Mold: The Common Toxin That Can Be FAR More Damaging Than Pesticides and Heavy Metals

Story at-a-glance

  • Mold in your home, school, or workplace is a serious concern for your health, since up to 40 percent of American schools and 25 percent of homes have mold infestations.
  • Mycotoxins, or the toxins some molds produce, can cross into your brain from your nose and eyes. Some of the more neurotoxic molds can cause central nervous system effects, such as cognitive and behavioral changes, ataxia, and convulsions.
  • Two of the better-known toxic molds include Stachybotrys chartarum ("black mold"), which can cause everything from headaches to cancer, and Aspergillus, which can cause severe lung infections, or progress to whole-body infections.
  • Mold is particularly dangerous for infants and children. There is evidence that some cases of SIDS may be related to toxic mold exposure.

By Dr. Mercola

Mold in your home, school, or workplace can pose a number of serious health problems that you may not realize are related to mold exposure. This article is part of a series of articles I wrote about this silent health threat. The focus of this particular article will be on some of the more serious medical conditions—some deadly—with which mold has been associated.

For more information, check out this article on the overview of mold – where you might find it, how to identify it, and how to get rid of it.

In a previous interview with mold expert Dr. Jack Thrasher, he estimated that as many as 40 percent of American schools and 25 percent of homes have mold infestations, unbeknownst to the people occupying those buildings. It follows that adverse health effects of mold may be reaching pandemic levels.

Growing right along with mold are what are called "gram negative" and "gram positive" bacteria.1 Just like mold, they require moisture and organic material to thrive and are often found growing in the same places as mold, and the synergistic action between mold and bacteria further worsen inflammatory health conditions. Oftentimes, bacterial infections occur alongside fungal infections and make treatment more complicated.

Everyone is potentially at risk for toxic mold exposure, regardless of your geographic region, climate, socioeconomic status, race, age, or gender. As with most other medical challenges, knowledge is your most powerful weapon.

Scientific research has been emerging that connects mold exposure with various health conditions for which the causes were previously unknown. For example, in 2010, Fisk et al published a meta-analysis2 showing a substantially significant association between residential dampness and mold with respiratory infections and bronchitis. Dr. Michael Gray has compiled a database of conditions reported in the literature of adverse health effects of fungi in man and other species. These include, but are not limited to, the following conditions—some common and some relatively esoteric:

Alimentary toxic aleukia (a lack of leukocytes arising from food poisoning) Dendrodochiotoxicosis (alimentary mycotoxicosis caused by Dendrodochium toxicum fungus)
Kashin-Beck disease (an bone and joint disease)
Usov's disease
Stachybotryo toxicosis
Cardiac beriberi
Ergotism (the effect of long-term poisoning by ergot fungus)
Balkan nephropathy (a form of kidney disorder)
Reye's syndrome (condition that causes swelling of your brain and liver)
Hepatocellular carcinoma (liver cancer)
Onyalai (a rare form of thrombocytopenia; abnormally low platelet count) 

Mold CAN Hurt You

Many common health problems may be associated with mold exposure, but very few people have connected the dots. This is why it is SO important for you to be aware of the seriousness of this problem and become familiar with what to look for.

From a toxicity point of view, some mycotoxins (toxic substances produced by mold) are actually far more toxic than heavy metals, in terms of concentration. Mycotoxins also tend to affect more biological systems in your body than do pesticides or heavy metals, partly because fungi have the ability to dodge your immune system by rapidly mutating, while at the same time producing chemicals that suppress your immune system.

If your immune system is stressed in any way, or if you are extremely sensitive and have allergy-like reactions to a variety of agents (see Multiple Chemical Sensitivity syndrome or MCS), then you may be even MORE sensitive to mold than the average person and have chronic symptoms directly related to mold in your environment. But even if you are generally healthy, mold can still pose a significant risk if you are caught off-guard.

Deadly Mycotoxins Can Cross Into Your Brain from Your Nose and Eyes

Mycotoxins3 are chemical toxins present within or on the surface of the mold spore, which you then unwittingly inhale, ingest, or touch. These mold toxins are extremely potent and often affect nearly every organ system in your body. Some effects resemble radiation sickness. Some are neurotoxic and produce central nervous system effects, including cognitive and behavioral changes, ataxia, and convulsions. Approximately 70 percent of the people with confirmed exposure to toxigenic molds exhibit significant neurotoxicity.4

Scientists believe that mycotoxins are the organism's way of holding a competitive edge by defeating other organisms that are trying to thrive in the same environment—like humans, for example.

One of the reasons mycotoxins are so toxic is they can cross directly into your brain. According to Dr. Thrasher, your olfactory neurons are in direct communication with your brain—there is no barrier. Anything you have inhaled or smelled, even if it doesn't have an odor, can go directly into your brain via these olfactory neurons. Mycotoxins have even been found to enter your brain via optic muscles and optic nerves. This lack of a blood-brain barrier has been confirmed in scientific studies.5

This creates the potential for mold-induced sinusitis to lead to serious brain complications if left untreated.

More than 200 mycotoxins have been identified from common molds. Mycotoxins interfere with RNA synthesis and may cause DNA damage.6 Mycotoxins, even in minute quantities, are lipid-soluble and readily absorbed by your intestinal lining, airways, and skin. Even spores that are no longer able to reproduce can still harm your health due to these mycotoxins—in other words, "dead" mold spores are every bit as dangerous as "live" ones. The spores do not produce the toxins—rather, it is thought that the toxins are produced when the spores are produced by the mold colony.

The mycotoxins that have probably received the most attention by researchers are the trichothecenes, produced by  Stachybotyrs chartarum and Aspergillus versicolor, two of the molds I'd like to discuss due to their especially toxic effects.

Stachybotrys Chartarum: The Dreaded 'Black Mold'

Stachybotrys chartarum (SC)7 is a greenish black mold that grows on material with high cellulose content, such as wood, straw, hay, wicker, cardboard, fiberboard, etc., particularly when these materials become water-damaged. It needs a good deal of dampness to flourish. According to Mold-Help.org,8 the toxic effects of Stachybotrys chartarum were first reported in the 1920s in Russia when horses and cattle that had eaten moldy hay began dying. The "Yellow Rain" attacks in Southeast Asia in the 1970s were associated with aerosolized trichothecenes, the type of mycotoxin produced by this highly toxic type of mold.

SC is typically dark in color and wet and slimy to the touch. It can also appear grayish or sooty, with a powdery appearance.

However, it's important to remember that molds cannot be identified visually—many molds are similar in appearance.

CladosporiumAspergillusAlternaria, and Drechslera, can be mistaken for Stachybotrys. The only definitive way to identify a species is by examination of the spores under a microscope, which is why professional testing is so important.

According to Mold-Help.org:9

"Most people are not aware that harmful molds come in a variety of colors—they can be white, or orange, or blue, for instance. The color of a mold generally has to do with the spores it produces, and has no bearing on whether it is dangerous or not. There are some white molds that grow on walls and other surfaces that can be just as bad as the harmful black molds."

Mycotoxin poisoning by Stachybotrys is referred to as stachybotryotoxicosis. In animal studies, trichothecenes are 40 times more toxic when inhaled than when ingested orally. But even if SC is present in your environment, you may not be at risk because it may not be currently releasing toxins.

Again, according to Mold-Help.org:10

"Laboratory studies indicate that molds such as Stachybotrys that have the ability to produce toxins do not always do so. Whether a mold produces a toxin while growing in a building may depend on what the mold is growing on, conditions such as temperature, food, pH, humidity or other unknown factors. When mycotoxins are present, they occur on spores and the small mold fragments that may be released into the air."

The spores from SC can survive temperatures up to 500 degrees F, as well as surviving caustic agents like bleach and acid. According to Dr. Michael Gray, spores from molds removed from two million year-old sedimentary rocks have grown when placed in a favorable media!

When these mycotoxins are present, they can suppress and even destroy your immune system, including your lymphoid tissue and bone marrow. Animals injected with SC toxins experience hemorrhaging from their brains and other organs, including their thymus, spleen, lungs, intestine, liver, and kidney. Humans with chronic exposure to SC mycotoxins have reported the following health problems:

Cold and flu symptomsRespiratory problems, such as asthma and nose bleedingMemory lossMuscle aches

Sore throatHeadachesDermatitis and rashesFatigue and generalized malaise

Hair lossCancerPulmonary hemorrhage, emphysema-like diseaseAutoimmune disease

Could SIDS Be Caused by Mold Toxicity?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) warns that the toxic effects from mold, such as Stachybotrys, may cause severe health problems in infants, including acute vomiting, diarrhea, asthma attacks, and even pulmonary hemorrhaging in severe cases. But it may be far worse than that.

Long-term exposure can lead to death.11 According to a public health report in 1994 in Cleveland, Ohio, eight infants were repeatedly exposed to potent mold toxins. One infant died from pulmonary hemorrhage. Five of the eight infants suffered recurring illness once they returned home from the hospital, after treatment. According to the AAP12, some American infant fatalities classified as "SIDS" (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) may actually be related to mold exposure.

According to Vicki Lankarge, author of What Every Homeowner Needs to Know About Mold (And What to Do About It), there have been 45 reported cases of infant mold exposure since the 1994 incident in Ohio. And sixteen of these infants died. If your infant inhales these mycotoxins, the blood vessels in his lungs are weakened. If this exposure goes on long enough, it can result in severe pulmonary hemorrhaging and death.13 Exposure to mold has also been linked to croup, pneumonia, and bronchitis in infants.

Aspergillosis: Mold That Can Take Up Residence in Your Lungs

Aspergilli are some of the most common environmental molds, frequently found in decaying plant matter, such as compost heaps. Inside, it's found in air conditioning and heating ducts, insulation, and even on some food and spices. Most strains of this common mold are not dangerous, but a few can cause serious illness when their spores are inhaled by people who have weakened immune systems, as is the case with asthma or underlying lung disease. Or, healthier individuals can be at risk from long-term exposure to mold quietly growing in water-damaged buildings.

Infections caused by Aspergillus are called aspergillosis,14 which is actually a group of illnesses ranging from mild to severe lung infections, or even whole-body infections. The most serious type of aspergillosis is invasive aspergillosis, which is when the mold invades your blood vessels and the spreads to the rest of your body.

Aspergillus allergy can result in fever, productive cough, and worsening asthma.

With aspergillosis, you can actually grow a "fungal ball" in your lungs, a tangled ball of fungal fiber called aspergilloma. Aspergilloma can lead to coughing up blood (hemoptysis), wheezing, shortness of breath, fatigue, and weight loss. According to the Mayo Clinic,15 if this type of fungal infection becomes very severe, it can spread to your brain, heart, kidneys, or skin. You can also develop pneumonia. Invasive aspergillosis can cause:

Fever and chillsHemoptysis (coughing up blood)Pulmonary hemorrhageShortness of breath

Chest or joint painNosebleedsFacial swelling on one sideSkin lesions

Exposure to one known variety of Aspergillus (A. niger) can damage your hearing. Severe Aspergillus infections are generally treated with aggressive intravenous antifungal medications, and even surgery in some cases. You can obtain more information about aspergillosis here.

Other Diseases Surprisingly Linked to Mold Exposure

Dangerous molds have now been linked to a number of different diseases16 that are prevalent today, including learning disabilities, gastrointestinal disturbances and GERD, heart problems, cancer, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, and several autoimmune diseases. Kurt and Lee Ann Billings wrote the book Mold: The War Within17 after extensive personal bouts with toxic mold exposure, writing extensively about their experience and recovery. They describe ongoing problems with thyroid regulation, in terms of both excess and deficiency, among a multitude of other health problems.

The truth is, when your immune system is impaired, almost anything can happen in terms of negative health effects. This makes identifying the cause a real challenge, and when mold is hidden, it is extremely easy to miss the link between toxic mold exposure and a persisting health problem. This makes it that much more important to find a healthcare provider who can perform a smart, comprehensive evaluation if you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of having an unexplained medical condition.

Diagnostic Challenges Require Uncommon Expertise

In their book, the Kurt and Lee Ann Billings interview a number of specialists who treat mold reactions. One of these specialists is Michael R. Gray, M.D., M.P.H., C.I.M.E.,18 Board Certified in Preventative Medicine and Occupational Medicine. In a 2007 interview with Dr. Gray (Billings book, page 160), Dr. Gray explained that although white counts elevate with bacterial infections, they do NOT generally elevate with fungal infections. This is a key piece of data that can help your physician tease out the cause of your infection.

Additionally, fungal infections will cause an increase in eosinophils (a type of blood cell associated with allergies and parasites) in the area of the infection, such as in your nasal mucosa. This phenomenon was confirmed by a study from the Mayo Clinic, according to Billings.

Knowledge like this is NOT something the ordinary healthcare practitioner holds. So it is necessary for you to be as knowledgeable as possible, in addition to finding a physician who has a good deal of training and experience in environmental medicine. Some of the tests that may be needed in a comprehensive workup include:

Metabolic panel, including electrolytes, blood sugar, kidney and liver statusMeasurement of serum antibodies to molds and mycotoxinsImmune tests for autoantibodies, complement, gamma globulins, and lymphocyte panels

Urine and blood testing for mycotoxinsPulmonary function testsPupillometry and heart rate variation to assist in the evaluation of autonomic nervous system function

Neuropsychological test batteriesEEGBrain imaging techniques, such as SPECT and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

Visual contrast sensitivity testsHearing testsThyroid hormone level

Need Help Finding a Physician?

Dr. Thrasher has compiled a list of physicians who are well versed in treating people for mold exposure, which you can access here. In my interview with him, he specifically mentioned the following three physicians:

  1. Michael R. Gray, MD in Benson, Arizona
  2. Ritchie Schoemaker, MD in Maryland, author of Surviving Mold19 (not listed on Dr. Thrasher's webpage)
  3. Janette Hope, MD in Santa Barbara, California

Please watch for the next article in my mold series, where I'll be discussing the best course of treatment for mold-induced illnesses.

Remediation Steps for Mold Problems

Now, if you have mold in your home, you'll want to call in a professional, because there's no telling how bad the problem might be. The visible portion may just be the tip of the iceberg. Standard mold remediation includes:

1. Setting up containments and sucking the air out with negative air pressure. (This is similar to turning on your bathroom vent fan.)

2. Next, they clear the air using a HEPA filtered air purifier or scrubber. The air must be cleaned because once they start working on the mold, the spores will begin to fly everywhere like light dust.

3. Wearing protective gear, such as HEPA filtered respirators, goggles, protective suits, and latex gloves, the remediator begins taking the affected area apart. Removed parts, such as drywall, are slowly and carefully placed into a bag.

4. Once the affected pieces are bagged, every inch of the area is carefully HEPA vacuumed again.

5. Once the source of the mold has been located, it's carefully removed using hot soapy water, scrub brush, HEPA filtered sanders, chisels, or any other tool that will remove the mold.

6. Professional remediators will typically treat the area with a disinfectant, as bacteria accompany mold growth.

7. Next, the area is force dried. Once thoroughly dry, repairs can be made.

You can find contractor or professional listings on the following sites. Both the IICRC and NORMI are certifying organizations for mold remediation, but the IICRC certification is perhaps the most widely used:

  • IICRC (Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification)
  • NORMI (National Organization of Remediators and Mold Inspectors) 
  • ACAC (American Council for Accredited Certification)—a certifying body that is third-party accredited.
  • The IAQA (Indoor Air Quality Association)—a membership organization with no certification program (the ACAC handles this by agreement)
  • RIA (Restoration Industry Association)

Keep in mind that a mere certification or listing may not be enough. Also evaluate the remediator's qualifications and insurance (liability as well as workman's comp). With the ACAC, there are a few different levels.

Post Mold Remediation Air Purification Strategies

Once you've remediated the mold, or if you don't have any to begin with, you may want to consider addressing the air quality.

Ozone generators effectively remove odors, even some of the most persistent ones, including combusted materials (fire), organic odors, and skunk. They should not be used when you're in the room at levels higher than the EPA recommends, however, and they pose a danger to both plants and pets. But the ozone dissipates quickly, so after airing the area out for about 20 minutes, it's safe to return, and there is no residue. It is important to understand that air purifiers incorporating ozone use an active process and do not physically capture any indoor air pollutants.

Rather they generate a safe dose of ozone that will oxidize and permanently remove the pollutants just the way they do outdoors in Mother Nature.

When it comes to air purification units for your home, the EPA has established clear ozone limits for occupied spaces… and that's 0.05 ppm. And this establishment by the EPA seems to make a great deal of sense since typical levels outdoors are present at 0.05 ppm and are still considered safe. So there is no reason to be fearful of ozone. I personally run two of these units in my home constantly to keep the air clean of pollutants, mold spores and any occasional odors that migrate into the home.

Another useful tool in the remediation process is the photocatalytic oxidizer, an active air purifier that employs UV light on titanium dioxide. I personally like these and highly recommend them because they cover the whole house (up to 3,000 square feet), require little maintenance, and are relatively inexpensive.

Always remember however, you must remove any mold FIRST, before you consider purifying the air of any lingering odors.

SOURCE : Dr. Mercola - Mold: The Common Toxin That Can Be FAR More Damaging Than Pesticides and Heavy Metalshttps://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/09/03/molds-making-you-ill.aspx

 

Documentary Reveals the Hazards of Toxic Mold and Mold-Related Illness

Story at-a-glance

  • Featured documentary discusses the nature of mold toxicity, why it’s so dangerous, and what it takes to recover your health
  • About 25 percent of Americans are genetically predisposed to experiencing severe illness from toxic mold exposure
  • Since the 1970s, industry has inadvertently created “super-molds” through the widespread use of synthetic chemical fungicides, such as Benomyl

By Dr. Mercola

"Probably every doctor in the United States is treating mold illness — they just don't realize it."

Mold illness may be the most prominent health problem physicians are missing today — a "hidden" pandemic that's sweeping the nation.

Millions are suffering from mysterious illnesses for which they've received essentially no help from physicians. Some are referred to psychologists after being told their illness is "imagined," while others are accused of fabrication.

Because mold toxins are so unique and their effects are so broad, symptoms of mold toxicity are complex and varied, making it difficult for physicians to arrive at the correct diagnosis.

Unable to identify the cause of their illness, sick people become much sicker over time. Marriages are devastated, livelihoods are lost, and many reach such levels of despair that they end up committing suicide.

The featured documentary, "Moldy," explores the subject of mold toxicity through the stories of people who've battled this illness and won, as well as interviews with a number of top experts in the field.

The film sheds light on the symptoms of mold toxicity, why it's so dangerous, and most importantly, how you can recover your health.

Modern Industry Has Created Dangerous 'Super-Molds'

Mold spores are ever-present in the air. Under optimal conditions, these naturally occurring and very resilient spores can take root in your home or workplace, or in your food. Molds make toxins (mycotoxins) that can change how you feel, how you think, and even how long you live.

In my 2011 interview with Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker  (embedded below), he stated that mold toxins are even more toxic than pesticides and heavy metals and affect a greater number of body systems.

Since the 1970s, the molds in our environment have become much more aggressive due to the widespread use of a fungicide called Benomyl,1,2 through a process similar to the creation of superbugs by overuse of antibiotics.

In the agriculture industry, Benomyl killed nearly all of the fungi on crops such as strawberries and wheat, but the few surviving fungi happened to be highly toxic molds — which are now flourishing in our environment.

In the 1970s, Benomyl was also added to paints to stop the growth of mold on damp walls, especially in public buildings such as offices and schools.

Just as with food crops, a few types of dangerous mold were selectively allowed to grow unchecked, so we're exposed to more of these dangerous fungi now than at any other time in history, as a direct result of these chemical fungicides.

In the US, 45 million people live and work in moldy buildings, and approximately half of all US buildings have water damage, which greatly increases the likelihood of hidden toxic mold.

NOT Wanted — Dead or Alive

Dead mold is just as bad as live mold. When mold dies, the cells' walls desiccate and break apart into little fragments. The fragments carry the toxins upon them, and when inhaled, they're absorbed into your body.

Many mistakenly believe that simply moving out of a contaminated building will solve the problem, but the toxins adhere to your belongings. If you move with everything you have, you can take the problem with you.

The toxins make their way into everything — books, clothing, bedding, furniture, you name it — and many times, personal belongings keep individuals ill.

If you have a mold-related illness, the optimal action is, unfortunately, to dispose of everything you own. Some experts say to leave and take nothing with you but your driver's license.

Mold Is Toxic to Every Organ in Your Body

Download Interview Transcript

Mold affects everyone, regardless of age, ethnicity, or overall health and fitness level. Surprisingly, you are as much at risk for mold in dry climates as wet climates. The mold growing in desert regions can be even more tenacious, since it's had to adapt to the drier air.

It turns out that 25 to 28 percent of people are genetic "canaries in the coal mine" for experiencing severe mold reactions — and in the US that amounts to about 75 million canaries.

Anyone can have problems from a water-damaged building, but if you're mold-sensitive, it's more likely that exposure can trigger a debilitating illness. Symptoms are wide ranging, from autoimmune and inflammatory issues to neurocognitive problems.

People have experienced fatigue, migraines, muscle cramps, numbness and tingling, cardiac arrhythmias, and insomnia. The list of symptoms is almost endless because the toxins can settle into so many parts of your body.

Weight gain is very common. A few experience "unexplained" weight loss, but most have rapid unexplained weight gain that doesn't stop until they receive proper treatment.

There are numerous mental and neurological effects associated with mold toxicity, including brain fog, cognitive dysfunction, and mood disturbances. It's not uncommon for people to have short-term and long-term memory loss, confusion, depression, and panic attacks. Children can experience drops in IQ.

Brain imaging reveals that mycotoxins can actually damage your brain — in particular, your amygdala. This can result in experiencing mood swings or rage for no apparent reason. Those with mold toxicity often describe their emotions as "out of control." According to mycotoxin expert Dr. Harriet Ammann, indoor molds can damage the systems of your body in the following ways:3

Vascular: blood vessel fragility, hemorrhage from tissues or lungsDigestive: diarrhea, vomiting, hemorrhage, liver damage, fibrosis, and necrosis

Respiratory: trouble breathing, bleeding from lungs, and sinus infectionsNeurological: tremors, loss of coordination, headaches, depression and anxiety, and multiple sclerosis

Skin: rashes, burning, sloughing, and photosensitivityUrinary: kidney toxicity

Reproductive: infertility, changes in reproductive cyclesImmune: Immunosuppression

Mold Illness Is Real

The good news is, once you realize you've been poisoned by toxic mold, with proper support your brain and body can recover. But in order to do so, it's important to find a "mold literate" physician to guide you in every aspect of your care. Recovering from mold-induced illness requires an integrative approach under the guidance of a knowledgeable healthcare practitioner. Most primary care practitioners aren't trained to treat mold poisoning and don't even take a mold history. Unexplained symptoms are usually dismissed or attributed to other problems, such as psychological issues.

