Inside the Home

The best way we can keep our homes as healthy as possible, is to stop buying products that pollute the indoor air, like synthetic fabrics in rugs, furniture, curtains, and mattresses, polyurethane foam cushioning, man-made ‘woods’ containing formaldehyde, toxic finishes and paints (yes, even zero-VOC paints are almost always toxic!), candles whose wicks contain lead and whose wax contains all manner of toxic substances…..the list goes on and on.

INSTEAD….we need to work with transparent companies, such as The Green Design Center, so we can choose healthy building and interior home materials that are not off gassing toxic chemicals into the air.

  • Air Quality (these excerpts are taken from Tina’s Home Tips for Women)
    • Carbon-filled Moso bags can absorb toxic gases/VOCs in your home and your car.
    • Don’t allow appliances to exhaust air and/or moisture inside your home. This means no ductless range hoods and bathroom/dryer vents should always be vented outside.
    • Make sure all fixtures that burn fuel are vented to the outside, away from windows and HVAC intake vents. These include furnaces, fireplaces, range tops, exhaust fans and similar appliances.  Ideally, install an alternative heating source, such as a
    • Ensure adequate ventilation for your house,
      • changing filters on your HVAC equipment and using additional air cleaners as needed. Air cleaners should be UL 867 certified and meet California’s ozone release requirements.
      • If you are building a new home, seek out a passive house builder who can design your home to have a passive stack ventilation effect, so that there is always a pleasant breeze flowing throughout the home.
      • If you have adequate ventilation from a passive house stack ventilation concept, weather permitting, open doors and windows and use ceiling fans except when there are high levels of allergens outdoors.  If you don’t have a good air flow going through the house, air conditioning could potentially be a healthier option, to create better air flow and less humidity.
    • Keep your home dry to prevent the proliferation of mold, using dehumidifiers if necessary.
      • Measure the humidity of your home with a humidity meter, like this one.  The humidity in the home should be between 40 – 50%.
    • Use non-toxic mold-prevention paint, in appropriate places. Find more information on this here.
      • Pay attention to how you feel.  if you are having symptoms that you can’t explain, you could have a mold problem, even if you can’t smell or see anything.  If your lemons, limes, bananas or other fruit become moldy incredibly quickly while sitting on your counter, you probably have a mold issue!  Or if the tiles in your bathroom become moldy very quickly as well, that is an easy give-away.  Test your work and home for mold as a first step.  Order an ERMI dust sample test kit from Mycometrics or EnviroBiomics.  The PRISM test from The Green Design Center is recommended as well.  You collect a dust sample from home and work or wherever you spend a lot of time each day, and they analyze the sample for DNA from molds, etc. Some use http://www.citrisafe.com as a less toxic alternative substance to kill mold, and some people use IAQ 2000, which is toxic, but perhaps less so than other choices.  It doesn’t matter if you have symptoms, and your partner doesn’t, or if no one else in the house does.  It’s been discovered that a quarter of the population has genetic disposition to be heavily and negatively affected by mold moreso than the other 75%.  If you have a mold problem, hire a professional to find the exposure.  It helps to work with a mold-savvy practitioner like Jill Carnahan as she can tell from your body markers if you have a mold problem in your home or workplace.  It may take four of five mold assessments for a professional to find the source.  Then, you can remediate using professional services, and hopefully non-toxic paints.  There is a great website with remediation resources here: https://www.survivingmold.com/legal-resources/environmental
        Here are some of the most common symptoms people can have from mold exposure:

        • abdominal pain
        • brain fog
        • diarrhea or constipation
        • fatigue
        • frequent infections
        • heartburn is very common
        • itchy eyes
        • joint pain, sharp, especially to the head
        • rashes
        • static shocks
        • shortens of breath
        • sinus congestion
        • sneezing
        • sudden weight gain (like 20 lbs over two months)
      • If you’ve had a mold exposure health issue, consider taking glutathione in IV or liposomal, orally.  You can use binders as well afterward, such as clay, charcoal, zeolite, pectisol, glycomannin, IMD, etc, as well as epsom salt baths, and near and far infrared low EMF saunas, such as Thersage or Sunlighten.
