If you’re one of the millions of North Americans with allergies or asthma, or the parents of a child who struggles with one or both issues, then you know that over time, you begin to determine what can trigger an episode. Sometimes it’s a whole season; other times, it’s changing climates — say, traveling from your hometown in arid Arizona to muggy south Florida for vacation; and still plenty of other instances when stress, diet or lack of sleep can weaken your immune system and make you more susceptible to an attack.
Turns out, there’s another important trigger for allergy and asthma sufferers — and it’s probably one you’ve experienced, whether you’re aware of it or not: chemical exposure. Think about it: it can be something as simple as walking through a department store’s beauty section, and you get a whiff of just-sprayed perfume or the concentration of chemicals from dye used in clothing makes your eyes and nose start to water. If you’ve ever had itchy, red or scratchy skin after switching detergents. Or had new carpet installed in your home, only to find yourself with a headache or sore throat shortly afterward. So many things in our daily lives contain synthetic fragrances and chemicals: beauty products, household cleaners, building materials, cookware, furniture, carpeting — and so many people have adverse reactions, which can trigger anything from a mild headache to a full-blown asthma attack to crushing fatigue.
If these things apply to you or your family, there are different steps you can take: both organically through research, choices and tangible actions, and by installing and using available technologies that can help reduce and eliminate pollutants from your home.
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) reports that people come into contact with chemicals every day. “Although some chemical exposures are safe, others are not. For you to become sick, a certain amount of a harmful chemical must enter your body. Harmful chemicals can get into your body if you breathe, eat, or drink them or if they are absorbed through your skin.”¹
The Allergy and Asthma Foundation breaks down 4 different kinds of chemical sensitivities:
Annoyance Reactions. These result from a heightened sensitivity to unpleasant odors. Your ability to cope with offensive—but mostly nonirritating—odors has a lot to do with genetic or acquired factors, among which are infection and inflammation of the mucous membranes or polyps, and abuse of tobacco and nasal decongestants.
Irritational Syndromes. These are caused by significant exposure to irritating chemicals that are more likely than others to penetrate the mucous membranes. These types of reactions can affect certain nerve endings and cause burning sensations in the nose, eyes and throat.
Immune Hypersensitivity. This is the basis of allergic diseases, such as allergic rhinitis (hay fever) and asthma. They are generally caused by naturally occurring organic chemicals found in pollens, molds, dust and animals.
Intoxication Syndrome. In some cases, long-term exposure to noxious chemicals may cause serious illness, or even death. Permanent damage to health may be the outcome of such reactions, which are dependent on the nature and extent of the chemical exposure. Toxic pollutants are given off by a number of building products, such as furniture, cleaning fluids, pesticides and paints.²
Other chemical pollutants that can cause respiratory illness include:
- Sulfur Dioxide
- Ozone and Nitrogen Dioxide
- Cigarette Smoke
The EPA’s Office of Children’s Health Protection notes that kids are especially susceptible to the negative effects of chemicals. Reports Reduce.org: “Pound for pound, children breathe more air, drink more water, and eat more food, and when they play, they crawl and put things in their mouths. As a result, children have an increased chance of exposure to potential pollutants, and because children’s bodies are still developing, they may process these pollutants differently from adults.”³
While it can be next to impossible to guard against the effects of chemicals once you step foot outside your home, there are (fortunately!) many steps you can take to minimize the negative effects chemicals can create inside your home.
- Air out new carpet and furniture before installation, so it can off-gas before being brought into the home.
- Choose low-emission or “green” carpets and padding for fewer health effects.
- Avoid products with high VOC (volatile organic compound) content. Opt for low- or zero-VOC paints and finishes for indoor spaces and furniture.
- Buy solid wood, hardboard or ‘exterior grade’ plywood in place of pressed wood products, or consider buying antique furniture.
- Establish your home as a “no smoking” area.
- Ask installers to use low-emission adhesives or consider tacking down the carpeting without adhesives at all.
- Consider staying elsewhere during and immediately following installation of new furniture/carpeting/paint in your home.
- Control room climate by keeping the temperature and humidity low, which can decrease the amount of some VOCs like formaldehyde.
- Properly care for and clean your carpets to remove allergens and contaminants.
- Think about a ‘no-shoes’ policy in your home. This can help keep pesticides (especially lawn chemicals) from entering your home. It also help cut down on your cleaning routine.
- Use natural pest control methods for your lawn and garden. A lawn that is naturally healthy will resist pests and weeds. For problems that persist, try non-toxic weed killers.4
Aerus has technology that can be useful in reducing the impact of chemicals and contaminants in your home. Regularly vacuuming with a HEPA-sealed vacuum like the Lux Guardian Platinum not only helps remove contaminants from your floors, but also prevents them from blowing the offensive bits back out into the air you breathe. High grade air purifiers like the Lux Guardian Air Platinum can also go a long way in significantly reducing the amount of odors, fumes, allergens and microscopic debris in your home.