Home Toxins & Pollutants
A Breath of Fresh Air
Last week I was enjoying this. Fresh sea air. It’s a welcome change. I always feel refreshed by the coast.
It made me think, however, about how we take clean air for granted.
And, actually, how toxins and pollutants in our home spaces could adversely affect our health.
A recent revelation is addresspollution.org. Entering your postcode reveals your air quality as a percentile of the UK’s addresses.
Living at the top of a hill in Bristol I was expecting better, but we are 73rd percentile in terms of air pollution.
It turns out my address exceeds all 3 WHO (World Health Organisation) key pollutant limits. According to their website:
- PM2.5 =11.65mcg/m3. (limit = 5mcg/m3)
Their study shows 19.9% of strokes were attributed to exposure (for a year or more) of PM2.5 concentrations exceeding 10mcg/m3. Also causes asthma, affect lung function and promote cancer.
- PM10 = 18.42mcg/m3 (limit = 15mcg/m3)
Cardiovascular mortality increases by 0.76% and respiratory mortality by 0.58% for every 10mcg/m3 increase of PM10. Also causes wheezing, bronchitis and reduce lung development.
- NO2 = 16.81mcg/m3 (limit = 10mcg/m3)
Exposure (for a year or more) to 30mcg leads to a 5.5% increased risk of disease related mortality.
It’s all a bit shocking really. Do check yours!
“Bad” vs. “Better”
I used to live in Deptford, South-East London (near Greenwich if that helps).
Checking my old postcode is 96th centile. My old work address (London College of Fashion – Oxford Circus) is 99th!
It’s a wonder my health was as good as it was, though goodness knows what those 10 years have stored up for my future!
It’s certainly an eye opener. In South Devon it’s around 10th centile.
This still impedes on 1 of the 3 WHO limits but is a hell of a lot more conducive to future health prospects.
External vs. Internal Environment
So that’s outside.
We can control where we live but apart from that it’s down to government legislation to improve our external air quality.
Choice of home and proximity to things like airports, docks, industrial units, garages and petrol stations etc are all things to consider when buying a new home.
Inside our homes, we have more control, but there may be things that we are not aware of being an issue.
Toasters and microwaves are both dangers in the kitchen.
Toasters emit nasty toxins which are several times above WHO-recommended levels.
Microwaves and hairdryers emit EMF radiation, along with tech equipment and air conditioning units. The latter can also create more issues if filters are not changed appropriately.
Don’t get me started on air fresheners.
The first thing I notice on entering a property is the smell.
Obviously, nasty smells are not pleasant, but I find these artificial smells much worse. They also last longer and are a pain to get rid of. Staying in a property for a week is often not long enough to dispel the effects.
I now travel with an aroma diffuser so that I can try to overpower the artificial smell with lovely oils. To relax and create my own aroma story to make myself feel at home.
Unfortunately, the fake smell is always stronger.
The chemicals out-way the natural several times over.
Apart from the nauseating headache-inducing effects, I dread to think what further damage they do.
Particularly whilst suffering from migraine or sinus headaches, I just can’t bear chemical smells.
It’s not just about the smell per se (although as overbearing and noxious as they are) but about the chemical reaction my body has to them.
Artificial smells are not just for air freshening though. I am also sensitive to the chemicals in fabric conditioners.
My partner’s ex used to wash their daughter’s clothes in the stuff and it was vomit inducing.
Particularly when pregnant, I’d have to sit with doors and windows open to get rid of the smell. It created as much of a gag reflex as smelling people smoking or wearing too much perfume.
Back then I used to retch at supermarkets – normally near the rotisserie chicken or by just looking at raw peppers!
But I digress.
I have charity shop finds from 11-12 years ago, never worn, which STILL smell of some disgusting fabric conditioner.
That isn’t right. The chemicals should not be able to linger for over a decade.
But it’s not even just applied chemicals that risk our health at home.
Many man-made materials off-gas, causing chemical vapours to accumulate in our homes.
From polyester-based carpets, curtains, cushions and leather-look sofa covers to laminate floors. Then there are the fixatives, adhesives, sealants and fire-retardant coatings.
This is before we consider cleaning products, clothing or plastic toys.
Old Fashioned Dirt
Then we consider mould and dust – implications of too much accumulation and clutter, and the impact on allergies.
A 2019 UK study showed that the air quality inside most properties were on average 3.5% times worse than that of the external quality.
Material choice is therefore an important consideration when choosing furnishings and fittings.
Natural wood, glass, ceramics and metals such as stainless steel or brass are good choices.
Stainless steel is less environmentally impactful than chrome for example, which is a hugely damaging process.
Brass is infinitely recyclable and available in different tones and finishes.
Use natural fibre fabrics such as wool, cotton, linen, hemp, flax, leather, silk, alpaca and cashmere.
Seagrass, jute, coir and sisal are also great for floorcoverings, and rattan, cane and bamboo for furniture.
Although a natural fibre, the process to create bamboo into a fabric fibre has a very damaging environmental impact.
Any anti-bacterial effects it had as a hard surface, is also pretty much eliminated by the harmful process (although this is often claimed as a residual benefit!)
Many alternative fibres are now being developed, including vegan leather which doesn’t involve plastics.
Recycled fabrics, in particular using plastics, are also options to consider, depending on use.
Swimwear and outdoor fabrics seem good options.
Many are of the opinion though that even using recycled plastics encourages their use and should be avoided.
So the choice is yours.
Making good choices will hopefully allow you to breathe easier and sleep well at night.
As with all things, insight and intention are a good start.
We don’t need to sling the baby out with the bath water.
We all just need to start making better choices and create healthy home spaces for our families to thrive.
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