Are toxins and outgassing making you sick? Does your home need a detox? Tips on Creating a Nontoxic Home through Green Building
by N J Howell
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I talk a lot about the importance of detoxing the body from pollutants we take in from food that has been treated with pesticides and through breathing air that is polluted by fumes produced by cars, factories and other side effects of our technological age. I even talk about cleansing the mind and emotions because I recognize the direct impact that stress, worry, guilt, shame and fear have on the immune system.
However, I was ignorant of an unavoidable source of pollution, even though I felt the effects of it all my life. I have always been very sensitive to chemicals and fumes but didn't think about the very walls around me giving them off. I've had a real education on that one and wanted to share another area of detoxing that might not have occurred to you .... detoxing your home.
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detoxing your air
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detoxing your body
Every breath you take.... Would you knowingly breathe formaldehyde? How about pesticides or toxins like sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, mercury, cadmium, benzene, lead, ammonia or mold? Well, chances are, you are breathing at least some of those chemicals every day, in your own home. For example, acrylic and enamel paints contain a lot of the chemicals just mentioned.
If you are chemically sensitive, you know when you walk in a house if it's got mold. You know if walls have been recently painted, even though others might not smell the paint. You can smell chemicals more intensely than the average individual. That's why the chemically sensitive are at the forefront of green building; because they simply can't stand the toxic materials used by most construction companies.
Home is where you health is, or isn't. How healthy is your home? So, is toxicity in the home simply an issue for those with chemical sensitivities? Oh, no. Outgassing from carpets (carpet toxin reactions are particularly dangerous for infants who crawl on the floor and do not have fully developed lungs), adhesives, varnishes, paints, caulking, and treated wood releases chemicals and fumes that adversely affect every person who breathes them and they can be deadly to small children.
The Canary in the Coal Mine: I have higher than normal chemical sensitivities and have always had trouble with perfumes, hairspray, laundry detergents, cigarette smoke, auto fumes, etc. However, it was only recently that I became ultra-aware of sensitivities to chemicals in the home. Looking back now, I can see where I must have been affected by in-home pollutants a lot of times in the past too, but just didn't know that was what was causing allergic reaction at the time.
I purchased a very old home a few years back and intended to remodel it. Uh huh. Since the original house was built in 1942, the outgassing from existing materials had long completed so there were no chemical reactions from building toxins when I first moved in. However, as I began to have parts of the house remodeled, I became completely overwhelmed with chemical sensitivity reactions from the materials used in the remodeling process. Everything from the paint to the caulking to the adhesives affected me adversely. Other things were probably also affecting me, like the OSB plywood used as a subflooring in one of the rooms and the old varnish on my hardwood floors.
Luckily, I had already decided I would not put carpet down, anywhere in the house, so I did not ever have to deal with carpet toxin outgassing. I made the carpetless decision because I've had rather intense reactions in the past, just from walking in a place with new carpet. Additionally, carpets create a wonderful environment for dust mites and even the most fastidious housecleaner may not be able to keep them out.
They say necessity is the mother of invention or, in my case, the mother of exploration into green building. I was delighted to find that there are nontoxic solutions to just about every toxic building counterpart. I'll say right at the get-go, that these green building solutions are more expensive. Just decide if your health is worth it or you probably won't benefit from reading the rest of the article.
part two: detoxing your existing home
Health Disclaimer: The information contained in this green building article is not intended to take the place of personal medical help you may need, if you have been harmed by toxins in your home. Respiratory concerns should be addressed with your doctor. If you experience chemical sensitivities soon after moving into a new residence, it's very important to take steps to discover the cause and correct it because some sources could be very toxic. Please consult with green building suppliers in your area for the best approach to detoxing your own home.