Are You One of the Few?

Leave a Comment
If you're reading this and you have a concern about indoor air quality, you are in the minority. According to the June 2012 issue of Consumer Reports a staggering 70 percent of Americans are not concerned about the health of their home. In fact, only 9 percent consider indoor air quality a threat to their health.

Here is the most interesting statistic, however: 65 percent of surveyed households have someone with a health condition affected by indoor air quality! More than half (and probably many more than this) would benefit from improving their home's indoor environment and are unaware of the connection.

The article, titled Is Your Home Making You Sick?, lists six hidden home hazards and offers suggestions for ways to protect yourself.

  1. Household cleaners. The article cites the Environmental Working Group's 2009 study identifying 457 air contaminants in 21 household cleaners. "One fragrance can contain 50-200 compounds, including dozens of volatile organic compounds." The best cleaner for glass? "Mix 1 tablespoon lemon juice with 1 quart of water."
  2. Old lead-based paint. "If you have young children and an older home, have it tested for lead by an EPA- or state-certified pro using an XRF machine, or have paint-chip analysis by an EPA-certified lab."
  3. Carbon monoxide and radon. "Run a long-term (90-day or longer) radon test. They cost $20-$40 and are sold online." In addition, the article suggests installing a CO alarm on each level, including the basement.
  4. Combustion of particles or gases. "Even vented gas ranges, cooktops, furnaces, and fireplaces can release harmful gases, soot, and particles into the air if they're not properly installed and maintained." Suggestions include running the exhaust hood when using your gas range or cleaning your oven, as well as opening a window. (I recently cleaned my oven using sea salt, washing soda, and baking soda, and it's sparkling! See this previous entry for the recipe and before and after pictures.)
  5. Interior mold. "The ideal indoor relative humidity is between 30-50 percent. Less than that and nasal passages can become dry. At higher levels mold can grow." Suggestions include making sure gutter pipes extend at least five feet from the house and ensuring that the soil around the foundation slopes away from the house. (Note: The article also suggests treating small areas of mold with a mixture of chlorine bleach and water, which will not be 100% effective. See question #12 in this interview with leading toxicologist Dr. Jack Thrasher.)
  6. Air fresheners, candles, and incense. "Behind the soothing fragrances of air fresheners, candles, and incense are volatile organic compounds. Air fresheners can also contain phthalates, which are linked to cancer and reproductive problems." The article quotes Dr. Stanley Fineman, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, who says, "Most patients who stop using scented products have noticed an improvement in their symptoms."
Improving the air quality in your home is one of the most practical ways you can improve your health. It may even save your life or the life of someone you love.

To read an online version of the full article, see Is poor indoor air quality making you sick? at the Consumer Reports website.