You are breathing in toxins as you read this. . . and so am I.
As I was preparing to write this post, I couldn’t help but think about the SNL sketch from several years ago in which a news team does a series of terrifying teasers for that night’s broadcast: “Common household item — something we all have in our homes and are probably using right now — is found to be full of lethal poison. We’ll tell you what it is at the end of the hour.”
While I have no intention of scaring you or making you paranoid, I do not think I could have a series on detoxing without addressing the places that we do most of our living; namely indoors. Between work, home, the car, and the store, the majority of our lives will be spent inside, which is where we are constantly exposed to toxins.
Any indoor dwelling is basically a big human sized box holding all manner of materials made with chemicals that can harm us. And because we are very concerned about outdoor air pollution (or maybe just our heating and cooling bills) our homes are sealed to make them more energy efficient. This means that all the toxins in the house are just hanging around making us sick. Toxins like…
Microbiological toxins. These are things like mold, animal dander, mildew, and mite poop. These suckers can live in those hard to reach places in your bathroom or under your kitchen sink or (most unsettlingly) in your pillows and comforters. As we breathing all that mite poop in, our respiratory system becomes inflamed, and that can exasperate conditions such asthma.
Gases. Volatile organic compounds or VOC are found in just about everything. Office equipment, furniture, even craft supplies. You know that “new car smell?” Well, that is just your new car releasing a bunch of VOC by off-gassing. Congratulations! VOC can cause immediate allergic reactions and might have long term ramifications like damage to our liver, kidney, and central nervous system damage, and may cause cancer.
The list of toxins in our home can go on and on, such as toxins we put on our body or those that live in our cookware, and I will address some of those things in a later post. For now, I want to give you some practical and inexpensive ways to reduce the toxic load in your home by cleaning up the air we breathe.
Simple Steps to Detox Your Environment
- Clean cleanly. The best way to keep microbes at bay is to keep your fabrics clean, especially your pillows and comforters. And when you do clean, make sure to forgo strong smelling detergents (no matter how lovely mountain breeze might sound) and opt for some “you-friendly” cleaners like lemon juice to get out stains or hydrogen peroxide as a bleach alternative. Check here for some ways to clean cheaply and safely, and check in with the Environmental Working Groups to find out what cleaning supplies are healthiest for you and your family. The EWG has tested over 2,500 products so that you can have the power to make healthy choices.
- Clean your air. The air we breathe indoors is often more polluted than the air outside. For example, all those pieces of equipment and furniture shed their chemicals and become dust; and dust, as you know, can enter our body easily through our airways. So make sure dusting is a regular part of your cleaning routine and then run a vacuum with a HEPA filter. But probably the cheapest, most passive, and coolest things you can do to improve the air quality of your home is to buy yourself some plants. A NASA scientist did experiments with houseplants to see if they couldn’t help clean up the toxins that would be released by all the equipment jammed in tight confined spaces, like a space station or our homes. He found that plants were really great at absorbing all those nasty things. So go get some clipping of some house plants from a friend or run to your nearest nursery to start reducing the overall toxicity of your home.*
I hope you feel empowered to reduce the toxic load in your own space by making your air cleaner. Check out the other post in this series.
*”For maximum benefit, multiple species of houseplants would likely be needed on a site to remove the relevant toxicants in a particular space, given that houseplants vary in the types of chemicals they are able to remove from the environment and the efficiency …” from “Planting Healthier Indoor Air” by Luz Claudio