      • Take immediate action to remove water and wet materials, like drywall and insulation in a flooded basement, to prevent the growth of mold.  Here is a cheap and almost free hack to double your refrigerator as a dehumidifier – posted by a wonderful participant in the prermies forum:
      • “Most folks don’t know that their ‘frost free fridge’ can be easily hacked to act as a dehumidifier.  As it runs continuously, it can be used to suck moisture out of a humid house all.. year.. long.Frost free fridges actually have a heating element.  This heating element comes on every-so-often to thaw out the cooling plate.  Any frost/ice that has formed on the cooling plate melts, drips into a plastic trough, drains to the bottom-rear of your fridge via a small tube, and then ends up in a plastic bowl located on top of your compressor.  The compressor, as it works to pump heat out of your fridge and into the surrounding air, heats up.  Heat from the compressor warms the bowl and evaporates the water, returning the moisture back to the air where it originally came from.  So, under normal circumstances, this operation is humidity-neutral.Assuming your fridge is against an external wall, or above an accessible basement, or near a drain, you can get a short piece of scrap tubing, attach it onto the end of the drain tube (just above the bowl), and instead of the water ending up in the bowl, it can be redirected outside, to a container or drain.  In any case, since it is no longer being heated and evaporated back into the air, it is effectively removed from the humidity equation and your internal air becomes drier.Depending on how easy it is to access the back of your fridge, this hack takes mere minutes.  I think it took me all of 5 minutes to do mine — and I chose to drill a hole into our back wall so that the water would go to plants outside.It doesn’t take any extra electricity, and doesn’t harm your fridge in any way.  It’s just the free 24/7/365 dehumidifier that y’all have in your kitchen but weren’t aware of.
    • Take steps to keep your home clean, leaving shoes at the door, using a high efficiency (HEPA) vacuum cleaner and washing bedding to reduce exposure to allergens and dust mites.
    • Use a rocket mass heater to heat your home, so that you have no need for a conventional HVAC system, which allows produces dust, mold, etc.  Find information about how to build a rocket mass heater here.  If you have a home that has a currently functioning HVAC system, here are a few air purification companies or products recommended by those who do their research.  Look for a filter that uses an “ULTRA- HEPA” filter, which filters down to .003 microns, which is 100 times smaller than the HEPA standards. HEPA was created during development of atomic bomb to capture very small radioactive particles.  Look for one that uses an activated carbon filter at least 1/2 inch thick filled with pellets to remove VOCs and ozone, and also potassium permanganate will remove formaldehyde particles.  CADR rating will tell you how many contaminants will be removed from the air in a period of time so you can compare one product to another.  Look for a CDR rating of over 300.
    • Some recommend keeping houseplants, such as the snake plant in the bedroom, and the pathos plant in the kitchen.
  • Asbestos –  “The biggest source of asbestos is not building materials; it is the clothes dryer belt and hair dryer.
    • remove the belt from the dryer and check to see if it says “Made in USA” on the belt itself. If so, it is OK. If not, it is imported, and probably contains asbestos. Exchange it for a USA belt.
    • Hair dryers, too, may be imported and shed asbestos. It is especially hazardous to be aiming a stream of hot asbestos right at your face.  If you can’t find a safe model, or are unsure, don’t use any. If you have cancer or are ill, no one in the house should use an unsafe hair dryer.” – Dr. Hulda Clark
  • Kitchen
    • Cookware, Bakeware & Other Kitchen Equipment
      • For all of equipment recommendations read this post.
      • For more information about why I chose certain materials over others, read this post. 
    • Countertops
      • Large Format porcelain tile (no seams to seal – toxic grouting not needed).  Can be tricky to find a contractor who knows how to cut and install this.
      • Quartz – make sure you get in made in the USA by Cambria.  Quartz doesn’t require toxic sealers, and granite does.
      • Corian
      • Richlite (will scratch if you’re ok with this)
  • Curtains – synthetic fabrics aren’t safe.  Find safe choices here.
  • Cleaning Products 
  • Fiberglass – traditional fiberglass is almost always filled with urea formaldehyde.  Check your dwelling for uncovered fiberglass. Repair immediately. Search for small screw holes intended for pictures, or electric outlet plates that are missing.  Also remove fiberglass jackets from water heater and fiberglass filter from furnace. Replace with non-urea formaldehyde fiberglass.  Many blown-in insulations and other ‘green’ insulations contain flame retardants, biocides and de-inking agents, which are all toxic.