Those who DO believe in mold toxicity typically limit their approach to the prescribing of steroids and dangerous antifungal medications, many of which are toxic to your liver. Recovering from mold toxicity requires removing the source or sources of exposure, then starving the fungi out of your body with an antifungal diet and avoiding foods that may be contaminated with mold. Make sure your vitamin D levels are optimized, as vitamin D has been shown to be effective against mold allergies.

Top 10 Foods to Avoid If You Have Mold Sensitivity

People with environmental mold sensitivities are typically sensitive to mold in food as well. Along with a menagerie of chemicals, pollutants, and pathogens, mold further adds to your body's toxic burden and can overwhelm your detoxification and immune systems. Even miniscule exposures can trigger major reactions once you're sensitized — as well as triggering a relapse once you've recovered.

So, it's important that you take steps to make your environment as mold-free as humanly possible, including your foods. Some foods are more susceptible to mold contamination than others. Below are the top 10 mycotoxic foods, as outlined in the book Mold: The War Within by Kurt and Lee Ann Billings. As you can see, many of top offenders are grains. For more on the Billings' recovery plan, refer to our prior article covering natural treatments for mold toxicity.

1.  Alcoholic beverages: Alcohol is the mycotoxin of Saccharomyces yeast (brewer's yeast), and often contains other mycotoxins from mold-containing fruits and grains2.  Wheat and all wheat products

3.  Rye4.  Peanuts: Often contaminated with dozens of mold types, one of which is cancer-causing aflatoxin

5.  Cottonseed and cottonseed oil6.  Corn: Universally contaminated with a variety of fungal toxins

7.  Barley8.  Sorghum: Used in a variety of grain products and alcoholic beverages

9.  Sugar from sugar cane and sugar beets10.  Hard cheeses

What's Involved in Mold Remediation?

Whether you stay in a contaminated house or leave, remediation will be necessary, and I would suggest hiring a professional mold remediator. In the case of flooding, step number one is to pump out any standing water and remove all personal belongings, which also need to be carefully cleaned and dried if you're going to try to salvage them. As stated earlier, it's optimal to discard all personal belongings and start over, if possible. Standard mold remediation involves the following steps:

1.  Setting up containments and sucking the air out with negative air pressure. (This is similar to turning on your bathroom vent fan.)2.  Next, they clear the air using a HEPA filtered air purifier or scrubber. The air must be cleaned because once they start working on the mold, the spores will begin to fly everywhere like light dust.

3.  Wearing protective gear, such as HEPA filtered respirators, goggles, protective suits, and latex gloves, the remediator begins taking the affected area apart. Removed parts, such as drywall, are slowly and carefully placed into a bag.4.  Once the affected pieces are bagged, every inch of the area is carefully HEPA vacuumed again.

5.  Once the source of the mold has been located, it's carefully removed using hot soapy water, scrub brush, HEPA filtered sanders, chisels, or any other tool that will remove the mold.6.  Professional remediators will typically treat the area with a disinfectant, as bacteria accompany mold growth.

7.  Next, the area is force dried. Once thoroughly dry, repairs can be made. 

How to Choose a Professional Remediator

Take great care in hiring a mold remediator and make sure he or she is certified. You will find contractor or professional listings on the following websites. Both the IICRC and NORMI are certifying organizations for mold remediation, but the IICRC certification may be the most widely used. Keep in mind that a mere certification may not be enough — also evaluate the remediator's qualifications and insurance (liability as well as workers' compensation). With the ACAC, there are a few different levels.

  • IICRC (Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification)
  • ACAC (American Council for Accredited Certification)—a certifying body that is third-party accredited.
  • The IAQA (Indoor Air Quality Association)—a membership organization with no certification program (the ACAC handles this by agreement)
  • RIA (Restoration Industry Association)
  • NORMI (National Organization of Remediators and Mold Inspectors)

Improving Your Indoor Air Quality

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), poor indoor air quality is one of the top five greatest environmental risks to public health. Amazing as it sounds, indoor air can be five to 10 times more polluted than outdoor air. This is due to inadequate ventilation, so contaminants build up and stagnant air is re-circulated. Long-term exposure to air pollution particulates has been associated with faster cognitive decline in older adults.

One of the best things you can do to improve your air quality is add a high-quality air purifier. My recommendations for air purifiers have evolved over the years, along with changing technologies and newly emerging research. At present, after much careful review and study, I believe air purifiers using Photo Catalytic Oxidation (PCO) seem to offer the best technology available. For more tips on improving your air quality, please refer to our earlier article.

More from Leading Mold Experts...

I've interviewed several experts on mold-related illness over the past few years, and five of those are linked below. The most recent was natural health author and actress Suzanne Somers whose latest book, TOX-SICK: From Toxic to Not Sick, includes information about recovering from mold toxicity.

Suzanne and her husband both suffered from mycotoxin exposure. For Suzanne, toxic black mold settled in her intestines, which led to a misdiagnosis of cancer. For her husband, the mold caused symptoms akin to Parkinson's disease. Suzanne is a strong advocate for reducing your body's toxic load, advising her readers, "Stop counting your calories and start counting your chemicals!" Sound advice indeed!

SOURCE : Dr. Mercola - Documentary Reveals the Hazards of Toxic Mold and Mold-Related Illness
https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2015/09/05/mold-toxicity.aspx

Why Almost All Sinus Infections Are Misdiagnosed and Mistreated

Story at-a-glance

  • The vast majority of people suffering from chronic respiratory infections are not aware that their problem is related to mold exposure. And unfortunately, their physicians are also unaware, making appropriate treatment impossible.
  • All molds have the potential to cause ill health, depending on their type, whether or not they produce toxins, how long you are exposed, and your overall health and resistance to infection.
  • In addition to minor or major respiratory problems, molds can also cause a multitude of other problems, including skin rashes, gastrointestinal problems, genitourinary problems, immunosuppression, and hemorrhage.
  • The most common places for indoor mold to take hold are bathrooms and kitchens, behind or under appliances, around windows, in basements, or in any other damp area.
  • In addition to consulting a professional "mold remediator," a high-quality air purifier may help reduce your exposure to mold toxins.

By Dr. Mercola

Mold pollution is a key element of indoor air pollution that few people understand. Mold has been making the headlines more frequently over the last several years, largely as a result of Hurricane Katrina. And this year has brought enormous record-breaking floods in the U.S. not seen in more than a century, including the massive overflow of the Mississippi River, certain to activate serious mold infestations in certain areas of the country.

If you live in one of those water-stricken areas, you could already be "sleeping with the enemy."

Along with obvious places such as shower stalls and damp basements, there can be many hidden sources of mold in your home. Particularly, if you've had plumbing problems or leaks in your roof, mold may grow and release spores from places such as behind drywall, under carpet or carpet padding, or in wood.

But mold can find its way into some rather surprising places. One study found that even Christmas trees can breed mold, quietly releasing millions of spores into the room and causing winter allergies and asthma attacks. The study found that indoor air quality dropped six-fold over the 14 days a Christmas tree typically decorates a room. Millions of mold spores may even be hiding in your pillows.

And, surprisingly, if you live in a dry climate you may be even MORE at risk—mold grows routinely in desert regions, and the desert naturally selects the most tenacious forms.

Mold Can Be Deadly

What many people don't realize is that mold can make you extremely sick, or even kill you. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA),1 all molds have the potential to cause ill health. The type and severity of your symptoms depend, in part, on the types of mold present, the extent of your exposure, your age and general health, and your existing sensitivities or allergies.

At a 2003 environmental medicine symposium in Dallas, studies of more than 1,600 patients suffering health issues related to fungal exposure were presented. These patients experienced major medical problems, including the following:

  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Headache, anxiety, depression, memory loss, and visual disturbances
  • Immune system disturbances and fatigue
  • GI problems
  • Shortness of breath

Yet, medical professionals are sometimes not up to speed on how extensive and devastating mold can be to human health, often missing important biological clues that you're being affected by mold. It is important to be aware of these potential problems because your physician may NOT be, and you need to take the wheel as your own health advocate.

Mold's Favorite Places in Your Home

Fungi grow by releasing reproductive cells (spores) into the air, just as plants reproduce by spreading seeds. The airborne spores are invisible to the naked eye, which is a major reason mold is such a problem. It is not uncommon to find hundreds or even thousands of mold spores per cubic foot of indoor air. Spores are extremely small (1-100 microns)—20 million spores would fit on a postage stamp.

Spores can survive harsh environmental conditions, such as dryness, that do not support normal mold growth. In fact, many spores can lie dormant for decades until favorable conditions allow them to spring back to life.

Molds can be found almost anywhere; they can grow on virtually any substance, provided moisture and oxygen are present. There are molds that can grow on wood, paper, carpet, tile, sheetrock, insulation, leather, fabrics, and foods. Molds survive by digesting whatever substrate they are growing on, which is a real problem when it happens to be your floorboards. There is no way to eliminate all mold and mold spores from your indoor environment; the only way to control indoor mold growth is to control moisture. The most common indoor places for mold to take hold are damp areas, such as:

  • Bathrooms and kitchens, especially under sinks—particularly leaky ones
  • Behind or under appliances that hide slow plumbing leaks (refrigerators, dishwashers, washing machines, etc.)
  • Roof leaks
  • Around windows where condensation collects
  • High humidity areas of your home, such as basements

Often, the first sign of a mold problem is a "musty" odor. You are probably familiar with the smell of mildew—mildew is simply a variety of mold. You could also notice bowed or buckled floorboards, discolored carpet, a new water stain on your wall, or black or white specks—all signs you could be developing a mold problem. But what type of life form is mold?

Types of Fungus Among Us

Mold is a type of fungus, as are mushrooms and yeast. There are between 100,000 and 400,000 types of fungi (estimates vary), and of these, scientists have identified more than 1,000 types of mold growing inside houses across America.2 Molds are classified into three groups according to human responses:

  • Allergenic Molds: These don't usually produce life-threatening effects and are most problematic if you are allergic or asthmatic. The challenge is in figuring out what you are sensitive to. Children are particularly susceptible to mold allergies.
  • Pathogenic Molds: These produce some sort of infection, which is of particular concern if your immune system is suppressed. They can cause hypersensitivity pneumonitis, an acute response resembling bacterial pneumonia. An example is Aspergillus fumigatus, which can grow in the lungs of immune-compromised individuals.
  • Toxigenic Molds (aka "toxic molds"): These dangerous molds produce mycotoxins, which can have serious health effects on almost anyone. Possible reactions include immunosuppression and cancer. Mycotoxins are chemical toxins present within or on the surface of the mold spore, which you then unwittingly inhale, ingest, or touch. An example of this is aflatoxin, one of the most potent carcinogens known to mankind. Aflatoxin grows on peanuts and grains, and on some other foods.

The five most common indoor mold varieties are: 3

  • Alternaria: Commonly found in your nose, mouth, and upper respiratory tract; can cause allergic responses
  • Aspergillus4 Usually found in warm, extremely damp climates, and a common occupant of house dust; produces mycotoxins; can cause lung infections (aspergillosis5)
  • Cladosporium: This very common outdoor fungus can find its way indoors to grow on textiles, wood and other damp, porous materials; triggers hay fever and asthma symptoms
  • Penicillium: Very common species found on wallpaper, decaying fabrics, carpet, and fiberglass duct insulation; known for causing allergies and asthma; some species produce mycotoxins, one being the common antibiotic penicillin
  • Stachybotrys6 Extremely toxic "black mold" that produces mycotoxins that can cause serious breathing difficulties and bleeding of the lungs, among other health problems; thankfully, less common in homes than the other four, but not rare; found on wood or paper (cellulose products), but NOT on concrete, linoleum or tile

Mycotoxins: From Antibiotics to Biological Warfare Agents

Molds produce a number of powerful substances that can affect your health in beneficial or detrimental ways. It should come as no surprise that fungi produce potent biologically active compounds—after all, lysergic acid (the parent compound of LSD) is produced by a mushroom! And penicillin is a mycotoxin produced by the mold Penicillium, better known as an antibiotic.

Some mold compounds are volatile and released directly into the air, known as microbial volatile organic compounds (mVOCs).7 Fragments of the cell walls of molds (glucans) can also be inhaled and cause inflammatory respiratory reactions, including a flu-like illness called Organic Dust Toxic Syndrome (ODTS).

But the most serious danger comes from highly poisonous agents called mycotoxins.

More than 200 mycotoxins have been identified from common molds. Mycotoxins interfere with RNA synthesis and may cause DNA damage.8 The mycotoxins that have probably received the most attention by researchers are the trichothecenes, produced by Stachybotyrs chartarum and Aspergillus versicolor. Mycotoxins, even in minute quantities, are lipid-soluble and readily absorbed by your intestinal lining, airways, and skin. Some are so poisonous that they have been studied and developed as biological warfare agents9 as far back as the 1940s. Aflatoxin and trichothecenes10 are prime examples.

Even spores that are no longer able to reproduce can still harm your health due to these mycotoxins—in other words, "dead" mold spores are every bit as dangerous as "live" ones. The spores do not produce the toxins—rather, it is thought that the toxins are produced when the spores are produced, by the mold colony. Scientists believe that mycotoxins are the organism's way of holding a competitive edge by defeating other organisms that are trying to thrive in the same environment—like humans, for example.

Adverse Health Effects from Mold

A lot of people end up treating the symptoms of mold exposure and never get to the root of the problem. Oftentimes, they don't even make the connection that mold is the cause of their problems… and neither does their physician. According to mycotoxin expert Dr. Harriet Ammann,11 exposure to indoor molds can damage the systems of your body in the following ways:

Vascular: blood vessel fragility, hemorrhage from tissues or lungsDigestive: diarrhea, vomiting, hemorrhage, liver damage, fibrosis, and necrosis

Respiratory: trouble breathing, bleeding from lungsNeurological: tremors, loss of coordination, headaches, depression,12 multiple sclerosis

Skin: rashes, burning, sloughing, photosensitivityUrinary: kidney toxicity

Reproductive: infertility, changes in reproductive cyclesImmune: Immunosuppression

One of the challenges of diagnosing a mold allergy is that reactions are so variable from one person to another. Some people start having memory problems, while others may experience sudden changes in disposition, such as agitation, anger, panic, or depression. Headaches are common but don't affect everyone exposed to mold.

Common symptoms are:

  • Coughing and wheezing
  • Sinus problems and post-nasal drip
  • Itchy rashes
  • Joint pain

If you would like more information about how to recognize a mold reaction and how to read your own body's "silent alarm system," I highly recommend listening to my interview with Dr. Doris Rapp. Dr. Rapp is a mold expert and author of several books, including Our Toxic World: A Wake Up Call.13

What You Don't Know CAN Hurt You: The Billings Story

Kurt and Lee Ann Billings learned the hard way about the damaging health effects of mold—and the level of ignorance about mold's effects by medical professionals. Living in a home in the outer impact zone of Hurricane Katrina, they suffered a progressive array of symptoms for which their physicians had no solution. They later discovered that their illness was due to mold infestation in their home.

What started as tightness and burning in their chests and itchy eyes soon progressed into severely diminished lung capacity that did not resolve, despite moving out of their home. After extensive research and eventually recovering their health, they wrote the book Mold: The War Within14 in hopes of educating a poorly informed and disadvantaged public.

On page 11, they write:

"It appears, based on our experiences and research, that much of the medical community is stuck in a time warp when it comes to fungal illnesses—even in regard to the notably researched and highly publicized condition of fungal-induced sinusitis."

What they are referring to is research done by the Mayo Clinic in the 1990s that strongly suggests NEARLY ALL chronic sinusitis (inflammation of the membranes of your nose and sinus cavities) is caused by fungi, but blamed on bacteria—then mistreated using antibiotics. The findings were published in 1999 in two peer-reviewed journals, Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology and Mayo Clinic Proceedings.15 Yet, the Billings report that most physicians are unaware of this study, or at least of its significance.

A 1999 Mayo Clinic press release stated:16

"Mayo Clinic researchers say they have found the cause of most chronic sinus infections—an immune system response to fungus.

The Mayo Clinic study suggests that 96 percent of the people who suffer from chronic sinusitis are "fungal sensitized," meaning they have immune responses triggered by inhaled fungal organisms.

According to Billings, 37 million people in the U.S. suffer from chronic sinusitis, and its incidence has been increasing over the past decade. Yet, most physicians continue to believe that fungi are an uncommon cause of respiratory infections, accounting for less than 10 percent. Furthermore, in most cases, antibiotics are not effective for chronic sinusitis because they target bacteria, NOT fungi.

Antibiotics and steroids can actually worsen fungal-related infections by destroying your body's natural biological terrain, creating an internal incubation ground for fungi.

This points to an enormous number of chronic sinus infections that are being misdiagnosed and mistreated!

The bottom line in all of this is, if you have chronic sinusitis, you MUST approach it from the perspective of a fungal infection, not a bacterial infection, even if it means having to educate your healthcare provider. A good place to start is by sharing the Mayo Clinic study referenced above. Mold: The War Within17 is also a useful resource for you and your physician (you can read a review by NORMI here,18 the National Organization of Remediators and Mold Inspectors).

What to Do Once You've Established That Mold Is a Problem

Mold spores are very difficult to destroy, even with cleaning agents, such as hot water or bleach (which is itself toxic). The best way to reduce the problem is through smart preventive measures.

According to Dr. Rapp, first and foremost you want to get away from the problematic area—which means move if you have to.

She warns:

"I've seen people try to stay in a moldy house when their child is very sick or they are very sick. They try to clean the place up. They take out the moldy carpet and decide to paint the moldy walls. But they can become so desperately ill that it is very hard to treat them in the future."

If you can't move, there are other remedial steps you need to take to address the problem:

  • Get a high-quality air purifier to control mold toxins. In addition to the mold itself, you need to make sure you get rid of any mold toxins. When a mold breaks down, it disintegrates, and every little particle may contain mycotoxins that have the capability of making you very sick. 

    One option is a photocatalytic oxidation (PCO) unit. I personally like these because they cover the whole house (up to 3000 square feet), require little maintenance, and are relatively inexpensive.

***Please understand that no air filter in the world will take care of mold issues until you have the humidity under control and the mold properly cleaned from your house.

  • Professional remediation. If your mold problem is sizeable, or if you have black mold, you may want to consider hiring a professional remediator. Unless proper precautions are taken, undertaking black mold removal on your own can be almost as hazardous as doing nothing at all,19 because spores will be stirred up and sent airborne during the cleaning process.

    This may not be cheap, but it's better than the alternative. If you catch the problem early, you can save yourself tens of thousands of dollars in extra cleanup costs. (Trust me, as I made this mistake myself and wouldn't want to see anyone else go through it.) Make sure a remediator doesn't use chemicals you're sensitive to—a chemical allergy is the LAST thing you need while you are recovering from a mold poisoning!

Warning! Be Careful How You Chose Your Remediator

There is no question that a high-quality active air purifier can help control mold issues but it will NOT remediate against them. You can use the best air filters and purifiers and they will never solve the problem if you continue to have water intrusion into you home that increases the humidity and feeds the growth of the mold.

You will need to stop the water at its source and carefully remove and clean the mold infested materials. While this may superficially seem an easy task, let me assure you that it isn't.

I recently had a leak in my basement that was improperly remediated for $10K and the cause was not addressed so the problem worsened, which more than tripled the price to properly clean it up. That is part of the reason that prompted me to contact some of the leading experts in this area and learn how to do this properly.

So let me tell you from personal experience, you need to fine a qualified expert and professional that is certified by one of the agencies below. I would also suggest getting several bids for the work.

You can find a contractor or professional listings on the following sites. Both the IICRC and NORMI are certifying organizations for mold remediation, but the IICRC certification is perhaps the most widely used:

  • IICRC (Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification)
  • ACAC (American Council for Accredited Certification)—a certifying body that is third-party accredited.
  • The IAQA (Indoor Air Quality Association)—a membership organization with no certification program (the ACAC handles this by agreement)
  • RIA (Restoration Industry Association)
  • NORMI (National Organization of Remediators and Mold Inspectors)

Keep in mind that a mere certification or listing may not be enough. Also evaluate the remediator's qualifications and insurance (liability as well as workman's comp). With the ACAC, there are a few different levels.

A Great Natural Treatment for Mold Allergy

If you have a mold allergy, there is a little-known treatment strategy that Dr. Rapp describes as "one of the best hidden secrets." It's called provocation neutralization.20

Provocation neutralization (PN) offers allergy sufferers permanent relief with virtually no side effects, whether the allergy is to mold or something else. The success rate for this approach is very high, and you can receive the treatment at home.

Provocation refers to "provoking a change" and neutralization refers to "neutralizing the reaction caused by provocation." During provocation neutralization, a small amount of allergen is injected under your skin to produce a small bump called a "wheal" and then you are monitored for a reaction. If you have a positive reaction, such as fatigue or headache, or a growth in the size of the wheal, then the allergen is neutralized with diluted injections of the same allergen. If you are interested in pursuing PN, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM)21 has a list of physicians who are trained in this technique.

There is also research suggesting vitamin D could prevent mold allergies, so make sure your vitamin D levels are optimal.

SOURCE : DR. Mercola - Why Almost All Sinus Infections Are Misdiagnosed and Mistreatedhttps://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/09/10/fungus-hiding-in-your-house-and-making-you-ill.aspx

The 10 Best Pollution-Busting Houseplants

Over the years there has been quite a bit of debate about whether houseplants really can filter indoor air by removing toxins and particles. NASA tests in a spacecraft packed with plants showed markedly better air, but proving that plants are efficient filters in other situations hasn't been so easy.

But houseplants can't hurt. Not only might they take out some of the air pollution, but some think they may offer some protection against electromagnetic radiation. But which houseplants should you pick?

The New Ecologist made a list of the top 10 anti-pollutant houseplants. They rate the best as:

  1. The Feston Rose plant
  1. Devil’s Ivy
  1. Phalaenopsis
  1. English Ivy
  1. Parlor Ivy
  1. African Violets
  1. Christmas Cactus
  1. Yellow Goddess
  1. Garlic Vine
  1. Peace Lily

 

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

Bringing a bit of nature indoors with houseplants is an excellent idea, both for your physical and emotional health. Living closer to nature can actually help you to live longer, and hospital patients who have a view of nature recover from illness and surgery more quickly than those who don't.

It was NASA, along with the Associated Landscape Contractors of America (ALCA), that conducted the classic study on the benefits of plants on indoor air, and they reported that houseplants were able to remove up to 87 percent of air toxins in 24 hours. They recommended using 15 to 18 "good-sized" houseplants in 6- to 8-inch diameter containers for an 1,800 square-foot house.

