White House Warns of Indoor Air Quality

289
House in Americana

Many toxins causing health problems are in your house but here is what you can do.

The amount of toxins lurking all over your house is disturbing as they can cause devastating health problems including  asthma, viruses, lung issues, allergic reactions, infectious diseases, and chronic sinusitis but there are steps you can take to protect you and your family. 

  • There can be many toxins lurking in your house you are not aware of and they can cause devastating health problems for you and your family including asthma, allergic reactions and central nervous system damage 
  • Volatile Organic Compounds or VOCs can be up to 10 times higher inside your home than outside
  • This is part of the reason the Biden–Harris administration is launching the Clean Air in Buildings Challenge to require all building owners and operators, schools, and various other organizations to improve indoor air quality in their buildings and reduce toxins
  • We’re going to show you some simple steps you can take in your home to lower your exposure to keep your health intact 

Are toxins lurking in your house and hurting indoor air quality? Here’s what you need to know.

One’s house can be as clean as possible but toxins are still lurking everywhere and can cause devastating health problems including asthma, viruses, lung issues, allergic reactions, infectious diseases, chronic sinusitis and a bevy of others. Children and the elderly can be especially vulnerable to these toxins. 

This is the reason why the Biden–Harris administration is launching the Clean Air in Buildings Challenge to require all building owners and operators, schools, colleges and universities, and various other organizations to improve indoor air quality in their buildings and reduce toxins as well as the spread of COVID-19. 

Dirty air filter

But there are deadly toxins in your house too that you should be aware of.  Here is what you need to know about the deadly toxins in your house that could be slowly hurting you. 

VOCs

What are VOCs? Volatile organic compounds that are emitted as gas from solids and liquids. Why are they bad? For many reasons, but the main being that they are a group of chemicals that are each toxic and dangerous to a person’s (and often their pets’) health.  According to the EPA, levels of these VOCs can be up to 10 times higher inside your home than outside. 

The health problems caused by VOCs can be both short term and long term and quite fatal. 

Symptoms of short term exposure to high levels of VOCs

  • Studies have shown that people with asthma who are exposed to VOCs can display worsening symptoms
  • ​​Eye, nose & throat irritation
  • Headaches
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Conjunctival irritation
  • Nose and throat discomfort
  • Headache
  • Allergic skin reaction
  • Dyspnea
  • Declines in serum cholinesterase levels
  • Nausea
  • Emesis
  • Epistaxis
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness

Symptoms of long term exposure to high levels of VOCs

  • Cancer
  • Liver & kidney damage
  • Central nervous system damage

Sources of VOC in houses

So where are all these toxic VOCs lurking in your house? You may be surprised how close you come in contact with them on a regular basis. 

Home furnishings

That’s right. The furniture you love to sit on, lay on, and lean on is full of woods, dyes and resins with VOCs. Plus the fabrics and padding can also be toxic. 

Rugs and carpeting

See that thing you are walking on? The back of wall to wall carpeting has an adhesive made of plastic, vinyl, or rubber full of toxins and may also possibly have an antimicrobial chemical treatment covering it. Synthetic rug fibers with dyes and stain-resistant chemicals can also contribute to rising VOC levels. 

indoor air quality

Mattresses

Your beloved bed, your sanctuary, the place you go for peace and quiet (and to eat chocolate) is actually a den of toxicity. Mattresses made of foam and fabric are full of chemicals. Memory foam is usually made of polyurethane which is an air pollutant and the fabric that encases mattresses can also be full of antimicrobial, flame-retardant chemicals. 

But wait, it gets worse. While you are sleeping you are more likely to inhale VOCs because bedrooms are often poorly ventilated and your face is buried in your mattress so you have a front row seat to those chemicals.  

Beauty products

And just when you thought it was safe to go in your bathroom, you learned about all the toxins your many products are releasing. VOC-releasing aerosols include hair spray, dry shampoo, deodorants and body sprays. These can be terrible for you as well as your family, especially young children. 

Cleaning products

That’s right. The things you use to keep your house clean may actually be making you sick. Most people don’t even know what it is in their cleaning products. A recent EWG analysis of over 400 cleaning products showed only about 25% of them disclosed their ingredients. The problem is the high-chemical, non-green cleaning products get really good results but you are slowly poisoning yourself as they are full of VOCs. If you insist on using these kinds, be sure to open a window (or all of them) and wear a mask when you use them.

woman cleaning

Paint

Have any painted rooms in your house? Probably all of them. Now some paint only emits chemicals when wet but some will continue to be toxic long after it has dried. 

Wood products

If your house is made of pressed or manufactured wood, and there is a good chance it is, you could be at risk for VOC exposure.  This combination of wood and plastic is full of chemicals including  formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, phenol, methylene chloride, glycol ethers, and BTEX substances which can just fill your indoor air with toxins galore. 

Pressed woods are also coated with dyes and resins to make them last longer and look better but this just contributes to the problem. This is really where we see so many chemicals as the building materials of your house including plywood, linoleum, wood paneling are full of chemical-based resins.

Insulation

Fire-retardant chemicals build up the insulation of your house and are just seeping VOCs into the air. Heat makes it worse in the summer and in the winter when your heat is turned on.

How to reduce exposure to VOCs

You can start your own clean air building challenge to protect you and your family with just a few simple steps.

Get an air purifier immediately

Indoor air purifiers can be a game changer as this is a true investment in your health. Obviously their main purpose is to sanitize the air but the health benefits are numerous, as these help shield you from pollen, dust mites, bugs and now that we are living in a post-pandemic world, why would you not do everything in your power to clean the air you breathe? 

AirDoctor 3000

Austin Air

A great option is the  Air Doctor 5000 or the Air Doctor 3000. These are great options for children’s bedrooms. They are designed to remove 100% of particles as small as 0.003 microns (a single micron is only one-millionth of a meter.) Either of them can also remove bigger particles such as dust, pet fur, odors, VOCs, paint chemicals and smoke. The Allergy Machine from Austin Air Systems can also be a good option.

As for other steps you can take to make sure your home is less toxic as part of The Clean Air in Buildings Challenge the EPA published a best practices guide for improving indoor air quality that you should apply to your own home. Some of their tips included: 

    1. Create a clean indoor air action plan: This means assessing indoor air quality and looking for ways to improve. 
    2. Optimize fresh air ventilation: Don’t always just shut all the windows and turn on the AC. Try opening the windows and promoting cross ventilation. Get some of that pure outdoor air circulating in your home. 
    3. Enhance air filtration and cleaning: Use the HVAC system and in-room air cleaning devices as mentioned above. 

And here is what else you can do to ensure you and your family’s safety: 

  • Store unused chemicals in your garage
  • Try to look for low-VOC paints, as well as cleaning and beauty products
  • Dispose of unused chemicals and try to keep as few as possible in your home as they can leak
  • Try to keep the temperature in your house low
  • In addition to opening windows, use fans when you can

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.