Your House is a Toxic Soup

Written by admin on February 11, 2011. Posted in Healthy Home, Toxic Nursery

Unless you live out in the wilderness with not a scrap of production line man-made furniture, carpet, paint, curtains/blinds, soft furnishings or you live in an eco-designed and diligently sourced organically furnished and finished house, you’re living in a silent toxic soup. Even the clothes on your back and the food on your plate are impacting your health.

The community at large scratch their heads and wonder but more hopefully, suspiciously question, why the cancer (and to a lesser extent, asthma) rates are so high in this day and age. Some say that incidences of cancer have always been like this, it’s just that we have better testing for it now. Open your eyes! The Australian Government website has an extensive “State of Knowledge Report” on Air Toxics and Indoor Quality in Australia which is extensive in it’s information. I have gleaned some areas that I think should be highlighted, especially for indoor air quality with regard to infant and children’s health and safety. Not to mention your own.

There are 28 priority air toxic pollutants in our homes today. Not out in the atmosphere over industrial plants or in the ‘big cities’. IN OUR HOMES. 28 acknowledged air toxic pollutants listed by the Government as priority safety concerns. (Definition: The NHMRC defines indoor air as any non-industrial indoor space where a person spends a period of an hour or more in any day. This can include the office, classroom, motor vehicle, shopping centre, hospital and home.) Here is the “28 Most Un-Wanted” list at paragraph 5.3 Priority Air Toxic Pollutants – recommended list. Now, this roll call of slightly familiar sounding words is meaningless unless you know their health effects. Read their Factsheets outlining  common uses, likely sources, and health & environmental effects. Also paragraph 1.1 Community concerns (excerpt “Exposure to air toxics can affect health, with effects ranging from none, through mild and immediate (eg watery eyes), to more extreme (eg lung damage, nervous system damage or even birth defects and cancer). The extent to which these adverse effects present themselves depends on a number of factors such as the type of air toxic to which a person is exposed and the length and severity of the exposure.“)

Formaldehyde was predominantly the reason for my research. I was already very aware of pressed wood products such as couches (framework, but also fabric), dining tables & chairs, bookshelves, kitchen cabinets and benchtops and a swathe of other household furniture containing glue with Formaldehyde, a known human carcinogen. Mainly because I hated the smells I experienced walking through ‘cheap’ furniture stores I sought to find out what it was. You need not Google too far to find that there are a lot of complaints out there regarding eye, nose, throat, chest and breathing difficulties after buying a new piece of ‘cheap’ furniture. Here’s one example of a man’s new purchase of a simple, unassuming bookshelf from a major retailer going horribly wrong. I’m guessing his story is similar to a lot of experiences in Australia and around the world but most don’t dedicate a website to finding out more and reaching out to others who have had similar experiences.

In his extensive correspondence with the ‘retailer’ he very correctly summarises the very real concerns for babies sleeping in a nursery filled with brand new furniture for their arrival. “Formaldehyde can cause serious health problems, particularly in those too young to complain, e.g. babies who might have such furniture in their bedrooms and yet sleep there night after night, being unable to communicate that they feel ill.

Excerpt “We can better understand ageing if we realise that the formaldehyde emission is typically due to two processes, with both of those processes declining as the sample ages. Initially, much of the formaldehyde emission is due to the release of trapped formaldehyde – that emission falls as the trapped formaldehyde is used up. When the trapped formaldehyde has gone, emission of formaldehyde that is produced by chemical reactions continues – that process declines more slowly. The net effect is that as the product ages, the formaldehyde emission falls initially comparatively rapidly, then later more slowly, but never quite reaches zero. The timescale involved is typically a matter of months or years.” This is my primary reason for stating in article Hand me Downs “Old is Gold!” Buy second hand and the majority of outgassing will have already taken place.

Unfortunately formaldehyde is not just in our furniture, it’s used in darn near everything. We are exposed in nearly every facet of our daily lives from the treatment of seeds of the plants we eat, chicken and cattle for parasites to the glue in our furniture (particleboard in our couches, desks, tables, tv cabinets, bookshelves etc) and surface coatings, to the petrol in our cars, to the dyes in our clothes and permanent press items, skin disinfectants, mouth washes, spermicides…the list really goes ON and ON and ON. I have included it below for your ease of reference. I’m floored by the extensive areas Formaldehyde is utilised intentionally in our society. It’s absolute insanity.

The factsheet for Formaldehyde shows why it the most recognised of all human carcinogens littered throughout our everyday lives. It’s everywhere. It’s common uses, method of exposure, effects on our health, the environment and it’s animals is extracted below. I urge your to read it and view your world ‘wide-eyed’ when you next head out shopping for that new couch that’s soooo affordable you just HAVE to have it.

