Indoor Pollution

Warning: Green Jihad alert 🙂 But perhaps you should hear it out, for the sake of your health!

As G gets more mobile, I’ve been researching how to make my own cleaning products. I’ve seen too many articles on how bad the harsh chemicals in most store-bought products are (yes, even the “green” ones at Target). I’ve always known that once G is crawling around, drinking bath water, etc. that things should be clean. But I never realized that the very same cleaning agents keeping away harmful bacteria (read: Claire feces) could also be hurting him! Bleach residue, for example, is HIGHLY toxic, especially for young kids. Almost all cleaning products also contain ethylene-based glycol, which is classified by the EPA as a hazardous air pollutant.

Cleaning products are one of the reasons indoor pollution is starting to exceed the outdoor! From Web MD: But the truth is, the air inside homes, offices, and other buildings can be more polluted than the air outside. The air inside your home may be polluted by lead (in house dust), formaldehyde, fire-retardants, radon, even volatile chemicals from fragrances used in conventional cleaners. Some pollutants are tracked into the home. Some arrive via a new mattress or furniture, carpet cleaners, or a coat of paint on the walls.

Radon, a known carcinogen, is responsible for 20,000 lung cancer deaths/year. According to the EPA, based on a national residential radon survey completed in 1991, the average indoor radon level is about 1.3 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) in air in the United States. The average outdoor level is about 0.4 pCi/L. Apparently, houses act as a vacuum, drawing radon in from the foundation and soil around it. Radon is also released into the air from the water when one showers. I can’t let myself be terribly worried about this, simply because we don’t OWN our residence. All we can do is make sure we ventilate our rooms with plenty of fresh air.

Until we own a home, there’s nothing I can do about the fact that most paint is bad for a baby’s room (the only kind that ISN’T has to be specially ordered online. Just because the “paint” smell is gone doesn’t mean the fumes are!). If I’m gonna have to repaint it when we move out in a couple months, I’m NOT spending $45/gallon on non-toxic wall paint. We’ll just have to make sure G’s room is well-ventilated.

But there are things we can do to reduce our indoor air pollution (North Americans spend 69-90% of their time indoors). It’s one of the reasons why I’ve always tried to have lots of indoor plants. It’s also one of the reasons I’m so thrilled about trying to find a place with wood floors– I simply don’t have the money for a fancy steam clean vacuum. Wood floors are extremely easy to keep clean, and the only rugs I’ll buy will be 100% machine washable (who in their right mind would buy an expensive rug when they are planning on lots of kids? Have you seen that Modern Family episode?). I’m also going to institute a “no-shoes” policy at our next place. I don’t want my sons hands and face in a pile of e-coli bacteria.

That’s why I’ve decided to figure out how to make my own cleaning supplies. Most involve pretty cheap ingredients, such as white vinegar and baking soda. I have no idea how they work yet, especially when it comes to disinfecting a bathroom. You may not believe this, but the first time I cleaned a bathroom was when I lived in Stewart Hall at Biola!! You could say I was spoiled, and I definitely was when it came to not having to do chores, but I just happen to have a really selfless Momma 🙂

Anybody got any tried and true recipes/concoctions they want to share? Please!

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  • http://delicioushouse.blogspot.com Becks

    No recipes for you, but if you look on the blog “re-nest” (part of the apartment therapy conglomerate) they have a TON of great suggestions.

    One thing we did when James was about that age is buy a HEPA air filter. It’s seriously AMAZING at purifying the air. We got ours brand new and still in the box from the Goodwill, which carries lots of Target rejects that are otherwise new.

  • http://stephbrownthinks.blogspot.com Steph

    Pretty much the only things I use to clean the house are plain water, baking soda, vinegar, and castile soap. You can use things by themselves, diluted, or mixed together. I add things like tea tree oil (also a disinfectant) or lavender oil if I want them to smell pretty. I think it works just as good, if not better, than commercial cleaning products. Vinegar is a disinfectant as well if its germs you’re worried about. I’m of the camp that people should be exposed to germs and they’re good for your immune system so when I clean my primary focus isn’t sterilizing. So far so good, my 11 month old has never once been sick!

