Reduce Your Body’s Chemical Burden: It Starts at Home

Be aware of the studies that clearly demonstrate the buildup of environmental toxins inside the home, and by extension, inside each of us—including those chemicals found in the umbilical cord of NEWBORN BABIES!

Painting the inside of your home? You can use NON-VOC paint to reduce the chemical body burden of VOC exposure to you and your children. See Detoxification: Air and Water.

Have a place for people to remove their shoes upon entering the home. Most homes have significant levels of lead and pesticides that are tracked in from outdoors and can come in through the air leaks of the home construction. Carpeting holds up to a hundred times the amount of dust as bare flooring; the deeper the pile, the harder it is to remove the dust. Dr. David E. Camann of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas, isolated dangerous pesticides and wood preservatives from carpet dust five years or more after these had been sprayed outside homes.

House dust often contains chemical, and is the commonest source of chronic low-level lead exposure for children. Roadside soil is still poisoned with lead deposited by gasoline fumes emitted before the ban on leaded petroleum additives. The soil around houses becomes contaminated with lead during new home construction or home renovations. This lead is tracked into the house, elevating lead levels in air and dust. The lead levels in carpet dust often exceed levels requiring clean-up at Superfund sites. Toxins trapped in home carpets pose a particular hazard to crawling toddlers.

Taking shoes off upon entering the home, wet-mopping of all horizontal surfaces (including window-sills) and regular hand-washing markedly lowers the blood lead concentration of children living in homes with high lead exposure.

Do not smoke inside the home. Exposure to tobacco smoke, whether your own or someone else’s, increases your risk of developing lung cancer, bronchitis and heart attacks and your child’s risk of developing frequent colds, allergies, asthma, and recurrent ear infections.

Learn how to safely grill your meats without exposing your family to a large load of cancer-causing Poly Aromatic Hydrocarbons.

Reduce exposure to Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs):

Check your appliances for their release of different VOCs. Learn that pollutants are liberated by burning natural gas (even though it is touted as the “clean-burning gas”:) Properly vent stoves, fireplaces, water heaters, etc.

Check appliances for other sources of combustion. Stoves, heaters and dryers that burn fuel of any kind may generate carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide. If the appliance is improperly maintained or vented, carbon monoxide poisoning can occur. Chronic low grade exposure may cause subtle deterioration in mental function and hearing loss. Sometimes the first signs of carbon monoxide toxicity in the home are morning headache or dizziness and difficulty concentrating. Information on low-cost carbon monoxide detectors is available from the Consumer Products Safety Commission (800-638-2772).

Nitrogen dioxide is a respiratory tract irritant that can cause sore throat or cough and increase the rate at which allergies develop. It has been shown to increase the spread of cancer in experimental animals. Its main indoor sources are appliances that burn natural gas and kerosene space heaters. Nitrogen dioxide emissions in homes are greatly reduced by venting appliances to the outside and by the electrical ignition of gas stoves rather than the use of a pilot light.

The most dangerous VOCs include dioxins, routinely burned at cement factories and other locations. Rugs and dust often have dioxins. There are dioxins in even some simple home items such as bleached paper towels. Dioxins are liberated when heating plastic containers in the microwave oven.

Other VOCs include the invisible gases which are emitted from paints, adhesives, carpeting, wall coverings, new furniture, building materials, solvents, cleaning solutions, copy machines, and laser printers. Studies using experimental chambers have shown that VOCs can cause irritation of the respiratory system in humans and animals at levels which are one hundred times weaker than the World Health Organization Indoor Air Guidelines. Controlled experiments with people who suffer from Sick Building Syndrome confirm that VOC exposure can also cause headache, fatigue and difficulty concentrating. Dozens of VOCs have been identified in residential air. Some of the VOCs found in indoor air, such as benzene derivatives, may promote cancer in humans. Concern over the safety of cleaning solutions and VOCs has created a demand for less toxic alternatives. Good dust control will lower VOC levels, because dust particles absorb VOCs and increase their concentration in the air

Reduce formaldehyde levels. Because of the extensive use of building materials and furnishings which release it, formaldehyde exposure is almost inescapable in modern indoor environments. The greatest levels are given off by the glue which holds together fiberboard, particleboard, and plywood paneling. New houses with particle board sub-flooring and mobile homes are loaded with formaldehyde. Although formaldehyde emission eases with time, high humidity or moisture disintegrates the glue and increases formaldehyde release. Formaldehyde is used to stiffen fabrics of all types, so that new clothing, carpeting and upholstered furniture may off-gas considerable formaldehyde for days or weeks. Other sources of formaldehyde in household air can come from foam insulation, urea-formaldehyde finish coatings on furniture and flooring, fresh latex paint, space heaters, new paper or plastic products of any type, and cosmetics (including nail polish, skin creams, and hair sprays).

