For even those who are healthy now, there have been known links to cancer, autoimmune, asthma, allergies and many other medical conditions due to extended exposure and/or certain amounts of different environmental and chemical contaminants. Now is the time to really prioritize you and your family’s health; one important step being to learn how to detox the air in your home. Begin now by increasing your indoor air quality.
Why Should You Care About the Air Quality in Your Home
On a daily basis, the body is taking in resources through the food/beverages we eat/drink, through our mindset/stress level, and through the air we breathe. Often the air we breathe is completely overlooked. This can be the missing piece to the puzzle of our health, since it is so commonly surpassed. This is why I find increasing your indoor air quality to be a vital part of staying healthy.
While the source of autoimmune diseases and many other health conditions are debated, there are many theories that an illness brought out of dormancy is from a combination of: genetics, an environmental trigger, and a period of high stress. As we really have no way of knowing what’s true, I like to focus on the simple things that are in my control. One, being the quality of your air.
Reduce Your Chemical Usage
One of the easiest steps in this is to reduce your chemical usage. Chemicals are everywhere and make up pretty much everything. Don’t make this more of a stressor than it is. Begin by taking a few small things such as harsh cleaners and replace them with a more natural option. You don’t have to throw the old one out, just use it for worst case scenarios only. One of the simples changes I chose to begin with was to minimize the VOCS in my air. Another even simpler step was to replace plastic shower curtains and liners full of PVC with a fabric liner (I was able to find one very cheaply on Amazon and replace it when moldy).
Keeping Your Air Clean
Keep your carpeting CLEAN and vacuumed. The porous/fibrous nature of carpeting allows for environmental contaminants, dust, mold spores, pet dander, and other irritants to be easily contained. While other flooring types are preferred for those with severe allergies, carpeting can be kept manageably clean by cleaning at least once a year (they’re pricey so I usually rent one from Home Depot and use a natural shampoo) and vacuuming weekly with a high-quality vacuum cleaner using a hepa filter.
Another tip is to replace your air ducts (if financially possible) when buying a new home if it’s been awhile since they were replaced. In both homes and rental units, make such to replace your air filter with a high quality hepa filter on a monthly basis…and if you own the home, make sure your drain lines do not back up and/or keep your air condition unit clean and free of mold.
While some things aren’t always in your control, the two easiest steps are. Firstly, CLEAN regularly. Dust and dirt can contain known allergens. Secondly, open up, allow as much air from the outside inside as possible, and allow air to circulate.
Clean Up Bad Air When Possible
Already have a known problem? Sometimes prevention isn’t always possible and additional steps are needed to return your indoor air quality back. Begin with the items above. The next simplest step may be to find an air purifying plant. Make sure to research your choice and be careful to select one that is non-toxic to children and/or animals when you have them. However, the most well-researched source of plant suggestions was an infamous NASA study found here; focused on successfully removing many major pollutants.
*I had an English Ivy and Peace Lily when I had major issues, but stored them on very high cabinets where no leaves could fall off onto the floor due to their known toxicity with dogs.
Another option is to add a high-quality air filter in the areas of issue and/or near where you sleep (in addition to the full-home filter used in your a/c system). Choose this filter based on the contaminant you are looking to remove. **I have issues with mold so I did some research on what works for that and as most reputable sources said the UV-C light didn’t do much, I went with the Amazon top selling air purifier as it was affordable and had the multiple stages of hepa filtering recommended.
As always, the easiest way to get rid of pollutants is to remove the source prior to cleaning your air. However, in some cases this can be harder than it sounds, which brings us to a more difficult topic.
Easier said than done right? Living in Florida has made me WELL aware of the dangers of mold. In fact, my autoimmune diagnoses and illness came right after a major mold exposure and I was from the Midwest and knew nothing about mold (it’s much more prevalent in Florida). While I’d always had minor health issues, over time it got to the point where I could barely breathe from sinus pain, barely function from exhaustion, and had repeated random bacterial and fungal infections displaying signs that my immune system was completely compromised. Even my roommate and boyfriend who had lived in the apartment with me only ¼ of the time I had and had amazing immune systems started getting migraines and repeated sinus infections.
Eventually we found mold coming from the person above us through the ceiling (their a/c backed up when the drain line wasn’t cleared) as well as through the floor and bathroom cabinets (the shower wasn’t installed correctly and water was draining back behind it into the floorboards). We moved out immediately, but it took many, many years to recover. Additionally, the condo I bought had numerous water issues and mold issues that both an inspector and mold inspector missed.
