Pesticides, building materials and paints, household furnishings, as well as personal care and cleaning products cover the majority of chemicals most people are likely to be exposed to. These volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are responsible for much of the indoor air pollution commonly found within a home.
SOURCES OF CHEMICALS
Here is a partial list of chemicals likely to be in your home. For a detailed discussion on these and many other sources such as toys, pesticides, food packaging, cookware, clothing, bedding and the like, refer to the book Healthy Home, Healthy Family.
- Fake tan products
- Hormone disrupting chemicals in household products (why pregnant women, children and people with breast and prostate cancer should avoid)
- Cleaning products
- Makeup - "saving face"
- Personal care products
- Plastic baby bottles
- Building materials
- Non-stick cookware
HOW TOXIC ARE YOUR PRODUCTS?
Where personal care products list their ingredients on the packaging, manufacturers of cleaning products are not obliged to. As such you don’t know what you are really being exposed to. There are 3 ways to assess how toxic the ingredients in your product are:
- Check the label on your cleaning product for warning signs such as POISON, TOXIC, CAUTION, CORROSIVE or WARNING.
- Skin Patch Test When using a product for the first time, it is always recommended that you do a skin patch test. Apply a small amount of the product on the pulse area of your wrist. Leave on up to 48 hours (unwashed). If the skin becomes itchy, red, and/or painful you are likely to be allergic to it and need to remove it immediately.
- Obtain the Material Safety Data Sheet for the product directly from the manufacturer whose details will be on the label. Once you have the list of ingredients in the product, you will need to obtain the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for each individual ingredient. Here is a brief list of potential websites where you can access this information.
There are a variety of means by which a building biologist can assess chemicals in a building. Most requires sophisticated and expensive equipment. The cost will vary depending on the type of chemical you wish to assess and whether you want instant results or require data logging capabilities. For details, click here.
When it comes to volatile organic compounds the warmer the room, the greater the rate at which they “outgas” into the air. New building materials and paints can take years to off gas. As such, ventilation is the key to reducing one’s exposure especially in a new or recently renovated building.
WANT TO LEARN MORE?
DID YOU KNOW
Almost 90% of ingredients used in cosmetics and personal care products have not been safety tested for human health effects.