Breathe Better

26 Dec Breathe Better

3 Easy Steps to Cleaner Indoor Air

 By Maia James, Founder, Gimme the Good Stuff, Inc.

Even if you’re an urban dweller, the air inside your home is likely more polluted than the air outside of it. You may have heard that this indoor air contamination comes from things like wall paint, carpeting, and flame retardant chemicals that leak from upholstered furniture.

It’s true that these are important causes of VOCs (volatile organic compounds, which are basically airborne chemicals implicated in both long- and short-term health effects.) It would be great if you could replace your sofas and mattresses, tear out any carpeting in your home, and repaint all your walls with milk paints, but this kind of massive overhaul is unrealistic for most of us.

Still, the hazards posed by environmental toxins are increasingly obvious, and parents in particular are keenly interested in improving indoor air quality.

Here’s some good news: there are a bunch of things you can do that are easy and inexpensive that will greatly improve the safety of your home. Below is my list of the four changes you can make with the biggest bang for your buck.

  • 1) Sweep less, and choose the right vacuum.

Flame retardant chemicals, heavy metals, and other toxins accumulate in household dust, and when you use a broom, you’re sending some of this dust up into the air rather than truly clearing it from your home.

Instead of sweeping, you can use either a wet mop or a vacuum. When you go with the latter, be sure to choose a HEPA-sealed model, which ensures that the chemicals you suck up stay inside the vacuum.

Annoyingly, some vacuums are actually treated with flame retardant chemicals, but not if you choose one that’s RoHS-certified. Miele is one brand that fits the bill.

2) Clean up your cleaning supplies.
One of the major sources of indoor air pollution comes from the bleach, glass cleaners, and air fresheners most of us use to keep our homes feeling clean. Most cleaning products contain ingredients that are caustic to our respiratory tracts and potentially disrupting to our endocrine systems.
This holds true even for many “baby safe” cleaning and laundry supplies. Hormone-disrupting phthalates, carcinogenic propylene glycol, and a dozen other chemicals make up the “gentle” clean of Dreft, for example.

It can be hard to know which “natural” cleaning products are greenwashed and which are the real deal (and unfortunately you often have to look product-by-product even within one brand), but a few brands that are across-the-board safe are Eco-Me, Better Life, and GreenShield.

  • 3) Purify your air.

There are a variety of ways to deal with the inevitable emissions coming from your existing furnishings, paints, flooring, etc. Depending on how far you want to go to scrub your indoor air, options range from very cheap to fairly expensive. Here are some ideas:

  1. Open the windows more to let in fresher air.
  2. Cover floors with 100% wool rugs, since wool absorbs and traps VOCs.
  3. Add some charcoal air purifiers, which help with odors, allergens, and VOCs, while also dehumidifying the air.
  4. When it’s time to paint, consider ECOS Pure paints and primers, which absorbs formaldehyde and other VOCs.
  5. Fill your space with houseplants, which perform double duty by absorbing airborne toxins and producing clean oxygen. The NASA Clean Air Study identified the top air-filtering plants, and to get the most comprehensive air-filtering effect, opt for a variety of plants from their list.
  6. If your budget allows, go for a top-of-the-line electronic air filter, which will remove everything from dust and pollens to VOCs.

Extra credit: Make smart choices when replacing furnishings.

When it comes time to purchase new furniture, be sure to seek out low-toxin or toxin-free pieces.

First, be sure to choose a mattress and sofa that are free of flame retardant chemicals.

And what about desks, tables, chairs, and bookcases? Most “wooden” furniture actually made of composite wood, which is shavings glued together to resemble a piece of solid wood.

These pieces of furniture may be called plywood, particle board, pressed wood, compressed wood, or medium density fiberboard (MDF). All of these composites contain noxious glues that emit VOCs, the worst of which is formaldehyde (a known carcinogen). Look for furniture that’s 100% solid wood (and be prepared to pay more for it!).

Maia Goss of Gimme the Good Stuff comes to Montclare: Tues, 1/31 @ 9:00AM-10:30AM – Learn More about “clean” green living!  RSVP