NASA at Stennis Space Center has also constructed a BioHome that uses bioregenerative technology with the ultimate goal of providing a life support system for permanent human habitation of space. And inside the structure are common houseplants, which NASA says “serve as living air purifiers” to “absorb chemical pollutants resulting from synthetic materials in the living area.”

If houseplants are capable of cleansing air in the BioHome, imagine what they can do in your home!

Why Should You be Concerned About Your Indoor Air Quality?

NASA has concerns about indoor air quality for obvious reasons, but you and your family also have reason to seek to improve the quality of your home and office air.

Sure, walking into an office building or typical home will probably not make you immediately sick, but over time your body will absorb any number of potentially toxic substances that exist freely in the air. For instance:

  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are toxic gases emitted from paints, cleansers, air fresheners, vinyl floors, carpets, upholstery fabrics, and much more, can cause cancer and damage to your liver, kidney and central nervous system.

VOCs in the indoor air of new buildings have been found to average 20 to 40 mg per m3. Adverse health effects may begin with exposure at just 10 mg per m3.

  • Engineered wood products commonly used to make cabinets, furniture, wall paneling and more emit pollutants such as formaldehyde into your home’s air.

Indoor air can be up to 10 times more polluted than outdoor air, and some other potential toxic vapors that can contaminate it, aside from those listed above, include:

  • Benzene

  • Xylene

  • Toluene

  • Ammonia

While a high-quality air purifier can be used to help reduce toxins in your home and office air, and I highly recommend using one at that, houseplants can act as an extra buffer against air pollutants -- and they have benefits that extend beyond air quality as well!

House Plants are Good for Your Health and Well-Being

It really is amazing how large an impact a few potted plants can have. Here are just some of the benefits that houseplants can bring to your life:

  • A study by researchers from the Agricultural University of Norway found potted plants reduced stress in office workers and lowered the number of sick days taken.

  • Research from TNO Quality of Life found plants in the workplace lessened fatigue and stress, and employees noted a reduction in flu-like symptoms. Employees also reported feeling more productive with plants nearby. As a result of the findings TNO recommends providing one large plant for every two employees!

  • A University of Agriculture in Norway study found indoor plants can reduce fatigue, coughs, sore throats and other cold-related illnesses, partially by increasing humidity levels and decreasing dust.

Adding a few houseplants to your home and office is truly a simple way to bring more natural, aesthetically pleasing and healthy materials into your living space.

If you’d like a few ideas to get you started, How to Grow Fresh Air: 50 House Plants that Purify Your Home or Office is a great reference. Just remember that some houseplants are poisonous, so do your homework before buying -- especially if you have children or pets in your home.

SOURCE : Dr. Mercola - The 10 Best Pollution-Busting Houseplants

Indoor Air Quality: The Invisible Epidemic Causing Headaches, Fatigue and Depression

Story at-a-glance

  • Indoor air quality can be up to five times worse than outdoor air, which can have a very detrimental impact on your health. One study identified a total of 586 different chemical pollutants in the indoor air of 52 homes along the Arizona-Mexico border.
  • Poor indoor air quality can cause or exacerbate a number of common ailments, including asthma, allergies, headaches, memory loss, fatigue and depression. Long-term health effects from exposure to toxic airborne particles include heart disease, respiratory disease, reproductive disorders, sterility and even cancer.
  • Four major sources of indoor air pollution include pressed wood products, carpets, paints, and furnishings treated with flame-retardant chemicals, such as mattresses, upholstery, drapes and curtains.
  • The most effective way to improve your indoor air quality is to control or eliminate as many sources of pollution as you can by using a high-quality air purifier. There are a wide variety of devices on the market, and the technology is constantly being upgraded. At present, air purifiers using Photo Catalytic Oxidation (PCO) seems to be the best technology available.
  • More than 14 additional common-sense strategies are included that can help you improve the air quality in your home or office.

By Dr. Mercola

Most people spend as much as 90 percent of their time indoors. 

But indoor air quality can be up to five times worse than outdoor air, which can have a very detrimental impact on your health.

For example, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), poor indoor air quality can cause or exacerbate:

  • Asthma, allergies, and other respiratory problems
  • Headaches
  • Eye and skin irritations
  • Sore throat, colds and flu
  • Memory loss, dizziness, fatigue and depression

Long-term effects from exposure to toxic airborne particles include heart disease, respiratory disease, reproductive disorders, sterility and even cancer.

Tips for Healthier Indoor Air

In The Daily Green, the American Lung Association offers 25 tips on how to keep the air in your home healthy. 

Here's a small sampling of them:

Don't Allow Smoking Indoors:  Each year, second hand smoke sends up to 15,000 children to the hospital.

There is no safe level of secondhand smoke; never let anyone smoke inside your home.

Don't Idle the Car in the Garage: Carbon monoxide exposure can lead to weakness, nausea, disorientation, unconsciousness and even death. Fumes from cars or lawnmowers left running in enclosed spaces can endanger your health.

Use Low-VOC Paints:  Paints release VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, for months after application. VOCs can include highly toxic chemicals such as formaldehyde and acetaldehyde.  Use low-VOC or no-VOC paints, varnishes, and waxes.

Clean Your Air Conditioner and Dehumidifier:  Standing water and high humidity encourage the growth of dust mites, mold and mildew. All of these can worsen asthma.  Use a dehumidifier or air conditioner when needed, and clean both regularly.

Beware of Dry Cleaning Chemicals:  Dry cleaning solvents can be toxic to breathe. Let dry cleaned items "air out" outdoors before bringing them inside.

Avoid Toxic Household Products: Hair and nail products, cleaning products, and art and hobby supplies can increase the levels of VOCs in your home. Some of the VOCs in these products have been linked to cancer, headaches, eye and throat irritation and worsened asthma.

To see the rest of their tips, please review the featured Daily Green article.

Do You Know What's in the Air You Breathe?

One 2009 study, in which they used gas chromatography and mass spectrometry to examine the air inside 52 ordinary homes near the Arizona-Mexico border, researchers found that indoor air was FAR more contaminated than previously demonstrated. They identified an astounding 586 chemicals, including the pesticides diazinon, chlorpyrifos and DDT.  Phthalates, endocrine-disrupting chemicals found in a variety of plastics, were also found in very high levels. Even more disturbing was the fact that they detected 120 chemicals they couldn't even identify!

For a listing of the most common indoor air pollutants and toxic particles, please see this previous article.

There's little doubt that most indoor areas have poor air quality. The question is, what to do about it? One of my recommendations used to be to move to an area known to have better air quality, as the more heavily polluted your outdoor air is, the worse it's going to be indoors.

I now believe the best thing you can do is to be proactive about cleaning the air inside your home and office, and being mindful about the chemicals you bring into and use inside your home. I also recommend paying close attention to the materials used in the construction and furnishings of your space as many building materials act as a continuous source of toxic air contaminants.

You may not have much individual control over the air outside, but these are some of the factors you DO have control over, which can help you create as health-promoting an environment as possible.

Four Major Sources of Air Contamination You DO have Control Over

Since environmental health is a concern of mine, I wanted to create the healthiest office possible for my staff, so a few years ago we built the "greenest" building we could. So green, in fact, the building received the prestigious Gold LEED certification. In addition to using air purifiers and lots of live plants, we also paid a great deal of attention to the building materials and furnishings that went into the space.

Four of the most common sources of air contamination from building materials and home furnishings include:

1.Pressed wood products—This faux wood is made of wood leftovers combined together. Pressed wood products include paneling, particle board, fiberboard and insulation. The glue that holds the wood particles in place may use urea-formaldehyde as a resin. The U.S. EPA estimates that this is the largest source of formaldehyde emissions indoors.

Formaldehyde exposure can set off watery eyes, burning eyes and throat, difficulty breathing and asthma attacks. Scientists also know that it can cause cancer in animals. The risk is greater with older pressed wood products, since newer ones are better regulated. To limit your exposure:

◦Use "exterior-grade" pressed wood products (lower-emitting because they contain phenol resins, not urea resins).

◦Use air conditioning and dehumidifiers to maintain moderate temperature and reduce humidity levels.

◦Increase ventilation, particularly after bringing new sources of formaldehyde into the home.

◦Ask about the formaldehyde content of pressed wood products, including building materials, cabinetry, and furniture before you purchase them.

◦Use solid wood whenever possible.

2.Chemicals in carpets—Many types of indoor carpeting off-gas VOC's and contain other toxic materials. The glue and dyes used with carpeting are also known to emit VOCs, which can be harmful to your health. Limit or eliminate exposure by carefully selecting non-toxic carpeting, such as those made of wool, or opt for non-toxic flooring like solid wood or bamboo instead.

3.Paint—While paints have gotten a lot less toxic over the past 25 years, most paints still emit harmful vapors, such as VOC's, formaldehyde and benzene, just to name a few. These types of fumes may be harmful to your brain over time, and they're released daily for about 30 days after application. Low levels can continue to leak into the air for as long as a year afterward, so you'll want to make sure you ventilate the area repeatedly.

Another danger is lead-based paint, which can be found in many homes built before 1978. Once the paint begins to peel away, it releases harmful lead particles that can be inhaled. In 1991, the U.S. government declared lead to be the greatest environmental threat to children. Even low concentrations can cause problems with your central nervous system, brain, blood cells and kidneys. It's particularly threatening for fetuses, babies and children, because of potential developmental disorders.

Fortunately, it's getting easier to find high-quality non-toxic paints, also known as "low-VOC" or "no-VOC" paint. Both large paint companies and smaller alternative brands now offer selections of such paints. For a list of distributors and manufacturers, see this link.

4.Mattresses, upholstery, drapes and curtains—These are all common sources of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs); flame retardant chemicals that have been linked to learning and memory problems, lowered sperm counts and poor thyroid functioning in rats and mice. Other animal studies have indicated that PBDEs could be carcinogenic in humans, although that has not yet been confirmed.

Your mattress may be of particular concern, as many contain not only PBDE's, but also toxic antimony, boric acid, and formaldehyde. Shopping for a safe mattress can be tricky, as manufacturers are not required to label or disclose which chemicals their mattresses contain. However, some manufacturers now offer toxin-free mattresses, such as those made of 100% wool, which is naturally fire resistant. There are also mattresses that use a Kevlar, bullet-proof type of material in lieu of chemicals for fire-proofing. These are available in most major mattress stores, and will help you to avoid some of the toxicity.

Create a Healthy Home Plan by selecting healthier renovation and living alternatives.

SOURCE : Dr. Mercola - 

Indoor Air Quality: The Invisible Epidemic Causing Headaches, Fatigue and Depressio
https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/12/26/how-to-purify-the-air-in-your-home.aspx

Basic Steps for Improving the Air Quality in Your Home

  • Increase ventilation by opening a few windows every day for 5 to 10 minutes, preferably on opposite sides of the house.
  • Get some houseplants. Even NASA has found that plants markedly improve the air!
  • Take your shoes off as soon as you enter the house, and leave them by the door to prevent tracking in of toxic particles.
  • Discourage tobacco smoking in or around your home.
  • Switch to non-toxic cleaning products (such as baking soda, hydrogen peroxide and vinegar) and safer personal care products. Avoid aerosols. Look for VOC-free cleaners. Avoid commercial air fresheners and scented candles, which can degass literally thousands of different chemicals into your breathing space.
  • Don't hang dry cleaned clothing in your closet immediately. Hang them outside for a day or two. Better yet, see if there's an eco-friendly dry cleaner in your city that uses some of the newer dry cleaning technologies, such as liquid CO2.
  • Vacuum and shampoo/mop carpets, rugs, and floors regularly. Every time a person walks across the floor, a whirlwind of irritants is stirred up.
  • Upgrade your furnace filters. Today, there are more elaborate filters that trap more of the particulates.
  • Clean Your Air Conditioner and Dehumidifier: Standing water and high humidity encourage the growth of dust mites, mold and mildew. All of these can worsen asthma.  Use a dehumidifier or air conditioner when needed, and clean both regularly.
  • Have your furnace and air conditioning ductwork and chimney cleaned regularly.
  • Avoid storing paints, adhesives, solvents, and other harsh chemicals in your house or in an attached garage.
  • Avoid using nonstick cookware. Ceramic Cookware
  • Ensure your combustion appliances are properly vented.
  • When building or remodeling, opt for safer and more eco-friendly materials. VOC-free paints are becoming easier to find.
  • Opt for sustainable hardwood flooring instead of carpet. Carpet traps a multitude of particles such as pet dander, heavy metals, and all sorts of allergens. If you choose to install carpet, look for one labeled "VOC-free" to avoid toxic outgassing.
  • Make sure your house has proper drainage and its foundation is sealed properly.
  • The same principles apply to ventilation inside your car—especially if your car is new—and chemicals from plastics, solvents, carpet and audio equipment add to the toxic mix in your car's cabin. That "new car smell” can contain up to 35 times the health limit for VOCs, "making its enjoyment akin to glue-sniffing,"

SOURCE : Dr. Mercola - Indoor Air Quality: The Invisible Epidemic Causing Headaches, Fatigue and Depression
https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/12/26/how-to-purify-the-air-in-your-home.aspx

The Best Houseplants for Purifying Indoor Air

I’ve written before about why it’s important to keep the air inside your home clean, and my favorite ways of doing so, which include salt lamps and beeswax candles. Common houseplants are also a great option.

Why Does Indoor Air Need Purifying?

Isn’t it outside air that’s harboring all the toxins? Well, there are plenty of toxins floating around outside thanks to pesticides and herbicides, vehicle fumes, and other industrial pollutants. Unfortunately, you’ll find a plethora of toxins in the air inside your own home as well.

Indoor air quality is affected by:

  • cleaning products, especially laundry detergent and fabric softener, as laundry chemicals are the top indoor pollutant
  • chemical flame retardants in furniture, mattresses, and children’s PJs
  • formaldehyde found in gas stoves, garbage bags, paper towels and tissues, carpet backing, and some fabrics
  • fragrances
  • other toxins carried in on your clothes and shoes from outdoors
  • electromagnetic frequencies (from computers, WiFi, and other electronics)

Houseplants are an effective, simple, and inexpensive way to purify indoor air.

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The Best Houseplants to Purify Indoor Air

I’ve broken down the best houseplants to purify indoor air by their effectiveness, attractiveness, usefulness, and hardiness. This will help you decide which houseplants will best suit your needs.

The Most Effective House Plants

These houseplants are the most effective at removing indoor air toxins and contaminants.

Bamboo Palm
Bamboo palms are effective at removing chemical contaminants from the air like formaldehyde and benzene. They also help to keep the air moist, which is especially helpful during winter months when heaters can produce overly dry indoor air. Bamboo palms have a tropical appearance and, though green instead of the typical tan bamboo color, have the characteristic tall, skinny canes and fanned leaves.

Rubber Plant
The rubber plant is especially effective for removing formaldehyde from indoor air. It’s favored for its ease of growth, as well as its appearance, which features large, rubbery leaves.
The rubber plant can grow up to 8 feet tall in the proper conditions. This large ficus (ficus robusta) is bred for toughness, which means that it’s not only one of the most effective plants for purifying indoor air, but it’s sure to be hardy even in less than ideal conditions.

English Ivy
English ivy is most often seen growing as a covering in atriums and lobbies, but it makes a lovely feature if grown as a topiary. Like the rubber plant, English ivy is known for its ability to remove formaldehyde from the air.
English ivy needs lots of light to look its best, but does well when the temperature doesn’t get too hot. It is, however, very adaptable to its environment, as it will climb and spread over any surface given the chance.

Boston Fern
Ferns are one of the best-known varieties of houseplants, and the Boston fern is known for being the best plant for removing indoor air pollutants, and for adding humidity to indoor air.
While it is a champ at keeping indoor air clean, the Boston fern is somewhat finicky and requires an attentive caretaker. Without frequent watering and misting, the leaves will quickly turn brown and fall off.

Dwarf Date Palm
If you’re into tropical plants, the dwarf date palm is for you. It’s like an adorable mini palm tree that fits in your living room.
The dwarf date palm is one of the most effective palms for removing indoor air pollution, especially xylene, which is found in solvents and paint thinner. It’s also quite good at keeping the air moist and is fairly easy to grow.

The Most Beautiful Houseplants

It’s important to have houseplants that keep your air clean, but what about plants that are nice to look at? Here are the prettiest, best houseplants to purify indoor air.

Tulips
Tulips are truly lovely to look at. They come in a variety of colors, and also do a pretty good job of keeping the air clean, as they’ve been shown to be effective at eliminating formaldehyde, xylene, and ammonia from the air.

Azaleas
The dwarf azalea has been bred to remain indoors and bloom seasonally, and boasts big, pretty blooms. You can purchase it nearly any time of year, and with some care, it can bloom over and over. Of course, you’ll want to keep it blooming because it’s efficient at cleaning the air too.

Orchids
All varieties of orchids are quite pretty, but the level to which they filter the air varies. For instance, the dendrobium orchid features plain white blooms and removes alcohols, acetone, formaldehyde, and chloroform from the air. On the other hand, the more vibrant moth orchid, which features colorful blooms, including the well-known bright pink centered ones, is not as effective at purifying the air.

Wax Begonia
Begonias are a beautiful plant that are available in a number of vibrant colors, which can bloom year round given the right conditions. They also help to remove chemical vapors from the air.

Peacock Plant
With gorgeous purple and green hues, it’s easy to see where the peacock plant got its name. They can provide some help with keeping your air clean but are fairly finicky, requiring a lot of care and attention to growing conditions.

The Most Useful House Plants

These plants tend to be the most all-around useful to keep in your home:

Aloe Vera
Aloe vera is well known for its ability to soothe burned skin. Keeping it around allows you to use the fresh gel at a moment’s notice for scrapes and burns. It can also be used internally and can be squeezed into smoothies.
Aloe vera isn’t one of the best houseplants to purify indoor air, but it does have the unique ability to release oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide at night, making it a good choice for keeping in a bedroom.

Lavender
Lavender, with its earthy, sweet smell, has a soothing, calming effect. You can use it to make tea, tinctures, and even soaps and lotions. It’s also helpful for purifying the air by lowering carbon dioxide levels and cleansing bad smells.

Rosemary
Rosemary is both a culinary powerhouse as well as an air-purifying plant. Its antimicrobial properties make it a good choice for cleaning the air.

The Hardiest Indoor House Plants

Have a black thumb? Then it’s important to choose hardy plants that will be forgiving to your lack of growing skills!

Palms
Palms come in lots of varieties, including the bamboo palm, which we mentioned above. They are both easy to grow and maintain, as well as resistant to pests.

Syngonium
An interesting-looking plant with large leaves, the syngonium is a pretty easy plant to grow. It is moderately effective at purifying the air and will be fairly forgiving to forgetfulness.

Philodendrons
A cousin to the syngonium, philodendrons are one of the best houseplants for purifying indoor air, plus they are rather hardy, requiring little upkeep.

Snake Plant
Snake plants have striking tall, pointy leaves, which would explain the name. There are many species, and while they’re not known as one of the best houseplants for purifying indoor air, like aloe vera, they cleanse the air at night by producing oxygen and removing carbon dioxide. Better yet, they’re easy to grow and resist pest infestation well.

And the Awards for Best Houseplants Go to …

If you want to choose just a few from the extensive list above, taking into consideration all above points, here are the winners across all categories:

Palms – Attractive, hardy, and one of the best plants for purifying the air.

Tulips – Very pretty, and quite useful at removing unwanted chemicals from the air.

Philodendrons – Hardy, excellent at purifying indoor air, and they come in lots of varieties, so you’re sure to find a pretty one.

Important Houseplant Caution

Some houseplants can be poisonous to children and pets. The above houseplants are the most effective at cleaning indoor air, but not all of them are safe for children and pets. Make sure to research and check out any plant for safety before bringing it into your home. Personally, I have quite a few houseplants but keep them where I know pets and children won’t try to eat them. Here is a partial list of plants to avoid if you have pets or children who are prone to eat them.

SOURCE : wellnessmama - The Best Houseplants for Purifying Indoor Air
https://wellnessmama.com/140122/best-houseplants/

3 Natural Ways to Clean Indoor Air

Did you know that indoor air can often contain more toxins and chemicals than outdoor air? Everything from mattresses to pots/pans to kids PJs can contain harmful chemicals in indoor air.

It’s best to reduce chemical exposure in any way possible, but in today’s chemical laden world, it is practically impossible to completely avoid harmful toxins. For the remaining chemicals in indoor air, there are some natural ways to help reduce your family’s exposure.

I’ve mentioned houseplants before and they are a great option for improving indoor air (read my full list of recommended plants here). We have about eight indoor plants and I’m hoping to add more soon. For those who don’t want the upkeep of indoor plants or can’t have them due to pets/kids/etc, there are some other natural options.

Besides indoor plants, these are my top three natural air cleaners (and I use all three):

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Beeswax Candles

Regular paraffin candles are petroleum derived and can release chemicals like benzene,  toluene, soot and other chemicals into the air. These types of candles do more harm than good for indoor air quality and should be avoided.

Pure Beeswax Candles on the other hand burn with almost no smoke or scent and clean the air by releasing negative ions into the air. These negative ions can bind with toxins and help remove them from the air.

Beeswax candles are often especially helpful for those with asthma or allergies and they are effective at removing common allergens like dust and dander from the air. Beeswax candles also burn more slowly than paraffin candles so they last much longer.

I personally only use beeswax candles in our house. We buy them by the case and our favorites are:

Salt Lamps

Salt lamps are another natural way to clean indoor air. They are made from himalayan salt crystals and just like the beeswax candles, they release negative ions in to the air to help clean it. They are also a beautiful light source. The only downside…. my kids like to lick them!

The Himalayan Natural Crystal Salt Lamp also works as an air purifier. When lit, the lamp emits negative ions that fight against positively charged particles that cause you to feel stuffy and sluggish. The lit salt crystal clears the air naturally of allergens like smoke, pet dander, pollens, and other air pollutants. It dilutes odors so that you can breathe easier. People with asthma often find it helpful in reducing their symptoms. You can keep the lamp lit for as long as you like to maintain this purifying effect. (source)

We don’t do night lights in our kids rooms, but if we did or if we need a light source at night for reading, we use salt lamps. The natural orange glow doesn’t disrupt sleep hormones like fluorescent or blue lights do and I find it very relaxing.

We have an 8-inch salt lamp that we use regularly (it is also the most cost effective for its size, as the bigger lamps can get very pricey).

Bamboo Charcoal

Another natural air cleaning option I recently discovered is bamboo charcoal. I’ve talked about one of my unusual uses for charcoal before and we use a charcoal block water filter to remove toxins from our water.