Things I learned from being immersed in both situations:
- Always monitor the moisture in your air. It got to the point where I could actually tell something was leaking on and off because my humidity monitor would be normal one day and sky-high the next (turns out it was a roof leak that was flooding behind my cabinets when it rained). If you can’t afford fancy high-tech equipment to help find leaks, at least use a small humidity monitor to make sure your indoor air is not too humid.
- Control moisture. Mold needs moisture to grow. When all else fails, control the moisture in your air. Even in a mold-free environment, doing this helps prevent mold from forming to begin with. A high-powered dehumidifier was one of the best purchases I’ve made since moving to Florida. Especially when water issues occurred. But even without, winter and storms pushed the moisture levels too high and the dehumidifier got them back to normal in under 10 minutes.
- Always find/remove the source of mold when possible. Even when the water issue is found/repaired; mold grows. It’s living. It can grow/eat through things. The BEST and really only way to successfully remove it is to fix the source of moisture and get rid of the mold. When possible, replace flooring, drywall, etc. Don’t let contractors talk you into a quick band-aid solution. They always seemed to want the easiest route and I ended up paying more in the long run for it.
- If you get a mold inspection in an apartment OR home, go with them! My “professional” mold inspector for my apartment complex overlooked very large visibly patches of mold including growth oozing out of cabinets. My home inspectors both overlooked full cabinets of particle board completely blown up and covered in mold from water damage. A simple look over inside of ducts, under sinks, near showers, etc. would have easily shown me all these issues. Remember, the only one who’s only incentive is first and foremost your and your family’s health is YOU and your family.
- Ducts can’t always be cleaned. While it appeared to me the EPA previously shyed away from recommending duct cleaning in the case of mold, they now seem to support it. I did, however, get mine cleaned, removed the conditions for mold growth, and it returned months later. If you do get yours cleaned, re-check in several months if it re-grows. If the conditions for growth are gone, you may just need to replace them completely.
- Mold tests can be good for liability issues, but in terms of protecting your health; they are not always helpful. The air tests I had done on my home actually conflicted. One mold inspector said it passed. Another said it did not. The problem with trusting others this is there is no standard threshold to determine if your home does or does not pass a mold inspection. Unfortunately, a lack of threshold in the industry, causes the test to be pretty much irrelevant — except in very extreme cases. The best option? Get one done but only trust extremely high results. In either case, USE YOUR OWN EYES. You may think this is give in, but it’s not. In the case of both my home and mold inspector, I should have followed them around. While the results of the mold inspection showed some minor sealing needed and mold in my ducts, even though both inspectors should have caught it, no one noticed the source of the issue which was very noticeable. There had been a roof leak for years and it could have been caught by just noticing the scent of mold and the blown-up laminate cabinets in the kitchen.
- Avoid mold of any and/or all types if possible, especially toxic mold. Mold is mold. Ultimately, while the dreaded toxic/black mold is said to be the worst, no mold is amazing for your health. Especially in the cases of autoimmunity or bodies that do not detox well.
Fix it or get out! I know it isn’t always possible, but if you have mold, get rid or it or away from it asap! There are some tools you can use to bandage it. However, for the most part, the best thing you can do if you’re staying is to find the source of moisture (whether a plumbing leak, rain water coming in through an improperly sealed building, or more) and fix it. Then, replace any resulting damage completely. There are people who are trained to do this properly to avoid spores going into the air.
What Goes into Our Body Makes Us
Moral of the story? Bad air, water, or food in = a body has to work extra hard to do its normal functions. Sometimes when this is paired with other triggers, it can result in autoimmune problems. And one of best things we can do is keep our immune systems and lungs safe and happy!
Here’s to clean air and regaining our sparkle together,
*Disclaimer: Please check with your doctor before starting any new diet or exercise program, consuming alcohol, and/or using new products. I am not a doctor or registered dietitian and no responsibility is assumed or guarantees are made if you choose to follow the advice in this blog. This information is for educational and entertainment purposes only.
NASA Clean Air Study – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NASA_Clean_Air_Study
EPA (on handling mold) – https://www.epa.gov/mold/mold-cleanup-your-home
VOCs – https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/volatile-organic-compounds-impact-indoor-air-quality
Easy steps – https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/easy-ways-you-can-improve-indoor-air-quality
Why you should open up – https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/improving-indoor-air-quality
**Please note that while many of the consumer favorite air purifiers contain an added UV-C light (for killing mold spores), many other sources (more commonly) said it wasn’t really worth the extra money: