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5 Things That Could Be Contributing to Air Pollution in Your Family’s Home

One aspect of healthy living that is almost always overlooked is the cleanliness of the air we breathe, especially in regard to indoor air quality.  While many of us are aware of the growing pollution problems outdoors with continued population growth and climate change, it’s less well known that indoor air quality is consistently worse than outdoor air quality.

According to the EPA, Americans spend nearly 90% of their time indoors where pollution is often 2 to 5 times higher than outdoors. Furthermore, it’s been estimated that worldwide nearly 1.6 million deaths per year are attributed to indoor air quality.  

Let’s take a look at the top 5 things that dramatically decrease air quality and what you can do to improve the quality of the air in your home.

#1: Plastics

Most of us are well aware of the evils of plastics, but did you know they are also a huge source of bisphenols, which are known hormone disruptors? Hormone dysregulation is incredibly common in both men and women and while many factors can be at play including stress, blood sugar imbalance, and inflammation, chronic exposure to bisphenols from plastics can be a source of significant hormone problems leading to conditions including irregular cycles, heavy bleeding, severe cramping, PCOS, endometriosis, and even infertility.

Men are also impacted by ongoing exposure, potentially lowering testosterone levels. Not only are plastics in our food due to storage, but microplastics are in the air we breathe and contaminate our environment. At this point, microplastics are even being found in remote locations of the world, such as in ice throughout the Himalayan mountains.

One way to avoid plastics in the air is to avoid plastics in the home whenever possible. You can do this by buying fresh meats, fruits, and vegetables in bulk as well as foods and beverages packaged in paper and glass.  

Functional health tip: Organic bone broth combined with milk thistle supports detoxification pathways to help remove plastics and other environmental toxins stored in the body.

#2: Cosmetics and Cleaning Products

Common cleaning products, and surprisingly even cosmetics, are known to release pollutants into the air negatively impacting indoor air quality.  According to the California Air Resources Board, such products are common sources of VOCs, toxic air contaminants (TACs), and greenhouse gases (GHGs).  Furthermore, products with fragrances tend to contain the highest level of VOC’s. (As a side note, the skin is the largest organ and functions as a sponge.

Soaps, shampoos, deodorants, and cosmetics, put on the body are absorbed into your bloodstream, often within seconds. Most cosmetics and cleaners are packed with toxic chemicals some of which are known carcinogens and, much like plastics, are hormone disruptors.) At surface level, this seems like a fairly easy fix, simply replace toxic products with natural, nontoxic, alternatives.

Unfortunately, most companies are not transparent in regards to ingredients making it challenging for the consumer.  Companies choose ingredients because they are cheap and effective, so discovering better options can be tricky.  Switching to natural products can sometimes mean spending more on a less functional product.  

Nonetheless, the potential long-term health conditions that may be avoided will lead to savings in the long run.  Replacing toxic cleaning products including laundry and dishwasher detergent, hand soaps, disinfectants, and even cosmetics with nontoxic alternatives can be a huge step towards a healthier home.  

Functional Health Tip: Safer Choice is a resource provided by the EPA that helps consumers finder safer and healthier products. Additionally, Environmental Working Group is a great resource for researching ingredients of both cleaning products and cosmetics. Their website has an extensive database built over 30 years that allows one to search for information regarding specific products, brands, and ingredients.

#3: Pesticides

Many of us are becoming increasingly aware of the impact toxic chemicals, including pesticides, have on our environment. What is less obvious is the fact that most exposures to toxic pesticides occur inside the home as a result of treatment in and around the house for insects and termites.

Cleaning, removing clutter, and making sure food is not left out is a great start for reducing the instance of insects in the home. Further, natural nontoxic products including essential oils, borax, soapy water, and diatomaceous earth are all effective in regards to killing and repelling bugs.

Functional Health Tip: Essential oils can provide a very effective mosquito repellent. Citronella, peppermint, geranium, and especially lemon eucalyptus are used regularly as active ingredients in mosquito repellant products.  Lavender works great to reduce the itch and swelling of mosquito bites.

#4: VOCs

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are gases emitted from both common household products and items that have been shown to have both short- and long-term health effects. VOCs are emitted from a variety of household items including furniture, carpets, and paint. The constant “off-gassing” from all the furniture that fills our homes contributes to the severe indoor air quality issues we face resulting in a toxic home environment.  

