We spend about 90% of our time indoors. Think about that for a minute- we all need to get outside more often! That’s a topic for another time. I want to focus on indoor air quality and detoxing the air that you breathe each day. Indoor air quality is often worse inside than it is outside. Many things can contribute to poor indoor air quality. Furniture, flooring, and all of the plastics and packaging we haul into our homes contribute potentially harmful chemicals into the air. One of the biggest indoor air polluters is fragrances.
Humans have a very interesting connection to scents. In fact, many people don’t consider their home to be clean unless it smells like lemon, pine, or ocean breezes. It is a connection that probably goes back to our childhood, and the connection is strong. Cleaning products companies are well aware of this, and they load cleaning products with artificial fragrances and chemicals so we can feel that our homes are clean. These fragrances, however, can be toxic and are absolutely unnecessary.
There are some scary chemicals in fragrances, but one of the biggest violators are chemicals called phthalates. Odd name, really awful collection of chemicals. The side effects of phthalates on human health are serious. Studies have linked them to birth defects, hormonal disruption, and reproductive challenges. Phthalates have also been linked to breathing problems and asthma attacks. Fragrances can also contain nasty toxins like benzene, camphor, and formaldehyde.
Air fresheners do not ‘freshen’ the air. In fact, quite the opposite. If you want to freshen the air, step away from the spray and open a door or window. If that isn’t a possibility, then ensure that your air filters are clean and changed and circulate air through the house with ceiling or floor fans.
So, how do you know if phthalates are in products? That can be tricky. Phthalates aren’t typically listed on labels. Companies can use proprietary claims to simply list ‘fragrance’ on a label. If they are listed, they will be listed as chemicals with very long names including Di-ethyl phthalate or Di-isobutyl phthalate. Fragrances are often listed as proprietary information that doesn’t have to be disclosed. Just dial way back on the fragrances in general and you will effectively reduce the number of chemicals in your home.
Where can you start?
Check air fresheners, cleaning products, and other fragrance-laden products and make reductions where you can. Do some homework and research your favorite products. If you have to get your spray fix, you can make your own air freshener that is much healthier. Check out the recipe below.
1 C. water
2 Tablespoons of vanilla extract, vodka, or witch hazel
5-10 drops of essential oil
Mix all ingredients in a spray bottle and spray away.
House plants also help to clean the air in our homes. Houseplants serve a couple of different roles in air purification, and all of them are good. Plants naturally take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen. During this process, plants also remove toxins from the air and break them into harmless byproducts. Find plants that will work for your household- some are easier than others. If you have small children or pets, make sure that the plants aren’t poisonous.
Retrieved from http://www.ewg.org/key-issues/toxics/phthalatesASPCA.
Toxic and non-toxic Plants List (2017)
Chemicals and Odors. CDC (2015)