It’s mind-boggling to think about the amount of foreign stuff our bodies are exposed to these days. No matter where you are in the world, chances are you’re breathing or ingesting toxins in some way. Researchers in the US found an average of 200 industrial chemicals and pollutants in umbilical cord blood from newborn babies: a mixture of pesticides, consumer product ingredients, and wastes from burning coal, gasoline, and garbage (*1). A bit of a wake-up call, isn’t it?
As Eckhart Tolle wisely said: “awareness is the greatest agent for change”. This is not an expose on who to blame or an article announcing the imminent end of the world. My intention here is to provide useful resources to help you make better decisions. Sometimes it can feel overwhelming to filter through the information about what’s safe and what’s not.
If you’ve been wondering what you can do to lower your everyday exposure to toxins, a good place to start is with the air you breathe.
Although there’s little you can do to control the air when you’re out and about, you can greatly improve the quality of the air that you breathe inside your home and working space.
A very simple step is to open your windows. I know it may sound counterintuitive as we just talked about the pollutants lingering outdoors, but stale air can be much worse, trust me. Lack of ventilation causes a build-up of allergens, chemicals (otherwise known as Volatile Organic Compounds or VOCs), moisture and potentially mould: a very unhealthy cocktail that can wreak havoc on your health.
Ditch the scented stuff
People often revert to air fresheners to improve their indoor air quality: big NO-NO! They’re bottled up chemicals, literally: a survey which tested over 25 air fresheners and other scented products showed that they emitted more than 100 VOCs, including some that are classified as toxic or hazardous by law (*2). Use an essential oil diffuser for a lovely smelling home instead, I love the range at Twenty8. Sorry to break it to you but scented candles fall into the same category and are another big NO-NO. Opt for pure beeswax if you’re a candle aficionado, the Queen B ones are my favourites. I also recommend you listen to this interview with Cate Burton about the candle industry to educate yourself on the topic.
Take your shoes off
Go bare feet around your home so you’re not seeding your place with the nasties you collected outside. If you have carpets inside, make sure you give them a thorough clean regularly to get rid of dust, allergens and other toxins.
Clean your air conditioner
If you use air conditioning in your home, make sure you vacuum the vents often and get the filters cleaned by a professional regularly.
Invest in a good air purifier
A great way to ensure you breathe clean air inside your home or workspace is to invest in an air purifier. It can be an expensive option but worth every cent, especially if anyone in your family is suffering from asthma or any other respiratory condition and/or if you live in a particularly polluted area. The serious ones will include a carbon filter which removes not only allergens but also the much talked about VOCs, pollution from main roads, smoke particles and also mould spores. The one we use in our home is from InovaAir.
Watch out for mould
Mould is sneaky, sometimes grows unseen and can cause a myriad of health symptoms seemingly unrelated. If you have mouldy patches in your home, address them immediately. When doing spot treatments, remember that bleach will not kill mould spores at their root. In Australia, Bunnings sell a natural product called Concrobium that is effective and safe. If you suspect that it’s a structural issue (water damaged building for example), seek the help of a professional. A Building Biologist can help you assess exactly what needs to be done. Read this article here if you’re keen to dive into the mould topic deeper.
I’m slowly turning our house into a jungle one plant at a time. I love how they make our space come alive and can freshen up the air too. Research showed that the benefits don’t stop at their positive impact on air quality, they can also improve our overall wellbeing (*3). Here you’ll find a detailed list of the species which are most beneficial to air quality. Now this comes with a caveat: remember that natural ventilation far outpaces plants when it comes to cleaning the air.
Don’t panic if you realise that you may have been exposed to more toxins than you thought possible. The body is a wonderful self-healing machine, given the right conditions. Now that you have some tools to choose better, go forth and make some changes. You’ll feel much better for it!
If you need help along the way, check out my awesome service Clean and Lean: together we’ll work on a plan to significantly reduce your exposure to toxins, assessing and adjusting your living and working spaces to ensure they’re supportive of your health and wellbeing, not working against them. I can’t wait to meet you!
* All references for this article can be accessed HERE.