That “new” smell that many of us have come to love in our homes and cars is actually one form of toxic VOCs. Air ventilation, HEPA filtration, and activated charcoal are key for ridding the home of toxic VOCs. Adding mechanical ventilation to the HVAC system can be very effective as it draws outdoor air into the home while pushing contaminated air back outside.

Many great air filtration systems are available that combine HEPA filters with activated charcoal. Air Doctor, IQ Air, Air Austin, and my personal favorite, iAdaptAir, are all very high-quality systems.

Functional Health Tip: Purchasing one large HEPA filter and placing it in one spot in the home is a very ineffective means for cleaning air due to the lack of air circulation.  To get the best results, consider purchasing several smaller units and moving them throughout the house daily.

#5: Water Damage & Mold

Water-damaged buildings are hands down the biggest threat to human health in regard to indoor air quality. Water damage is surprisingly common and has occurred in up to 50% of all homes and buildings. A leaky roof, flooded basement, leaky faucet, HVAC condensation, and even general humidity at or above 60% are all potential sources of water damage.

I have yet to meet a homeowner that has not experienced at least one or more of these events, greatly understating the likely prevalence of water-damaged buildings. Once building materials get wet, not only are toxins and VOCs released, but microbes including mold and bacteria begin to grow within as little as 48 hours.  

As the mold and bacteria grow, they release even more toxins into the air we breathe. To make matters worse, ongoing exposure to a water-damaged building can lead to a condition referred to as Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome in some people resulting in high levels of inflammation in both the brain and body.  Symptoms of CIRS often include severe fatigue, brain fog, chronic pain, anxiety, depression, irritability, and more.  

In a more advanced state, CIRS can become debilitating resulting in chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, chronic Lyme disease, and a host of autoimmune and neurological disorders. In the case of a water-damaged home, especially if one or more inhabitants are sick, air filtration is not enough to solve the problem. A thorough inspection from an Indoor Environmental Professional is warranted. All active water leaks and microbial growth must be removed and the home professionally cleaned before the space can be considered safe. This is not a do-it-yourself job and contrary to popular belief, bleach and fogging are not effective means of mold treatment.

Functional Health Tips: An online Visual Contrast Sensitivity test is an easy and inexpensive means to screen for brain inflammation as a result of exposure to a water-damaged building.  This online test costs $15, takes about 15 minutes, and can be found here. Envirobiomics makes a home Swiffer test that can be used to get a quick sense of the overall state of your home or office in regards to mold and biotoxin exposure. Test kit #8 is ideal, however, test kit #1 can be a good starting place if necessary for budgetary reasons.  Finally, ACAC is a great source for finding certified Indoor Environmental Professionals in your area to provide an inspection and potential remediation.  

__

Dr. Jonah Yakel is a functional medicine practitioner and chiropractor, who consults with people around the world. He focuses on discovering the underlying cause of chronic disease and creating personalized health programs for Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS), mold- and Lyme-related illness, brain health, inflammation, and blood sugar problems, and weight loss. Dr. Yakel lives in Scottsdale, AZ with his wife and two children.

5 Things That Could Be Contributing to Air Pollution in Your Family’s Home

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5 Things That Could Be Contributing to Air Pollution in Your Family’s Home

Let’s take a look at the top 5 things that dramatically decrease air quality and what you can do to improve the quality of the air in your home

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Key takeaways

1

Parents are on the lookout for environmental toxins but in-home air quality is often overlooked

2

There are several surprising sources of indoor air pollution, from plastics to cosmetics

3

There are also several steps parents can take to ensure optimal air inequality at home

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One aspect of healthy living that is almost always overlooked is the cleanliness of the air we breathe, especially in regard to indoor air quality.  While many of us are aware of the growing pollution problems outdoors with continued population growth and climate change, it’s less well known that indoor air quality is consistently worse than outdoor air quality.

According to the EPA, Americans spend nearly 90% of their time indoors where pollution is often 2 to 5 times higher than outdoors. Furthermore, it’s been estimated that worldwide nearly 1.6 million deaths per year are attributed to indoor air quality.  

Let’s take a look at the top 5 things that dramatically decrease air quality and what you can do to improve the quality of the air in your home.

