How much has accumulated in your home this winter? Did you know that it might contain pesticide residue and other ? Did you resolve to organize and keep your house clean this year? Now is the time to embrace the waxing light energy and into action. It doesn’t do much good to cleanse your inner home, the body, without working on the outer home. The next few posts will give you a fresh look at what’s in our homes and how to best keep them clean and safe places for our families.

I will summarize of some common health risks found in many homes as documented in the medical literature. I will start with cleaning the air today and continue with fire, water and earth in the next 3 postings. May this information motivate you rather than induce fear- knowledge is power.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are the largest category of pollutants in indoor air. They are carbon-based chemicals that easily dissolve into the air we breathe. The big 4 known indoor carcinogens are formaldehyde, carbon tetrachloride, choloroform and benzene. These chemicals are found all over the house in adhesives, air fresheners, antistatic agents, building materials like particle board and plywood, carpets, cellophane, toilet paper, wallpaper, floor wax, wood finishes, varnishes, sealants, stains and veneers. They are also in appliance coverings, household cleaners containing naphtha, plastics, air fresheners, car exhaust, cigarette and wood smoke, colognes, coal tar products, hair care products, hand lotions, insecticides, nail polish, space heaters, car exhaust, carpets, cigarette smoke, cleaning solutions, dyes, degreasers, deodorizers, tile, fungicide, furniture polish and strippers, mothballs, paint, polyurethane spot removers, and synthetic fibers to name just a handful .

Toxicity symptoms range from asthma, eye, skin or respiratory irritation, dizziness, nausea, irritability, headache, anemia, blurred vision, disorientation, drowsiness or fatigue, irritation of mucous membranes, nerve problems and rashes to cancer, birth defects and immune suppression2.

The Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children studied these VOCs in 170 homes and found that Higher VOC levels were most associated with air freshener and aerosol use. Infant diarrhea and earache were strongly linked with air freshener use as were headaches and depression in the moms studied. Diarrhea and vomiting were significantly associated with aerosol use .

Now how do we clean up the air quality of our homes? The easiest way to clear the air is by enlisting the aid of the plants. NASA studies show that rubber trees, spider plants and other low-maintenance houseplants filter out up to 80% of the toxins in the air. For more information see Dr. B.C. Wolverton’s book entitled, “How To Grow Fresh Air — 50 Houseplants that Purify Your Home or Office,” (Penguin, 1997)