by guest blogger Dr. Marilyn Black, Founder, GREENGUARD Environmental Institute
Did you know that the air you're breathing in your home can be two to five times more polluted than the air outdoors? And that after remodeling, renovating, or using cleaning products in your home, the air indoors can be up to 1,000 times more polluted than the outdoor air?
It's mind-boggling but true. The reason is this: common products used to build, furnish, and maintain our homes--from flooring, furniture, and paint to drywall, cabinets, and cleaners--can release potentially hazardous chemicals, known as volatile organic chemicals (VOCs), into the air we breathe indoors. You know that "new product smell," or even that "new house smell?" Both are caused by VOCs. And while not all VOCs are toxic, many of them can have short- and long-term health consequences. These include:
Children and Chemical Exposure
Children are particularly susceptible to the health effects of VOC exposure, as their respiratory, cardiovascular, nervous, and immune systems are still developing. In fact, research indicates that children who are exposed to VOCs in the home for extended periods of time are up to four times more likely to develop asthma, the world's fastest-growing, chronic, incurable childhood disease. Children breathe in a greater volume of air than adults do, resulting in higher chemical exposure. And, a child's speedy metabolism means that chemicals can travel quickly into his or her bloodstream, causing discomfort right away.
Energy Efficiency and Indoor Air Quality
Complicating matters is the growing trend toward tighter, more energy-efficient buildings. While energy efficiency is great for both the planet and our bank accounts (read: lower energy bills), if we're not careful about the products we bring into our tightly sealed homes, we can inadvertently trap harmful airborne pollutants inside. Without adequate outdoor air ventilation, VOCs can build up, creating a toxic "bubble" effect within the very walls of the place we consider our safe haven.
What You Can Do
While there are federal regulations in place to promote and maintain good outdoor air quality, none exists to ensure that the air inside our own homes is healthy. That means it's up to you and your family to take action and create a healthier indoor environment.
Here are five simple ways to get started:
Marilyn Black, PhD, is a nationally-renowned environmental health scientist and founder of the GREENGUARD Environmental Institute, a third-party organization that works to improve indoor air quality and reduce chemical exposure by certifying products for low chemical emissions.
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