#1: Plastics

Most of us are well aware of the evils of plastics, but did you know they are also a huge source of bisphenols, which are known hormone disruptors? Hormone dysregulation is incredibly common in both men and women and while many factors can be at play including stress, blood sugar imbalance, and inflammation, chronic exposure to bisphenols from plastics can be a source of significant hormone problems leading to conditions including irregular cycles, heavy bleeding, severe cramping, PCOS, endometriosis, and even infertility.

Men are also impacted by ongoing exposure, potentially lowering testosterone levels. Not only are plastics in our food due to storage, but microplastics are in the air we breathe and contaminate our environment. At this point, microplastics are even being found in remote locations of the world, such as in ice throughout the Himalayan mountains.

One way to avoid plastics in the air is to avoid plastics in the home whenever possible. You can do this by buying fresh meats, fruits, and vegetables in bulk as well as foods and beverages packaged in paper and glass.  

Functional health tip: Organic bone broth combined with milk thistle supports detoxification pathways to help remove plastics and other environmental toxins stored in the body.

#2: Cosmetics and Cleaning Products

Common cleaning products, and surprisingly even cosmetics, are known to release pollutants into the air negatively impacting indoor air quality.  According to the California Air Resources Board, such products are common sources of VOCs, toxic air contaminants (TACs), and greenhouse gases (GHGs).  Furthermore, products with fragrances tend to contain the highest level of VOC’s. (As a side note, the skin is the largest organ and functions as a sponge.

Soaps, shampoos, deodorants, and cosmetics, put on the body are absorbed into your bloodstream, often within seconds. Most cosmetics and cleaners are packed with toxic chemicals some of which are known carcinogens and, much like plastics, are hormone disruptors.) At surface level, this seems like a fairly easy fix, simply replace toxic products with natural, nontoxic, alternatives.

Unfortunately, most companies are not transparent in regards to ingredients making it challenging for the consumer.  Companies choose ingredients because they are cheap and effective, so discovering better options can be tricky.  Switching to natural products can sometimes mean spending more on a less functional product.  

Nonetheless, the potential long-term health conditions that may be avoided will lead to savings in the long run.  Replacing toxic cleaning products including laundry and dishwasher detergent, hand soaps, disinfectants, and even cosmetics with nontoxic alternatives can be a huge step towards a healthier home.  

Functional Health Tip: Safer Choice is a resource provided by the EPA that helps consumers finder safer and healthier products. Additionally, Environmental Working Group is a great resource for researching ingredients of both cleaning products and cosmetics. Their website has an extensive database built over 30 years that allows one to search for information regarding specific products, brands, and ingredients.

#3: Pesticides

Many of us are becoming increasingly aware of the impact toxic chemicals, including pesticides, have on our environment. What is less obvious is the fact that most exposures to toxic pesticides occur inside the home as a result of treatment in and around the house for insects and termites.

Cleaning, removing clutter, and making sure food is not left out is a great start for reducing the instance of insects in the home. Further, natural nontoxic products including essential oils, borax, soapy water, and diatomaceous earth are all effective in regards to killing and repelling bugs.

Functional Health Tip: Essential oils can provide a very effective mosquito repellent. Citronella, peppermint, geranium, and especially lemon eucalyptus are used regularly as active ingredients in mosquito repellant products.  Lavender works great to reduce the itch and swelling of mosquito bites.

#4: VOCs

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are gases emitted from both common household products and items that have been shown to have both short- and long-term health effects. VOCs are emitted from a variety of household items including furniture, carpets, and paint. The constant “off-gassing” from all the furniture that fills our homes contributes to the severe indoor air quality issues we face resulting in a toxic home environment.  

That “new” smell that many of us have come to love in our homes and cars is actually one form of toxic VOCs. Air ventilation, HEPA filtration, and activated charcoal are key for ridding the home of toxic VOCs. Adding mechanical ventilation to the HVAC system can be very effective as it draws outdoor air into the home while pushing contaminated air back outside.

Many great air filtration systems are available that combine HEPA filters with activated charcoal. Air Doctor, IQ Air, Air Austin, and my personal favorite, iAdaptAir, are all very high-quality systems.

Functional Health Tip: Purchasing one large HEPA filter and placing it in one spot in the home is a very ineffective means for cleaning air due to the lack of air circulation.  To get the best results, consider purchasing several smaller units and moving them throughout the house daily.

