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Is your house making you sick? While this question might sound surprising, indoor pollution is more of a problem than you may think.
Indoor air pollution, the degradation of indoor air quality by harmful chemicals and other materials, can be worse than outdoor air pollution. This is because contained areas enable potential pollutants to build up more than open spaces do.
Toxins, pesticides, gases, mites, and moulds are everywhere, and the more you’re exposed to them, the greater your risk for developing the health problems they can cause.
According to the Australian Government Department of Environment, recent comparative risk studies performed by the US EPA and its Science Advisory Board have consistently ranked indoor air pollution among the top five environmental risks to public health. 1
To find out where these ‘homesick’ invaders lurk, read on…
Your favourite chair, pillow or old mattress could be home to dust mites, which can wreak havoc with your system. Dust mites are microscopic bugs that thrive on the humidity and warmth provided by our bodies. For someone who has asthma and allergies, they can set off a reaction that is uncomfortable and debilitating.
To reduce dust mites in the home: vacuum carpets regularly; wash your sheets and towels weekly in hot water and make sure they’re thoroughly dried; and encase your mattress and pillows in covers designed to keep dust mites from getting through.
Bath mats tend to be breeding grounds for dust mites, mould, and bacteria. It’s better to dry yourself off before stepping out of the tub, and make sure you wash your bathmat regularly.
And did you know vinyl shower curtains can contain phthalates, which may be hazardous to reproductive health? Swap vinyl shower curtains for washable nylon or polyester ones.
While you might remember to clean the inside of your refrigerator, do you clean the coils and the tray below it? Frost-free refrigerators contain an electric coil in the freezer that melts frost every few hours. The resulting water drips into a pan, which evaporates with the help of warm air produced by the refrigerator’s compressor. If the pan is filled with dust, your refrigerator is blowing that dust into your home.
Newer refrigerators may not have a tray underneath, but their coils on the back of the machine need to be dusted off regularly.
Avoid using cleansers with ammonia and chlorine (and never, ever mix them). These irritate skin and lungs, and even provoke asthma.
At worst, they may be carcinogenic.
Instead, try these non-toxic cleaning solutions: Mix vinegar and water to clean glass, use baking soda as an abrasive scrubbing product, and soap and water for many other household chores. Alternatively, look for cleaning products marked “green” and be careful not to confuse “natural” products for those which are safer to use.
Did you know your vacuum could actually be spewing dust back into the air? To avoid this, use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter. HEPA stands for “high efficiency particulate air”. A HEPA filter can filter more than 99 percent of the particulates in air.
- Australian Government Department of Environment (2015) Indoor Pollution. http://www.environment.gov.au/topics/environment-protection/air-quality/indoor-air