Not so sweet, home sweet home!
Our homes are making many of us sick 1. The old saying ‘home is where the heart’ is might just have taken on a whole new meaning – and it’s not heartwarming. Science has validated the notion that the state of our home environment is a direct influence on our health and the health of our family. As a society we spend at times up to 90% of our time indoors, and 70% in our own homes 2. We are living and breathing our home environment, which in turn is shaping our health today and for the future. Let’s make sure our home the sweetest place to be!
What dictates how healthy our homes are? It is made up of several different things, but day to day, it’s what our homes and furnishings are made of, how we live and how we clean – simple as that. Indoor air quality studies 3 have shown that inside our homes unseen vapours and irritating particles are being released into the air we breathe, all day, and at times depending on what we are doing these levels can spike, bringing higher still toxic loads – in our own homes.
Getting knowledgeable and learning to identify the sources of indoor toxins is the best way to look out for your health – and simple changes can have big results 4 – relieving symptoms of asthma, dermatitis, headaches and allergy and protecting you from respiratory and heart diseases, cancer, skin conditions and reproductive issues.
Here are the changes you can make today, to improve your homes’ health.
- Ditch those fake scents! Avoid or minimize using any product with synthetic fragrance – these chemicals are well studied on their effect on human health and it’s all bad – especially for woman who use them most. Day to day fake fragrance (I’m looking at you ‘fresh linen’ and ‘tropical dream’) can make it hard to breath especially for asthma sufferers and those with hyper-allergic responses. In the longer term the ingredients in synthetic fragrance can be harmful to your body systems that control and increase you chance of lung disease, cancer, and hormone disruption (think getting pregnant, growing a healthy baby and sugar control) TIP: thoughtfully use whole plant extracts. Aim for a day of all fragrance free, breathing in living nature, with a small side of Essential oils. learn more here 5.
- Fresh air not air fresheners, candles and incense! These are all sold for making indoors better to be in but they are doing anything but! The problem is not just their ingredient list of known toxic to human substances; it’s also what they add to the air by way of particles that irritate our airways. Known to contain ingredients 6 like propellants to release product out of cans, brain blocking molecules so you don’t register the bad smells (yip! Thanks Fabreeze7 ), solvents to mix oils and water phases together (these are particularly nasty and hide behind benign names like solbuliser), and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that float in our air and a breathed in – when you use air fresheners and the like in your home, you need to know you are trading away more than those bad smells, it’s affecting your health. TIP open windows for at least 15 minutes each day to exchange stale air for fresh – especially in winter!
- When you choose your home cleaners, be sure to read the label and see if the ingredients are listed! Typical home cleaners contain a murky soup of ingredients which is not helped that ingredient disclousure is not required in New Zealand 8 – inside these formulations hide concoctions of industrial chemicals, cheap and good at getting the job done, but with no thought for the health of the user or the toxic effect on the home environment. Driven by consumers who demanded to know what they were actually using in their homes, open labelling of ingredients is increasing – but has far to go. Protecting your health will involve advocating for yourself – become aware of the ingredients to avoid and those to minimize. Do no rely on big brands to look out for your health – time and time again big brands have bent the truth, greenwashed and put profit ahead of people. They say a picture says a thousand words9, here is Figgy & Co bench spray (now everyday spray) Vs. the big boys.
- Granny was right! Open those windows wide and let the fresh air in. Not only will you be 1. Sweeping away stale smells you can also 2. Reducing moisture levels 10, which link into condensation and mould and 3. You will also flush out 11 toxic chemicals that accumulate from home cleaners, VOCs from home materials off gassing and irritating synthetic fragrances. When you open your windows do it for at least 10 -15 minutes, including during winter. The best times to open windows are first thing in the morning and before heading to bed at night. When you can make the most of cross ventilation12, where windows on opposite sides of the house are opened to allow a passage of fresh air in and old air out.
Home should most definitely be sweet and our sanctuary, it is the place we spend so much time, get away from the bustle of daily living and recharge our batteries. With the four easy changes above your home will be healthier than ever and so will you. If you would like more information about healthy homes there are a ton of fantastic resources online and a great book on all things healthy home in New Zealand is living green 13, it is full of information pertinent to New Zealand and offers easy advice and science based facts.