#5: Water Damage & Mold

Water-damaged buildings are hands down the biggest threat to human health in regard to indoor air quality. Water damage is surprisingly common and has occurred in up to 50% of all homes and buildings. A leaky roof, flooded basement, leaky faucet, HVAC condensation, and even general humidity at or above 60% are all potential sources of water damage.

I have yet to meet a homeowner that has not experienced at least one or more of these events, greatly understating the likely prevalence of water-damaged buildings. Once building materials get wet, not only are toxins and VOCs released, but microbes including mold and bacteria begin to grow within as little as 48 hours.  

As the mold and bacteria grow, they release even more toxins into the air we breathe. To make matters worse, ongoing exposure to a water-damaged building can lead to a condition referred to as Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome in some people resulting in high levels of inflammation in both the brain and body.  Symptoms of CIRS often include severe fatigue, brain fog, chronic pain, anxiety, depression, irritability, and more.  

In a more advanced state, CIRS can become debilitating resulting in chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, chronic Lyme disease, and a host of autoimmune and neurological disorders. In the case of a water-damaged home, especially if one or more inhabitants are sick, air filtration is not enough to solve the problem. A thorough inspection from an Indoor Environmental Professional is warranted. All active water leaks and microbial growth must be removed and the home professionally cleaned before the space can be considered safe. This is not a do-it-yourself job and contrary to popular belief, bleach and fogging are not effective means of mold treatment.

Functional Health Tips: An online Visual Contrast Sensitivity test is an easy and inexpensive means to screen for brain inflammation as a result of exposure to a water-damaged building.  This online test costs $15, takes about 15 minutes, and can be found here. Envirobiomics makes a home Swiffer test that can be used to get a quick sense of the overall state of your home or office in regards to mold and biotoxin exposure. Test kit #8 is ideal, however, test kit #1 can be a good starting place if necessary for budgetary reasons.  Finally, ACAC is a great source for finding certified Indoor Environmental Professionals in your area to provide an inspection and potential remediation.  

__

Dr. Jonah Yakel is a functional medicine practitioner and chiropractor, who consults with people around the world. He focuses on discovering the underlying cause of chronic disease and creating personalized health programs for Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS), mold- and Lyme-related illness, brain health, inflammation, and blood sugar problems, and weight loss. Dr. Yakel lives in Scottsdale, AZ with his wife and two children.

One aspect of healthy living that is almost always overlooked is the cleanliness of the air we breathe, especially in regard to indoor air quality.  While many of us are aware of the growing pollution problems outdoors with continued population growth and climate change, it’s less well known that indoor air quality is consistently worse than outdoor air quality.

According to the EPA, Americans spend nearly 90% of their time indoors where pollution is often 2 to 5 times higher than outdoors. Furthermore, it’s been estimated that worldwide nearly 1.6 million deaths per year are attributed to indoor air quality.  

Let’s take a look at the top 5 things that dramatically decrease air quality and what you can do to improve the quality of the air in your home.

#1: Plastics

Most of us are well aware of the evils of plastics, but did you know they are also a huge source of bisphenols, which are known hormone disruptors? Hormone dysregulation is incredibly common in both men and women and while many factors can be at play including stress, blood sugar imbalance, and inflammation, chronic exposure to bisphenols from plastics can be a source of significant hormone problems leading to conditions including irregular cycles, heavy bleeding, severe cramping, PCOS, endometriosis, and even infertility.

Men are also impacted by ongoing exposure, potentially lowering testosterone levels. Not only are plastics in our food due to storage, but microplastics are in the air we breathe and contaminate our environment. At this point, microplastics are even being found in remote locations of the world, such as in ice throughout the Himalayan mountains.

One way to avoid plastics in the air is to avoid plastics in the home whenever possible. You can do this by buying fresh meats, fruits, and vegetables in bulk as well as foods and beverages packaged in paper and glass.  

Functional health tip: Organic bone broth combined with milk thistle supports detoxification pathways to help remove plastics and other environmental toxins stored in the body.

#2: Cosmetics and Cleaning Products

Common cleaning products, and surprisingly even cosmetics, are known to release pollutants into the air negatively impacting indoor air quality.  According to the California Air Resources Board, such products are common sources of VOCs, toxic air contaminants (TACs), and greenhouse gases (GHGs).  Furthermore, products with fragrances tend to contain the highest level of VOC’s. (As a side note, the skin is the largest organ and functions as a sponge.