Charcoal can have the same toxin-removing effect on the air. We use bamboo charcoal in burlap bags in our house. They work wonders for odor removal and removing toxins from the air:

Moso air purifying bags, made of linen and filled with bamboo charcoal, absorb unpleasant odors and dehumidify the air. The porous structure of the high density bamboo charcoal helps remove bacteria, harmful pollutants and allergens from the air and absorbs moisture, preventing mold and mildew by trapping the impurities inside each pore. The Moso air purifying bag has been scientifically proven to reduce the  amount of formaldehyde, ammonia, benzene, and chloroform gases emitted from everyday items such as paint, carpeting, furniture, air fresheners, chemical cleaners, rubber, and plastics. Toxin free, the bags are safe to use around pets and children. The bamboo charcoal rejuvenates when the bags are placed in sunlight once a month. You can reuse the bags for two years, after which the charcoal can be poured into the soil around plants to fertilize and help retain moisture. (source)

I’ve found that these are also great for removing odors from cars or from the bathroom (especially if you have recently potty-trained boys who don’t always have perfect aim!).

We use these Mosu bags in every room of our house.

SOURCE : wellnessmama - 3 Natural Ways to Clean Indoor AIr https://wellnessmama.com/4629/clean-indoor-air/

Toxins in Candles: Sad, But True

Toxins in Candles: Sad, But True

There’s nothing like the gentle flicker of a candle flame, and a warm, sweet scent filling your home to evoke feelings of peace and wellness.

Except when that candle is actually filling your home with toxic chemicals and contributing to indoor air pollution

I know. I hear that sigh, and have sighed myself many times. It can be discouraging. We work so hard to eat healthy, stay fit, and rid our homes and bodies of toxins, only to find that something as simple and innocent as a pretty candle on our mantle or kitchen windowsill is actually a culprit in the war against our health and wellbeing.

Sometimes I want to stop bringing these bits of information to the surface, to take a break from being such a party pooper all the time. I want to tell you, “Go on. Enjoy that scented candle. Don’t even give it a second thought”. But I can’t.

Party pooper or not, I have such a burden to keep on sharing, and educating, and working my buns off to get the knowledge out there that all of these regular, everyday products we fill our homes and lives and bodies with are just not good for us.

I’m going to tell you why I think you need to reconsider your use of candles, but then I’m also going to share some encouraging ways to bring back those pretty scents, oh yes, and even some healthy candle options as well. Non-toxic living does NOT mean boring, un-enjoyable, avoid-everything-pleasant living, so hang with me a little while longer, won’t you, friend?

What Makes Candles So Bad

  • Paraffin is the major ingredient in most conventional candles and is a sludge waste product from the petroleum industry. It releases carcinogenic chemicals when burned. The soot/fumes are similar to that released from a diesel engine and can be as dangerous as second-hand cigarette smoke. This can contribute to serious respiratory issues like asthma.
  • Scented candles may have lead or lead cores in the wick, which releases dangerous amounts of lead into your home through the candle soot. Candle wicks are supposed to be made from pure paper or cotton, but a University of Michigan study in the late 1999 found that 30% of candles in the USA still released lead into the air, in amounts higher than is considered safe by the EPA (and personally, I’m not sure that I would consider there to be a “safe” level). Legislation was passed in the USA to ban lead in wicks in 2003, but it is still present in some candles which make their way onto store shelves, particularly those that are imported (made in China or Taiwan, for example). For my fellow Canadians, there has not yet been a Canadian ban on lead in candle wicks.
  • Two particularly toxic chemicals, benzene and toluene, are found in the sooty residue from burning candles. Benzene is cancer-causing and toluene affects the central nervous system.
  • Artificial scents and colors may be irritants to some people and/or trigger allergic reactions.
  • Other toxic chemicals that may be present in the paraffin mixture and released through burning include: Acetone, Trichlorofluoromethane, Carbon Disulfide, 2-Butanone, Trichloroethane, Trichloroethene, Carbon Tetrachloride, Tetrachloroethene, Chlorobenzene, Ethylbenzene, Styrene, Xylene, Phenol, Cresol, Cyclopentene. Some of the toxins are found in other products such as paint, laquer and varnish removers– that’s potent and powerful stuff!

Tips for Avoiding the Worst Offenders

Even among conventional candles, there are some that are better (or worse) than others. Here are some tips for what to look for and what to avoid.

Avoid

  • Dollar store or super-cheap candles
  • Imported candles (stick with ones that are made in North America)
  • Any candle that appears to have a metal-core wick (learn how to spot them)
  • Scented candles (unless they are naturally scented- more on this below)
  • Gel candles
  • Cheap “aromatherapy” candles, from brands like Febreeze and Glade. There is actually nothing truly therapeutic about the scents in these candles and much that is harmful.

Somewhat Better

  • Higher-end candles from reputable stores. These are more likely to have safe wicks and are less likely to use synthetic fragrances (although some still do). IKEA candles are apparently all lead-free.
  • Taper candles, as opposed to candles like tea lights and pillar candles that melt into puddles. They are less likely to contain lead.
  • Anytime you burn a regular candle, do it in an open space (ie. not a teeny tiny bathroom), with a window cracked open to allow fumes to be released.
  • If you must stick to cheaper candles and you really don’t want to stop using them entirely, keep your use very minimal, once a week at most, or preferably even less.

The Very Best Options for Candles

Beeswax

I ever so sadly cut out 95% of my candle use several years ago when I realized that they were toxic. Although I still find beeswax candles pricey enough that I buy and use them infrequently, they are definitely my top choice for a healthy candle option. They are absolutely pure and burn clean.

Beeswax is about as natural a product as you can find. It is simply a natural wax that is made by bees and collected from the hives by beekeepers. It has a light scent of honey, which I find extremely beautiful and soothing. They can also sometimes be found with essential oils for added scent, although they are just lovely au naturel.

Color options range between off-white, yellow (most common) and light browns (like these beauties) for un-dyed beeswax candles, but you can also find brilliantly hued candles made with non-toxic dyes. Make sure to look for 100% beeswax, as some companies will use only a portion of beeswax mixed with regular paraffin, and then label them as “beeswax candles”. This isn’t what you want. Go for the truly pure stuff.

One option that beeswax allows is the ability to easily make your own. You can purchase sheets of beeswax to roll into various types of taper and pillar candles. You can also easily melt beeswax granules into glass jars to make your own.

Soy

While I don’t recommend soy for most eating purposes, I do think that soy candles are another great option. They also burn clean, with no harmful fumes, and have very long burn times as well. 

I have a bit of a conundrum about whether I like supporting soy farming, which is the only thing that holds me back from giving soy candles my full support. Almost all soy in North America is genetically-modified, either on purpose or because it has become contaminated by nearby farms that are using GMO seed. I also wonder if a vote “yes” for soy is a bit of a vote for Monsanto, whose evils I will refrain from ranting about for the purposes of this post. All that said, I don’t think that there is any physical harm from using soy candles made from GMO soy, but I would generally prefer to put my money into supporting local beekeepers above soy farming.

As with beeswax candles, these come in a wide variety of colors and natural scents, and you do need to look for the 100% soy label as well, to avoid candles made with part soy, part paraffin. Though I haven’t tried it, you can also buy soy wax and make your own gorgeous soy and beeswax jar candles.

Other Ways to Make Your Home Smell Beautiful

If it’s more about the scents than it is about burning candles for you, there are plenty of other ways to safely enjoy natural fragrances:

SOURCE : Keeper of the Home - Toxins in Candles: Sad, but True https://keeperofthehome.org/toxins-in-candles-sad-but-true/

Harmful Effects of Paraffin Candles

Scented or aromatherapy candles are ubiquitous particularly around the holidays … and some of us use Hanukkah candles. In summary: we recommend that you avoid petroleum bases paraffin candles – use 100% beeswax or organic soy.

What type of wax is generally used in candles?

Paraffin is the predominant wax used in the candle industry. Paraffin is basically the “bottom of the barrel” even after asphalt is extracted. Paraffin is the final byproduct in the petroleum refining chain.

In 2001 the Environmental Protection Agency concluded that burning paraffin candles emit harmful amounts of toxins in the air that are considered above the excess cancer risk, with multiple exposures.

According to California’s safe drinking water and toxic enforcement act of 1986, there are up to twenty toxins in paraffin candle wax, substances which are found in paint, lacquer and varnish removers.

Petro-soot from paraffin candles gives off the same soot as the exhaust of a diesel engine, and is considered just as dangerous as second hand smoke, causing problems from headaches to lung cancer. Paraffin fumes have been found to cause tumors in the kidneys and liver of lab animals.

In 2005, when the American Lung Association issued a warning to the public about the dangers of paraffin the National Candle Association (NCA) threatened them with legal action. The NCA has also sent letters to others who tried to warn the public.

As was previously noted, paraffin is made from leftover residue of the final petroleum refining process. The wealthy oil industry (which not only sells their by-products to the candle industry but also has four members sitting on the board of the National Candle Association) has assumed a very dominant position in the candle manufacturing business.

Additionally increasing the amount of particulates, volatile compounds, and soot released into the air:

  • the type of wick
  • inclusion of any synthetic fragrant oil scents and/or dyes
  • anytime you have a flame and combustion.

Further Reading and Sources:

“Alternative” Candles

Beeswax is a popular alternative to paraffin candles. The benefits of beeswax candles have stood for centuries: they don’t drip; they burn longer, as well as cleaner than their paraffin and soy counterparts. Beeswax is less likely to trigger allergies and does not produce toxins or soot when burned. It is generally more expensive than paraffin but burns longer. However, some candles labeled as beeswax may also contain paraffin. Look for 100% beeswax candles. More about the benefits of beeswax candles.

I have used Bluecorn Naturals candles for years.

Soy candles last 50% longer than candles made of petroleum-based paraffin. They also burn slower and cooler (helping to better distribute fragrance), are non-toxic, less likely to trigger allergies, clean up with soap and water, and produce very little soot. Organic soy candles are available, such as Paddywax Ecogreen Upcycled Candle.

SOURCE : Nourishing Our Children - Candles
https://nourishingourchildren.org/2011/12/13/candles/

The Inside Story: A Guide to Indoor Air Quality (US Consumer Product Safety Commission)

Indoor Air Quality Concerns

All of us face a variety of risks to our health as we go about our day-to-day lives. Driving in cars, flying in planes, engaging in recreational activities, and being exposed to environmental pollutants all pose varying degrees of risk. Some risks are simply unavoidable. Some we choose to accept because to do otherwise would restrict our ability to lead our lives the way we want. And some are risks we might decide to avoid if we had the opportunity to make informed choices. Indoor air pollution is one risk that you can do something about.

In the last several years, a growing body of scientific evidence has indicated that the air within homes and other buildings can be more seriously polluted than the outdoor air in even the largest and most industrialized cities. Other research indicates that people spend approximately 90 percent of their time indoors. Thus, for many people, the risks to health may be greater due to exposure to air pollution indoors than outdoors.

In addition, people who may be exposed to indoor air pollutants for the longest periods of time are often those most susceptible to the effects of indoor air pollution. Such groups include the young, the elderly, and the chronically ill, especially those suffering from respiratory or cardiovascular disease.

Why a Safety Guide on Indoor Air?

While pollutant levels from individual sources may not pose a significant health risk by themselves, most homes have more than one source that contributes to indoor air pollution. There can be a serious risk from the cumulative effects of these sources. Fortunately, there are steps that most people can take both to reduce the risk from existing sources and to prevent new problems from occurring. This safety guide was prepared by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to help you decide whether to take actions that can reduce the level of indoor air pollution in your own home.

Because so many Americans spend a lot of time in offices with mechanical heating, cooling, and ventilation systems, there is also a short section on the causes of poor air quality in offices and what you can do if you suspect that your office may have a problem. A glossary and a list of organizations where you can get additional information are available in this document.

Indoor Air Quality in Your Home

What Causes Indoor Air Problems?

Indoor pollution sources that release gases or particles into the air are the primary cause of indoor air quality problems in homes. Inadequate ventilation can increase indoor pollutant levels by not bringing in enough outdoor air to dilute emissions from indoor sources and by not carrying indoor air pollutants out of the home. High temperature and humidity levels can also increase concentrations of some pollutants.

Pollutant Sources

There are many sources of indoor air pollution in any home. These include combustion sources such as oil, gas, kerosene, coal, wood, and tobacco products; building materials and furnishings as diverse as deteriorated, asbestos-containing insulation, wet or damp carpet, and cabinetry or furniture made of certain pressed wood products; products for household cleaning and maintenance, personal care, or hobbies; central heating and cooling systems and humidification devices; and outdoor sources such as radon, pesticides, and outdoor air pollution.

The relative importance of any single source depends on how much of a given pollutant it emits and how hazardous those emissions are. In some cases, factors such as how old the source is and whether it is properly maintained are significant. For example, an improperly adjusted gas stove can emit significantly more carbon monoxide than one that is properly adjusted.

Some sources, such as building materials, furnishings, and household products like air fresheners, release pollutants more or less continuously. Other sources, related to activities carried out in the home, release pollutants intermittently. These include smoking, the use of unvented or malfunction-ing stoves, furnaces, or space heaters, the use of solvents in cleaning and hobby activities, the use of paint strippers in redecorating activities, and the use of cleaning products and pesticides in housekeeping. High pollutant concentrations can remain in the air for long periods after some of these activities.

Amount of Ventilation

If too little outdoor air enters a home, pollutants can accumulate to levels that can pose health and comfort problems. Unless they are built with special mechanical means of ventilation, homes that are designed and constructed to minimize the amount of outdoor air that can "leak" into and out of the home may have higher pollutant levels than other homes. However, because some weather conditions can drastically reduce the amount of outdoor air that enters a home, pollutants can build up even in homes that are normally considered "leaky."

How Does Outdoor Air Enter a House?

Outdoor air enters and leaves a house by: infiltration, natural ventilation, and mechanical ventilation. In a process known as infiltration, outdoor air flows into the house through openings, joints, and cracks in walls, floors, and ceilings, and around windows and doors. In natural ventilation, air moves through opened windows and doors. Air movement associated with infiltration and natural ventilation is caused by air temperature differences between indoors and outdoors and by wind. Finally, there are a number of mechanical ventilation devices, from outdoor-vented fans that intermittently remove air from a single room, such as bathrooms and kitchen, to air handling systems that use fans and duct work to continuously remove indoor air and distribute filtered and conditioned outdoor air to strategic points throughout the house. The rate at which outdoor air replaces indoor air is described as the air exchange rate. When there is little infiltration, natural ventilation, or mechanical ventilation, the air exchange rate is low and pollutant levels can increase.

What If You Live in an Apartment?

Apartments can have the same indoor air problems as single-family homes because many of the pollution sources, such as the interior building materials, furnishings, and household products, are similar. Indoor air problems similar to those in offices are caused by such sources as contaminated ventilation systems, improperly placed outdoor air intakes, or maintenance activities.

Solutions to air quality problems in apartments, as in homes and offices, involve such actions as: eliminating or controlling the sources of pollution, increasing ventilation, and installing air cleaning devices. Often a resident can take the appropriate action to improve the indoor air quality by removing a source, altering an activity, unblocking an air supply vent, or opening a window to temporarily increase the ventilation; in other cases, however, only the building owner or manager is in a position to remedy the problem. (See the section "What to Do If You Suspect a Problem") You can encourage building management to follow guidance in EPA and NIOSH's Building Air Quality: A Guide for Building Owners and Facility Managers. To obtain the looseleaf-fomat version of the Building Air Quality, complete with appendices, an index, and a full set of useful forms, and the newly released, Building Air Quality Action Plan, order GPO Stock # 055-000-00602-4, for $28, contact the: Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO), P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954, or call (202) 512-1800, fax (202) 512-2250.

Improving the Air Quality in Your Home

Indoor Air and Your Health

Health effects from indoor air pollutants may be experienced soon after exposure or, possibly, years later.

Immediate effects may show up after a single exposure or repeated exposures. These include irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, headaches, dizziness, and fatigue. Such immediate effects are usually short-term and treatable. Sometimes the treatment is simply eliminating the person's exposure to the source of the pollution, if it can be identified. Symptoms of some diseases, including asthma, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, and humidifier fever, may also show up soon after exposure to some indoor air pollutants.

The likelihood of immediate reactions to indoor air pollutants depends on several factors. Age and preexisting medical conditions are two important influences. In other cases, whether a person reacts to a pollutant depends on individual sensitivity, which varies tremendously from person to person. Some people can become sensitized to biological pollutants after repeated exposures, and it appears that some people can become sensitized to chemical pollutants as well.

Certain immediate effects are similar to those from colds or other viral diseases, so it is often difficult to determine if the symptoms are a result of exposure to indoor air pollution. For this reason, it is important to pay attention to the time and place the symptoms occur. If the symptoms fade or go away when a person is away from the home and return when the person returns, an effort should be made to identify indoor air sources that may be possible causes. Some effects may be made worse by an inadequate supply of outdoor air or from the heating, cooling, or humidity conditions prevalent in the home.

Other health effects may show up either years after exposure has occurred or only after long or repeated periods of exposure. These effects, which include some respiratory diseases, heart disease, and cancer, can be severely debilitating or fatal. It is prudent to try to improve the indoor air quality in your home even if symptoms are not noticeable. More information on potential health effects from particular indoor air pollutants is provided in the section, "A Look at Source-Specific Controls."

While pollutants commonly found in indoor air are responsible for many harmful effects, there is considerable uncertainty about what concentrations or periods of exposure are necessary to produce specific health problems. People also react very differently to exposure to indoor air pollutants. Further research is needed to better understand which health effects occur after exposure to the average pollutant concentrations found in homes and which occur from the higher concentrations that occur for short periods of time.

The health effects associated with some indoor air pollutants are summarized in the section "Reference Guide to Major Indoor Air Pollutants in the Home."

Identifying Air Quality Problems

Some health effects can be useful indicators of an indoor air quality problem, especially if they appear after a person moves to a new residence, remodels or refurnishes a home, or treats a home with pesticides. If you think that you have symptoms that may be related to your home environment, discuss them with your doctor or your local health department to see if they could be caused by indoor air pollution. You may also want to consult a board-certified allergist or an occupational medicine specialist for answers to your questions.

Another way to judge whether your home has or could develop indoor air problems is to identify potential sources of indoor air pollution. Although the presence of such sources does not necessarily mean that you have an indoor air quality problem, being aware of the type and number of potential sources is an important step toward assessing the air quality in your home.

A third way to decide whether your home may have poor indoor air quality is to look at your lifestyle and activities. Human activities can be significant sources of indoor air pollution. Finally, look for signs of problems with the ventilation in your home. Signs that can indicate your home may not have enough ventilation include moisture condensation on windows or walls, smelly or stuffy air, dirty central heating and air cooling equipment, and areas where books, shoes, or other items become moldy. To detect odors in your home, step outside for a few minutes, and then upon reentering your home, note whether odors are noticeable.

Measuring Pollutant Levels

The federal government recommends that you measure the level of radon in your home. Without measurements there is no way to tell whether radon is present because it is a colorless, odorless, radioactive gas. Inexpensive devices are available for measuring radon. EPA provides guidance as to risks associated with different levels of exposure and when the public should consider corrective action. There are specific mitigation techniques that have proven effective in reducing levels of radon in the home. (See "Radon" for additional information about testing and controlling radon in homes.)

For pollutants other than radon, measurements are most appropriate when there are either health symptoms or signs of poor ventilation and specific sources or pollutants have been identified as possible causes of indoor air quality problems. Testing for many pollutants can be expensive. Before monitoring your home for pollutants besides radon, consult your state or local health department or professionals who have experience in solving indoor air quality problems in nonindustrial buildings.

Weatherizing Your Home

The federal government recommends that homes be weatherized in order to reduce the amount of energy needed for heating and cooling. While weatherization is underway, however, steps should also be taken to minimize pollution from sources inside the home. (See "Improving the Air Quality in Your Home" for recommended actions.) In addition, residents should be alert to the emergence of signs of inadequate ventilation, such as stuffy air, moisture condensation on cold surfaces, or mold and mildew growth. Additional weatherization measures should not be undertaken until these problems have been corrected.

Weatherization generally does not cause indoor air problems by adding new pollutants to the air. (There are a few exceptions, such as caulking, that can sometimes emit pollutants.) However, measures such as installing storm windows, weather stripping, caulking, and blown-in wall insulation can reduce the amount of outdoor air infiltrating into a home. Consequently, after weatherization, concentrations of indoor air pollutants from sources inside the home can increase.

Three Basic Strategies

Source Control

Usually the most effective way to improve indoor air quality is to eliminate individual sources of pollution or to reduce their emissions. Some sources, like those that contain asbestos, can be sealed or enclosed; others, like gas stoves, can be adjusted to decrease the amount of emissions. In many cases, source control is also a more cost-efficient approach to protecting indoor air quality than increasing ventilation because increasing ventilation can increase energy costs. Specific sources of indoor air pollution in your home are listed later in this section.

Ventilation Improvements

Another approach to lowering the concentrations of indoor air pollutants in your home is to increase the amount of outdoor air coming indoors. Most home heating and cooling systems, including forced air heating systems, do not mechanically bring fresh air into the house. Opening windows and doors, operating window or attic fans, when the weather permits, or running a window air conditioner with the vent control open increases the outdoor ventilation rate. Local bathroom or kitchen fans that exhaust outdoors remove contaminants directly from the room where the fan is located and also increase the outdoor air ventilation rate.

It is particularly important to take as many of these steps as possible while you are involved in short-term activities that can generate high levels of pollutants--for example, painting, paint stripping, heating with kerosene heaters, cooking, or engaging in maintenance and hobby activities such as welding, soldering, or sanding. You might also choose to do some of these activities outdoors, if you can and if weather permits.

Advanced designs of new homes are starting to feature mechanical systems that bring outdoor air into the home. Some of these designs include energy-efficient heat recovery ventilators (also known as air-to-air heat exchangers). For more information about air-to-air heat exchangers, contact the Conservation and Renewable Energy Inquiry and Referral Service (CAREIRS), PO Box 3048, Merrifield, VA 22116; (800) 523-2929.

Air Cleaners

There are many types and sizes of air cleaners on the market, ranging from relatively inexpensive table-top models to sophisticated and expensive whole-house systems. Some air cleaners are highly effective at particle removal, while others, including most table-top models, are much less so. Air cleaners are generally not designed to remove gaseous pollutants.

The effectiveness of an air cleaner depends on how well it collects pollutants from indoor air (expressed as a percentage efficiency rate) and how much air it draws through the cleaning or filtering element (expressed in cubic feet per minute). A very efficient collector with a low air-circulation rate will not be effective, nor will a cleaner with a high air-circulation rate but a less efficient collector. The long-term performance of any air cleaner depends on maintaining it according to the manufacturer's directions.