    Also as far as rugs go, rugs made of natural fibers (like wool) are very very easy to clean and don’t contain any harsh chemicals like some of the machine washable ones do. Wool is mostly hypo-allergenic, has a natural ability to resist stains, is water repellent, and best of all is naturally flame repellent instead of containing the harsh chemicals that synthetic rugs do (that are bonded to the fibers thus can’t be washed out). Wool also has a much smaller carbon footprint than say cotton, which takes soooo much water to grow and is usually heavily coated with pesticides. Wool is a little more expensive than some other materials but it is so durable you should never have to replace it. I have a baby, cats, three large dogs, and a husband that manages to be dirtier than all the pets combined and our wool rugs haven’t been hard to keep clean. Jute or bamboo are also very easy to keep clean, just not as soft. Just my 2 cents:)

  • nyx

    yeah we clean almost everything with baking soda and vinegar–it works wonders! and really, with all the mineral deposits we get here, we have no choice. otherwise, we use bleach..but I don’t hate bleach. 😉 I use it for things like the toilet and places that need to be disinfected or bleached whiter and always throw it in with the clothes and towels. *shrug* Plants really are the best way to get rid of indoor fumes and I wish the cats didn’t eat all mine….

    if you want to get rugs that area healthy and easy to clean I would stay away from wool. While it is truly the best, it is more labor intensive than pretty much any other fabric. Not to say it isn’t doable, just that I would suggest you go for bamboo or something that you can still machine wash. Pick your time constraints, right? 😉

    Have you priced dry cleaning? Cause we thought our rug would cost tons (9’x13′) but turned out to only be $20. No way it would have fit in a washer machine and aside from that, we at least had no where to hang it out to dry.

    anyways, yay to baking soda and vinegar. its the best combo ever. =) esp. on pots and pans that have burnt food…..heh….

  • http://delicioushouse.blogspot.com Becks

    One other thing – Lowe’s carries Olympic’s premium zero VOC paint and it is incredible. It’s only 20$ a can, and it’s so non-toxic, your baby can eat it and still be fine. I know this because when James was about 9 months old and crawling, I decided to repaint my livingroom. I arranged the furniture into a pen so he couldn’t get at the paint, but he managed to escape one day while I was eating lunch, and I turned around to see him sucking on a wet paint brush! OMG. MAJOR FREAK OUT. I picked up the baby and wiped his mouth out with a washcloth, and then I picked up the can of paint and ran across the street to the Emergency Room (we live across the street from a Hospital). The ER doctor pronounced him the healthiest of babies, and said I was really lucky it was a non-toxic paint. The worst I was likely to encounter was some blue poo. James continues to be happy, healthy, and up to shenanigans to this day.

    The other thing you should keep in mind is that germs (no, not toxins or puppy poo, but the normal bacteria, microbes, and dirt) are good for babies, and actually play a vital role in the education and formation of their immune system. I read this great article in the NY Times about a researcher who decided to investigate why babies are always sticking things in their mouths, despite all their parents efforts to keep things out of it. He found that this universal behavior actually helps educate the baby’s immune system to know what is a “normal” part of his or her environment. This education is very important, and helps prevent overreactions of the immune system when it encounters allergens. Basically, it helps your baby be at a lower risk for major food allergies and common reactions to other major allergens, such as animals, grasses, pollen, etc. It gives the immune system something to do, other than fight things it shouldn’t, or worse, itself (as is the case in auto-immune disorders).

  • nyx

    I want to “like” Beck’s comment. Also I kinda want to see a pic of the paintbrush sucking baby. . . .maybe recreated with frosting though…. 😉

  • http://kellyconepiano.wordpress.com Kelly

    Thanks a ton, everybody! So helpful!