Sick building (and now "sick home") syndrome is not a new phenomenon, and it was recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency in a 1994 report regarding indoor air pollution. In the report, one learns that air inside the home can be up to 3-5 times as polluted as outside air. The report cites a main culprit as volatile organic compounds - emitted as gases that can contain harmful chemicals. Reactions can include sinus irritation, nausea and headaches - and some people think it is just a cold.
Paint is only one source of VOCs which in a newly painted room can "off-gas" for up to a year. Pressed-wood furniture, permanent press fabric and mattress ticking also release VOCs, including formaldehyde. And using non-organic sheets, towels and clothing can also introduce you to pesticides.
It is virtually impossible to stay away from all these products, but you can definitely implement a few measures to improve your VOC and toxin exposure:
- Change your air-conditioner/heater filter on a monthly basis
- Utilize cotton towels and sheets and hypoallergenic pillows
- Speak to your plant horticulturist about plants that filter air
- Use energy efficient lighting such as LED lighting by JUNO or CREE
- Review the cleaning products used in your home
- Know what type of rugs and carpets are used in your home (nylon/vinyl backed is not good!)
- Once a week, open the windows for just 30 minutes