Acute exposure to low doses of formaldehyde may cause burning of the eyes, nose and throat, tearing, nausea, dizziness, cough, chest pain and shortness of breath. Chronic exposure has been causally associated with headache, drowsiness, memory loss, menstrual irregularities and two types of human cancer.

Testing for formaldehyde in home air should be done when all doors and windows are closed and heat and humidity are high, to eliminate false negative readings. When the source of formaldehyde cannot be removed (e.g. in mobile homes), surface treatments to seal pressed-wood sources may significantly reduce emissions.

Control Moisture. People who live in housing that is damp or shows visible mildew have a higher rate of sickness than people whose housing is free of dampness or visible mold growth. Testing for mold is EASY: Do not hesitate to obtain mold “plates” if your child suffers from ADHD, allergy, asthma, Tourette’s or other problems.

These problems occur because dampness encourages the growth of mold and of dust mites, microscopic insects that live in dust and secrete enzymes that damage the respiratory lining. Heavy exposure to dust mites and mold in childhood increases the rate at which allergy develops. Exposure to airborne or food-borne mold toxins increases the incidence of cancer. Because high humidity encourages mold and mite growth, you should maintain a relative humidity of 35% to 45% your house. Relative humidity can be measured with an inexpensive meter, available in hardware stores.

Keep fans running: mold does not grow well in moving air.

Humidifiers are dangerous breeding grounds for mold and bacteria. Anti-foulants added to the water in a humidifier are worthless in controlling bacterial growth and themselves pose a health hazard if inhaled. Medical advice to humidify the air for improving respiratory problems has little evidence to support it. Only humidify your home air if you notice a definite improvement in pre-existing respiratory complaints; otherwise the risks outweigh the benefits. If you must use a humidifier, use a cool mist or ultrasonic room unit that is not connected to your central heating system. It will be much easier to clean. Use only distilled water in the reservoir and drain the unit daily, cleaning it with hydrogen peroxide diluted one-to-one with distilled water.

Purify your water. Chlorination of municipal water supplies was first introduced in Jersey City, New Jersey, in 1908. It dramatically reduced the death rate from typhoid fever, a bacterial infection which is spread through drinking water. But chlorination has drawbacks. Chlorine reacts with organic matter dissolved in water to form cancer-promoting substances like the trihalomethanes (THMs), of which the best known is chloroform. Drinking chlorinated water increases the risk of developing cancer of the rectum or the bladder, the risk increasing the more water is drunk. THMs are volatile; they evaporate from water during cooking or when showers are running and contaminate the air in homes. A preventive solution: filter your tap water through activated charcoal, which removes the vast bulk of chlorinated compounds, before you boil it. Shower-head filters that remove chlorine will help to prevent the release of chloroform gas during showers.

Consider an air filter in your home and in your car. Use an air purifier that contains a charcoal filter. Ordinary air purifiers remove dust and pollen but not chemicals.

Be sensitive to the fact that although you may not be sensitive to Electro-Magnetic Frequencies (EMF), your children or friends might be. Dr. Rea, at the EHC-D, has noted countless cases of children suffering a variety of conditions that were diagnosed and cured when it was discovered that they were sleeping next to the high EMF wiring behind a wall, and their bed was moved, removing all of their symptoms. Most individuals find their levels of fatigue, eye strain, headaches, etc are reduced by limiting their time in front of the computer and taking frequent breaks. If it helps, set an alarm to remind you to move away and attend to a different task.

Individuals can become sensitive to air fresheners, fragrances and indoor cleaning products. A study revealing that some air fresheners contain chemicals that may affect hormones and reproductive development spurred Walgreen’s to change air freshening products. The ingredient found in some, by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), was phthalates, which may be pose a particular health risk to babies and young children. Statement from Dr. Gina Solomon, NRDC scientist, regarding Walgreen’s Decision: “Pulling these air fresheners from their shelves is a conscious choice on the part of Walgreen’s to put their customers first and take the lead on product safety. This is a wonderful example of corporate responsibility and also shows how companies and health groups can work together to find solutions.”

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