Air Quality in the Home
by Shanna Rivera and Noemia Strapazzon
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Americans spend 90 percent of their time indoors at home or in an office. Thermographic screenings reveal the impact of air quality on health in everything from sinus infections to chronic inflammation. They have demonstrated that these conditions improve significantly when air quality is improved.
Air quality includes air circulation, humidity and the presence of volatile organic compounds (VOC), an off-gassing byproduct found in pesticides, cleaning chemicals, paint, non-stick pans, furniture and some types of flooring. Humidity should remain between 30 percent and 50 percent. Most houses will need a dehumidifier to maintain this level.
Choose solid wood furniture over pressed wood products. Much of the furniture and cabinetry on the market today is made from particleboard, plywood or medium-density fiberboard[MM1] , all which off-gas formaldehyde. Also consider the finish on solid wood furniture. Ideally, select furniture with low-VOC, water-based or wax-based finishes.
Tile is generally a safe, non-toxic flooring option and is easy to maintain. It’s important to ask about the safety of the grout, the ventilation process used during installation and any other materials used that could cause toxic fumes.
Hardwood floors make removing dust and other allergens relatively easy. It’s important to choose a non-toxic finish. Linoleum flooring is made from all-natural and biodegradable materials that include linseed oil, cork dust, pine resin and wood. It is very resilient and can last as long as 30 to 40 years.
Carpet and vinyl are not good choices. New carpet installation is a huge contributor to indoor air pollution and involves formaldehyde, benzene and stain repellents. One recent study[MM2] found that most vinyl flooring contained toxic phthalates, lead, cadmium, brominated flame retardants and other toxic chemicals that can contribute to indoor air pollution by drifting out of the flooring and merge with the air and dust inside homes.
Thermal imaging is one way to determine if air quality is affecting health. These scans reveal heat imbalances in the body that indicate inflammation and the need for further investigation. They can be used for possible early cancer detection and to prevent future health issues.
Shanna Rivera is a certified clinical thermographic technician and the owner of FlowWell. For more information, visit FlowWell.org.
· Open the windows for at least 20 minutes daily, even in the winter months, to improve air quality and reduce the CO2 level.
· Mop or vacuum at least once a week, Avoid carpet in the bedrooms. Wash sheets and blankets once a week.
· Choose unscented, plant-based detergents; use castile soap or washing soda and borax for laundry.
Add plants to help improve the air:
· Aloe Vera is easy to grow and filters benzene, commonly found in paint and chemical cleaners.
· Peace Lily is a beautiful plant that reduces the levels of mold spores. In bathrooms, it can help keep shower tiles and curtains free from mildew, and the plant can absorb harmful vapors from alcohol and acetone.
· Spider plant leaves grow quickly and help to absorb harmful substances like mold and other allergens, so it is the perfect plant for those that have common dust allergies. It also helps to absorb small traces of formaldehyde and carbon monoxide.