Saturday, 29 August 2009

Fresher Air

This, i got out of some reading regarding improving indoor air quality.
Well, not that your truly is into some sort of new realisation, rather it is some questions i had lingering in my head and i guess it is affecting my daily life more now since im spending time at home with the kid due to the current situation, weather reasons, and some other 'excuses'.....hehehe....

While we might think that indoor air is far better than the outside air, think again.One researcher carried out ‘off-gassing experiments’ on everyday products such as carpets, plastic toys and electric shavers to analyse their toxic gaseous emissions.

Some of the worst offenders include vinyl wallpaper and flooring, laser printers and photocopy machines (the toner dust can be easily inhaled) of course this is applicable in the office, glues, paints and household appliances such as TVs and washing machines.
His verdict? ‘Indoor air is much worse than outdoor air,’ he says. ‘Inside, you have chemicals in a sealed building.

Another report by a BRE specialist in indoor air quality, says indoor concentrations of VOCs are typically 10 times higher than outdoors. To make matters worse, the gases get trapped indoors. Thanks to the airtight and energy efficient nature of many modern buildings, there is less ventilation in the form of drafts. Also trapped can be chemical contaminants from the outside (such as pollutants from exhaust fumes), which can seep through windows or poorly located air intake vents.

At worst, high levels of contamination can cause ‘sick-building syndrome’. Headaches, dizziness, disorientation, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, eye, nose and throat irritations are all symptoms. Newly built or remodelled buildings, in particular, tend to off-gas a higher level of chemicals than older ones.

Thus these are some of the things that we can do.....

•Freshen the air - naturally
Unless you live next to the M25, the cheapest and most effective way to allow fresh air in and toxic air out is to open a window. Ban air ‘fresheners’, a source of VOCs, and use natural odour-eaters such as a bowl of baking soda or naturally fragranced alternatives (see www.natural-house.co.uk). Avoid using perfumes, deodorants or products containing ‘parfum’, a word which hides the identities of as many as 100 potentially persistent or allergenic chemicals.

•Clear out cleaning chemicals
Recent studies have linked cleaning sprays with a new onset of asthma in adults and linked cleaning products, when used by pregnant women, to persistent wheezing in their offspring in early childhood. Use a range based on natural plant ingredients or experiment with simple cleaning solutions made from lemons, vinegar and baking soda.

•Breathable particles?
Dust is just dust, right? Wrong. A 2002 Greenpeace analysis of house-dust samples vacuumed from 100 UK homes showed that hazardous chemicals such as phthalates, brominated flame retardants, alkylphenols and organotins were widespread contaminants. Regular cleaning can help keep levels of breathable particles down along with dust mites, pollen and other allergy-causing agents. Keep humidity to a minimum to discourage the growth of mould which has the potential to cause allergic reactions when inhaled.

•Plant power
Living, green plants can remove toxic chemicals including formaldehyde, benzene and carbon monoxide from the air, according to a two-year study by NASA scientists. The following plants are particularly effective: areca palm, lady palm, rubber plant, dragon plant, English ivy, peace lily, gerbera daisy, snake plant, spider plant, weeping fig.

•Contaminated carpet
Carpets act as a reservoir for dust, which leads to a build-up of dust-mite allergen, an important trigger for asthma and other allergies. They also trap toxic pollutants. A 2001 Greenpeace UK report, ‘Poisons Underfoot’, found that new carpets contain significant levels of hormone-disrupting, brominated flame retardant BDE-209, the pesticides permethrin and tributyltin (an immune- and reproductive-system toxin) and formaldehyde. Vinyl (PVC) floors, made with phthalates, a hormone-disrupting chemical also linked to asthma and allergies in children, are no better. As a general rule, choose natural fibre carpets and rugs made from organic wool or cotton, coir or jute, instead of synthetic carpets (typically made of nylon or polyester), though check they haven’t been treated with unnecessary chemicals or glues (see www.healthyflooring.org for suppliers). FSC-certified wood flooring is another option. If you do have a carpet, avoid toxic carpet cleaners – use a steam cleaner instead. Take off your shoes to keep dirt and bacteria from the streets at bay.

•What not to paint with
Conventional paints can include acrylic, polyurethanes, PVC and VOCs. When they off-gas, the fumes are likely to include the emissions from VOC solvents. Choose natural and non-toxic water-based or clay-based paints instead. Check that it is ‘solvent-free’.

•Electronics
Ban electrical appliances from the bedroom. A computer, for instance, contains toxic gases, toxic metals (such as cadmium, lead and mercury), acids, plastics, chlorinated and brominated substances. The dust from some printer toner cartridges has been found to contain harmful substances such as nickel and mercury. Greenpeace has an online ‘Guide to Greener Electronics’ which ranks the top manufacturers.

•Protect babies and children
Expecting a child? Go easy when creating a nursery. Often people paint walls and put in new carpets and curtains – so when the baby arrives it ends up in a room full of off-gassing. Myriad Toys (www.myriadonline.co.uk) sells handcrafted natural wooden toys in waterbased colours, finished with natural oil blends.

•Bedding
Cut down on off-gassing in the bedroom – Greenfibres (www.greenfibres.com) sells chemical-free natural latex, coir and wool mattresses and organic cotton bedding. See www.soilassociation.org/textiles for more suppliers.
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