Challenge #42 ~ Healthy Living Rooms

Read the blog post on the December Theme – HEALTHY HOMES

Photo by Patrick Perkins on Unsplash

Our living spaces are the centers – the souls – of our homes where we express our individual selves emotionally and intellectually. Or living spaces reflect our energy, sense of well-being, taste in art and culture, and our need for comfort and relaxation. We eat together, read with our children, watch movies, and spend time entertaining friends and family in our living and dining areas. And we definitely want all of this to be toxin-free!

Nobody intentionally pollutes and poisons their homes. Yet, we all make purchase decisions that may undermine our health. Do we first consider the materials and ingredients when buying upholstered furniture and carpets, deciding on paint, and using household cleaners? Or does price solely influence our buying decisions? Do we think about what we breathe and what our skin comes in direct contact with? A number of things impact our indoor air, touch our skin and bodies, and affect our health. 

The most crucial personal motivation to avoid hidden toxins in our homes is our own health. The biggest value and return on investment is our personal health and well-being. The additional benefits are that we no longer contribute to the circulation of toxic chemicals in the environment and more importantly, as consumers we provide important feedback to the building and real estate industries and ultimately to manufacturers.

This week’s challenge is about creating safe and comfortable living and dining spaces, clean of hidden chemical additives and toxins. Read on to learn easy steps on how to best avoid exposure to hidden toxins by identifying sources, and reducing and eliminating the culprits. 

Get started with these tips:

  • Choose furniture with FSC-certified wood frames and natural latex or low volatile organic compound (VOC) certified foam/stuffing
  • Avoid the most toxic chemicals in furniture, including flame retardant chemicals, stain-guard or water repellent finishes. 
  • Paint walls and ceilings with water-based and low VOC paints
  • Give preference to natural wool or silk area rugs instead of wall-to-wall carpets. Consider removing wall-to-wall carpet to eliminate off-gassing of chemicals.
  • Add indoor plants! Get a copy of How to Grow Fresh Air: 50 Household Plants that Purify Your Home and Office to learn and appreciate the benefits of live foliage in our homes and which specific plants “can play an integral role in improving the very essence of our lives – the air we breathe… natural solutions that are as old as the earth itself.” The top performers are these common household plants, rated for effectiveness in removing most toxic indoor gases like formaldehyde, xylene, toluene, and ammonia; ease of growth and maintenance, resistance to insect infestation and transpiration rate:
    • Areca Palm (Chrysalidocarpus lutescens)
    • Lady Palm (Rhapis excelsa)
    • Bamboo Palm (Chamaedorea seifrizii)
    • Rubber Plant (Ficus robusta) 
    • Dracaena “Janet Craig” (Dracaena deremensis “Janet Craig”)
    • English Ivy (Hedera helix)
    • Ficus Alii (Ficus maclellandii “Alii”
    • Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata “Bostoniensis”
  • Mind the light. Limit evening exposure to blue-light to keep our circadian rhythms intact.
  • Kick the dust to relieve allergies
    • Check windows for air leaks and seal them with airtight tape (available at Daiso) to reduce dust and fine particles from outside.
    • Seal gaps underneath doors with weather strips to reduce dust from outside. 
    • Use a good vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter to keep the living space dust free.
    • Wet mop hard surfaces at least once a week to pick up sand and dust. 
    • Clean and change air conditioner filters regularly as part of preventative maintenance.
  • Reduce chemicals to prevent cancer: Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are harmful chemicals that easily evaporate into the air, referred to as off-gassing from cleaning products, furniture, carpets, paints, air fresheners. VOCs are carcinogenic when inhaled. Phthalates is another group of chemicals to eliminate from our homes. Phthalates are in plastics, vinyl, toys, and personal care and beauty products and are known endocrine disruptors, meaning they disrupt our hormone levels and function and have been linked to thyroid and breast cancer. Naphthalene, a component in mothballs, insecticides and other pest repellent, is also harmful. Easy ways to reduce chemicals are:
    • Check product labels for low VOCs including paints and cleaning products.
    • Keep living spaces well ventilated for ample oxygen supply and to air out carbon dioxide.
    • Use natural air fresheners like rosewater, lemongrass, lavender, or spices like cinnamon and cloves. 
    • Avoid smoking indoors.
  •  Limit use of anti-bacterial gels. Washing hands properly before eating and handling food is essential, however the overly sterile, antibacterial germ-killing craze is counterproductive. Exposure to some bacteria is beneficial to boost our immune system. 

Identifying unexpected sources of hidden toxins can easily get overwhelming. Don’t let it! Remember, eliminating toxins in our living areas serves first and foremost our personal health and is a work in progress. Go step by step. Soon we will realize the recurring pattern of the top offending ingredients and become more aware and comfortable in screening them out of our product purchases to avoid exposure. 

By eliminating hidden pollutants and toxins in our living spaces, we also reduce our carbon footprint through personal choices and actions, addressing SDGs #3 Good Health and Wellbeing; #6 Clean Water and Sanitation; #8 Decent Work and Economic Growth; #9 Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure; #12 Responsible Consumption and Production and #13 Climate Action

Yes, you, too, can make a difference in the world, one person at a time.