Air Pollution In Your Home: What To Do About It
By: Dr. Justin Marchegiani
When we think of air pollution, we typically think of car exhaust and chemical factory gasses. However, you may be surprised to learn that indoor air is often MORE toxic than the air outside! This is really put into perspective when you realize average America spends about 90% of their life indoors. So, what can you do to make sure your indoor air is healthy? Today we’re going to dive into common airborne toxins in your home, and how to create a healthy indoor air environment!
Indoor vs. Outdoors Air
A growing body of scientific research is pointing to indoor air as more polluted than outdoor air—and yes, this even takes into account the air outside in overpopulated, industrialized cities. Since most people spend about 90% of their lives indoors, this points to indoor air as a seriously underlooked health issue. What makes matters direr: those who are most susceptible (the young, the sick, the elderly) are generally the ones who spend the most time indoors.
Common Effects of Indoor Air Pollution
If you suffer from the following symptoms, it’s time to re-evaluate the air you’re breathing:
- Respiratory problems (cough, chest pain, sneezing, congestion, chronic sinus issues, sore throat, breathing difficulty)
- Digestive issues (bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea, nausea)
- Skin problems (rash, itchiness)
- Fatigue, dizziness, headache, sensitivity to noise and light
- Cognitive function problems (concentration, memory, sleep, mood)
Common Indoor Air Toxins
There are a couple of main factors that make indoor air 2 to 5 times more toxic than outdoor air. One of these factors is the lack of ventilation inside the house, which leads to a buildup of toxic compounds.
Smoke: If a smoker lives in your house, the risk of secondhand smoke exposure should not be overlooked. The CDC has reported millions of deaths due to health problems caused by secondhand smoke exposure.
Mold: Mold and mildew can be deadly, and oftentimes go unnoticed. It is crucial to take the presence of mold in your home seriously. Professional remediation, and in some cases even changing residence, may be necessary.
Household Products: If you haven’t already read my article on fragrance as the new secondhand smoke, you’re in for an eye-opening experience. “Fragrance” is listed as an ingredient on at least 75% of mainstream products, ranging from shampoo to toilet cleaner. The word “fragrance” signifies a secret cocktail of hundreds of toxic chemicals that are not subject to safety testing. However, many of these chemicals are known neurotoxins, cause respiratory problems, behavioral issues, and autoimmune disease. When you start using household cleaners and personal care items that contain chemicals such as fragrances, these particles are trapped in the air and you are subject to constant inhalation.
Chemicals: Most people now know that asbestos is nothing to play around with. Asbestos has been linked to lung cancer, Unfortunately, it still lingers in the insulation, paints and floor tiles of many homes. However, asbestos is not the only dangerous compound in your home.
Your furniture, pillow and mattress, carpet, and even the paint on your walls probably contain VOCs, volatile organic chemicals. These household objects outgas dangerous chemicals that stew inside your home and are linked to cancer, heart disease, and lung disease.
And more: There are some things that occur naturally and generally harmlessly in nature (pollen, animal dander, pest leavings), but become problematic when they make their way indoors. The lack of ventilation and fresh air allows allergens to fester and grow.
Steps for Healthy Air Inside Your Home or Office
While the dangers of indoor air pollution sound scary, luckily there are many things you can do to improve the air quality of your home and office.
- Open your windows: This is easy and free! Turning on fans to get the air circulating will do a lot to help move inside air outside, and to bring fresh air inside your house.
- Swap your products: Check the ingredients of the household and personal care products that you buy. Avoiding chemicals, like ‘fragrance,’ will do a lot to bring down the synthetic chemicals in your air.
- Air out new furniture: When you buy new furniture, a new mattress, a new rug, etc. you may have noticed a particular smell that diminishes over time. Rather than letting these toxic gasses released into the air you breathe, put the item either in your backyard, on your porch, or in the garage for a couple of days.
- Get a quality air filter: The Austin Air Filter is one of my favorite home air filters; I myself use the Austin Air filter in my home. These cutting edge units are ideal for individuals or families with severe allergies and asthma, chemical sensitivities, or chronic illnesses such as COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease).
- Test for mold: If you suspect you have mold, I urge you to have a professional test. Mold is a leading cause of many autoimmune and chronic fatigue conditions.
Do you have any questions about indoor air quality? If so, leave them in the comments below, or let me know on my Facebook page or YouTube channel, where I answer all your health and wellness questions!
Fragrance: The New Secondhand Smoke
By Dr. Justin Marchegiani
Have you ever walked into a bath and body store, full of scented bath bombs and candles, and left with a headache, sore throat, or itchy nose? Those of us who are more sensitive may have already connected the dots between artificial fragrances and feeling foggy. While scented products are generally used with the positive intention of changing the scent of a person or a room, many people don’t realize the consequences. For the more sensitive among us, reactions can be immediate, but we are all at risk for the long-term effects of toxic fragrances.
What is “Fragrance”?
“Fragrance” (or “parfum”) is listed as an ingredient in practically everything these days: body wash, shampoo, soap, perfume, laundry detergent, fabric softener, hairspray, dish soap, household cleaning products… the list goes on and on. While any of these may list the ambiguous “fragrance” as an ingredient, they all have very different scents. Which leads us to the question: what exactly does “fragrance” mean?
Seeing the word fragrance or parfum on an ingredient list indicates a “trade secret” recipe that can be composed of hundreds of synthetic chemicals, selected from a database of 5,000 various components. Not only are companies not required to disclose which chemicals they use, none of these thousands of chemicals has to be tested for safety. There are some that have been studied, and the health effects are seriously scary. Reproductive harm, respiratory issues, and some of these fragrance chemicals are known neurotoxins.
Fragrance has been linked to:
- Endocrine disruption
- Hormone imbalance
- Brain fog
- Memory and concentration issues
- Headaches and migraines
- Respiratory problems
- Birth defects
- Damaged sperm
One example we can look at are phthalates, which help chemicals absorb into the body (alarm bells are already ringing). What are the associated risks? Reproductive system birth defects, hormonal changes, reduced sperm motility and concentration, increased damage to sperm DNA, obesity and insulin resistance, Type 2 diabetes, thyroid irregularities, asthma, and skin allergies, miscarriage, and infertility, to name a few.
EWG product testing found phthalates in nearly 75% of name-brand products, while not a single product listed phthalates as ingredients. This is because phthalates fall under the umbrella of a secret ingredient, and can be slipped into the chemical cocktail that results in one simple word, fragrance, on the ingredients list.
Think about the potential health effects linked to using phthalates that we listed above. This is just one of 5,000 ingredients that are mixed together to create a product’s fragrance. None of these chemicals are required to be tested for safety, yet we are exposed to them every single day!
Some of us are more sensitive than others and have an immediate reaction to scented products, and will avoid purchasing them. However, the majority of the population (unwittingly) still uses these toxic products. Perfume, scented laundry, hair products, air fresheners… Just like cigarette smoke, these fragrances create an aura of fragrance that pollutes the air. At their core, second-hand smoke and today’s fragrance epidemic are both battles over indoor air quality.
What Can We Do?
Shop with your dollars, and purchase products that are fragrance-free or contain truly natural ingredients, like pure essential oils. In fact, essential oils can take the place of a variety of scented products. doTERRA On Guard Cleanser is made of pure essential oils, including cinnamon, clove, eucalyptus, and wild orange. A lavender essential oil can be mixed with a carrier oil (coconut, avocado, olive, rosehip, etc.) to create a natural moisturizer. Shopping for fragrance-free products is not hard, but making them yourself adds an extra layer of fun & personalization!