Virtually every object used in building your home and the objects within it—the insulation in your house, your sofa, food storage containers, floor cleaners and even fabric softener—impacts both your health and the health of the planet. Unfortunately, in spite of the “all natural” or “safe” labels that are included on some of these products, many of them are unhealthy.
The good news is that concurrent with growing consumer awareness of the dangers in ordinary household objects is an increase in the availability of environmentally-friendly and human-healthy choices as manufacturers acknowledge and try to meet this burgeoning market.
Nowhere has the impact of the average consumer been greater than in the food industry, fueling the rise in the availability of organic food. Organic retail sales have grown an astonishing twenty percent per year since 1990—compared with an increase of between two and four percent of total food sales in United States.
As desire for organic food grows, so does the demand for healthful products of all kinds. Even though the major manufacturers are aware that there is a demand for healthful products, the vast majority of them are still not offering them. Although many businesses appear to be providing environmentally-friendly and healthful products; beware of the company that advertises its product with terms that are unregulated—such as “natural.” “Natural,” when used to describe shampoo, is usually a complete misnomer—the shampoo may be filled with synthetic chemicals and might contain only minute amounts of truly natural ingredients, such as jojoba or honey.
In addition, the government has historically allowed unsafe products to be sold as safe in this country. The use of lead is a great example. In 1909, eight European countries banned the use of white lead for interior painting. It took half a century for the United States to catch up—lead was not banned in paint and gasoline in this country until the 1970’s and 1980’s respectively.
Today, there are still thousands of toxic products being sold. To exacerbate the problem, manufacturers continue to pollute our air, water and land. There is no way to avoid all contamination while living on earth, but this chapter provides practical information and tips to help protect you from excessive exposure to the variety of pollutants that most of us are subjected to.
In addition to providing tips on how and what to purchase to live in an environment free from toxins that are made from cheap, unsustainable methods, this chapter explains how to eliminate nearly all pollutants from your home. You may be shocked to discover that many seemingly harmless household products contain dangerous chemicals. However, most of these products can be easily removed and replaced and some will lose their toxicity over time, so you needn’t panic and think everything in your house must be replaced. For example, freshly installed wall-to-wall carpeting emits toxic gases into the environment; however, carpeting stops outgassing six months to a year following installation. Another example is painting your walls with paint containing volatile organic compounds (VOC’s): the damage is already done, the paint stops outgassing and you may as well wait until the next time to use an eco-friendly paint.
Indoor pollution greatly increased after the end of World War II, with mass-produced housing. These new houses were made with new, lightweight materials, materials that were produced by the petrochemical industry. These products, made from petrochemicals, release chemicals into the air—through a process known as outgassing. Outgassing is the slow release from the material of chemical residues used in the manufacturing process into the atmosphere. They include VOC’s and many other petrochemical derivatives. Materials made from petrochemicals include plywood, particleboard, carpeting, vinyl flooring, adhesives, paints, fabrics and much more.
Excerpt from Chapter 1, Harmonious Environment, Copyright 2007.