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Hidden Toxins in our Homes

Home. As popular comedian George Carlin once said, “Home is just a place for your stuff.” This is true in a sense. But home is also, as the common saying goes “a person’s castle”. A place to eat, sleep, and dance about looking ridiculous. If home is a castle, and a place for our stuff, it should be safe and comfortable. And while locks on the doors might make it feel safe, most of us don’t know that inside our castles the air is most likely to contain four to five times the legal limit for outdoor pollutants and toxic chemicals. Maybe hundreds, if we’re painting. Sometimes thousands, if we’re removing drywall and sanding floors.

Yes, folks, there is a double agent in your castle, leaching benzene, formaldehyde, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and lots of other unpronounceable things that can cause cancer, infertility, low sperm count, and brain damage among others. This double agent is our stuff. Sheets, clothes, floors, kettles, Tupperware, furniture, wall paint, computers, electrical cords, the list goes on and on. But it’s okay, we don’t have go out and replace everything in our homes, we can make them safer by introducing a third player into the circle.

Houseplants have been shown to reduce many of the toxins in our homes by acting as natural air purifiers, sucking up all the bad stuff and replacing it with pure oxygen. So go out and get some leafy greens, and help detract from the environmental footprint of your household, and your health. (About fifteen per 2,000 sq. feet should do it).  Some great plants are: Chinese evergreen, Peace lily, Snake plant, Spider plants, English Ivy, Cornplant, Devil’s Ivy, Bamboo Palms, Weeping, and Philodendron.

Oh, and get rid of the incense sticks, candles, and Febreze. Air ‘fresheners’, no matter how green or natural they claim to be, are just plain bad for you. Taiwanese temples (with incense) were found to have carginogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon levels 40 times higher than cigarette smokers’ homes.

If this topic has touched a nerve, and you’d like some follow-up, I recommend reading ‘Ecoholic Home’ by Adria Vasil. It was the main source for this article, and focuses on ways to get your house completely green, non-toxic, renewable, and fair-trade. And it’s a good read.

“Ecoholic Home” – by Adria Vasil, 2009.
“The complete guide to houseplants” – by Valerie Bradley, 2006.

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