We live in a chemical world and most of the harm in our homes today comes from VOCs. These volatile organic carbons consist of thousands of man made carbon-based agents with some known to be direct chemical toxins while others are indirect immune system weakeners or hormone disrupters.
These VOCs can accumulate in certain parts of the body like your lungs
VOCs are found in pesticides, disinfectants and household clearners. The gases can pass through plastic containers, you can absorb them by breathing, ingestion or through absorption via the skin.
Toxins occur in
- Tap water and processed foods
- Home and garden pesticides
- Over the counter medications
- Synthetic fibers and fabrics
- Carpeting and furniture
- Cleaning products
- Beauty products
- Home office products
- Indoor pollutants
Our homes are no longer places of safety but veritable mine fields!
After World War 2, the worldwide production of chemicals was 1 million tones. Today it is 500 million. Many of these chemicals are directly and dangerously toxic whilst others have a number of serious and negative effects. The US Cancer Prevention Coalition has produced research that shows the lifetime safe toxin level is exceeded by the time you reach 18 months old.
VOCs have been placed third after cigarette smoke and radon as indoor carcinogens
They are also found in paints, varnishes, glue for ceiling and carpet tiles, dyes, cleaning products, inks, perfumes, polish removers and more.
A multitude of common symptoms can be related to exposure to household toxins – headaches, depression and even ordinary flu symptoms may not be flu at all but a reaction to those VOCs.
There are even much more serious conditions
One of the reasons for all this toxicity is that we are keeping our homes too clean! Stay-at-home-moms tend to have homes with 40% more toxins than those of working moms. This is because of all those cleaning products with added chemicals and artificial frangrances. I buy a very large container of an all purpose cleaner that is safe on the environment and safe for people and then dilute it to different strengths for the different jobs around the house. But you can also use a range of hypoallergenic cleaning products sold through national retailers in the US and Canada or make an effective window cleaner from vinegar and water or other cleaning products from safe natural products.
I have written 3 earlier blogs that complement this post – “Are artificial fragrances doing it for you?”, “Why are indoor plants so good for you?” and “How healthy is your bed?”
What can we do about all these VOCs and other toxins when the task seems overwhelming?
Probably the best way is to take it step by step or room by room. You can never expect to put everything to rights overnight. It is a lengthy process. But if you are going to be replacing any furniture or fittings or re-decorating your home in any way, that is a good place to start.
Look for ecologically and environmentally friendly paints to use. Change from synthetic carpets to wood or natural tiled floors – carpets hold over a hundred times more dust than wood flooring and research shows lead levels in carpet dust exceed those found in toxic factory sites. If you can’t get rid of your carpets, then use a vacuum cleaner with at least a HEPA filter and vacuum twice a week or more often if possible. Obviously wool carpets are much better than synthetic carpets.
Check out your furniture and fittings as the manufacture of cheaper particle board, plywoods, chipboards and foam uses formaldehyde (the very worst type of class A carcinogen). This toxin is also used as a fixative for some carpets and tiles and to stiffen many fabrics for upholstery and carpets. It causes respiratory and eye problems and there are several research studies linking it to cancers such as lung cancer and leukemia. So wash all new upholstery, curtains etc. before using and even then, ventilate the rooms for a couple of weeks before sleeping there.
If you are buying new bed linen, go for 100% cotton and wash them first. Avoid all no-iron bed linens.
Chemical-free pet care
Our pets sport flea collars or we use pet sprays and pet shampoos on them to prevent pests. While these may kill off the pests, they can also put our pets and ourselves at risk. Look at other options for your pets. There are companies producing organic products minus the insecticides. For a home remedy, feed your cat or dog garlic and brewer’s yeast or rub their fur with clove or eucalyptus oil.
And your garden counts too
Fortunately, many people have stopped using insecticides and other toxic sprays in their gardens. There seems to have been a huge shift to organic or natural products instead for the sake of birds, butterflies and other small creatures as well as ourselves. But you still see massive containers of the deadly Roundup in Home Depot and other centers so the battle is not yet won. I understand that golf courses are particularly guilty of using toxic sprays.
Make the decision to try to live a more natural lifestyle – the health of both you and the others who live in your home can only benefit.