Detoxing Your Space’s Space

The following is an excerpt from the book, Designing the Life of Your Dreams from the Outside In, by author/eco-shui design consultant, DeAnna Radaj. Enjoy!
Did you know that the air you breathe inside your house is more polluted than the air you breathe outside? In fact, the EPA considers poor air quality a top risk to human health. Indoor air is three times more polluted than outdoor air. But DeAnna, you’re thinking, I live in a quiet suburb not near a factory, so how can my air be bad? Carpeting, paint, household cleaners, fabrics, even the candles you light for ambience are all culprits in polluting your indoor air. Many of these things were created to make your life easier, however, they also give off vapors or volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which can cause allergies (or make existing ones worse,) compromise respiratory problems, cause headaches and make life miserable for those with environmental sensitivities.
Over the last 30+ years, houses and office buildings have been constructed with energy conservation in mind. Doors fit tighter, if they open at all, and window drafts are a thing of the past! At the same time, a new wave of chemicals has been invented and injected into building materials, cleaners and household supplies. There are about 75,000 chemicals being used in everything from carpet pads to dryer sheets, window cleaners, dish soaps, hair products, air fresheners, bedding, aromatherapy products and pet supplies.
We talked previously about off gassing, but what exactly does it mean? Molecules break down and pollute the stale air inside our tightly sealed homes and offices. People often complain about “canned, dead air” inside airplanes, sick building syndrome at offices, or colds passed back and forth between family members. According to the National Institute of Health, we are “marinating in a broth of invisible toxins that cause everything from headaches to cancers.”
***The best way to get rid of “dead” air-open a window! Even in winter, opening a window or door for even a few minutes will help clear the dust and energize a space and it’s occupants. ***
What’s one of the simplest least expensive ways to clean the air in your home? Plants. In fact, one of the best ways to breathe clean air in your home is to have one plant for every 100 square feet of space. Plants clean the air by breathing in dirty air and trapping pollutants, and then expelling oxygen-rich clean air. Substances such as formaldehyde, benzene and ammonia (the afore-mentioned VOCs) are transformed, while keeping humidity levels steady. This in turn helps to keep allergies at bay. “If you are bothered by mold, stop it from growing by putting an inch of aquarium gravel on top of the potting soil. This will also help stop cats from digging in there as well,” states Avery Hurt in his article Freshen the Air from the March, 2006 issue of Better Homes and Gardens. Although any kind of plant is beneficial, some plants do a better job of cleaning the air than others. They are known to be easy to grow and tough to kill. Fortunately, many of the best plants for cleaning the air also are traditional household favorites. These are a few:
Bamboo palm Boston fern
Rubber Plant Peace Lily
Spider Plant Corn Plant
English ivy Janet Craig dracaena
Did you realize that candles are one of the biggest indoor air polluters because of the materials they are made of, scented with and the prevalent use of lead-based metal wicks? If you burn a candle with a lead wick, every time it burns the lead is deposited on the walls, furniture and floors. Even these low levels of lead exposure can lead to lack of coordination, low-level fatigue and behavioral disorders.
In 1973, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission asked candle manufacturers to replace lead wicks with zinc. However, compliance is voluntary and often not checked. It is up to you, the consumer, to be informed and make smart purchasing decision. The best choice for wicks is organic, unbleached cotton wick.
***Australia succeeded in banning lead wicks in 1999. ***
Did you know that paraffin is a petroleum by-product obtained from oil refineries, and there are at least seven toxins (including benzene) in paraffin? Most fragrance oils used in candle making are also petroleum based. There are some good options however; candles are now made of palm wax, soy and beeswax. Also, when purchasing a scented candle, or any other aromatherapy product, look for items scented with essential oils and botanicals. These candles are available at most locations that sell this type of product. You may pay a little more, but these candles tend to last longer, have a longer lasting scent and don’t cause the sooting, smoking and blackening that can occur with their paraffin, fragrance-scented alternatives. If an item is tagged with the line “fragrance” the scent is a synthetic, man-made creation. Buying a “healthy” candle is as simple as reading the ingredient label. If you can’t pronounce the ingredients, back away from the candle.

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