In the USA, there is no compulsory "health testing" for new carpets or construction materials so that any chemicals used could be off gassing either temporarily or even permanently – to the detriment of our health. Whether the local climate is too hot or too cold, home owners tend to create more energy-efficient houses that are tightly insulated - to keep out the heat or to protect from the cold – using synthetic building materials as well as artificial fragrances, pesticides, timber preservatives and flame retardant materials. In many cases, these pollutants cannot easily escape, and build up inside our homes.
What steps can you take to make your own home healthier?
Cut down or cut out the chemicals
Remember that our lungs were made to inhale oxygen, not chemicals!
Use only VOC-free paints. These volatile organic compounds are found in building materials, furnishings and carpets too and are thought to contribute to Sick Building Syndrome. The symptoms of this Syndrome are headaches, fatigue and skin irritations. VOCs can destroy brain cells and even cause cancer.
Avoid fitted carpets and underlays because they contain adhesives and chemical finishes as well as harbouring dust mites and other irritants. Change if possible to timber or bamboo flooring.
Stop using artificial fragrances.They are chemical-based so they fill the air that we breathe with chemical emissions. Direct inhalation will do damage internally while contact with eyes can cause irritation. Air fresheners contain isobutene, propane and butane – all toxic to our hearts and nervous system. Benzaldehyde found in perfume and hairspray can irritate throat, eyes, lungs, mouth, skin and cause stomach pains and kidney damage. Products with strong scents or smells also contain those volatile organic compounds (VOCs) mentioned above.
Get into the ventilation habit
Open windows as often as you can – preferably all night in the bedroom. Research has shown that naturally ventilated buildings are so much healthier than air conditioned ones. But it is really common sense too.
If you use dry cleaners for your clothes and other items, don’t be tempted to put them away into your closet immediately. Instead, hang outside for several hours if possible to air. This is because dry cleaners use perchloroethylene to remove stains. It is a known human carcinogen and can cause damage to your nervous system and to your liver. If you take off the plastic cover and hang up your dry cleaned clothes straight into your closet, this chemical is immediately released into your home.
Adopt a shoes off in the house policy. Pesticides from gardens and parks can be walked in and pets are at risk from these too.
Buying brand new furniture? Those chemicals in the finishes are going to offgas straight into your home while fire retardant materialscan bring their own set of problems.. Try to place the furniture in a ventilated area for some time first.
These are especially harmful when you are sleeping so switch off any gadgets in the bedroom whether broadband, cell phones, cordless phones, laptops or tablets. All electronic appliances should be put into another room at night along with their chargers. In addition, avoid smart metersbeing affixed in or close to your home. If you are fortunate enough to be involved in building or renovating a home, you have the perfect opportunity to do the research and make the right decisions for your family and yourself. There are plenty of television programs, articles in magazines and blogs online that show natural techniques and materials to use in your home.
The use of soil as a building material
One Japanese architect – Yasuhiro Yamashita – considers the use of soil to be key to the future of building. He says: “It offers excellent heat and sound insulation, humidity-controlled properties and it is available at reasonable cost everywhere - while being harmless to the environment.”But this is not a new concept - using soil to make walls and homes has been done for thousands of years... What could be more natural?
Jane writes for Healing Natural Oils, a producer and retailer of high-quality, all-natural treatments for a variety of conditions as well as a range of beauty products. Apart from writing about those various conditions, she also covers general health, environmental and other subjects of interest. She has lived in Kenya as well as Cape Town, South Africa and spent time in San Diego, USA. She now lives in Somerset, England with regular visits from her far-flung children and grandchildren. She is a keen gardener and enjoys growing fresh fruit and vegetables with her husband on their joint allotment. As a result, there is something available to use in the kitchen virtually all year round. Her regular posts can be found on our blog.