10 Solutions for Reducing Harmful Chemicals in Your Home

August 30, 2016
Ross and Witmer

Indoor air quality (IAQ) is a serious concern that usually comes up in HVAC discussions. Because of outside toxins and chemicals, IAQ is an issue that HVAC systems can only partially address. When your HVAC system is maintained properly, it works as hard as it can to keep the air inside your home clean and at the right temperature. But products you bring inside add toxins to the air, messing up your carefully calibrated IAQ.

Your home’s good IAQ is a balance between HVAC maintenance and choosing the right household products. You may be surprised to learn that common items like shower curtains and produce are contributing to the levels of noxious chemicals in your Charlotte, North Carolina, home.

Make Your Own Air Fresheners

Scented sprays and air fresheners often contain VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and other harmful chemicals. You spray them into the air and breathe them in, and they end up hanging out on your home’s textiles, ready to move to your lungs the next time you sit down on the couch or walk across the carpet. Instead of living without air freshener, make your own with water and your favorite essential oils.

Minimize Plastic Use

Plastic contains lots of phthalates, which is a large class of chemical compounds that can cause hormonal issues, especially in children. Look around your house for a moment to realize just how much plastic we use in daily life. Stop buying water and food in plastic containers, switch to glass storage containers, and buy reusable cloth shopping bags. When you have to purchase something with plastic in it, check the label or contact the manufacturer to find out if it contains phthalates or PVC.

Install a Carbon Monoxide Detector

Many sources of carbon monoxide are commonly found in or near the home, including furnaces, lawn mowers, car exhaust, cigarette smoke, portable stoves, and more. Because carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless, you need a detector to ensure it isn’t lingering in your home. If you have a detector installed that goes off frequently, you need to have a professional check your appliances, like your furnace, for carbon monoxide leaks.

Go Green with Cleaning Products

The cleaning products you buy at the store contain lots of the same harmful chemicals found in plastics and air fresheners. The best way to combat these chemicals is to ditch the cleaning products you’ve been using and switch to green options that have natural ingredients. Beware when you’re shopping, though, that some companies “green wash” their labels to make the products appear more sustainable than they really are. Check the labels and research the cleaning products before you buy.

To ensure you know exactly what’s in your cleaning products, you can make some of your own. White vinegar, baking soda, and rubbing alcohol all mix well with water to create cleaning products that will tackle most spills and stains in the house. If you want to leave the room smelling good afterward, adding a few drops of essential oil to your homemade cleaning products is a safe way to do so.

Get a Home Health Assessment

Leaks in your gas appliances, bad insulation, and HVAC problems can let all kinds of bad chemicals and toxins into your home. We offer a complimentary Home Health Assessment to help you identify the problem areas in your home. We look at key parts of the house, including the attic, crawl spaces, and combustion appliances to find any issues causing IAQ problems in your home. Then, we’re here to help you figure out how to address these problems.

We also offer additional services like infrared scans and blower door tests to find leaks in your home that may contribute to IAQ problems and system efficiency issues. Sometimes, to maintain your peace of mind, you need some professional help ensuring that your home is free of harmful substances. We want to help you achieve that peace of mind.

Throw Away Vinyl Shower Curtains

Like the plastics you’re going to stop using, vinyl shower curtains also contain phthalates. In the humid, hot conditions of the bathroom, the phthalates in vinyl release into the air quite readily, which means you’re breathing them in each time you take a shower. Throw away your vinyl shower curtains stat, and replace them with linen, cotton, burlap, or hemp options instead.

Invest in an Air Purifier

Air purifiers and cleaners are a great additional help when you’re trying to clean the toxins out of your home. Some air purifiers use what’s known as “Captures and Kills” technology, which is powerful enough to capture and neutralize viruses and bacteria in the air. They use electrical charges to fry the microscopic detritus that flows through the air purifier each hour, leaving you with clean air.

Other options just use a dense air filter, which is extremely effective at trapping microscopic particles that are floating around the air in your home. If you’re looking for an inexpensive option, these high-efficiency purifiers don’t cost as much as the “Captures and Kills” technology but still work extremely well to make your home’s air cleaner and safer to breathe.

Buy Organic Produce

Limit your pesticide exposure by purchasing organic produce. The substances organic farmers are allowed to use to get rid of pests while farming are usually natural and are far more regulated than the pesticides non-organic farmers can use. Organic is more expensive, sure, but synthetic pesticides can come with health risks. Some have even been linked to Parkinson’s, according to Scientific American.

The problem with pesticides is continuous exposure over a long period of time, because the small doses that might cause negligible harm might build up over time. Organic produce might be more expensive, but once you learn that you’re trading your health for a lower price, it’s easier to reconsider.

Use Indoor Plants

Some indoor plants have air cleaning properties and excel at helping your AC’s filters remove the indoor toxins in your home. Plus, you get to accent your rooms with beautiful foliage! Some of these fantastic plants can help with formaldehyde, benzene, and even carbon monoxide levels in your home’s air.

Palms, like the areca palm, the bamboo palm, and the lady palm, are all great choices. If you have a tendency to kill plants, go for the lady palm since it’s pretty easy to take care of. The rubber plant, a species of ficus, is a popular house plant that loves the indoors. It needs some room to spread out, but it’s very easy to grow. The ficus alii doesn’t attract many insects and is also easy to grow indoors.

Nix the Antibacterial Products

You may have heard that antibacterial products aren’t great for your health or your immune system. This information is correct: antibacterial products contain triclosan, which is an antibacterial ingredient that’s been linked to liver and thyroid issues. Thoroughly washing your hands with regular soap is just as effective at cleaning your hands and is much safer for your body. Plus, the ingredients in antibacterial soap aren’t great for the water supply, either.

If you still have some need for antibacterial properties (like for use on acne or minor cuts and scrapes) many natural foods and oils are antibacterial. Garlic, tea tree oil, raw apple cider vinegar, and even honey have antibacterial or antimicrobial properties.

Changing these many aspects of your lifestyle may seem overwhelming, so try this: Each month, make one change. After a year, you’ll have significantly reduced the noxious chemicals inside your home. You may not feel the health benefits when you’re making slow changes, but trust us, your body will be thanking you.

Let us help you with the HVAC components of reducing the harmful chemicals and toxins in your home. Ross & Witmer has qualified technicians ready to answer your questions about air purifiers, perform your HVAC maintenance, and do your Home Health Assessment. We’ll advise you on the best solutions to any HVAC IAQ problems we find and recommend new systems that fit your home and lifestyle. Call us today at 704-392-6188.

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