Or even more concerning, plan to paint your new baby’s nursery walls, buy a brand new cot, change table, chest of drawers, toy chest, put up new curtains, lay new carpet, buy a new rug and a swathe of ‘flame retardant/low fire danger’ PBDE doused clothing for the arrival of your precious baby. Think twice about everything you put in your baby’s room and on their bodies! Buy organic clothing for them the first 6 months of life. They aren’t even crawling till that age so fancy coloured clothing and shoes are really unnecessary till later on.

Clause 6.4 Sensitive Sections in the Community (excerpt “Significant proportions of the population have a greater sensitivity to pollutants. These commonly include newborns, young children, the elderly, heart patients, those with bronchitis, asthma, hayfever or emphysema, and smokers. These population sectors will be at greatest risk from pollutant exposures and, according to the Allergy, Sensitivity, Environmental Health Association (1998), deserve ‘special consideration’. The higher risk to children is a result of their higher metabolic rate, higher intake of airborne pollutants and lower resilience, resulting in a two to four times higher absorption rate (Gilbert and Black 2000)…. Exposure to environmental toxics (not necessarily airborne) has been suggested as one of a number of factors which may be associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, attention deficit disorder and, to a lesser extent, chronic fatigue syndrome. However, the causes of these disorders are poorly understood, and it is not currently possible to make any definitive statements about their possible links to airborne pollutants.

If you are unable to attain ‘source emission control’ (ie. avoiding cheap products such as pressed wood furniture; couches, tables, chairs, kitchen kits, carpets and rugs etc) thereby sourcing healthier materials/purchases for your household, then at the very, very least you can take steps to improve your indoor air quality.The simpliest thing you can do to ‘improve’ your indoor air quality is ensure your home is well ventilated every single day. If you have air conditioning and the weather is hot, it’s tempting not to. But even for an hour or two, open the doors and windows completely and let fresh air and in condensed old air out. Remember that while your house is shut up through the night you and your children are breathing these toxic air pollutants listed by the Australian Government. Minimise your purchase of new furniture by buying 2nd hand goods from Ebay and the like. Definitely avoid brand new purchases for your baby’s nursery and if you can’t afford organic or human & environmentally friendly purchases “Old is Gold“.

Introduction para 6.1Despite the long periods we spend indoors, relatively little research has been done on the quality of air in our homes, schools, recreational buildings, restaurants, public buildings and offices or inside cars. In recent years, comparative risk studies performed by the US EPA and its Science Advisory Board have consistently ranked indoor air pollution among the top five environmental risks to public health.

At clause 6.2 Indoor Air Pollutants there is also the much bigger list capturing things like dust mites, tobacco smoke, acetone, ethyl acetate etc and clause 6.3 Health effects as a result of exposure to pollutants (Excerpt “The occupants of buildings with poor indoor air quality can suffer from severe effects (asthma, allergic response, cancer risk) to mild and generally non-specific symptoms. Some health effects may show up years after exposure has occurred or only after long or repeated periods of exposure, and thus can be characterised as long-term health effects. These effects, which include respiratory diseases and cancer, can be severely debilitating or fatal. Long-term health effects are associated with indoor air pollutants such as radon, asbestos, and environmental tobacco smoke.“.

In addition to the Priority Air Toxic Pollutants, Clause 7.1 Broad Categories and Sources for Indoor Air Pollutants.Sources of indoor air pollutants include building operations and construction materials, household products, external factors and various human indoor activities.

Broad Categories and Sources of Indoor Air Pollutants Clause 7.2 Criteria pollutants in the indoor environment (Excerpt “Table 7.2 summarises the main indoor air pollutants, their important sources and typical concentration ranges, as well as some possible responses.“) It then goes on at 7.2.1 to list all of the air pollutants such as Nitrogen Dioxide, Lead, Radon, VOC’s and Formaldehyde.

I’m no expert. I’m still learning every day about pollutants in the furniture we buy, the consumer products we use and the food we eat. But I’m searching for knowledge. For the sake of you and your family, I hope you do too.

In my research travels I’ve come across some interesting articles on this topic of toxic exposure in our homes, food, environment, our bodies and ultimately what should be most sacred and protected of all…our breastmilk. I’ll comment on these as I find the time. I’m currently enjoying the challenge of raising two very beautiful, very active (and slightly whingey!) 19 month old girls. Please join my site to join in the conversation and share your own experiences!

The Age: Furnishings Key to Infertility?

7:30 Report: Tests Confirm Alarming Contaminant Levels in Food

Slow Death by Rubber Duck

The Story of Stuff

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