Is Your Home Harming You?
It was really difficult to keep this list small, especially once one item of potential danger was uncovered, it revealed multiple more. Instead of selling your home along with its contents and moving your family somewhere rural, with no access to man made materials, this list was intended to raise awareness, so that when it comes time to cleaning, redecorating or purchasing new items for your home, you can make an informed decision and opt for less harmful products.
Lifestyle and Air Quality
Our indoor air can be equally as polluted (if not more) than the outside air. There are two types of indoor air pollution: gas pollutants from paints, cookers, old fridges, cleaning products and heaters and; Particle pollutants such as dust, mold, bacteria, smoke and some combustible heating appliances such as stoves. Even central heating and cooling systems can cause pollution in your home (especially if filters are old and unmaintained).
If you don’t have mechanical ventilation that extracts directly to the outside, then it is a must to open windows at home at least twice a day (once in the morning and once in the evening) for short periods of time as a minimum.
Our lifestyle plays a major role in whether our air quality is safe at home. Make sure there is an open window (at all times where possible) in rooms where clothes are drying, food is cooking, boilers igniting, people are bathing, hobby rooms are being used with glues and paints and where fireplaces or other combustible and plug-in heaters are on. The easiest way to tell if the air is polluted during an activity, is to use your nose. If you can smell something, open a window, as all of these toxins can build up in our bodies over time.
Decorating and Carcinogens
Carcinogens cause cancer in our bodies and are often found in more household items than we can imagine. If redecorating, invest in good quality, low or zero VOC (volatile organic compounds) paint. The smell from paint is very harmful and can cause dizziness, nausea and headaches (if not you, think of your children). During the drying process many paints, varnishes and lacquers release VOC’s and contain chemical pigments and fungicides, which are dangerous for our health (lungs especially) as well as the environment (especially the Ozone Layer).
Always check the VOC count on the tin, which should be visible, but where possible, opt for water-based paint and/or eco paint. Some well known, international brands that have low or zero VOC’s (always check the specification first) are Farrow & Ball, Annie Sloane, Littlegreene, AURO, Aglaia and Earthborne.
Furniture, Furnishings, Materials and Toxicity
Some everyday items such as nonstick cookware, artificial fabrics, plastics, sofas, carpets, rugs and surprisingly mattresses can all contain harmful carcinogens or hidden toxins (including odor-free ones). Inhaling toxins from a mattress while you sleep may not be your idea of a rejuvenating rest. Avoid mattresses that are made from Polyurethane foam which can cause respiratory problems and skin irritations. Opt for OMI, SAATVA, Naturalmat, DojoEco and Organic Mattresses (but always do your own research on the specific mattress and how eco or green it actually is).
Synthetic fibers are usually made from plastic derivatives and so whenever they are heated, they emit plastic gas molecules. If your couch and cushions, lounges (and clothes) are made from nylon, PVC, polyester, acrylic etc. you may be breathing harmful toxins, which could be scary as you sit down to relax and take that deep breath.
Somehow, we naively believe that if something is harmful to us, it couldn’t possibly be legal and freely available. Think again. By being aware of the toxins in your environment, you can start eliminating them over time. The easiest way is to always source natural materials, wool, cotton and hemp are the obvious ones and don’t be fooled by an eco or organic badge either.
Want more decorating inspiration? Download my guide here!