Another important factor in determining the effectiveness of an air cleaner is the strength of the pollutant source. Table-top air cleaners, in particular, may not remove satisfactory amounts of pollutants from strong nearby sources. People with a sensitivity to particular sources may find that air cleaners are helpful only in conjunction with concerted efforts to remove the source.

Over the past few years, there has been some publicity suggesting that houseplants have been shown to reduce levels of some chemicals in laboratory experiments. There is currently no evidence, however, that a reasonable number of houseplants remove significant quantities of pollutants in homes and offices. Indoor houseplants should not be over-watered because overly damp soil may promote the growth of microorganisms which can affect allergic individuals.

At present, EPA does not recommend using air cleaners to reduce levels of radon and its decay products. The effectiveness of these devices is uncertain because they only partially remove the radon decay products and do not diminish the amount of radon entering the home. EPA plans to do additional research on whether air cleaners are, or could become, a reliable means of reducing the health risk from radon. EPA's booklet, Residential Air-Cleaning Devices, provides further information on air-cleaning devices to reduce indoor air pollutants.

For most indoor air quality problems in the home, source control is the most effective solution. This section takes a source-by-source look at the most common indoor air pollutants, their potential health effects, and ways to reduce levels in the home. (For a summary of the points made in this section, see the section entitled "Reference Guide to Major Indoor Air Pollutants in the Home.") EPA has recently released, Ozone Generators That Are Sold As Air Cleaners. The purpose of this document (which is only available via this web site) is to provide accurate information regarding the use of ozone-generating devices in indoor occupied spaces. This information is based on the most credible scientific evidence currently available.

EPA has recently published, "Should You Have the Air Ducts in Your Home Cleaned?" EPA-402-K-97-002, October 1997. This document is intended to help consumers answer this often confusing question. The document explains what air duct cleaning is, provides guidance to help consumers decide whether to have the service performed in their home, and provides helpful information for choosing a duct cleaner, determining if duct cleaning was done properly, and how to prevent contamination of air ducts.

A Look at Source-Specific Controls

RADON (Rn)

The most common source of indoor radon is uranium in the soil or rock on which homes are built. As uranium naturally breaks down, it releases radon gas which is a colorless, odorless, radioactive gas. Radon gas enters homes through dirt floors, cracks in concrete walls and floors, floor drains, and sumps. When radon becomes trapped in buildings and concentrations build up indoors, exposure to radon becomes a concern.

Any home may have a radon problem. This means new and old homes, well-sealed and drafty homes, and homes with or without basements.

Sometimes radon enters the home through well water. In a small number of homes, the building materials can give off radon, too. However, building materials rarely cause radon problems by themselves.

Health Effects of Radon

The predominant health effect associated with exposure to elevated levels of radon is lung cancer. Research suggests that swallowing water with high radon levels may pose risks, too, although these are believed to be much lower than those from breathing air containing radon. Major health organizations (like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Lung Association (ALA), and the American Medical Association) agree with estimates that radon causes thousands of preventable lung cancer deaths each year. EPA estimates that radon causes about 14,000 deaths per year in the United States--however, this number could range from 7,000 to 30,000 deaths per year. If you smoke and your home has high radon levels, your risk of lung cancer is especially high.

Reducing Exposure to Radon in Homes

Measure levels of radon in your home.

You can't see radon, but it's not hard to find out if you have a radon problem in your home. Testing is easy and should only take a little of your time.

There are many kinds of inexpensive, do-it-yourself radon test kits you can get through the mail and in hardware stores and other retail outlets. Make sure you buy a test kit that has passed EPA's testing program or is state-certified. These kits will usually display the phrase "Meets EPA Requirements." If you prefer, or if you are buying or selling a home, you can hire a trained contractor to do the testing for you. EPA's voluntary National Radon Proficiency Program (RPP) evaluated testing (measurement) contractors. A contractor who had met EPA's requirements carried an EPA-generated RPP identification card. EPA provided a list of companies and individual contractors on this web site which was also available to state radon offices. You should call your state radon officeto obtain a list of qualified contractors in your area.You can also contact either the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) - http://www.neha.org or the National Radon Safety Board (NRSB) - http://www.nrsb.org for a list of proficient radon measurement and/or mitigation contractors.

Refer to the EPA guidelines on how to test and interpret your test results.

You can learn more about radon through EPA's publications, A Citizen's Guide to Radon: The Guide to Protecting Yourself and Your Family From Radon and Home Buyer's and Seller's Guide to Radon, which are also available from your state radon office.

Learn about radon reduction methods.

Ways to reduce radon in your home are discussed in EPA's Consumer's Guide to Radon Reduction. You can get a copy from your state radon office. There are simple solutions to radon problems in homes. Thousands of homeowners have already fixed radon problems. Lowering high radon levels requires technical knowledge and special skills. You should use a contractor who is trained to fix radon problems.

A trained radon reduction contractor can study the problem in your home and help you pick the correct treatment method. Check with your state radon office for names of qualified or state-certified radon-reduction contractors in your area.

Stop smoking and discourage smoking in your home.

Scientific evidence indicates that smoking combined with radon is an especially serious health risk. Stop smoking and lower your radon level to reduce lung cancer risk.

Treat radon-contaminated well water.

While radon in water is not a problem in homes served by most public water supplies, it has been found in well water. If you've tested the air in your home and found a radon problem, and you have a well, contact a lab certified to measure radiation in water to have your water tested. Radon problems in water can be readily fixed. Call your state radon office or the EPA Drinking Water Hotline (800-426-4791) for more information.

ENVIRONMENTAL TOBACCO SMOKE (ETS)

Environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) is the mixture of smoke that comes from the burning end of a cigarette, pipe, or cigar, and smoke exhaled by the smoker. It is a complex mixture of over 4,000 compounds, more than 40 of which are known to cause cancer in humans or animals and many of which are strong irritants. ETS is often referred to as "secondhand smoke" and exposure to ETS is often called "passive smoking."

Health Effects of Environmental Tobacco Smoke

In 1992, EPA completed a major assessment of the respiratory health risks of ETS (Respiratory Health Effects of Passive Smoking: Lung Cancer and Other Disorders EPA/600/6-90/006F). The report concludes that exposure to ETS is responsible for approximately 3,000 lung cancer deaths each year in nonsmoking adults and impairs the respiratory health of hundreds of thousands of children

Infants and young children whose parents smoke in their presence are at increased risk of lower respiratory tract infections (pneumonia and bronchitis) and are more likely to have symptoms of respiratory irritation like cough, excess phlegm, and wheeze. EPA estimates that passive smoking annually causes between 150,000 and 300,000 lower respiratory tract infections in infants and children under 18 months of age, resulting in between 7,500 and 15,000 hospitalizations each year. These children may also have a build-up of fluid in the middle ear, which can lead to ear infections. Older children who have been exposed to secondhand smoke may have slightly reduced lung function.

Asthmatic children are especially at risk. EPA estimates that exposure to secondhand smoke increases the number of episodes and severity of symptoms in hundreds of thousands of asthmatic children, and may cause thousands of nonasth-matic children to develop the disease each year. EPA estimates that between 200,000 and 1,000,000 asthmatic children have their condition made worse by exposure to secondhand smoke each year. Exposure to secondhand smoke causes eye, nose, and throat irritation. It may affect the cardiovascular system and some studies have linked exposure to secondhand smoke with the onset of chest pain. For publications about ETS, go to the IAQ Publications page, or contact EPA's Indoor Air Quality Information Clearinghouse (IAQ INFO), 800-438-4318 or (703) 356-4020.

Reducing Exposure to Environmental Tobacco Smoke

Don't smoke at home or permit others to do so. Ask smokers to smoke outdoors.

The 1986 Surgeon General's report concluded that physical separation of smokers and nonsmokers in a common air space, such as different rooms within the same house, may reduce - but will not eliminate - non-smokers' exposure to environmental tobacco smoke.

If smoking indoors cannot be avoided, increase ventilation in the area where smoking takes place.

Open windows or use exhaust fans. Ventilation, a common method of reducing exposure to indoor air pollutants, also will reduce but not eliminate exposure to environmental tobacco smoke. Because smoking produces such large amounts of pollutants, natural or mechanical ventilation techniques do not remove them from the air in your home as quickly as they build up. In addition, the large increases in ventilation it takes to significantly reduce exposure to environmental tobacco smoke can also increase energy costs substantially. Consequently, the most effective way to reduce exposure to environmental tobacco smoke in the home is to eliminate smoking there.

Do not smoke if children are present, particularly infants and toddlers.

 Children are particularly susceptible to the effects of passive smoking. Do not allow baby-sitters or others who work in your home to smoke indoors. Discourage others from smoking around children. Find out about the smoking policies of the day care center providers, schools, and other care givers for your children. The policy should protect children from exposure to ETS.

BIOLOGICAL CONTAMINANTS

Biological contaminants include bacteria, molds, mildew, viruses, animal dander and cat saliva, house dust mites, cockroaches, and pollen. There are many sources of these pollutants. Pollens originate from plants; viruses are transmitted by people and animals; bacteria are carried by people, animals, and soil and plant debris; and household pets are sources of saliva and animal dander. The protein in urine from rats and mice is a potent allergen. When it dries, it can become airborne. Contaminated central air handling systems can become breeding grounds for mold, mildew, and other sources of biological contaminants and can then distribute these contaminants through the home.

By controlling the relative humidity level in a home, the growth of some sources of biologicals can be minimized. A relative humidity of 30-50 percent is generally recommended for homes. Standing water, water-damaged materials, or wet surfaces also serve as a breeding ground for molds, mildews, bacteria, and insects. House dust mites, the source of one of the most powerful biological allergens, grow in damp, warm environments.

Health Effects From Biological Contaminants

Some biological contaminants trigger allergic reactions, including hypersensitivity pneumonitis, allergic rhinitis, and some types of asthma. Infectious illnesses, such as influenza, measles, and chicken pox are transmitted through the air. Molds and mildews release disease-causing toxins. Symptoms of health problems caused by biological pollutants include sneezing, watery eyes, coughing, shortness of breath, dizziness, lethargy, fever, and digestive problems.

Allergic reactions occur only after repeated exposure to a specific biological allergen. However, that reaction may occur immediately upon re-exposure or after multiple exposures over time. As a result, people who have noticed only mild allergic reactions, or no reactions at all, may suddenly find themselves very sensitive to particular allergens.

Some diseases, like humidifier fever, are associated with exposure to toxins from microorganisms that can grow in large building ventilation systems. However, these diseases can also be traced to microorganisms that grow in home heating and cooling systems and humidifiers. Children, elderly people, and people with breathing problems, allergies, and lung diseases are particularly susceptible to disease-causing biological agents in the indoor air.

Reducing Exposure to Biological Contaminants

Install and use exhaust fans that are vented to the outdoors in kitchens and bathrooms and vent clothes dryers outdoors.

These actions can eliminate much of the moisture that builds up from everyday activities. There are exhaust fans on the market that produce little noise, an important consideration for some people. Another benefit to using kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans is that they can reduce levels of organic pollutants that vaporize from hot water used in showers and dishwashers.

Ventilate the attic and crawl spaces to prevent moisture build-up.

Keeping humidity levels in these areas below 50 percent can prevent water condensation on building materials.

If using cool mist or ultrasonic humidifiers, clean appliances according to manufacturer's instructions and refill with fresh water daily.

Because these humidifiers can become breeding grounds for biological contaminants, they have the potential for causing diseases such as hypersensitivity pneumonitis and humidifier fever. Evaporation trays in air conditioners, dehumidifiers, and refrigerators should also be cleaned frequently.

Thoroughly clean and dry water-damaged carpets and building materials (within 24 hours if possible) or consider removal and replacement.

Water-damaged carpets and building materials can harbor mold and bacteria. It is very difficult to completely rid such materials of biological contaminants.

Keep the house clean. House dust mites, pollens, animal dander, and other allergy-causing agents can be reduced, although not eliminated, through regular cleaning.

People who are allergic to these pollutants should use allergen-proof mattress encasements, wash bedding in hot (130 degrees farenheit) water, and avoid room furnishings that accumulate dust, especially if they cannot be washed in hot water. Allergic individuals should also leave the house while it is being vacuumed because vacuuming can actually increase airborne levels of mite allergens and other biological contaminants. Using central vacuum systems that are vented to the outdoors or vacuums with high efficiency filters may also be of help.

Take steps to minimize biological pollutants in basements.

Clean and disinfect the basement floor drain regularly. Do not finish a basement below ground level unless all water leaks are patched and outdoor ventilation and adequate heat to prevent condensation are provided. Operate a dehumidifier in the basement if needed to keep relative humidity levels between 30-50 percent.

To learn more about biological pollutants, read Biological Pollutants in Your Home issued by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and the American Lung Association. For contact information, see the section, "Where to Go For Additional Information."

STOVES, HEATERS, FIREPLACES, AND CHIMNEYS

In addition to environmental tobacco smoke, other sources of combustion products are unvented kerosene and gas space heaters, woodstoves, fireplaces, and gas stoves. The major pollutants released are carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and particles. Unvented kerosene heaters may also generate acid aerosols.

Combustion gases and particles also come from chimneys and flues that are improperly installed or maintained and cracked furnace heat exchangers. Pollutants from fireplaces and woodstoves with no dedicated outdoor air supply can be "back-drafted" from the chimney into the living space, particularly in weatherized homes.

Health Effects of Combustion Products

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless gas that interferes with the delivery of oxygen throughout the body. At high concentrations it can cause unconsciousness and death. Lower concentrations can cause a range of symptoms from headaches, d izziness, weakness, nausea, confusion, and disorientation, to fatigue in healthy people and episodes of increased chest pain in people with chronic heart disease. The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are sometimes confused with the flu or food poisoning. Fetuses, infants, elderly people, and people with anemia or with a history of heart or respiratory disease can be especially sensitive to carbon monoxide exposures.

Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is a colorless, odorless gas that irritates the mucous membranes in the eye, nose, and throat and causes shortness of breath after exposure to high concentrations. There is evidence that high concentrations or continued exposure to low levels of nitrogen dioxide increases the risk of respiratory infection; there is also evidence from animal studies that repeated exposures to elevated nitrogen dioxide levels may lead, or contribute, to the development of lung disease such as emphysema. People at particular risk from exposure to nitrogen dioxide include children and individuals with asthma and other respiratory diseases.

Particles, released when fuels are incompletely burned, can lodge in the lungs and irritate or damage lung tissue. A number of pollutants, including radon and benzo(a)pyrene, both of which can cause cancer, attach to small particles that are inhaled and then carried deep into the lung.

Reducing Exposure to Combustion Products in Homes

Take special precautions when operating fuel-burning unvented space heaters.

Consider potential effects of indoor air pollution if you use an unvented kerosene or gas space heater. Follow the manufacturer's directions, especially instructions on the proper fuel and keeping the heater properly adjusted. A persistent yellow-tipped flame is generally an indicator of maladjustment and increased pollutant emissions. While a space heater is in use, open a door from the room where the heater is located to the rest of the house and open a window slightly.

Install and use exhaust fans over gas cooking stoves and ranges and keep the burners properly adjusted.

Using a stove hood with a fan vented to the outdoors greatly reduces exposure to pollutants during cooking. Improper adjustment, often indicated by a persistent yellow-tipped flame, causes increased pollutant emissions. Ask your gas company to adjust the burner so that the flame tip is blue. If you purchase a new gas stove or range, consider buying one with pilotless ignition because it does not have a pilot light that burns continuously. Never use a gas stove to heat your home. Always make certain the flue in your gas fireplace is open when the fireplace is in use.

Keep woodstove emissions to a minimum. Choose properly sized new stoves that are certified as meeting EPA emission standards.

Make certain that doors in old woodstoves are tight-fitting. Use aged or cured (dried) wood only and follow the manufacturer's directions for starting, stoking, and putting out the fire in woodstoves. Chemicals are used to pressure-treat wood; such wood should never be burned indoors. (Because some old gaskets in woodstove doors contain asbestos, when replacing gaskets refer to the instructions in the CPSC, ALA, and EPA booklet, Asbestos in Your Home, to avoid creating an asbestos problem. New gaskets are made of fiberglass.)

Have central air handling systems, including furnaces, flues, and chimneys, inspected annually andpromptly repair cracks or damaged parts.

Blocked, leaking, or damaged chimneys or flues release harmful combustion gases and particles and even fatal concentrations of carbon monoxide. Strictly follow all service and maintenance procedures recommended by the manufacturer, including those that tell you how frequently to change the filter. If manufacturer's instructions are not readily available, change filters once every month or two during periods of use. Proper maintenance is important even for new furnaces because they can also corrode and leak combustion gases, including carbon monoxide.

HOUSEHOLD PRODUCTS

Organic chemicals are widely used as ingredients in household products. Paints, varnishes, and wax all contain organic solvents, as do many cleaning, disinfecting, cosmetic, degreasing, and hobby products. Fuels are made up of organic chemicals. All of these products can release organic compounds while you are using them, and, to some degree, when they are stored.

EPA's Total Exposure Assessment Methodology (TEAM) studies found levels of about a dozen common organic pollutants to be 2 to 5 times higher inside homes than outside, regardless of whether the homes were located in rural or highly industrial areas. Additional TEAM studies indicate that while people are using products containing organic chemicals, they can expose themselves and others to very high pollutant levels, and elevated concentrations can persist in the air long after the activity is completed.

Health Effects of Household Chemicals

The ability of organic chemicals to cause health effects varies greatly, from those that are highly toxic, to those with no known health effect. As with other pollutants, the extent and nature of the health effect will depend on many factors including level of exposure and length of time exposed. Eye and respiratory tract irritation, headaches, dizziness, visual disorders, and memory impairment are among the immediate symptoms that some people have experienced soon after exposure to some organics. At present, not much is known about what health effects occur from the levels of organics usually found in homes. Many organic compounds are known to cause cancer in animals; some are suspected of causing, or are known to cause, cancer in humans.

Reducing Exposure to Household Chemicals

Follow label instructions carefully.

Potentially hazardous products often have warnings aimed at reducing exposure of the user. For example, if a label says to use the product in a well-ventilated area, go outdoors or in areas equipped with an exhaust fan to use it. Otherwise, open up windows to provide the maximum amount of outdoor air possible.

Throw away partially full containers of old or unneeded chemicals safely.

Because gases can leak even from closed containers, this single step could help lower concentrations of organic chemicals in your home. (Be sure that materials you decide to keep are stored not only in a well-ventilated area but are also safely out of reach of children.) Do not simply toss these unwanted products in the garbage can. Find out if your local government or any organization in your community sponsors special days for the collection of toxic household wastes. If such days are available, use them to dispose of the unwanted containers safely. If no such collection days are available, think about organizing one. 

Buy limited quantities.

If you use products only occasionally or seasonally, such as paints, paint strippers, and kerosene for space heaters or gasoline for lawn mowers, buy only as much as you will use right away.

Keep exposure to emissions from products containing methylene chloride to a minimum.

Consumer products that contain methylene chloride include paint strippers, adhesive removers, and aerosol spray paints. Methylene chloride is known to cause cancer in animals. Also, methylene chloride is converted to carbon monoxide in the body and can cause symptoms associated with exposure to carbon monoxide. Carefully read the labels containing health hazard information and cautions on the proper use of these products. Use products that contain methylene chloride outdoors when possible; use indoors only if the area is well ventilated.

Keep exposure to benzene to a minimum.

Benzene is a known human carcinogen. The main indoor sources of this chemical are environmental tobacco smoke, stored fuels and paint supplies, and automobile emissions in attached garages. Actions that will reduce benzene exposure include eliminating smoking within the home, providing for maximum ventilation during painting, and discarding paint supplies and special fuels that will not be used immediately.

Keep exposure to perchloroethylene emissions from newly dry-cleaned materials to a minimum.

Perchloroethylene is the chemical most widely used in dry cleaning. In laboratory studies, it has been shown to cause cancer in animals. Recent studies indicate that people breathe low levels of this chemical both in homes where dry-cleaned goods are stored and as they wear dry-cleaned clothing. Dry cleaners recapture the perchloroethylene during the dry-cleaning process so they can save money by re-using it, and they remove more of the chemical during the pressing and finishing processes. Some dry cleaners, however, do not remove as much perchloroethylene as possible all of the time. Taking steps to minimize your exposure to this chemical is prudent. If dry-cleaned goods have a strong chemical odor when you pick them up, do not accept them until they have been properly dried. If goods with a chemical odor are returned to you on subsequent visits, try a different dry cleaner.

FORMALDEHYDE

Formaldehyde is an important chemical used widely by industry to manufacture building materials and numerous household products. It is also a by-product of combustion and certain other natural processes. Thus, it may be present in substantial concentrations both indoors and outdoors.

Sources of formaldehyde in the home include building materials, smoking, household products, and the use of unvented, fuel-burning appliances, like gas stoves or kerosene space heaters. Formaldehyde, by itself or in combination with other chemicals, serves a number of purposes in manufactured products. For example, it is used to add permanent-press qualities to clothing and draperies, as a component of glues and adhesives, and as a preservative in some paints and coating products.

In homes, the most significant sources of formaldehyde are likely to be pressed wood products made using adhesives that contain urea-formaldehyde (UF) resins. Pressed wood products made for indoor use include: particleboard (used as subflooring and shelving and in cabinetry and furniture); hardwood plywood paneling (used for decorative wall covering and used in cabinets and furniture); and medium density fiberboard (used for drawer fronts, cabinets, and furniture tops). Medium density fiberboard contains a higher resin-to-wood ratio than any other UF pressed wood product and is generally recognized as being the highest formaldehyde-emitting pressed wood product.

Other pressed wood products, such as softwood plywood and flake or oriented strandboard, are produced for exterior construction use and contain the dark, or red/black-colored phenol-formaldehyde (PF) resin. Although formaldehyde is present in both types of resins, pressed woods that contain PF resin generally emit formaldehyde at considerably lower rates than those containing UF resin.

Since 1985, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has permitted only the use of plywood and particleboard that conform to specified formaldehyde emission limits in the construction of prefabricated and mobile homes. In the past, some of these homes had elevated levels of formaldehyde because of the large amount of high-emitting pressed wood products used in their construction and because of their relatively small interior space.

The rate at which products like pressed wood or textiles release formaldehyde can change. Formaldehyde emissions will generally decrease as products age. When the products are new, high indoor temperatures or humidity can cause increased release of formaldehyde from these products.