  • Flooring, Carpeting & Cleaning – 
    • Choose healthy and durable flooring materials.
    • Mopping, instead of the vacuum cleaner, keeps dirt to a minimum. If only a broom is had, sprinkle wet bran or something on the floor first to  keep the dust down when sweeping
    • Throw rugs at doors and bedside are easy to clean, and “catch the dirt” as was the original intention.  Synthetic pile is not safe, nor is foam cushioningSafe choices.
    • Carpeting or Area Rugs – synthetic pile is not safe, nor is foam cushioningSafe choices.
    • Use a HEPA filter vacuum. “House dust is a haven for lead and for chemicals called VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) which evaporate from a large number of building materials and household products. The more dust in the air, the more toxins your child inhales. All horizontal surfaces should be wet-mopped at least twice a week. Carpeting should be vacuumed twice a week, preferably using a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter.” – Jill Carnahan
    • If sweeping, throw down moistened bran or something else to keep the dust down as you sweep. 
  • Furniture – avoid toxic fabrics, foams, wood substitute materials in the frame, wood glues, and stains and finishes.  There are safe alternative for all of these.
  • Sustainable, Non-toxic School & Office Supplies.  Find a list of items here. 
  • Keep computers out of the bedroom (borrowed from Jill Carnahan): 
    VOC’s (including the carcinogen benzene) evaporate from computer circuitry, laser and ink printers and fax machines in operation. Keep the computers in one room, preferably not a bedroom. Run an exhaust fan to refresh room air, and try to do all printing at a time when you and your children can leave the room. An air purifier with an activated charcoal filter may also be helpful.
  • Keep electronics off when not using them – from http://greensciencepolicy.org/Computers IN USE emit harmful flame retardants
    Flame retardants added to plastic enclosures around electronic products are not chemically bound to the plastics, and can migrate out into air and dust. Many studies have measured flame retardants in the dust and air in places where electronics are present. But it’s been hard to know how much of the flame retardants in the samples came from the use of electronics in these rooms versus the furniture, carpet, etc. Until now.A recent study evaluated air and dust samples in four rooms of a newly constructed building in the Czech Republic. To measure the relative flame retardants off-gassing from building materials, furniture and carpeting, and electronics, sampling occurred at key intervals: 1) in newly constructed but empty rooms, 2) after carpet and furniture were installed, 3) after computers were installed, and 4) after computers were switched on.No significant increase in levels of flame retardants in the air was found after the computers were installed, but after they were switched on, the emissions of halogenated flame retardants increased by 886%, from 167 pg m-3 to 1480 pg m-3. The study authors, from the Czech Research Center for Toxic Compounds in the Environment, cautioned that this concentration was relevant in terms of long-term human exposure for people who work most of the day in offices or computer rooms.
  • Pest Control –  many pests can be driven out by removing food or moisture sources, and by using food-grade diatomaceous earth, which acts as a dessicant to dry out the bodies of the pests, killing them.  This is a common and effective treatment for bed bugs, and even lice.  When applying insecticidal dusts be sure to wear gloves, goggles, and breathing mask. Do not apply insecticidal dusts where there might be water runoff, as these chemicals are toxic to fish.  Beyond Pesticides has a section of their site dedicated to dealing with pests, categorized by pest type and the least toxic solutions.
  • Refrigerator – freon is a top health hazard in the home — make sure the refrigerator is a non-CFC variety.
  • Toilet Paper & All Things Wiped (Poop, Pee & Menstruation) – we need to start facing the fact that our poop has to go somewhere, and embracing some of the amazing solutions that are out there.  Septic tanks suck unless they are combined with a  reed bed system, and the way we treat wastewater in the city is messed up.  There are really good solutions out there, being utilized as we speak.
  • Water Quality
    • Contaminants & Testing: familiarize yourself with the types of contaminants, then test your water to see what contaminants are present.  This is the first step to obtaining healthy drinking water.
    • Solutions & Filters – many options including some great DIY options!
    • Some particularly nasty toxins you should know about that require special attention or materials to filter out, or that are needlessly added to our drinking water:
      • Fluoride – added intentionally to drinking water at the treatment plant
      • Aluminum – added intentionally at most drinking water treatment plants as a coagulant (some places, like France, have transitioned to safe ferric (iron) salts