The majority of people probably don’t realize that there is a bigger chance there are more toxins in their own home than in the outdoor air. And what’s more ironic is that these toxins actually come from products that are meant to improve the quality of our life and health. Also, home furniture is often build out of materials that don’t meet health standards, due to the lack of harmony in terms of healthy materials between countries and of course, commercial interests.

Another problem is that the effects of these toxins are hard to identify – partly because it may take years for them to manifest.

This article has a purpose to educate you which toxins are the most common and usually found in homes and how to reduce if not eliminate them from your home. However, bear in mind that this list is not exhaustive, since there are thousands of other toxins that are circulating around us all the time.

Volatile Organic Compounds – VOCs

Volatile Organic Compounds – VOCs
Volatile Organic Compounds – VOCs

Simply put, they are a group of chemicals that are able to vaporize easily and draw other gas pollutants into your home from a wide variety of sources. Over 400 compounds have already been identified in homes, while half of them are found in carpets. Their level is up to five times higher in indoor air than in outdoor air, probably because they are present in various household products.

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VOCs can be found in no less than: new home furnishings and carpets, paints, plywood, pressed wood, plastic, deodorants, electronics, cleaning fluids, shampoo and other cosmetic products, varnishes, dry cleaned garments, bug repellants, air fresheners, tobacco products and wood stoves.

Risks of exposure and how to minimize it

Short term exposure to VOCs increases the risk of respiratory tract as well as eye irritation, dizziness, headaches, memory impairment and visual disorders. Long term exposure increases nervous system, liver and kidney damage, as well as multiple forms of cancer.

Minimize exposure by looking for low-VOC and zero-VOC marks on products, by ventilating and making sure humidity is in low levels in your home. Also, gas-off new products for a few days before bringing them inside.

Pesticides

Pesticides
Pesticides

Pesticides are substances that are used to control pests, and this term includes herbicides (60% of them are carcinogenic), fungicides (90% of them are carcinogenic) and insecticides (30% are carcinogenic).

Sources

They are found in foods such as fruits, vegetables and meats that are commercially raised. Also, they are in household sprays and pest control products, and many chemical lawn treatments.

Risks of exposure and how to minimize it

Pesticides increase the risk of eye, nose, kidney and throat damage, risk of cancer, Parkinson’s nerve damage, miscarriage and they block the absorption of food nutrients.

To minimalize exposure to outdoor pesticides, incorporate a no-shoes policy in the home, and when it comes to other types of pesticides, turn to fresh and organic food, avoid chemical pest control products and use natural ones instead for both indoor and outdoor pests.

Mold and fungi

Mold and fungi
Mold and fungi

One in three people are allergic to mold. Even the smallest exposure to fungal toxins can cause a range of serious health problems.

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Mold appears where the air is damp and temperature tends to change frequently, in contaminated buildings and in airborne particles from air conditioning units or furnace blowers.

Risks of exposure and how to minimize it

Toxic effects of mold ranges from irritation of the mucous membrane, over suppression of our immune system, all the way to cancer. By keeping the filters of your ventilating and air conditioning systems clean, removing water sources from affected areas, keeping the humidity level in your home below 60 percent and storing high-cellulose items in dry areas, you can get rid of mold for good.

Asbestos

Asbestos is a set of six natural silicate minerals that occur naturally in the environment in the form of bundles of fibers that have commercial and industrial applications by being separated into thin and durable threads. They are resistant to fire, heat and chemicals and do not conduct electricity.

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Since the late 1800s, asbestos has been used in building and construction industries as a cement strengthener as well as fire, roof and sound insulation, as well as for insulating steam pipes, hot water pipes and boilers. The auto industry, on the other hand, uses asbestos for brake shoes and clutch pads. It has also been found in paints, plastic, coatings and adhesives, as well as talc-containing crayons.

Risks of exposure and how to minimize it

When asbestos products get disturbed, asbestos fibers start flying through the air, and when they are breathed in, they get trapped in our lungs and remain there for quite a long time, which can cause inflammation that later results in serious health problems. It is also carcinogenic and increases the risk of asbestosis. In other words, if you think you have any traces of this substance in your home, get in touch with a quality asbestos removal company to help you with this as soon as possible.

PVC and Phthalate

PVC and Phthalate
PVC and Phthalate

Phthalate is an industrial compound that is used to lengthen the life of fragrances and soften plastic, and this is why it can be found in PVC.

Sources

While plastic wrap, plastic food storage containers and bottles draw phthalate directly into our food, PVC can be found in vinyl flooring, wall coverings, drapes, shower curtains, air mattresses and even baby toys.

Risks of exposure and how to minimize it

Phthalates are particularly dangerous for children, because they mimic hormones so they can result in endocrine system damage, and their genital development while still being in the uterus. Make sure you always check the labels on plastic, especially baby products so you are certain they are phthalate-free, avoid eating from PVC plastic, keep the indoors well-ventilated and before an item enters your home, check to see if there is a recycling code #3 or V to spot PVC.

As you can see, the more you know, the more you can reduce the exposure and help yourself and your loved ones. Stay safe.

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