During the 1970s, many homeowners had urea-formaldehyde foam insulation (UFFI) installed in the wall cavities of their homes as an energy conservation measure. However, many of these homes were found to have relatively high indoor concentrations of formaldehyde soon after the UFFI installation. Few homes are now being insulated with this product. Studies show that formaldehyde emissions from UFFI decline with time; therefore, homes in which UFFI was installed many years ago are unlikely to have high levels of formaldehyde now.

Health Effects of Formaldehyde

Formaldehyde, a colorless, pungent-smelling gas, can cause watery eyes, burning sensations in the eyes and throat, nausea, and difficulty in breathing in some humans exposed at elevated levels (above 0.1 parts per million). High concentrations may trigger attacks in people with asthma. There is evidence that some people can develop a sensitivity to formaldehyde. It has also been shown to cause cancer in animals and may cause cancer in humans.

Reducing Exposure to Formaldehyde in Homes

Ask about the formaldehyde content of pressed wood products,including building materials, cabinetry, and furniture before you purchase them.

If you experience adverse reactions to formaldehyde, you may want to avoid the use of pressed wood products and other formaldehyde-emitting goods. Even if you do not experience such reactions, you may wish to reduce your exposure as much as possible by purchasing exterior-grade products, which emit less formaldehyde. For further information on formaldehyde and consumer products, call the EPA Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) assistance line (202-554-1404).

Some studies suggest that coating pressed wood products with polyurethane may reduce formaldehyde emissions for some period of time. To be effective, any such coating must cover all surfaces and edges and remain intact. Increase the ventilation and carefully follow the manufacturernstructions while applying these coatings. (If you are sensitive to formaldehyde, check the label contents before purchasing coating products to avoid buying products that contain formaldehyde, as they will emit the chemical for a short time after application.) Maintain moderate temperature and humidity levels and provide adequate ventilation. The rate at which formaldehyde is released is accelerated by heat and may also depend somewhat on the humidity level. Therefore, the use of dehumidifiers and air conditioning to control humidity and to maintain a moderate temperature can help reduce formaldehyde emissions. (Drain and clean dehumidifier collection trays frequently so that they do not become a breeding ground for microorganisms.) Increasing the rate of ventilation in your home will also help in reducing formaldehyde levels.

PESTICIDES

According to a recent survey, 75 percent of U.S. households used at least one pesticide product indoors during the past year. Products used most often are insecticides and disinfectants. Another study suggests that 80 percent of most people's exposure to pesticides occurs indoors and that measurable levels of up to a dozen pesticides have been found in the air inside homes. The amount of pesticides found in homes appears to be greater than can be explained by recent pesticide use in those households; other possible sources include contaminated soil or dust that floats or is tracked in from outside, stored pesticide containers, and household surfaces that collect and then release the pesticides. Pesticides used in and around the home include products to control insects (insecticides), termites (termiticides), rodents (rodenticides), fungi (fungicides), and microbes (disinfectants). They are sold as sprays, liquids, sticks, powders, crystals, balls, and foggers.

In 1990, the American Association of Poison Control Centers reported that some 79,000 children were involved in common household pesticide poisonings or exposures. In households with children under five years old, almost one-half stored at least one pesticide product within reach of children.

EPA registers pesticides for use and requires manufacturers to put information on the label about when and how to use the pesticide. It is important to remember that the "-cide" in pesticides means "to kill." These products can be dangerous if not used properly.

In addition to the active ingredient, pesticides are also made up of ingredients that are used to carry the active agent. These carrier agents are called "inerts" in pesticides because they are not toxic to the targeted pest; nevertheless, some inerts are capable of causing health problems.

Health Effects From Pesticides

Both the active and inert ingredients in pesticides can be organic compounds; therefore, both could add to the levels of airborne organics inside homes. Both types of ingredients can cause the effects discussed in this document under "Household Products," however, as with other household products, there is insufficient understanding at present about what pesticide concentrations are necessary to produce these effects.

Exposure to high levels of cyclodiene pesticides, commonly associated with misapplication, has produced various symptoms, including headaches, dizziness, muscle twitching, weakness, tingling sensations, and nausea. In addition, EPA is concerned that cyclodienes might cause long-term damage to the liver and the central nervous system, as well as an increased risk of cancer.

There is no further sale or commercial use permitted for the following cyclodiene or related pesticides: chlordane, aldrin, dieldrin, and heptachlor. The only exception is the use of heptachlor by utility companies to control fire ants in underground cable boxes.

Reducing Exposure to Pesticides in Homes

Read the label and follow the directions. It is illegal to use any pesticide in any manner inconsistent with the directions on its label.

Unless you have had special training and are certified, never use a pesticide that is restricted to use by state-certified pest control operators. Such pesticides are simply too dangerous for application by a noncertified person. Use only the pesticides approved for use by the general public and then only in recommended amounts; increasing the amount does not offer more protection against pests and can be harmful to you and your plants and pets.

Ventilate the area well after pesticide use.

Mix or dilute pesticides outdoors or in a well-ventilated area and only in the amounts that will be immediately needed. If possible, take plants and pets outside when applying pesticides to them.

Use nonchemical methods of pest control when possible.

Since pesticides can be found far from the site of their original application, it is prudent to reduce the use of chemical pesticides outdoors as well as indoors. Depending on the site and pest to be controlled, one or more of the following steps can be effective: use of biological pesticides, such as Bacillus thuringiensis, for the control of gypsy moths; selection of disease-resistant plants; and frequent washing of indoor plants and pets. Termite damage can be reduced or prevented by making certain that wooden building materials do not come into direct contact with the soil and by storing firewood away from the home. By appropriately fertilizing, watering, and aerating lawns, the need for chemical pesticide treatments of lawns can be dramatically reduced.

If you decide to use a pest control company, choose one carefully.

Ask for an inspection of your home and get a written control program for evaluation before you sign a contract. The control program should list specific names of pests to be controlled and chemicals to be used; it should also reflect any of your safety concerns. Insist on a proven record of competence and customer satisfaction.

Dispose of unwanted pesticides safely.

If you have unused or partially used pesticide containers you want to get rid of, dispose of them according to the directions on the label or on special household hazardous waste collection days. If there are no such collection days in your community, work with others to organize them.

Keep exposure to moth repellents to a minimum.

One pesticide often found in the home is paradichlorobenzene, a commonly used active ingredient in moth repellents. This chemical is known to cause cancer in animals, but substantial scientific uncertainty exists over the effects, if any, of long-term human exposure to paradichlorobenzene. EPA requires that products containing paradichlorobenzene bear warnings such as "avoid breathing vapors" to warn users of potential short-term toxic effects. Where possible, paradichlorobenzene, and items to be protected against moths, should be placed in trunks or other containers that can be stored in areas that are separately ventilated from the home, such as attics and detached garages. Paradichlorobenzene is also the key active ingredient in many air fresheners (in fact, some labels for moth repellents recommend that these same products be used as air fresheners or deodorants). Proper ventilation and basic household cleanliness will go a long way toward preventing unpleasant odors.

Call the National Pesticide Telecommunications Network (NPTN).

EPA sponsors the NPTN (800-858-PEST) to answer your questions about pesticides and to provide selected EPA publications on pesticides.

ASBESTOS

Asbestos is a mineral fiber that has been used commonly in a variety of building construction materials for insulation and as a fire-retardant. EPA and CPSC have banned several asbestos products. Manufacturers have also voluntarily limited uses of asbestos. Today, asbestos is most commonly found in older homes, in pipe and furnace insulation materials, asbestos shingles, millboard, textured paints and other coating materials, and floor tiles.

Elevated concentrations of airborne asbestos can occur after asbestos-containing materials are disturbed by cutting, sanding or other remodeling activities. Improper attempts to remove these materials can release asbestos fibers into the air in homes, increasing asbestos levels and endangering people living in those homes.

Health Effects of Asbestos

The most dangerous asbestos fibers are too small to be visible. After they are inhaled, they can remain and accumulate in the lungs. Asbestos can cause lung cancer, meso-thelioma (a cancer of the chest and abdominal linings), and asbestosis (irreversible lung scarring that can be fatal). Symptoms of these diseases do not show up until many years after exposure began. Most people with asbestos-related diseases were exposed to elevated concentrations on the job; some developed disease from exposure to clothing and equipment brought home from job sites.

Reducing Exposure to Asbestos in Homes

Learn how asbestos problems are created in homes.

Read the booklet, Asbestos in Your Home, issued by CPSC, the ALA, and EPA. To contact these organizations, see the section, "Where to Go For More Information."

If you think your home may have asbestos, dont panic!

Usually it is best to leave asbestos material that is in good condition alone. Generally, material in good condition will not release asbestos fiber. There is no danger unless fibers are released and inhaled into the lungs.

Do not cut, rip, or sand asbestos-containing materials.

Leave undamaged materials alone and, to the extent possible, prevent them from being damaged, disturbed, or touched. Periodically inspect for damage or deterioration. Discard damaged or worn asbestos gloves, stove-top pads, or ironing board covers. Check with local health, environmental, or other appropriate officials to find out about proper handling and disposal procedures.

If asbestos material is more than slightly damaged, or if you are going to make changes in your home that might disturb it, repair or removal by a professional is needed. Before you have your house remodeled, find out whether asbestos materials are present.

When you need to remove or clean up asbestos, use a professionally trained contractor.

Select a contractor only after careful discussion of the problems in your home and the steps the contractor will take to clean up or remove them. Consider the option of sealing off the materials instead of removing them.

Call EPA's TSCA assistance line (202-554-1404) to find out whether your state has a training and certification program for asbestos removal contractors and for information on EPA's asbestos programs.

LEAD

Lead has long been recognized as a harmful environmental pollutant. In late 1991, the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services called lead the "number one environmental threat to the health of children in the United States." There are many ways in which humans are exposed to lead: through air, drinking water, food, contaminated soil, deteriorating paint, and dust. Airborne lead enters the body when an individual breathes or swallows lead particles or dust once it has settled. Before it was known how harmful lead could be, it was used in paint, gasoline, water pipes, and many other products.

Old lead-based paint is the most significant source of lead exposure in the U.S. today. Harmful exposures to lead can be created when lead-based paint is improperly removed from surfaces by dry scraping, sanding, or open-flame burning. High concentrations of airborne lead particles in homes can also result from lead dust from outdoor sources, including contaminated soil tracked inside, and use of lead in certain indoor activities such as soldering and stained-glass making.

Health Effects of Exposure to Lead

Lead affects practically all systems within the body. At high levels it can cause convulsions, coma, and even death. Lower levels of lead can adversely affect the brain, central nervous system, blood cells, and kidneys.

The effects of lead exposure on fetuses and young children can be severe. They include delays in physical and mental development, lower IQ levels, shortened attention spans, and increased behavioral problems. Fetuses , infants, and children are more vulnerable to lead exposure than adults since lead is more easily absorbed into growing bodies, and the tissues of small children are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead. Children may have higher exposures since they are more likely to get lead dust on their hands and then put their fingers or other lead-contaminated objects into their mouths.

Get your child tested for lead exposure. To find out where to do this, call your doctor or local health clinic. For more information on health effects, get a copy of the Centers for Disease Control's, Preventing Lead Poisoning in Young Children (October 1991).

Ways to Reduce Exposure to Lead

Keep areas where children play as dust-free and clean as possible.

Mop floors and wipe window ledges and chewable surfaces such as cribs with a solution of powdered automatic dishwasher detergent in warm water. (Dishwasher detergents are recommended because of their high content of phosphate.) Most multi-purpose cleaners will not remove lead in ordinary dust. Wash toys and stuffed animals regularly. Make sure that children wash their hands before meals, nap time, and bedtime.

Reduce the risk from lead-based paint.

Most homes built before 1960 contain heavily leaded paint. Some homes built as recently as 1978 may also contain lead paint. This paint could be on window frames, walls, the outside of homes, or other surfaces. Do not burn painted wood since it may contain lead.

Leave lead-based paint undisturbed if it is in good condition - do not sand or burn off paint that may contain lead.

Lead paint in good condition is usually not a problem except in places where painted surfaces rub against each other and create dust (for example, opening a window).

Do not remove lead paint yourself.

Individuals have been poisoned by scraping or sanding lead paint because these activities generate large amounts of lead dust. Consult your state health or housing department for suggestions on which private laboratories or public agencies may be able to help test your home for lead in paint. Home test kits cannot detect small amounts of lead under some conditions. Hire a person with special training for correcting lead paint problems to remove lead-based paint. Occupants, especially children and pregnant women, should leave the building until all work is finished and clean-up is done.
For additional information dealing with lead-based paint abatement contact the Department of Housing and Urban Development for the following two documents: Comprehensive and Workable Plan for the Abatement of Lead-Based Paint in Privately Owned Housing: Report to Congress (December 7, 1990) and Lead-Based Paint: Interim Guidelines for Hazard Identification and Abatement in Public and Indian Housing (September 1990).

Do not bring lead dust into the home.

If you work in construction, demolition, painting, with batteries, in a radiator repair shop or lead factory, or your hobby involves lead, you may unknowingly bring lead into your home on your hands or clothes. You may also be tracking in lead from soil around your home. Soil very close to homes may be contaminated from lead paint on the outside of the building. Soil by roads and highways may be contaminated from years of exhaust fumes from cars and trucks that used leaded gas. Use door mats to wipe your feet before entering the home. If you work with lead in your job or a hobby, change your clothes before you go home and wash these clothes separately. Encourage your children to play in sand and grassy areas instead of dirt which sticks to fingers and toys. Try to keep your children from eating dirt, and make sure they wash their hands when they come inside.

Find out about lead in drinking water.

Most well and city water does not usually contain lead. Water usually picks up lead inside the home from household plumbing that is made with lead materials. The only way to know if there is lead in drinking water is to have it tested. Contact the local health department or the water supplier to find out how to get the water tested. Send for the EPA pamphlet, Lead and Your Drinking Water, for more information about what you can do if you have lead in your drinking water. Call EPA's Safe Drinking Water Hotline (800-426-4791) for more information.

Eat right.

A child who gets enough iron and calcium will absorb less lead. Foods rich in iron include eggs, red meats, and beans. Dairy products are high in calcium. Do not store food or liquid in lead crystal glassware or imported or old pottery. If you reuse old plastic bags to store or carry food, keep the printing on the outside of the bag.

You can get a brochure, Lead Poisoning and Your Children, and more information by calling the National Lead Information Center, 800-LEAD-FYI.

WHAT ABOUT CARPET?

In recent years, a number of consumers have associated a variety of symptoms with the installation of new carpet. Scientists have not been able to determine whether the chemicals emitted by new carpets are responsible. If you are installing new carpet, you may wish to take the following steps:

  • Talk to your carpet retailer. Ask for information on emissions from carpet.
  • Ask the retailer to unroll and air out the carpet in a well-ventilated area before installation.
  • Ask for low-emitting adhesives if adhesives are needed.
  • Consider leaving the premises during and immediately after carpet installation. You may wish to schedule the installation when most family members or office workers are out.
  • Be sure the retailer requires the installer to follow the Carpet and Rug Institute's installation guidelines.
  • Open doors and windows. Increasing the amount of fresh air in the home will reduce exposure to most chemicals released from carpet. During and after installation, use window fans, room air conditioners, or other mechanical ventilation equipment you may have installed in your house, to exhaust fumes to the outdoors. Keep them running for 48 to 72 hours after the new carpet is installed.
  • Contact your carpet retailer if objectionable odors persist.
  • Follow the manufacturer's instructions for proper carpet maintenance.

WHEN BUILDING A NEW HOME

Building a new home provides the opportunity for preventing indoor air problems. However, it can result in exposure to higher levels of indoor air contaminants if careful attention is not given to potential pollution sources and the air exchange rate.

Express your concerns about indoor air quality to your architect or builder and enlist his or her cooperation in taking measures to provide good indoor air quality. Talk both about purchasing building materials and furnishings that are low-emitting and about providing an adequate amount of ventilation.

The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) recommends a ventilation rate of 0.35 ach (air changes per hour) for new homes, and some new homes are built to even tighter specifications. Particular care should be given in such homes to preventing the build-up of indoor air pollutants to high levels.

Here are a few important actions that can make a difference:

Use radon-resistant construction techniques.

Obtain a copy of the EPA booklet, Model Standards and Techniques for Control of Radon in New Residential Buildings, from your state radon office or health agency, your state homebuilders' association, or your EPA regional office.

Choose building materials and furnishings that will keep indoor air pollution to a minimum.

There are many actions a homeowner can take to select products that will prevent indoor air problems from occurring - a couple of them are mentioned here. First, use exterior-grade pressed wood products made with phenol-formaldehyde resin in floors, cabinetry, and wall surfaces. Or, as an alternative, consider using solid wood products. Secondly, if you plan to install wall-to-wall carpet on concrete in contact with the ground, especially concrete in basements, make sure that an effective moisture barrier is installed prior to installing the carpet. Do not permanently adhere carpet to concrete with adhesives so that the carpet can be removed if it becomes wet.

Provide proper drainage and seal foundations in new construction.

Air that enters the home through the foundation can contain more moisture than is generated from all occupant activities.

Become familiar with mechanical ventilation systems and consider installing one.

Advanced designs of new homes are starting to feature mechanical systems that bring outdoor air into the home. Some of these designs include energy-efficient heat recovery ventilators (also known as air-to-air heat exchangers).

Ensure that combustion appliances, including furnaces, fireplaces, woodstoves, and heaters, are properly vented and receive enough supply air.

Combustion gases, including carbon monoxide, and particles can be back-drafted from the chimney or flue into the living space if the combustion appliance is not properly vented or does not receive enough supply air. Back-drafting can be a particular problem in weatherized or tightly constructed homes. Installing a dedicated outdoor air supply for the combustion appliance can help prevent backdrafting.

DO YOU SUSPECT YOUR OFFICE HAS AN INDOOR AIR PROBLEM?

Indoor air quality problems are not limited to homes. In fact, many office buildings have significant air pollution sources. Some of these buildings may be inadequately ventilated. For example, mechanical ventilation systems may not be designed or operated to provide adequate amounts of outdoor air. Finally, people generally have less control over the indoor environment in their offices than they do in their homes. As a result, there has been an increase in the incidence of reported health problems.

Health Effects

A number of well-identified illnesses, such as Legionnaires' disease, asthma, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, and humidifier fever, have been directly traced to specific building problems. These are called building-related illnesses. Most of these diseases can be treated, nevertheless, some pose serious risks.

Sometimes, however, building occupants experience symptoms that do not fit the pattern of any particular illness and are difficult to trace to any specific source.This phenomenon has been labeled sick building syndrome. People may complain of one or more of the following symptoms: dry or burning mucous membranes in the nose, eyes, and throat; sneezing; stuffy or runny nose; fatigue or lethargy; headache; dizziness; nausea; irritability and forgetfulness. Poor lighting, noise, vibration, thermal discomfort, and psychological stress may also cause, or contribute to, these symptoms.

There is no single manner in which these health problems appear. In some cases, problems begin as workers enter their offices and diminish as workers leave; other times, symptoms continue until the illness is treated. Sometimes there are outbreaks of illness among many workers in a single building; in other cases, health symptoms show up only in individual workers.

In the opinion of some World Health Organization experts, up to 30 percent of new or remodeled commercial buildings may have unusually high rates of health and comfort complaints from occupants that may potentially be related to indoor air quality.

What Causes Problems?

Three major reasons for poor indoor air quality in office buildings are the presence of indoor air pollution sources; poorly designed, maintained, or operated ventilation systems; and uses of the building that were unanticipated or poorly planned for when the building was designed or renovated.

Sources of Office Air Pollution

As with homes, the most important factor influencing indoor air quality is the presence of pollutant sources. Commonly found office pollutants and their sources include environmental tobacco smoke; asbestos from insulating and fire-retardant building supplies; formaldehyde from pressed wood products; other organics from building materials, carpet, and other office furnishings, cleaning materials and activities, restroom air fresheners, paints, adhesives, copying machines, and photography and print shops; biological contaminants from dirty ventilation systems or water-damaged walls, ceilings, and carpets; and pesticides from pest management practices.

Ventilation Systems

Mechanical ventilation systems in large buildings are designed and operated not only to heat and cool the air, but also to draw in and circulate outdoor air. If they are poorly designed, operated, or maintained, however, ventilation systems can contribute to indoor air problems in several ways.

For example, problems arise when, in an effort to save energy, ventilation systems are not used to bring in adequate amounts of outdoor air. Inadequate ventilation also occurs if the air supply and return vents within each room are blocked or placed in such a way that outdoor air does not actually reach the breathing zone of building occupants. Improperly located outdoor air intake vents can also bring in air contaminated with automobile and truck exhaust, boiler emissions, fumes from dumpsters, or air vented from restrooms. Finally, ventilation systems can be a source of in door pollution themselves by spreading biological contaminants that have multiplied in cooling towers, humidifiers, dehumidifiers, air conditioners, or the inside surfaces of ventilation duct work.

Use of the Building

Indoor air pollutants can be circulated from portions of the building used for specialized purposes, such as restaurants, print shops, and dry-cleaning stores, into offices in the same building. Carbon monoxide and other components of automobile exhaust can be drawn from underground parking garages through stairwells and elevator shafts into office spaces.

In addition, buildings originally designed for one purpose may end up being converted to use as office space. If not properly modified during building renovations, the room partitions and ventilation system can contribute to indoor air quality problems by restricting air recirculation or by providing an inadequate supply of outdoor air.

What to Do if You Suspect a Problem

If you or others at your office are experiencing health or comfort problems that you suspect may be caused by indoor air pollution, you can do the following:

  • Talk with other workers, your supervisor, and union representatives to see if the problems are being experienced by others and urge that a record of reported health complaints be kept by management, if one has not already been established.
  • Talk with your own physician and report your problems to the company physician, nurse, or health and safety officer.
  • Call your state or local health department or air pollution control agency to talk over the symptoms and possible causes.
  • Encourage building management to obtain a copy of Building Air Quality: A Guide for Building Owners and Facility Managers from the EPA. Building Air Quality (BAQ) is simply written, yet provides comprehensive information for identifying, correcting, and preventing indoor air quality problems. BAQ also provides supporting information such as when and how to select outside technical assistance, how to communicate with others regarding indoor air issues, and where to find additional sources of information. To obtain the looseleaf-fomat version of the Building Air Quality, complete with appendices, an index, and a full set of useful forms, and the newly released, Building Air Quality Action Plan, order GPO Stock # 055-000-00602-4, for $28, contact the: Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO), P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954, or call (202) 512-1800, fax (202) 512-2250.
  • Obtain a copy of "An Office Building Occupant's Guide to Indoor Air Quality," EPA-402-K-97-003, October 1997 from IAQ INFO at 1-800-438-4318.
  • Frequently, indoor air quality problems in large commercial buildings cannot be effectively identified or remedied without a comprehensive building investigation. These investigations may start with written questionnaires and telephone consultations in which building investigators assess the history of occupant symptoms and building operation procedures. In some cases, these inquiries may quickly uncover the problem and on-site visits are unnecessary.
  • More often, however, investigators will need to come to the building to conduct personal interviews with occupants, to look for possible sources of the problems, and to inspect the design and operation of the ventilation system and other building features. Because taking measurements of pollutants at the very low levels often found in office buildings is expensive and may not yield information readily useful in identifying problem sources, investigators may not take many measurements. The process of solving indoor air quality problems that result in health and comfort complaints can be a slow one, involving several trial solutions before successful remedial actions are identified.
  • If a professional company is hired to conduct a building investigation, select a company on the basis of its experience in identifying and solving indoor air quality problems in nonindustrial buildings.
  • Work with others to establish a smoking policy that eliminates involuntary nonsmoker exposure to environmental tobacco smoke.
  • Call the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) for information on obtaining a health hazard evaluation of your office (800-35NIOSH), or contact the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, (202) 219-8151.

