At this point, it’s an injustice to continue calling the earth’s climate change and environmental pollution “breaking news,” as these have been monumental issues for decades.
That said, here’s something new ~ scientists have recently provided the world and our global initiative decision-makers the most comprehensive global warming impact assessment to date, and the outlook is grim. The report ominously warns that “humans may be able to adapt to some of these changes, but only within limits.”
In light of the recent research, and in preparation for a healthy spring cleaning season, I’ve chosen to expand a little further on a previous post, Tips to Reduce Indoor Air Pollution.
Hard proof, stark truth.
The World Health Organization (WHO) released figures last year regarding air pollution, stating that it claimed seven million lives around the world in 2012. Large, sort of unfathomable number, right? What this means is that around the world, one out of every eight deaths was correlated with dirty air and the WHO warns that this is twice as many as they’d previously estimated. This qualifies air pollution as the world’s single biggest environmental health risk.
Even slightly more alarming and shocking, indoor air pollutants claimed 4.3 million of these deaths while outdoor air toxicity claimed a lesser 3.7 million. When thinking about air pollution, most envision outdoor air and equate it with visible smog lurking above a city or smokestacks billowing toxic byproducts, for example. But the truth is you can’t always see pollution much less smell it, and oftentimes it measures at higher concentrations inside buildings and homes.
Addressing a macro problem on a micro level.
While some air pollution concerns are beyond our personal control, many are well within it. Spring is here and with the warm summer months approaching it’s time to start considering the products we’ve got in our homes that tend to “off-gas.” In other words, products putting off toxic emissions as the byproduct of a chemical process.
One class of toxic contaminants to guard against is volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These carbon-based chemicals evaporate easily at room temperature and with even greater ease at higher temperatures. Some can be identified by smell, but many cannot. Many common household products off-gas VOCs, such as carpet, paint, vinyl floors, plastic shower curtains, air fresheners, cleaners, disinfectants, cosmetics, laundry detergents, mattresses, upholstered furniture ~ the list goes on...
You may be wondering what exactly is in these products that’s so shady. For starters, some of the top chemical culprits include formaldehyde, benzene, toluene, acetone, xylene, ethylene glycols, methylene chloride, and perchloroethylene (or “perc” as it’s affectionately called).
The short and long-term health effects from inhaling VOCs include eye and nose irritation, headaches, nausea/vomiting, liver, kidney and central nervous system damage, and even cancer. When indoors, these risks are compounded by the confined space and heightened concentration of pollutants.
This is happening in our homes?
Yes, it’s true. But have hope! There’s much we can do to get down and not-so-dirty to clean up our indoor spaces safely:
- Try opening windows for 5-10 minutes each day to allow fresh air in and stagnant air out. Keep a steady flow of air through your home to prevent potential build-up of off-gassing fumes and other types of air pollution.
- Consider removing shoes at the door to avoid tracking in pesticides, heavy metals and germs.
- When using central air or an AC system, adjust thermostats to a stable temperature to avoid additional off-gassing that occurs at elevated temperatures.
Home ventilation and indoor climate control are important, but removing the sources responsible for off-gassing is a more impactful first step. After all, prevention trumps remediation any day! More inspiring, ridding our homes of toxic off-gassing products can be our own small but mighty personal contribution to combating the global air pollution pandemic. Ah, the sweet smell of triumph…
Need some more inspiration to tackle your own home detox?
Here’s what I’m spritzing, scooping and savoring this Spring Cleaning season:
- HAVEN’s botanical All-Purpose Cleaner and Air & Linen Refresh spray
- Molly’s Suds 100% non-toxic All-Natural Laundry Powder
- BuggyLOVE's organic No-Wash Stain Remover and Stroller Cleaning Kit
- Napa Organics' all-natural Peppermint Hand Soap
- FIG+YARROW's sweetly herbaceous Atmosphere Mists
- dōTERRA's invigorating Purify and Citrus Bliss pure essential oil blends for cleaning and odors
- rareEARTH's intoxicatingly aromatic mineral colored Soy Candles and Pure Essential Oil Diffusers
- Climate Impacts ‘Overwhelming’ – UN by Matt McGrath on March 31, 2014 on BBC News Science & Environment
- China Exports Pollution to U.S., Study Finds by Edward Wong on January 20, 2014
- Volatile Organic Compounds in Your Home by Minnesota Department of Health in 2014