Soaps, shampoos, deodorants, and cosmetics, put on the body are absorbed into your bloodstream, often within seconds. Most cosmetics and cleaners are packed with toxic chemicals some of which are known carcinogens and, much like plastics, are hormone disruptors.) At surface level, this seems like a fairly easy fix, simply replace toxic products with natural, nontoxic, alternatives.

Unfortunately, most companies are not transparent in regards to ingredients making it challenging for the consumer.  Companies choose ingredients because they are cheap and effective, so discovering better options can be tricky.  Switching to natural products can sometimes mean spending more on a less functional product.  

Nonetheless, the potential long-term health conditions that may be avoided will lead to savings in the long run.  Replacing toxic cleaning products including laundry and dishwasher detergent, hand soaps, disinfectants, and even cosmetics with nontoxic alternatives can be a huge step towards a healthier home.  

Functional Health Tip: Safer Choice is a resource provided by the EPA that helps consumers finder safer and healthier products. Additionally, Environmental Working Group is a great resource for researching ingredients of both cleaning products and cosmetics. Their website has an extensive database built over 30 years that allows one to search for information regarding specific products, brands, and ingredients.

#3: Pesticides

Many of us are becoming increasingly aware of the impact toxic chemicals, including pesticides, have on our environment. What is less obvious is the fact that most exposures to toxic pesticides occur inside the home as a result of treatment in and around the house for insects and termites.

Cleaning, removing clutter, and making sure food is not left out is a great start for reducing the instance of insects in the home. Further, natural nontoxic products including essential oils, borax, soapy water, and diatomaceous earth are all effective in regards to killing and repelling bugs.

Functional Health Tip: Essential oils can provide a very effective mosquito repellent. Citronella, peppermint, geranium, and especially lemon eucalyptus are used regularly as active ingredients in mosquito repellant products.  Lavender works great to reduce the itch and swelling of mosquito bites.

#4: VOCs

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are gases emitted from both common household products and items that have been shown to have both short- and long-term health effects. VOCs are emitted from a variety of household items including furniture, carpets, and paint. The constant “off-gassing” from all the furniture that fills our homes contributes to the severe indoor air quality issues we face resulting in a toxic home environment.  

That “new” smell that many of us have come to love in our homes and cars is actually one form of toxic VOCs. Air ventilation, HEPA filtration, and activated charcoal are key for ridding the home of toxic VOCs. Adding mechanical ventilation to the HVAC system can be very effective as it draws outdoor air into the home while pushing contaminated air back outside.

Many great air filtration systems are available that combine HEPA filters with activated charcoal. Air Doctor, IQ Air, Air Austin, and my personal favorite, iAdaptAir, are all very high-quality systems.

Functional Health Tip: Purchasing one large HEPA filter and placing it in one spot in the home is a very ineffective means for cleaning air due to the lack of air circulation.  To get the best results, consider purchasing several smaller units and moving them throughout the house daily.

#5: Water Damage & Mold

Water-damaged buildings are hands down the biggest threat to human health in regard to indoor air quality. Water damage is surprisingly common and has occurred in up to 50% of all homes and buildings. A leaky roof, flooded basement, leaky faucet, HVAC condensation, and even general humidity at or above 60% are all potential sources of water damage.

I have yet to meet a homeowner that has not experienced at least one or more of these events, greatly understating the likely prevalence of water-damaged buildings. Once building materials get wet, not only are toxins and VOCs released, but microbes including mold and bacteria begin to grow within as little as 48 hours.  

As the mold and bacteria grow, they release even more toxins into the air we breathe. To make matters worse, ongoing exposure to a water-damaged building can lead to a condition referred to as Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome in some people resulting in high levels of inflammation in both the brain and body.  Symptoms of CIRS often include severe fatigue, brain fog, chronic pain, anxiety, depression, irritability, and more.  

In a more advanced state, CIRS can become debilitating resulting in chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, chronic Lyme disease, and a host of autoimmune and neurological disorders. In the case of a water-damaged home, especially if one or more inhabitants are sick, air filtration is not enough to solve the problem. A thorough inspection from an Indoor Environmental Professional is warranted. All active water leaks and microbial growth must be removed and the home professionally cleaned before the space can be considered safe. This is not a do-it-yourself job and contrary to popular belief, bleach and fogging are not effective means of mold treatment.

