A Clean Home is a Green Home
The National Research Council estimates that about 15% of the US population experiences environmental illness and hypersensitivity to toxic materials and chemicals. The National Academy of Sciences expects this to rise to 60% by 2010. When you consider that a quarter of a million new chemical substances are created each year, and that worldwide use of pesticides has exploded from 2.8 million tons in 1972 to 11.4 million tons in 1980 to 46 million tons in 1990, the Academy's estimates don't seem all that farfetched. Research has shown that most people's daily exposures to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and pesticides are far greater indoors than outdoors, even in communities where chemical processing plants are located. Industrial emissions tend to dissipate into the large sky, while the chemicals we bring into our homes and work places become much more concentrated in the closed-in spaces where we spend most of our time.
Some sources of exposure are obvious, like the various household chemicals we have stored in our bathrooms and garages, or the pesticides on the foods we eat. We breathe in other toxic chemicals, such as formaldehyde, from the outgassing at room temperature of all sorts of household materials, including building boards, wood and carpeting adhesives, furniture, synthetic carpets, insulation, and bedding, among others.
Still others we bring into our homes from outside in the form of contaminated dust particles. Indoors, these chemicals often persist much longer than they would outside, where they would be exposed to the elements that help break them down.
One of the most immediate courses of action each of us can take to limit our exposure to toxins is to focus on the indoor spaces where we spend the majority of our time. The following suggestions focus on what we can do at home or at the work place.Keep Dust to a Minimum
Dust is a primary agent for many toxins in the home. Children and infants are especially vulnerable as they go through critical early development. Moreover, they typically ingest five times more dust than adults - 100 milligrams a day - by rolling around on carpets and sticking their fingers and toys in their mouths.
Urban infants typically ingest 110 nanograms of very toxic benzo(a)pyrene - equivalent to smoking three cigarettes daily. House dust also exposes children to cadmium, lead, and other heavy metals, as well as polychlorinated biphenyls and other persistent organic contaminants. What can you do?
* Take your shoes off, and leave them at the door. Using a commercial-grade doormat can reduce the amount of lead in a typical carpet by a factor of six. Some pesticides can persist for decades in carpets, where sunlight and bacteria cannot reach to break them down. Researchers from the University of Southern California found DDT in the carpets of 90 of the 362 Midwestern homes they studied, 20 years after DDT was banned.
* Bare floors are best, rather than wall-to-wall carpets, which trap a lot of dust. Or consider using large area rugs made from natural fibers that don't outgas toxic chemicals or require the use of toxic adhesives.
* If you do use wall-to-wall carpet, tack-strip instead of gluing the carpet.It will be easier to remove and recycle, and there will be no glue to outgas.
* Most vacuums only remove larger dust particles, while kicking up the finer particles. Open doors and windows when you vacuum, and send children and pets out of the room.
* Avoid indoor pesticides. Even when used as directed, these chemicals can circulate in dust particles well beyond safe levels for weeks after application. Improve Ventilation
* House plants in every room absorb many of the toxic gases that a modern home traps inside. Spider plants, philodendron, and golden pothos have been shown by NASA research to absorb as much as 80% of formaldehyde in a room in 24 hours.
* Improve the ventilation of your kitchen, bathrooms with showers, and your laundry room. Most people's highest daily exposures to chloroform (a carcinogen in animals) is from water vapor from hot showers, boiling water, and washing machines.
* Ionizing air filters can remove particles as small as 0.1 microns, but the cheaper models tend to emit ozone and electromagnetic fields.
* Ban smoking indoors. Our biggest exposure to the carcinogen benzene, a VOC, comes from indoor cigarette smoke, despite the fact that automobile exhaust constitutes 82% of benzene emissions. Clean and Green
Most household cleaning can be done with a squirt bottle of 50/50 vinegar and water, or with some liquid soap and baking soda, writes Debra Lynn Dadd in her book, Home Safe Home. Here are some other ideas:
* Use baking soda and hot water for basin, tub, and tile cleaners.
* For drain cleaners, use baking soda and vinegar or trisodium phosphate (TSP) with salt; or use hydrogen peroxide and a plunger for serious clogs.
* For hand dish washing, use a plain liquid soap, such as Dr. Bronner's, or rub your sponge with bar soap, and slice a fresh lemon in the dishwater. For automatic dishwashers, use equal parts baking soda and borax.
* Use about a cup of baking soda, white vinegar, or borax for laundry detergent.
* Use sodium hexametaphosphate instead of chlorine bleach. (~) More Great Products At http://www.GreenHome.comPositive Futures Network P.O. Box 10818, Bainbridge Island, WA. Reprinted with permission.