Think you've got this Mother's Day all wrapped and ready? Maybe you've already gotten a gift, ordered her flowers, or made your food list for the annual breakfast-in-bed. Allow me to commend you on the achievement. However, I'd like to suggest that you add to your list doing one of the most impactful things you can do for her: clean up her air space. Why? Because the air your one-and-only Mom is breathing right now could be toxic.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), indoor air quality (IAQ) is actually a pressing national concern. There are plenty of toxins that are pent-up inside of buildings and homes. According to the International Society of Indoor Air Pollution's 15-year study, women who stay at home or work from home have a 54 percent HIGHER risk of dying of cancer than women who work outside the home. (As a woman who works from her house, that's a really frightening statistic!)
There are all kinds of hidden toxins in our household air, from chemical solvents to formaldehyde. There are the pollutants we bring in through products we buy like furniture and cleaners, and toxins emitted from things we use like kitchen equipment, paints, indoor grills, and even wood burning stoves. It's amazing how many things turn out to be invisible pollutants. Do these toxins escape? Settle? Get absorbed? It's hard to know what their true impact is. But lately, it seems I read an article daily on the importance of understanding how chemicals we interact with regularly affect us.
It is with this information in mind that I suggest one of the most generous, loving, powerful and kind things you can do for the mom in your life: Make it an annual practice to clean up her air space and establish healthier home habits this and every Mother's Day going forward. These are habits to maintain every single day of the year from here on out. (The really good news is that this effort will pay dividends for everyone in your family, not just Mom.) She may even feel a difference immediately, as the effect of cleaning up her air space can be immediate.
The bottom line is that our homes need to become healthy-air oases. By conducting a health check-up this (and every) Mother's Day we can help our moms, ourselves, and all of our loved ones breathe easier. All you have to do is follow my easy tips below to have fresh air impact:
- Open the windows wide. This one doesn't cost a thing. According to the EPA, people are estimated to spend about 90 percent of their time indoors but that indoor air quality can be two to five times more polluted than outdoor air. Plus, fresh air is known to lift your spirits.
- Give her flowers, yes, but make sure they're potted plants as opposed to cut stems. Plants naturally help to clean and purify the air. (Ideally, buy a hardy plant like the peace lily or Boston fern that are on the NASA list to improve air quality.) Plants are Mother Nature's way of keeping the air fresh. Place them in the rooms she's in most often.
- Get down on your hands and knees and clean out underneath her kitchen sink. There are likely tons of toxins in there, according to the Environmental Working Group. Get rid of the most toxic cleaners from the Environmental Working Group's hall of shame.
- Replace her cleaning products. What says I love you more than a bucket 'o cleaning products that are made from natural materials? Try Seventh Generation, but be sure to read the labels and inform yourself on what's getting used in your home. (Also, open those windows while anyone cleans.)
- Don't stop here. Learn more about your indoor air quality and what you other steps you can take to make it better from the American Lung Association.
- Do this for extra credit while you're at it and sign the petition to enact a law requiring transparent GMO labeling on foods. This would be a step toward making the task of shopping easier and healthier too!
This Mother's Day, do something that's going to have real, lasting impact on her world: a spring cleaning to make her air space healthier.
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 International Society of Indoor Air Quality and Climate, Proceedings, 5th International Conference on Indoor Air Quality and Climate: Indoor Air '90,
Toronto (Canada) 1990.