Functional Health Tips: An online Visual Contrast Sensitivity test is an easy and inexpensive means to screen for brain inflammation as a result of exposure to a water-damaged building.  This online test costs $15, takes about 15 minutes, and can be found here. Envirobiomics makes a home Swiffer test that can be used to get a quick sense of the overall state of your home or office in regards to mold and biotoxin exposure. Test kit #8 is ideal, however, test kit #1 can be a good starting place if necessary for budgetary reasons.  Finally, ACAC is a great source for finding certified Indoor Environmental Professionals in your area to provide an inspection and potential remediation.  

__

Dr. Jonah Yakel is a functional medicine practitioner and chiropractor, who consults with people around the world. He focuses on discovering the underlying cause of chronic disease and creating personalized health programs for Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS), mold- and Lyme-related illness, brain health, inflammation, and blood sugar problems, and weight loss. Dr. Yakel lives in Scottsdale, AZ with his wife and two children.

One aspect of healthy living that is almost always overlooked is the cleanliness of the air we breathe, especially in regard to indoor air quality.  While many of us are aware of the growing pollution problems outdoors with continued population growth and climate change, it’s less well known that indoor air quality is consistently worse than outdoor air quality.

According to the EPA, Americans spend nearly 90% of their time indoors where pollution is often 2 to 5 times higher than outdoors. Furthermore, it’s been estimated that worldwide nearly 1.6 million deaths per year are attributed to indoor air quality.  

Let’s take a look at the top 5 things that dramatically decrease air quality and what you can do to improve the quality of the air in your home.

#1: Plastics

Most of us are well aware of the evils of plastics, but did you know they are also a huge source of bisphenols, which are known hormone disruptors? Hormone dysregulation is incredibly common in both men and women and while many factors can be at play including stress, blood sugar imbalance, and inflammation, chronic exposure to bisphenols from plastics can be a source of significant hormone problems leading to conditions including irregular cycles, heavy bleeding, severe cramping, PCOS, endometriosis, and even infertility.

Men are also impacted by ongoing exposure, potentially lowering testosterone levels. Not only are plastics in our food due to storage, but microplastics are in the air we breathe and contaminate our environment. At this point, microplastics are even being found in remote locations of the world, such as in ice throughout the Himalayan mountains.

One way to avoid plastics in the air is to avoid plastics in the home whenever possible. You can do this by buying fresh meats, fruits, and vegetables in bulk as well as foods and beverages packaged in paper and glass.  

Functional health tip: Organic bone broth combined with milk thistle supports detoxification pathways to help remove plastics and other environmental toxins stored in the body.

#2: Cosmetics and Cleaning Products

Common cleaning products, and surprisingly even cosmetics, are known to release pollutants into the air negatively impacting indoor air quality.  According to the California Air Resources Board, such products are common sources of VOCs, toxic air contaminants (TACs), and greenhouse gases (GHGs).  Furthermore, products with fragrances tend to contain the highest level of VOC’s. (As a side note, the skin is the largest organ and functions as a sponge.

Soaps, shampoos, deodorants, and cosmetics, put on the body are absorbed into your bloodstream, often within seconds. Most cosmetics and cleaners are packed with toxic chemicals some of which are known carcinogens and, much like plastics, are hormone disruptors.) At surface level, this seems like a fairly easy fix, simply replace toxic products with natural, nontoxic, alternatives.

Unfortunately, most companies are not transparent in regards to ingredients making it challenging for the consumer.  Companies choose ingredients because they are cheap and effective, so discovering better options can be tricky.  Switching to natural products can sometimes mean spending more on a less functional product.  

Nonetheless, the potential long-term health conditions that may be avoided will lead to savings in the long run.  Replacing toxic cleaning products including laundry and dishwasher detergent, hand soaps, disinfectants, and even cosmetics with nontoxic alternatives can be a huge step towards a healthier home.  

Functional Health Tip: Safer Choice is a resource provided by the EPA that helps consumers finder safer and healthier products. Additionally, Environmental Working Group is a great resource for researching ingredients of both cleaning products and cosmetics. Their website has an extensive database built over 30 years that allows one to search for information regarding specific products, brands, and ingredients.

