Detoxify Your Home

by in Air Pollution, Environmental Medicine, Kitchen Sink February 21, 2008

PhotobucketGeneral Measures

  • Replacing toxic cleaners and pesticides with natural alternatives is one of the most important things you can do to reduce your toxin exposures.
  • Leaving shoes at the door can reduce tracked-in lead, dust, and pesticides by a factor of 10-20.
  • Maintaining good ventilation helps dilute toxins with clean air. Using a central vacuuming apparatus or HEPA vacuum will also help to minimize pollutants in the air.
  • Temperature should be maintained at 65 F or below to reduce evaporation and concentration of toxic gases.
  • Similarly, keeping humidity below 50% will reduce evaporation and mite proliferation.
  • Filtering all public water is a good idea to remove toxic particles, chemicals, and microorganisms.
  • Full spectrum lights reduce eye-strain and increase UV absorption.
  • Reducing electromagnetic exposure from leaking microwaves, electric blankets, and other electrical appliances will also keep your toxic exposures down.

Furniture and Toys

Much of the furniture made today is made of composite materials, such as wood chips stuck together with toxin-containing glue and other chemicals. As attractive and useful as they may be, if furniture containing pressboard or plywood is less than a couple of years old, they’re contributing formaldehyde, a carcinogen and the substance used for embalming, into the air you breathe. There is a simple short-term solution: keep your house well ventilated. Also, bring lots of houseplants, especially spider plants, into areas where you have new furniture and carpet.

On the bed, used a spring, foam, or waterbed mattress. Wash sheets with very hot water and dry on the hot cycle to destroy mites. Use a plastic-type enclosed dust mite casing on mattresses, box springs, and pillows. Use hypoallergenic synthetic pillows instead of feather pillows if you are not using the dust mite encasements. Use only washable non-wool blankets. Do not use down comforters.

Floor Coverings

New carpets can be heavy contributors to toxic load, especially if they’re in an area where you spend a lot of time, like your bedroom. As with carpets–furniture, children’s toys, and mattress covers made of plastic also out-gas toxic fumes. Sometimes you can even smell the fumes if you sniff them very closely.

One way to significantly reduce (though not eliminate) their out-gassing is to set them out in strong sunlight for a day or two before bringing them into your home or giving them to your children. Thoroughly washing plastic toys and furniture can also help.

If you’re considering a new carpet and haven’t bought the carpeting yet, investigate the purchase of a natural fiber carpeting or other natural floor coverings. Hardwood flooring finished with a nontoxic coating is attractive, durable and safe. So are tile floors, which are easy to damp-mop and very durable. Area rugs in strategic spots will keep your feet warm and soften noise.

If these alternatives don’t work for you and you’re still convinced you want carpeting, select nylon carpet with jute backing. Better yet are natural carpets made from untreated wool, cotton, sea grass and sisal, with natural latex backing. Also, ask for “rag pad” padding (a standard carpeting industry term), made from recycled rags and polypropylene felt. Have the carpet installed in the summer, when you can leave the windows open more often to let those fumes out when the carpet is newer and more out-gassing is occurring.

If you live in a manufactured home, or a newly built conventional house, you’re probably experiencing a lot of out-gassing from plywood within the walls, the cabinets, as well as under the flooring. Depending on your state of health, and your ability to ventilate your home, you might want to consider a high quality air filter. Make sure furnace and air conditioning filters are replaced regularly.

3. Pearson, David. The Natural House Book. Fireside Pub. 1989.

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