polls.html. Home air Purifier expert has another list that is perhaps easier to read here: http://www.home-air-purifier-expert.com/household-products.html.
VOC sources can include newly manufactured products such as a new mattress, a stove, painted items. But there are MANY other sources including household cleaning chemicals, personal hygiene products such as nail polish and nail polish remover, glues, furniture polishes, paints. Even the fragrances in the products we enjoy are often not safe. Tobacco smoke has an astonishing list of VOC’s. This list could go on and on and on.
Combustion pollutants include Carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide. These gasses are the byproducts resulting from combustion in heaters or gas fired appliances that are not then vented outside properly or sufficiently.
Heavy Metals are not as common an indoor pollutant as they used to be. Lead in paint, for example, has mostly been discontinued. It is not commonly known, but paint also used to contain mercury. Other sources of mercury are fluorescent tubes – which contain a small amount and nowadays, CFL bulbs.
In this day and age, we have clearly mastered our world. We enjoy a standard of living that would have astonished our ancestors of a mere 200 years ago and enjoy a comfort level that was unattainable even a few generations ago. But with this living standard, we have also brought a concentration of toxins into our homes that also would not have been possible in our yester-years.
For most of us, this level of toxicity in our home environment is unlikely to result in sickness and the cleanliness of our homes does result in a healthier environment that allows us to live longer and more happily. But some people develop more or less vague sickness as accumulations of toxins build up in our tissues and this can result in chemical sensitivities that can really affect lives. These people may suffer from “Multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) or idiopathic environmental intolerances (IEI)”. For more information on this, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiple_chemical_sensitivities.
The next installment of this topic will begin to address what we can do to protect ourselves.
Online resources for more information
How to clean and Disinfect your phone with SNiPER Disinfectant
When holding your cell phone, tablet or the remote control. Is it oily and smudged with fingerprints or lint on the screen? Are crumbs from a snack lingering on the device? Did you find some stray pet hairs? Forbid the thought, but is it sticky? Yuck.
If any of the above gets a head nod, then, we need to talk. Think about where your mobile devices go. Do they travel from hand to hand? Into pockets where crumbs, candy wrappers, dirty tissues live and forgotten? Are they given to toddlers to handle (who knows where their hands have been?), passed around to various hands to show off images? Studies have shown that there is more invisible crud on your handheld device than on the bottom of your shoe! Gross to consider, isn’t it?
In the November 2013 issue of the “American Journal of Infection Control”, the debate is over. Mobile devices are well-known as a pervasive source of disease transmission. Consequently, we should strive to keep our devices clean and free from germs. Not just for our own health, and the good health of our friends and relatives, but to keep the trade-in value high when you want to upgrade to a new device.
Here are some tips to keep your cell phones, tablets, laptop, keyboard, mouse, and other mobile devices safe for you and friends to touch. Remember however, that mobile devices are not waterproof and cleaning them is tricky. Here are the Best Practices for Cleaning and Disinfecting your mobile equipment:
Regularly use a soft microfiber cloth to wipe away smudges, etc. This method, when regularly used, is also enough to eliminate many common bacteria in our environment. For the nasty bacteria that take a ride on your cellphone, use SNiPER, a hospital grade disinfectant that is safe enough to wash your hand with, to clean and disinfect your phone, tablet or other device. This well documented disinfectant that kills bacteria and viruses safely and efficiently. Never spray SNiPER directly on your gadget. Instead, spray a soft cloth with SNiPER until it is damp/moist, but not wet. Wipe the device carefully, paying attention to the corners, the on/off switch, and volume control. A soft q-tip works well in this instance.
Most manufactures of these devices warn against using “window cleaners, household cleaners, aerosol sprays, solvents, alcohol, ammonia or abrasives”. The unique formulation of SNiPER is non-corrosive and will not harm your device if applied properly. For computer keyboards, which are really a warehouse of stored microbes, dust and food spills, can be cleaned with a can of compressed air and a light spray of SNiPER. (Don’t overdo spraying! Use a gentle spray of SNiPER, and after two or three minutes, wipe away any excess moisture that remains on the surface. Or, apply by spraying a cloth and use that cloth to wipe down your device. Compressed air cans will finish the job for you.)
You really can be as obsessive as you feel is necessary when taking care of these objects. For good health, experts recommend you to wipe your devices daily with a soft microfiber cloth. Don’t forget about wrist pillows, and mouse pads. If they are washable, regularly toss them in with other laundry. If not washable, spray thoroughly with SNiPER. Allow to air dry before using again.
This is easy! Did you know that It takes about 15 consecutive times to form a habit? Consider putting this task in your morning routines for 15 days. By then, it will not be a chore, or a forgotten task, you will make a new habit-and a good one!
What are Those Awful, Moldy Smells in My Front-Loading Washer?
What is the fuss about? Everything looks perfectly okay to me – but I smell something dreadful!
Those spiffy front loading high-efficiency washers are cooler than the other side of your pillow! These machines are a great addition to your wash room, giving you a lot of options, save on water usage, energy, and do a great job of cleaning clothes as well. Uh-Oh. There are some issues with these wonderful washers that may cause you some grief. Your laundry may collect moldy, mildew odors which are transferred to clothing. Alas.How does this happen? Read on.
Because of the low water level, grime, dirt and even skin flakes along with detergents and water softeners do not always fully drain from your front loading machine. Another disconcerting feature is that residue builds up from using a cold water cycle. Over time, these residues get moldy, and everything you wash takes on that same musty smell.
This Issue is Treatable with Nok-Out. Here’s How:
- Clean your washing machine. Clean by spraying the interior tub with a fine spray of Nok-Out. Let it drip, or run down the sides of the tub. Wipe with a clean cloth. Repeat, paying attention to the door seals.More bout this below.
- Leave washer door and dispenser open. Often a manufacturer will ask you to leave the washer door and the dispenser drawer open between uses. Mold loves moisture, and as noted above, wherever you notice humidity between washings.
- Rotate the machine drum. You can also rotate the machine drum regularly to capture any left-over items, or pieces of plastic, etc. Who knows what else is lurking in the laundry?
- Always remove wet clothes. Never leave wet clothes in the washer overnight!
- Less is more. Use less detergent than the manufacturer recommends. This will prevent some residue from forming.
- Use Nok-Out weekly! To prevent odors from forming, use Nok-Out once a week. Gently, lift the door gasket, spray Nok-Out inside on and around the gasket seal, allowing to stay moist for 3-5 minutes Dry completely.
The odor problem in these expensive front loading machines is unfortunate. The washers do a great job of cleaning your dirty laundry and are very energy efficient. If mold or mildew does happen and odors permeate your laundry, place 4-8 oz Nok-Out in the wash cycle. It really works. Every time!
This testimonial just came in from a front loading washer owner just like you. He has a good tip for all of us!
“I wish I had known the downside of a front load washer was soooo down. But I think I have found a way to beat that nasty smell. When I have completed washing for the day I stick a microfiber cloth in the rubber gasket and soak up any water that was left then pull the cloth out. Next I spray NOKOUT in that area and all around the drum and put another cloth sprayed with Nok-Out in the gasket area. And finally, as suggested I leave the door open for it all to air out. So far it has worked well.”
Nok-Out customers come up with the best ideas!