#3: Pesticides

Many of us are becoming increasingly aware of the impact toxic chemicals, including pesticides, have on our environment. What is less obvious is the fact that most exposures to toxic pesticides occur inside the home as a result of treatment in and around the house for insects and termites.

Cleaning, removing clutter, and making sure food is not left out is a great start for reducing the instance of insects in the home. Further, natural nontoxic products including essential oils, borax, soapy water, and diatomaceous earth are all effective in regards to killing and repelling bugs.

Functional Health Tip: Essential oils can provide a very effective mosquito repellent. Citronella, peppermint, geranium, and especially lemon eucalyptus are used regularly as active ingredients in mosquito repellant products.  Lavender works great to reduce the itch and swelling of mosquito bites.

#4: VOCs

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are gases emitted from both common household products and items that have been shown to have both short- and long-term health effects. VOCs are emitted from a variety of household items including furniture, carpets, and paint. The constant “off-gassing” from all the furniture that fills our homes contributes to the severe indoor air quality issues we face resulting in a toxic home environment.  

That “new” smell that many of us have come to love in our homes and cars is actually one form of toxic VOCs. Air ventilation, HEPA filtration, and activated charcoal are key for ridding the home of toxic VOCs. Adding mechanical ventilation to the HVAC system can be very effective as it draws outdoor air into the home while pushing contaminated air back outside.

Many great air filtration systems are available that combine HEPA filters with activated charcoal. Air Doctor, IQ Air, Air Austin, and my personal favorite, iAdaptAir, are all very high-quality systems.

Functional Health Tip: Purchasing one large HEPA filter and placing it in one spot in the home is a very ineffective means for cleaning air due to the lack of air circulation.  To get the best results, consider purchasing several smaller units and moving them throughout the house daily.

#5: Water Damage & Mold

Water-damaged buildings are hands down the biggest threat to human health in regard to indoor air quality. Water damage is surprisingly common and has occurred in up to 50% of all homes and buildings. A leaky roof, flooded basement, leaky faucet, HVAC condensation, and even general humidity at or above 60% are all potential sources of water damage.

I have yet to meet a homeowner that has not experienced at least one or more of these events, greatly understating the likely prevalence of water-damaged buildings. Once building materials get wet, not only are toxins and VOCs released, but microbes including mold and bacteria begin to grow within as little as 48 hours.  

As the mold and bacteria grow, they release even more toxins into the air we breathe. To make matters worse, ongoing exposure to a water-damaged building can lead to a condition referred to as Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome in some people resulting in high levels of inflammation in both the brain and body.  Symptoms of CIRS often include severe fatigue, brain fog, chronic pain, anxiety, depression, irritability, and more.  

In a more advanced state, CIRS can become debilitating resulting in chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, chronic Lyme disease, and a host of autoimmune and neurological disorders. In the case of a water-damaged home, especially if one or more inhabitants are sick, air filtration is not enough to solve the problem. A thorough inspection from an Indoor Environmental Professional is warranted. All active water leaks and microbial growth must be removed and the home professionally cleaned before the space can be considered safe. This is not a do-it-yourself job and contrary to popular belief, bleach and fogging are not effective means of mold treatment.

Functional Health Tips: An online Visual Contrast Sensitivity test is an easy and inexpensive means to screen for brain inflammation as a result of exposure to a water-damaged building.  This online test costs $15, takes about 15 minutes, and can be found here. Envirobiomics makes a home Swiffer test that can be used to get a quick sense of the overall state of your home or office in regards to mold and biotoxin exposure. Test kit #8 is ideal, however, test kit #1 can be a good starting place if necessary for budgetary reasons.  Finally, ACAC is a great source for finding certified Indoor Environmental Professionals in your area to provide an inspection and potential remediation.  

__

Dr. Jonah Yakel is a functional medicine practitioner and chiropractor, who consults with people around the world. He focuses on discovering the underlying cause of chronic disease and creating personalized health programs for Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS), mold- and Lyme-related illness, brain health, inflammation, and blood sugar problems, and weight loss. Dr. Yakel lives in Scottsdale, AZ with his wife and two children.

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Give This a Try: Strength Training for Kids

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