REFERENCE GUIDE TO MAJOR INDOOR AIR POLLUTANTS IN THE HOME

The pollutants listed in this guide have been shown to cause the health effects mentioned. However, it is not necessarily true that the effects noted occur at the pollutant concentration levels typically found in the home. In many cases, our understanding of the pollutants and their health effects is too limited to determine the levels at which the listed effects could occur.

RADON (Rn)

Sources: Earth and rock beneath home; well water; building materials.

Health Effects: No immediate symptoms. Estimated to contribute to between 7,000 and 30,000 lung cancer deaths each year. Smokers are at higher risk of developing radon-induced lung cancer.

Levels in Homes: Based on a national residential radon survey completed in 1991, the average indoor radon level is 1.3 picocuries per liter (pCi/L). The average outdoor level is about 0.4 pCi/L.

Steps to Reduce Exposure:

  • Test your home for radon_it's easy and inexpensive.
  • Fix your home if your radon level is 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) or higher.
  • Radon levels less than 4 pCi/L still pose a risk, and in many cases may be reduced.
  • If you want more information on radon, contact your state radon office, or call 800-SOS-RADON.

ENVIRONMENTAL TOBACCO SMOKE (ETS)

Source: Cigarette, pipe, and cigar smoking.

Health Effects: Eye, nose, and throat irritation; headaches; lung cancer; may contribute to heart disease. Specifically for children, increased risk of lower respiratory tract infections, such as bronchitis and pneumonia, and ear infections; build-up of fluid in the middle ear; increased severity and frequency of asthma episodes; decreased lung function.

Levels in Homes: Particle levels in homes without smokers or other strong particle sources are the same as, or lower than, those outdoors. Homes with one or more smokers may have particle levels several times higher than outdoor levels.

Steps to Reduce Exposure:

  • Do not smoke in your home or permit others to do so.
  • Do not smoke if children are present, particularly infants and toddlers.
  • If smoking indoors cannot be avoided, increase ventilation in the area where smoking takes place. Open windows or use exhaust fans.

BIOLOGICALS

Sources: Wet or moist walls, ceilings, carpets, and furniture; poorly maintained humidifiers, dehumidifiers, and air conditioners; bedding; household pets.

Health Effects: Eye, nose, and throat irritation; shortness of breath; dizziness; lethargy; fever; digestive problems. Can cause asthma; humidifier fever; influenza and other infectious diseases.

Levels in Homes: Indoor levels of pollen and fungi are lower than outdoor levels (except where indoor sources of fungi are present). Indoor levels of dust mites are higher than outdoor levels.

Steps to Reduce Exposure:

  • Install and use fans vented to outdoors in kitchens and bathrooms.
  • Vent clothes dryers to outdoors.
  • Clean cool mist and ultrasonic humidifiers in accordance with manufacturer's instructions and refill with clean water daily.
  • Empty water trays in air conditioners, dehumidifiers, and refrigerators frequently.
  • Clean and dry or remove water-damaged carpets.
  • Use basements as living areas only if they are leakproof and have adequate ventilation. Use dehumidifiers, if necessary, to maintain humidity between 30-50 percent.

CARBON MONOXIDE (CO)

Sources: Unvented kerosene and gas space heaters; leaking chimneys and furnaces; back-drafting from furnaces, gas water heaters, woodstoves, and fireplaces; gas stoves. Automobile exhaust from attached garages. Environmental Tobacco Smoke.

Health Effects: At low concentrations, fatigue in healthy people and chest pain in people with heart disease. At higher concentrations, impaired vision and coordination; headaches; dizziness; confusion; nausea. Can cause flu-like symptoms that clear up after leaving home. Fatal at very high concentrations.

Levels in Homes: Average levels in homes without gas stoves vary from 0.5 to 5 parts per million (ppm). Levels near properly adjusted gas stoves are often 5 to 15 ppm and those near poorly adjusted stoves may be 30 ppm or higher.

Steps to Reduce Exposure:

  • Keep gas appliances properly adjusted.
  • Consider purchasing a vented space heater when replacing an unvented one.
  • Use proper fuel in kerosene space heaters.
  • Install and use an exhaust fan vented to outdoors over gas stoves.
  • Open flues when fireplaces are in use.
  • Choose properly sized woodstoves that are certified to meet EPA emission standards. Make certain that doors on all woodstoves fit tightly.
  • Have a trained professional inspect, clean, and tune-up central heating system (furnaces, flues, and chimneys) annually. Repair any leaks promptly.
  • Do not idle the car inside garage.

NITROGEN DIOXIDE (NO2)

Sources: Kerosene heaters, unvented gas stoves and heaters. Environmental tobacco smoke. Health Effects: Eye, nose, and throat irritation. May cause impaired lung function and increased respiratory infections in young children.

Levels in Homes: Average level in homes without combustion appliances is about half that of outdoors. In homes with gas stoves, kerosene heaters, or unvented gas space heaters, indoor levels often exceed outdoor levels.

Steps to Reduce Exposure: See steps under carbon monoxide.

ORGANIC GASES

Sources: Household products including: paints, paint strippers, and other solvents; wood preservatives; aerosol sprays; cleansers and disinfectants; moth repellents and air fresheners; stored fuels and automotive products; hobby supplies; dry-cleaned clothing.

Health Effects: Eye, nose, and throat irritation; headaches, loss of coordination, nausea; damage to liver, kidney, and central nervous system. Some organics can cause cancer in animals; some are suspected or known to cause cancer in humans.

Levels in Homes: Studies have found that levels of several organics average 2 to 5 times higher indoors than outdoors. During and for several hours immediately after certain activities, such as paint stripping, levels may be 1,000 times background outdoor levels.

Steps to Reduce Exposure:

  • Use household products according to manufac-turer's directions.
  • Make sure you provide plenty of fresh air when using these products.
  • Throw away unused or little-used containers safely; buy in quantities that you will use soon.
  • Keep out of reach of children and pets.
  • Never mix household care products unless directed on the label.

RESPIRABLE PARTICLES

Sources: Fireplaces, woodstoves, and kerosene heaters. Environmental tobacco smoke.

Health Effects: Eye, nose, and throat irritation; respiratory infections and bronchitis; lung cancer. (Effects attributable to environmental tobacco smoke are listed elsewhere.)

Levels in Homes: Particle levels in homes without smoking or other strong particle sources are the same as, or lower than, outdoor levels.

Steps to Reduce Exposure:

  • Vent all furnaces to outdoors; keep doors to rest of house open when using unvented space heaters.
  • Choose properly sized woodstoves, certified to meet EPA emission standards; make certain that doors on all woodstoves fit tightly.
  • Have a trained professional inspect, clean, and tune-up central heating system (furnace, flues, and chimneys) annually. Repair any leaks promptly.
  • Change filters on central heating and cooling systems and air cleaners according to manufacturer's directions.

FORMALDEHYDE

Sources: Pressed wood products (hardwood plywood wall paneling, particleboard, fiberboard) and furniture made with these pressed wood products. Urea-formaldehyde foam insulation (UFFI). Combustion sources and environmental tobacco smoke. Durable press drapes, other textiles, and glues.

Health Effects: Eye, nose, and throat irritation; wheezing and coughing; fatigue; skin rash; severe allergic reactions. May cause cancer. May also cause other effects listed under "organic gases."

Levels in Homes: Average concentrations in older homes without UFFI are generally well below 0.1 (ppm). In homes with significant amounts of new pressed wood products, levels can be greater than 0.3 ppm.

Steps to Reduce Exposure:

  • Use "exterior-grade" pressed wood products (lower-emitting because they contain phenol resins, not urea resins).
  • Use air conditioning and dehumidifiers to maintain moderate temperature and reduce humidity levels.
  • Increase ventilation, particularly after bringing new sources of formaldehyde into the home.

PESTICIDES

Sources: Products used to kill household pests (insecticides, termiticides, and disinfectants). Also, products used on lawns and gardens that drift or are tracked inside the house.

Health Effects: Irritation to eye, nose, and throat; damage to central nervous system and kidney; increased risk of cancer.

Levels in Homes: Preliminary research shows widespread presence of pesticide residues in homes.

Steps to Reduce Exposure:

  • Use strictly according to manufacturer's directions.
  • Mix or dilute outdoors.
  • Apply only in recommended quantities.
  • Increase ventilation when using indoors. Take plants or pets outdoors when applying pesticides to them.
  • Use nonchemical methods of pest control where possible.
  • If you use a pest control company, select it carefully.
  • Do not store unneeded pesticides inside home; dispose of unwanted containers safely.
  • Store clothes with moth repellents in separately ventilated areas, if possible.
  • Keep indoor spaces clean, dry, and well ventilated to avoid pest and odor problems.

ASBESTOS

Sources: Deteriorating, damaged, or disturbed insulation, fireproofing, acoustical materials, and floor tiles.

Health Effects: No immediate symptoms, but long-term risk of chest and abdominal cancers and lung diseases. Smokers are at higher risk of developing asbestos-induced lung cancer.

Levels in Homes: Elevated levels can occur in homes where asbestos-containing materials are damaged or disturbed.

Steps to Reduce Exposure:

  • It is best to leave undamaged asbestos material alone if it is not likely to be disturbed.
  • Use trained and qualified contractors for control measures that may disturb asbestos and for cleanup.
  • Follow proper procedures in replacing woodstove door gaskets that may contain asbestos.

LEAD

Sources: Lead-based paint, contaminated soil, dust, and drinking water.

Health Effects: Lead affects practically all systems within the body. Lead at high levels (lead levels at or above 80 micrograms per deciliter (80 ug/dl) of blood) can cause convulsions, coma, and even death. Lower levels of lead can cause adverse health effects on the central nervous system, kidney, and blood cells. Blood lead levels as low as 10 ug/dl can impair mental and physical development.

Steps to Reduce Exposure:

  • Keep areas where children play as dust-free and clean as possible.
  • Leave lead-based paint undisturbed if it is in good condition; do not sand or burn off paint that may contain lead.
  • Do not remove lead paint yourself.
  • Do not bring lead dust into the home.
  • If your work or hobby involves lead, change clothes and use doormats before entering your home.
  • Eat a balanced diet, rich in calcium and iron.

SOURCE : US Consumer Product Safety Commission - A Guide to Indoor Air Quality
https://www.cpsc.gov/Safety-Education/Safety-Guides/Home/The-Inside-Story-A-Guide-to-Indoor-Air-Quality

Indoor Air Quality: The Invisible Epidemic Causing Headaches, Fatigue and Depression

Story at-a-glance

  • Indoor air quality can be up to <i>five times worse</i> than outdoor air, which can have a very detrimental impact on your health. One study identified a total of 586 different chemical pollutants in the indoor air of 52 homes along the Arizona-Mexico border.
  • Poor indoor air quality can cause or exacerbate a number of common ailments, including asthma, allergies, headaches, memory loss, fatigue and depression. Long-term health effects from exposure to toxic airborne particles include heart disease, respiratory disease, reproductive disorders, sterility and even cancer.
  • Four major sources of indoor air pollution include pressed wood products, carpets, paints, and furnishings treated with flame-retardant chemicals, such as mattresses, upholstery, drapes and curtains.
  • The most effective way to improve your indoor air quality is to control or eliminate as many sources of pollution as you can by using a high-quality air purifier. There are a wide variety of devices on the market, and the technology is constantly being upgraded. At present, air purifiers using Photo Catalytic Oxidation (PCO) seems to be the best technology available.
  • More than 14 additional common-sense strategies are included that can help you improve the air quality in your home or office.

By Dr. Mercola

Most people spend as much as 90 percent of their time indoors. 

But indoor air quality can be up to five times worse than outdoor air, which can have a very detrimental impact on your health.

For example, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), poor indoor air quality can cause or exacerbate:

  • Asthma, allergies, and other respiratory problems
  • Headaches
  • Eye and skin irritations
  • Sore throat, colds and flu
  • Memory loss, dizziness, fatigue and depression

Long-term effects from exposure to toxic airborne particles include heart disease, respiratory disease, reproductive disorders, sterility and even cancer.

Tips for Healthier Indoor Air

In The Daily Green, the American Lung Association offers 25 tips on how to keep the air in your home healthy. 

Here's a small sampling of them:

Don't Allow Smoking Indoors:  Each year, second hand smoke sends up to 15,000 children to the hospital.

There is no safe level of secondhand smoke; never let anyone smoke inside your home.

Don't Idle the Car in the Garage: Carbon monoxide exposure can lead to weakness, nausea, disorientation, unconsciousness and even death. Fumes from cars or lawnmowers left running in enclosed spaces can endanger your health.

Use Low-VOC Paints:  Paints release VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, for months after application. VOCs can include highly toxic chemicals such as formaldehyde and acetaldehyde.  Use low-VOC or no-VOC paints, varnishes, and waxes.

Clean Your Air Conditioner and Dehumidifier:  Standing water and high humidity encourage the growth of dust mites, mold and mildew. All of these can worsen asthma.  Use a dehumidifier or air conditioner when needed, and clean both regularly.

Beware of Dry Cleaning Chemicals:  Dry cleaning solvents can be toxic to breathe. Let dry cleaned items "air out" outdoors before bringing them inside.

Avoid Toxic Household Products: Hair and nail products, cleaning products, and art and hobby supplies can increase the levels of VOCs in your home. Some of the VOCs in these products have been linked to cancer, headaches, eye and throat irritation and worsened asthma.

To see the rest of their tips, please review the featured Daily Green article.

Do You Know What's in the Air You Breathe?

One 2009 study, in which they used gas chromatography and mass spectrometry to examine the air inside 52 ordinary homes near the Arizona-Mexico border, researchers found that indoor air was FAR more contaminated than previously demonstrated. They identified an astounding 586 chemicals, including the pesticides diazinon, chlorpyrifos and DDT.  Phthalates, endocrine-disrupting chemicals found in a variety of plastics, were also found in very high levels. Even more disturbing was the fact that they detected 120 chemicals they couldn't even identify!

For a listing of the most common indoor air pollutants and toxic particles, please see this previous article.

There's little doubt that most indoor areas have poor air quality. The question is, what to do about it? One of my recommendations used to be to move to an area known to have better air quality, as the more heavily polluted your outdoor air is, the worse it's going to be indoors.

I now believe the best thing you can do is to be proactive about cleaning the air inside your home and office, and being mindful about the chemicals you bring into and use inside your home. I also recommend paying close attention to the materials used in the construction and furnishings of your space as many building materials act as a continuous source of toxic air contaminants.

You may not have much individual control over the air outside, but these are some of the factors you DO have control over, which can help you create as health-promoting an environment as possible.

Four Major Sources of Air Contamination You DO have Control Over

Since environmental health is a concern of mine, I wanted to create the healthiest office possible for my staff, so a few years ago we built the "greenest" building we could. So green, in fact, the building received the prestigious Gold LEED certification. In addition to using air purifiers and lots of live plants, we also paid a great deal of attention to the building materials and furnishings that went into the space.

Four of the most common sources of air contamination from building materials and home furnishings include:

1.Pressed wood products—This faux wood is made of wood leftovers combined together. Pressed wood products include paneling, particle board, fiberboard and insulation. The glue that holds the wood particles in place may use urea-formaldehyde as a resin. The U.S. EPA estimates that this is the largest source of formaldehyde emissions indoors.

Formaldehyde exposure can set off watery eyes, burning eyes and throat, difficulty breathing and asthma attacks. Scientists also know that it can cause cancer in animals. The risk is greater with older pressed wood products, since newer ones are better regulated. To limit your exposure:

◦Use "exterior-grade" pressed wood products (lower-emitting because they contain phenol resins, not urea resins).

◦Use air conditioning and dehumidifiers to maintain moderate temperature and reduce humidity levels.

◦Increase ventilation, particularly after bringing new sources of formaldehyde into the home.

◦Ask about the formaldehyde content of pressed wood products, including building materials, cabinetry, and furniture before you purchase them.

◦Use solid wood whenever possible.

2.Chemicals in carpets—Many types of indoor carpeting off-gas VOC's and contain other toxic materials. The glue and dyes used with carpeting are also known to emit VOCs, which can be harmful to your health. Limit or eliminate exposure by carefully selecting non-toxic carpeting, such as those made of wool, or opt for non-toxic flooring like solid wood or bamboo instead.

3.Paint—While paints have gotten a lot less toxic over the past 25 years, most paints still emit harmful vapors, such as VOC's, formaldehyde and benzene, just to name a few. These types of fumes may be harmful to your brain over time, and they're released daily for about 30 days after application. Low levels can continue to leak into the air for as long as a year afterward, so you'll want to make sure you ventilate the area repeatedly.

Another danger is lead-based paint, which can be found in many homes built before 1978. Once the paint begins to peel away, it releases harmful lead particles that can be inhaled. In 1991, the U.S. government declared lead to be the greatest environmental threat to children. Even low concentrations can cause problems with your central nervous system, brain, blood cells and kidneys. It's particularly threatening for fetuses, babies and children, because of potential developmental disorders.

Fortunately, it's getting easier to find high-quality non-toxic paints, also known as "low-VOC" or "no-VOC" paint. Both large paint companies and smaller alternative brands now offer selections of such paints. For a list of distributors and manufacturers, see this link.

4.Mattresses, upholstery, drapes and curtains—These are all common sources of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs); flame retardant chemicals that have been linked to learning and memory problems, lowered sperm counts and poor thyroid functioning in rats and mice. Other animal studies have indicated that PBDEs could be carcinogenic in humans, although that has not yet been confirmed.

Your mattress may be of particular concern, as many contain not only PBDE's, but also toxic antimony, boric acid, and formaldehyde. Shopping for a safe mattress can be tricky, as manufacturers are not required to label or disclose which chemicals their mattresses contain. However, some manufacturers now offer toxin-free mattresses, such as those made of 100% wool, which is naturally fire resistant. There are also mattresses that use a Kevlar, bullet-proof type of material in lieu of chemicals for fire-proofing. These are available in most major mattress stores, and will help you to avoid some of the toxicity.

For more information and guidelines on selecting healthier alternatives, see this helpful article by Healthy Home Plans.

SOURCE : Dr. Mercola - Indoor Air Quality: The Invisible Epidemic Causing Headaches, Fatigue and Depression
https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/12/26/how-to-purify-the-air-in-your-home.aspx

Your Child Is Even MORE Vulnerable than You to Damage from Airborne Toxins

You may not be aware that the concentration of pollutants in air varies with its distance from the floor. Many contaminants are heavier than air, so they concentrate closer to the floor—such as heavy metals and pesticides.

Dust inside homes has been shown to collect pesticide residues.

These heavy toxic residues can also be tracked in on your shoes and on the paws of your pets, where infants and toddlers have direct contact with them for extended periods of time. There is less air mixing near the floor, even with a window open for ventilation, and this is precisely where your infant or toddler spends most of his time.

This means the air your toddler breathes is likely more toxic than yours!

Children are also more susceptible to damage by indoor air pollution due to the physiological differences between them and adults:

  • Children more often breathe through their mouths, rather than their noses, which affords less opportunity for particulates to be filtered out by nasal cilia in the upper respiratory tract. Young children are obligatory mouth breathers.
  • Children receive proportionately larger doses of inhaled toxins, due to their smaller size and higher ventilator rate.
  • Children are more active than adults, and volume of inhaled air increases with activity due to increased heart and respiratory rate. Toxins enter your child's blood faster than they enter yours.
  • Children's immune systems are less mature than adults, so they are more prone to inflammatory and allergic reactions.
  • Children have a higher cumulative risk from toxins over their life spans.

Recent studies have revealed that air pollution has more serious negative consequences for infants and children than we could have imagined. And maternal exposure to air pollution has profound impacts on the brain of a developing fetus.

Common Air Pollutants Can Damage Your Baby's Developing Brain

Prenatal exposure to airborne toxins is associated with genetic abnormalities at birth that may increase cancer risk, smaller newborn head size, lower birth weight, developmental delays, and a higher risk for childhood asthma.

A study in 2009 published in Pediatrics revealed very disturbing findings.

In New York City, 249 pregnant women were fitted with backpack air monitors during their last months of pregnancy. When their children turned 5, they were given IQ tests prior to starting school. Children whose mothers were exposed to the most air pollution before birth scored 4 to 5 points lower in IQwhich is enough to impair school performance.

The study suggests prenatal exposure to air pollution has detrimental effects on your child's developing brain, which is exactly what three recent studies have shown us about prenatal exposure to pesticides.

Clearly, this is a MAJOR health issue that must be addressed.

Now that you understand the depth and breadth of the indoor air pollution problem, the remainder of this report will focus on what you can do to remove these ugly invaders from your air supply.

SOURCE : Dr. Mercola - INSIDE Your Home: The Ugly Invaders Which Can Make You Sick
https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/07/25/poor-indoor-air-quality-could-be-jeopardizing-your-health.aspx

INSIDE Your Home: The Ugly Invaders Which Can Make You Sick

By Dr. Mercola
You are immersed in an ocean of air every minute of the day, whether you are running a marathon or asleep in your bedroom. Your health depends on the continuous balance of inspiration and expiration, the delicate exchange of gases between you and Earth's atmosphere.

According to a study by the California EPA, every man, woman and child exchanges between 10,000 and 70,000 liters of air every 24 hours, just to sustain life. With this kind of dependence, I don't have to tell you how important the physical and chemicals properties of your air must be. At that rate, day in and day out, even very minute levels of airborne toxins pose significant health concerns.

And yet, air quality is often overlooked, compared to concerns about what's in your food and water.

There was a time, long ago, when humans spent most of their time outside. But today, of course, this is not the case. The average person spends 90 percent of his time inside buildings, as his needs have evolved from chasing down antelope to tracking investment opportunities on the Internet.

