Numbers are getting more and more insane when it comes to air pollution. It’s the biggest environmental health threat and it kills about 6.5 million people prematurely on a yearly basis. Ouch!
To me, for a long time, air pollution equaled outdoor air pollution (think harmful carbon dioxide emissions, toxic petrol fumes etc.). I thought I was relatively safe from air pollution inside my house/at work. But it turns out that indoor air pollution is not only responsible for quite a big chunk of the problems caused by air pollution, it may even be more damaging. Indoor air pollution can be up to 10 times worse than outdoor air pollution, because contained areas enable potential pollutants to build up more than open spaces do.
Whereas it’s hard to influence outdoor air pollution as a one (wo)man army, there’s in fact a lot you can do to influence the levels of air pollution in your own home. And I guess it’s worth getting into: according to studies we spend about 90% of our time indoors.
What causes indoor air pollution?
Many things can cause indoor air pollution, also things you might not think of immediately:
1. New carpet. Carpet materials can emit a variety of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
2. New electronics and other plastic products. Products made with polyvinyl chloride can emit phthalates, which have been linked to hormonal abnormalities and reproductive problems. Plastics can also release flame-retardant chemicals, such as polybrominated diphenyl ethers, which have been linked to neurobehavioral changes in animal studies. What to do: vacuum around computers, printers, and televisions regularly.
3. Objects such as wood stoves, space heaters, and fireplaces, all put out carbon monoxide as well as nitrogen dioxide. There are still billions of people who use these types of fuels to heat their homes on a daily basis.
4. Upholstered furniture and pressed-wood products (hardwood plywood, wall paneling, particleboard, fiberboard). When new, many furniture and wood products can emit formaldehyde, a probable carcinogen that can also cause eye, nose, and throat irritation; wheezing and coughing; fatigue; skin rash; and severe allergic reactions.
5. Household products such as varnishes, paints, and certain cleaning products can also emit pollution into the air that you breathe inside your home.
Let’s get practical
I love bio-hacking/self-improvement! It has brought me a lot and now that I’m doing so well physically I’ve decided to expand my scope to creating a more sustainable lifestyle as well. The interesting thing I found is that taking care of my personal health and creating a sustainable lifestyle goes very well together. To give an example: I changed to a whole-foods plant-based diet over 2 years ago. This is working wonders for my health and it also happens to be the best diet for the planet (read more about that here). That’s all very nice and well, but there’s a lot more that I can do to reduce my footprint. I’m just getting started 🙂 So the next challenge/experiment I’m taking on is to make my own (sustainable) cleaning products. Not because I like cleaning so much (I in fact hate it), but because it’s a great example of a lifestyle change that cuts both ways.
Cleaning products are a major source of urban air pollution and they also have a direct effect on my personal health. The other day I was cleaning my shower with some chemical garbage: during the action I got stuck in 5-minute coughing attack and afterwards I was wheezing throughout the night. There was no question what caused the irritation of my airways. Clear evidence that it’s time for change in this department.
Bring on the experts!
I’m not much of an expert when it comes to cleaning so I ‘ve been browsing online for some assistance and here are a few DYI-websites I found that I’ll be using as an inspiration for my cleaning-experiments the coming time:
- Eartheasy.com (they also describe which ingredients to watch out for in cleaning products. Ammonia and quats are for example known as respiratory irritants and asthma triggers)