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
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 and 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 mucous membranes. SBS is a result of indoor air pollution, but this problem can be remedied.
Since the symptoms disappeared upon leaving the building, the issue became know as Sick Building Syndrome.
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 can include 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 biological sources including dust mites, pet and people dander (skin cells that have been sloughed off), pollen, viruses, and bacteria. 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. There is 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 and is a potent source of indoor air pollution. This list could go on and on and on.
Lesser- known pollutants
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 we enjoy a comfort level that was unattainable even a few generations ago. But with this high 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). 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