Unfortunately, indoor air is far more polluted than outdoor air. According to the EPA, indoor air contains 2 to 5 times more contaminants—and on occasion, as much as 100 times more. As stated by WebMD , indoor air pollution is one of the most serious environmental threats to your health, yet no agency can regulate it, and few studies have been done about its effects on your health.

This report will provide you with some facts about what can be present in the air inside your home, the health dangers those contaminants pose to you and your children (and your pets), and what you can do about it.

Poor Indoor Air Quality Could be Jeopardizing Your Health

Poor air quality has been linked to both short-term and long-term health problems. The EPA warns that the following conditions can be caused or exacerbated by poor indoor air quality:

  • Asthma, allergies, and other respiratory problems
  • Headaches
  • Eye and skin irritations,
  • Sore throat, colds and flu
  • Memory loss, dizziness, fatigue and depression

Even more concerning, other health effects from highly toxic airborne particles could show up YEARS later, including heart disease, respiratory disease, reproductive disorders, sterility and even cancer.

Those particularly vulnerable to indoor pollutants include infants, elderly, and people who already suffer with heart and lung diseases, asthma, chemical sensitivities, or compromised immune systems. Making matters worse, these are often the people who typically spend the most time indoors. Like adults, children are spending more time indoors than ever before. A recent study shines new light on the severity of the indoor air pollution problem.

Indoor Air Contains More than 500 Chemicals

A shocking 2009 study, published in Environmental Health Sciences, used gas chromatography and mass spectrometry to examine the air inside 52 ordinary homes near the Arizona-Mexico border. Indoor air was found to be FAR more contaminated than previously demonstrated.

Scientists identified 586 chemicals, including the pesticides diazinon, chlorpyrifos and DDT. Phthalates were found in very high levels. Even more disturbing was the fact that they detected 120 chemicals they couldn't even identify.

So, what's in YOUR air?
The long list of common pollutants and toxic particles is summarized below. 
Molds
Water damage, high humidity regions, and humid areas of homes, like bathrooms and basements; most common molds are Aspergillus, Stachybotrys, and Penicillium; Aspergillus is a primary food for dust mites.

Bioaerosols (Biocontaminants such as airborne bacteria, viruses, etc.)
Humans, pets, moist surfaces, humidifiers, ventilation systems, drip pans, cooling coils in air handling units (can cause Legionnaires' disease and "humidifier fever")

Combustion By-products (PAH, CO, CO2, NOx)
Unvented kerosene and gas heaters, gas appliances, fireplaces, chimneys and furnaces, tobacco smoke, automobile exhaust from attached garages

Tobacco Smoke (including second-hand smoke)
Cigarettes, cigars, pipes can release mixtures of over 4,000 compounds

Formaldehyde
Pressed wood products (hardwood, plywood, fiberboard, etc.), urea-formaldehyde foam insulation, mattresses, clothing, nail polish, permanent press textiles, glue and adhesives, stoves, fireplaces, automobile exhaust

Arsenic
Pressure-treated wood products used for decks and playground equipment are often treated with arsenic-containing pesticides

Other Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
Paints, solvents, wood preservatives, aerosol sprays, cleaners and disinfectants, copy machines/printers/faxes, carpets, moth repellents, air fresheners, dry cleaned clothes, hobby supplies

Phthalates (plasticizers)
Vinyl flooring, food packaging, shower curtains, wall coverings, adhesives, detergents, personal care products, toys, PVC pipe

Pesticides
Pest control poisons, garden and lawn chemicals

Asbestos
Deteriorating or damaged insulation, fireproofing, or acoustical materials

Heavy Metals (lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium, etc.)Paints, cars, tobacco smoke, soil and dust; huge industrial pollutants

Radon (a radioactive gas that comes from uranium)Building materials such as granite, well water, soil, outside air, smoke detectors, certain clocks and watches; radon is second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S.

Energy Efficient Buildings Often Have WORSE Air Quality

Inadequate ventilation is by far the largest cause of indoor air pollution, accounting for more than half of the problem, according to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Other lesser, but still significant, factors are bioaerosols, building products, contamination from outside air, and a variety of sources that have yet to be identified.

Air quality in a building is largely the result of an ongoing competition between the pollutants and the ventilation system. Other contributing factors include temperature, humidity, and microbial contamination.

Our efforts to make buildings more energy efficient and airtight have had an unexpected negative effect—increased air contamination resulting from decreased air exchange. Tightly caulked and sealed buildings without adequate ventilation systems trap pollutants inside the building.

Your Child Is Even MORE Vulnerable than You to Damage from Airborne Toxins

You may not be aware that the concentration of pollutants in air varies with its distance from the floor. Many contaminants are heavier than air, so they concentrate closer to the floor—such as heavy metals and pesticides.

Dust inside homes has been shown to collect pesticide residues.

These heavy toxic residues can also be tracked in on your shoes and on the paws of your pets, where infants and toddlers have direct contact with them for extended periods of time. There is less air mixing near the floor, even with a window open for ventilation, and this is precisely where your infant or toddler spends most of his time.

This means the air your toddler breathes is likely more toxic than yours!

Children are also more susceptible to damage by indoor air pollution due to the physiological differences between them and adults:

  • Children more often breathe through their mouths, rather than their noses, which affords less opportunity for particulates to be filtered out by nasal cilia in the upper respiratory tract. Young children are obligatory mouth breathers.
  • Children receive proportionately larger doses of inhaled toxins, due to their smaller size and higher ventilator rate.
  • Children are more active than adults, and volume of inhaled air increases with activity due to increased heart and respiratory rate. Toxins enter your child's blood faster than they enter yours.
  • Children's immune systems are less mature than adults, so they are more prone to inflammatory and allergic reactions.
  • Children have a higher cumulative risk from toxins over their life spans.

Recent studies have revealed that air pollution has more serious negative consequences for infants and children than we could have imagined. And maternal exposure to air pollution has profound impacts on the brain of a developing fetus.

Common Air Pollutants Can Damage Your Baby's Developing Brain

Prenatal exposure to airborne toxins is associated with genetic abnormalities at birth that may increase cancer risk, smaller newborn head size, lower birth weight, developmental delays, and a higher risk for childhood asthma.

A study in 2009 published in Pediatrics revealed very disturbing findings.

In New York City, 249 pregnant women were fitted with backpack air monitors during their last months of pregnancy. When their children turned 5, they were given IQ tests prior to starting school. Children whose mothers were exposed to the most air pollution before birth scored 4 to 5 points lower in IQwhich is enough to impair school performance.

The study suggests prenatal exposure to air pollution has detrimental effects on your child's developing brain, which is exactly what three recent studies have shown us about prenatal exposure to pesticides.

Clearly, this is a MAJOR health issue that must be addressed.

Now that you understand the depth and breadth of the indoor air pollution problem, the remainder of this report will focus on what you can do to remove these ugly invaders from your air supply.

Basic Steps for Improving the Air Quality in Your Home

By implementing the following strategies, you will greatly reduce your indoor air pollutants, thereby reducing your family's toxic load:

  • Increase ventilation by opening a few windows every day for 5 to 10 minutes, preferably on opposite sides of the house.
  • Get some houseplants. Even NASA has found that plants markedly improve the air! Click here for the 10 best pollution-busting houseplants.
  • Take your shoes off as soon as you enter the house, and leave them by the door to prevent tracking in of toxic particles.
  • Discourage tobacco smoking in or around your home.
  • Switch to non-toxic cleaning products (such as baking soda, hydrogen peroxide and vinegar) and safer personal care products. Avoid aerosols. Look for VOC-free cleaners. Avoid commercial air fresheners and scented candles, which can degass literally thousands of different chemicals into your breathing space.
  • Don't hang dry cleaned clothing in your closet immediately. Hang them outside for a day or two. Better yet, see if there's an eco-friendly dry cleaner in your city that uses some of the newer dry cleaning technologies, such as liquid CO2.
  • Vacuum and shampoo/mop carpets, rugs, and floors regularly. Every time a person walks across the floor, a whirlwind of irritants is stirred up.
  • Upgrade your furnace filters. Today, there are more elaborate filters that trap more of the particulates. Have your furnace and air conditioning ductwork and chimney cleaned regularly.
  • Avoid storing paints, adhesives, solvents, and other harsh chemicals in your house or in an attached garage.
  • Avoid using nonstick cookware. I now carry my favorite alternative, ceramic cookware, in my store.
  • Ensure your combustion appliances are properly vented.
  • When building or remodeling, opt for safer and more eco-friendly materials. VOC-free paints are becoming easier to find.
  • Opt for sustainable hardwood flooring instead of carpet. Carpet traps a multitude of particles such as pet dander, heavy metals, and all sorts of allergens. If you choose to install carpet, look for one labeled "VOC-free" to avoid toxic outgassing.
  • Make sure your house has proper drainage and its foundation is sealed properly.
  • The same principles apply to ventilation inside your car—especially if your car is new—and chemicals from plastics, solvents, carpet and audio equipment add to the toxic mix in your car's cabin. That "new car smell" can contain up to 35 times the health limit for VOCs, "making its enjoyment akin to glue-sniffing," as this article reports.

If you are planning an outdoor activity, you might want to check the air quality forecast for the area at a website called Airnow.gov, especially if you have respiratory challenges.

SOURCE : Dr. Mercola - INSIDE Your Home: The Ugly Invaders Which Can Make You Sick
https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/07/25/poor-indoor-air-quality-could-be-jeopardizing-your-health.aspx

PBDEs Harm Thyroid Function and Pose Hazard to Unborn Children

An EWG analysis of blood samples from mothers and their infants' umbilical cords revealed five types of PBDEs, three of which were detected at higher levels in the infants than their mothers. An EWG press released reported: "'Considering, that these chemicals have been banned for more than a decade now, I was expecting to see lower exposure levels,' said the lead author of the study, Indiana University research scientist Amina Salamova … The findings underscore the fact that these and other chemicals just don't disappear from our environment once they've been banned. They remain in us years later, and babies and children are often the ones most exposed."

  1. Greater exposures to flame retardants during pregnancy are associated with lower intelligence in children
  2. For every ten-fold increase in prenatal exposure to polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), there was a 3.7-point decline in IQ test scores in children
  3. 1 in 6 U.S. children now suffers from neurodevelopmental disorders, and research suggests PBDEs and other flame retardants are likely playing a role in the increasing rates of these disorders

SOURCE : Dr. Mercola Flame Retardants Damaging Kids' Brains
https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2017/08/22/flame-retardants-affect-kids-iq.aspx#_edn10


It's Important to Keep Your Home as Dust-Free as Possible

House dust is obviously unavoidable, but there's good reason to vacuum or use a wet mop on hard surfaces often – even if you're not particularly a neat freak. Far from being an innocuous substance, household dust is more akin to a chemical cocktail that you inhale and ingest on a daily basis.

Researchers from the Silent Spring Institute tested household dust for 49 flame retardant chemicals. Forty-four were found in all, and half of the samples contained 36 of them, sometimes at potentially harmful levels. 11 Chlorinated organophosphate flame retardants, which are listed as carcinogens under California's Proposition 65, were detected in the highest concentrations. The study's co-author noted:12

"Our study found that people are exposed to toxic flame retardants every day. These hazardous chemicals are in the air we breathe, the dust we touch and the couches we sit on. Many flame retardants raise health concerns, including cancer, hormone disruption, and harmful effects on brain development. It is troubling to see that a majority of homes have at least one flame retardant at levels beyond what the federal government says is safe. Infants and toddlers who spend much time on the floor are at higher risk for exposure."

SOURCE : Dr. Mercola - Link Between Flame Retardants and Neurodevelopmental Delays in Children
https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/12/27/flame-retardant-chemicals.aspx


Pregnant women with higher blood levels of PBDEs, a common class of flame retardants, had altered thyroid hormone levels -- a fact that could have implications for fetal health.

PBDEs, or polybrominated diphenyl ethers, are organobromine compounds which are found in household items such as carpets, electronics and plastics. PBDEs can leach out into the environment and accumulate in human fat cells.

Eurekalert reports:

"Studies suggest that PBDEs can be found in the blood of up to 97 percent of U.S.residents, and at levels 20 times higher than those of people in Europe. Because of California's flammability laws, residents in this state have some of the highest exposures to PBDEs in the world."

 

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

According to the researchers, this is the first study to include a large enough sample size to be able to evaluate just what kind of health impact PBDE flame retardants might have on pregnant women's thyroid function.

Their findings are unsettling to say the least.

PBDEs Harm Thyroid Function and Pose Hazard to Unborn Children

PBDE chemicals (polybrominated diphenyl ethers) are a class of organobromine compounds. In this analysis, the researchers focused on five of the PBDE chemicals most frequently detected in pregnant women. These chemicals are components of a mixture called 'pentaBDE.'

PentaBDE, as well as octaBDE, have been banned for use in the European Union and in eight U.S. states, including California, but can still be found in products made before 2004.

The study revealed that "a 10-fold increase in each of the PBDE chemicals was associated with decreases in TSH ranging from 10.9 percent to 18.7 percent," the press release states.

"When the five PBDEs were analyzed together, a tenfold increase was linked to a 16.8 percent decrease in TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone).

The study did not find a statistically significant effect of PBDE concentrations on levels of T4.

With one exception, all the women in the study with low TSH levels had normal free T4 levels, which corresponds to the definition of subclinical hyperthyroidism."

The combination of having low TSH and normal T4 levels is typically a sign that you're developing hyperthyroidism, which can have significant ramifications, both for you, and your unborn child if you're pregnant.

As described in the press release, hyperthyroidism during pregnancy has been linked to:

  • Altered fetal neurodevelopment -- In one animal study, PBDE chemicals caused hyperactivity in the offspring when administered during brain development, and also permanently impaired spermatogenesis in males by reducing sperm and spermatid counts
  • Increased risk of miscarriage
  • Premature birth
  • Intrauterine growth retardation
  • Decreased motor skills

Although the mechanics of how PBDEs affect your thyroid are still unclear, it is believed that PBDE chemicals mimic your thyroid hormones.

Another study published in May this year found an inverse link between exposure to fire retardant chemicals and the time it takes for exposed women to become pregnant.

Higher exposures were associated with decreased fertility.

Common Routes of Exposure

PBDEs are found in a myriad of common household items, including:

  • Mattresses
  • Carpets
  • Fire retardant textiles
  • Polyurethane foam furnishings
  • Electronics
  • Plastic products
  • Motor vehicles

Many hard styrene plastics and foam padding materials are 5 to 30 percent PBDE by weight.

The U.S. implemented fire safety standards in the 1970s that over time has led to more and more products adopting the use of PBDEs to meet the stringent regulations. For example, as of July 1, 2007, all U.S. mattresses are required to be so flame retardant that they won't catch on fire even if they're exposed to the equivalent of a blow torch!

Unfortunately, we now know that many of these fire retardant chemicals accumulate in your fat cells because your body cannot get rid of them naturally. They're also a significant source of environmental pollution.

As much as 97 percent of all Americans now have significant levels of PBDEs in their blood. In fact, most Americans have levels that are 10 to 20 times higher than those found in Europeans! California residents have some of the highest levels of all, due to the State's strict fire safety standards.

PBDEs are also showing up in breast milk, and in various foods, including wild fish, and in the sewage sludge being applied as fertilizer on food crops across the US.

This is yet another case where lack of foresight and safety testing is turning out to have very significant, "unanticipated" human health risks…

How to Avoid PBDEs

Unfortunately, avoiding PBDEs is not as simple as checking labels, as manufacturers are not required to disclose the chemicals they use to make their products comply with safety regulations.

The Environmental Working Group's (EWG) guide to PBDEs recommends being particularly mindful of polyurethane foam products manufactured prior to 2005, such as upholstered furniture, mattresses and pillows.

Inspect these items carefully, and replace ripped covers and/or any foam that appears to be breaking down. Also avoid reupholstering furniture by yourself as the reupholstering process increases your risk of exposure.

Older carpet padding is another major source of flame retardant PBDEs, so take precautions when removing old carpet. You'll want to isolate your work area from the rest of your house to avoid spreading it around, and use a HEPA filter vacuum to clean up.

When buying new products, such as furniture, mattresses, carpet padding, as well as other plastic products like cell phones, computers and TVs, ask what type of fire retardant it contains. Although you likely won't find PBDEs in newer foam products, there are a number of other fire retardant chemicals that can be just as detrimental to your health, including antimony, formaldehyde, boric acid, and other brominated chemicals.

You can also improve your surroundings by selecting naturally less flammable materials such as leather, wool and cotton.

Shopping for a Safe Mattress

As stated earlier, fire retardant chemicals are used in a number of household items, but considering the fact that you spend anywhere from six to eight hours sleeping on your mattress, making sure you're not being poisoned by fire retardant chemicals while doing so is perhaps one of your greatest concerns.

Finding a safe mattress is no easy task, mainly because mattress manufacturers are not required to label or disclose which chemicals their mattresses contain. Further many state that their mattresses are free of toxic material, when in reality they are not. The way to know for sure is to call the manufacturer directly.

One way to find a safe mattress is to have a doctor or chiropractor write you a prescription, and then find a manufacturer to make one for you. You can also search for 100 percent wool, toxin-free mattresses.

If you already have a mattress at home, putting it into a waterproof mattress cover may help to reduce your exposure to toxins.

Another viable option is to look for a mattress that uses a Kevlar, bullet-proof type of material in lieu of chemicals for fire-proofing. Stearns and Foster uses this process for their mattresses, which is sufficient to pass fire safety standards.

If cost is a concern, you could even make your own mattress by sewing together 100 percent organic cotton or flannel blankets. Add a cloth cover and you'll have a mattress that's relatively inexpensive.

How to reduce your exposure to Flame Retardants :

  • Get rid of the dust -a study on household dust and found 45 potentially harmful toxins, including flame-retardant chemicals. 
  • These chemicals can enter our bodies from air and dust when we breathe, touch contaminated surfaces, and accidentally transfer them to our food or mouth with our dusty hands. And some of these chemicals can contribute to health problems."
  • Check the tag on new furniture. In 2015, California instituted a law saying all new upholstered furniture must have a label telling consumers whether it's been treated with flame-retardant chemicals. In other states, if there's no label, ask salespersons what they know about where upholstered pieces came from and how they were manufactured.
  • Check all baby products. While some states have precipitated the removal of certain toxic flame-retardant chemicals in things like baby clothing, bedding, car seats and toys, many manufactures haven't gotten the memo.
  • Get involved, show you're informed and support efforts to reduce toxic chemicals. While flame-retardant chemicals can do cumulative damage in your body, ridding them from your home and environment has been shown to dissipate them over time. In fact, 10 years after PBDEs were banned, research showed a nearly 40 percent decline in such chemicals in women's breast milk.

SOURCE : Dr. Mercola  - Flame Retardant Causes Altered Thyroid Hormone Levels
https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2010/07/06/flame-retardant-causes-altered-thyroid-hormone-levels.aspx


Get rid of the dust. Dodson and a research team from George Washington University conducted a study11 on household dust and found 45 potentially harmful toxins, including flame-retardant chemicals.

Because people in the U.S. are indoors, including in schools, offices, gyms and cars around 90 percent of the time:

"These places are usually full of dust, which is more than just dirt. Household items like televisions, furniture, beauty products, cleaning products, and flooring materials shed chemicals that end up in the air and in the dust on our floors.

These chemicals can enter our bodies from air and dust when we breathe, touch contaminated surfaces, and accidentally transfer them to our food or mouth with our dusty hands. And some of these chemicals can contribute to health problems."12

Keep dust swept, dusted and vacuumed as much as possible, and maybe even invest in a quality air purifying system.

SOURCE : Dr. Mercola - Most People Are Now Flame Retardant
https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2017/03/01/flame-retardant-organophosphates-peoples-urine.aspx

3 SHOCKING FACTS ABOUT THE AIR IN YOUR HOME

We breathe more than we eat. We breathe more than we drink. We are breathing all the time, but how often do you stop to think about what exactly you are breathing? Probably lot more than how often you consider what else you’re putting in your body. Yet, it’s no less important, especially for young children who breathe faster than adults – inhaling 50% more air per pound of body weight.

Air pollution is obvious when you’re caught in a plume of fumes from a diesel truck or when the wind blows smoke in your face from a camp fire or grill, but even when you can’t see the air, it can still be heavily contaminated. Even more importantly, the worst air is generally inside, where most people spend roughly 90% of their time.

Here are 3 shocking facts that will hopefully give you pause to stop and consider every breath you take.

1. The indoor air in the typical American home contains over 500 chemicals. According to a study published in April 2009:

  • 586 individual chemicals were identified in the air of 52 homes. The pesticides diazinon and chlorpyrifos were found in the greatest amounts and both were found in all of the homes tested.
  • Twenty-seven different organochlorine pesticides were detected. p,p’-DDE, a breakdown product of the now banned pesticide DDT, was detected in more than 90 percent of homes.
  • Amounts of PCBs were generally low but were found in more than half the houses. They were detected in 56 percent of the 52 homes studied.
  • Phthalate chemicals were found at very large concentrations in indoor air.

Researchers were not able to identify at least 120 of the chemicals. I repeat, researchers were not able to identify at least 120 of the chemicals! (Sorry for the repetition, it’s just stunning to me that our regulatory system is so flawed that experienced scientists are unable to identify so many chemicals that we are likely exposed to from common household products every day.) Many of these unidentified chemicals had structures similar to fragrance compounds. Fragrances made up the major chemical component of the collected chemicals.

2. The breathing zone of a baby (less than 2 feet above ground) can be more contaminated than an adults (4-6 feet) because many contaminants weigh more than air (mercury, pesticides, etc) (links to a PDF file). For example, in one study, the pesticide Chlorpyrifos was found to be nearly four times more concentrated at about 5-10 inches from the floor compared with the air 2 feet or more above the floor in a room with a window open for ventilation.

3. Even though indoor air is typically 2-5 times more polluted than outdoor and we spend about 90% of our time indoors, there have been few studies documenting the health effects of indoor air and there are no regulations as there are for outdoor air or even workplace air. According to an article in the San Francisco Gate: “The U.S. General Accounting Office has called indoor air pollution “one of the most serious environmental risks to human health,” yet no agency has authority to control pollutants in indoor air.” There are a variety of regulations aimed at limiting outdoor air pollution – and granted, it would be difficult to impossible to have the same types of rules in place for the average home, but at the very least, there could be regulations regarding how many VOCs a product can emit.

No two homes have exactly the same air quality issues and there’s no way to eliminate them all, but you can do many things to reduce your exposure to the worst culprits. 

By Christopher Gavigan

SOURCE : WebMD - 3 Shocking Facts About the Air in Your Home  
https://blogs.webmd.com/health-ehome/2009/07/3-shocking-facts-about-the-air-in-your-home.html