How Toxic Is Your Home?
A RECENT study of over 3,000 people in the United States and Canada, according to Scientific American magazine, showed that “most citizens were very likely to have the greatest contact with potentially toxic pollutants . . . inside the places they usually consider to be essentially unpolluted, such as homes, offices and automobiles.” The chief sources of air pollution in homes were the fumes originating from ordinary products such as cleaning compounds, moth repellents, building materials, fuels, deodorizers, and disinfectants, as well as chemicals from dry-cleaned clothes and new synthetic upholstery.
“Space flu,” an illness experienced by astronauts until the cause was found, was due to such fumes, or “off-gassing.” You detect off-gassing when you sit in a new car or walk by shelves of cleaning products in a supermarket, even though they are in sealed containers. So when a house is shut tight to keep out, say, winter’s cold, off-gassing of various chemicals can contribute to a level of indoor pollution that is far in excess of pollution outside.
Children, especially toddlers, are the most vulnerable to indoor pollutants, says Canada’s Medical Post. They are closer to the floor than older people; they breathe more rapidly than adults do; they spend as much as 90 percent of their time indoors; and because their organs have not yet matured, their bodies are more susceptible to toxins. They absorb some 40 percent of ingested lead, whereas adults absorb about 10 percent.
Maintaining a Balanced Attitude
Because the present generation of humans has experienced a level of exposure to chemicals that is without precedent, there is still much to learn about the effects, so scientists remain cautious. Chemical exposure does not automatically raise the specter of cancer or death. Indeed, most people seem to cope fairly well, to the credit of the Creator of the wonderful human body. (Psalm 139:14) Still, reasonable precautions must be taken, especially if we have regular contact with potentially toxic chemicals.
The book Chemical Alert! says that “some chemicals are toxic in the sense that they interfere with the balance of [the body’s] processes and thereby produce vague symptoms that can best be described as just not feeling well.” Reducing our exposure to potentially harmful chemicals does not necessarily require major changes in life-style but only modest alterations in our daily routine. Please note the suggestions in the box on page 8. Some of them might be of help to you.
In addition to taking reasonable precautions with chemicals, we help ourselves when we avoid being unduly anxious, especially in regard to things over which we have no control. “A calm heart is the life of the fleshly organism,” says the Bible at Proverbs 14:30.
Still, many people do suffer and become ill, sometimes even terminally ill, because of chemical toxins.a Like the millions of people suffering from so many other causes nowadays, those afflicted with chemical-related sicknesses have every reason to look to the future, for soon the earth will be free of toxins that harm its inhabitants. Even toxic thoughts, along with those who harbor them, will be things of the past, as the concluding article in this series will show.
a In recent years a growing number of people have been suffering from a condition called multiple chemical sensitivity. This condition will be discussed in a future issue of Awake!
[Box on page 8]
For a Healthier, Safer Home
Reducing your exposure to potential toxins often calls for only modest alterations in your life-style. Here are some suggestions that you might find helpful. (For additional, more specific details, we suggest that you check with your local library.)
1. Try to store most chemicals that give off vapors where they will not contaminate the air in your home. These chemicals include formaldehyde and products containing volatile solvents, such as paint, varnish, adhesives, pesticides, and cleaning solutions. Volatile petroleum products give off toxic vapors. This group includes benzene, which in high concentrations for extended periods is known to cause cancer, birth defects, and other reproductive harm.
2. Have good ventilation in all rooms, including the bathroom. Showering volatilizes certain additives such as chlorine that may be in the water. This may lead to a buildup of chlorine and even chloroform.
3. Wipe your feet before you step indoors. This simple act, says Scientific American, can reduce the amount of lead in a typical carpet by a factor of six. It also cuts down on pesticides, some of which break down quickly outdoors in the sunlight but may last for years in carpets. Another option, which is a standard custom in some parts of the world, is to remove your shoes. A good vacuum cleaner, preferably one with a rotating brush, can also reduce pollution in carpets.
4. If you treat a room with a pesticide, keep toys out of that room for at least two weeks, even though the product label may say the room is safe hours after treatment. Scientists have recently found that certain plastics and foam found in toys literally soak up pesticide residues like a sponge. Children will absorb the toxins through the skin and mouth.
5. Minimize your use of pesticides. In his book Since Silent Spring, Frank Graham, Jr., writes that pesticides “have their place in home and garden, but sales campaigns have convinced the average suburban homeowner that he must keep at hand an arsenal of chemicals sufficient to stave off an African locust assault.”
6. Have flaking leaded paint removed from all surfaces, and repaint with unleaded paint. Do not allow children to play in dirt contaminated with leaded paint. If lead in plumbing is suspected, the cold-water tap should be flushed briefly until there is a noticeable change in water temperature, and water from the hot-water tap should not be used for drinking.—Environmental Poisons in Our Food.
[Picture on page 9]
Toddlers are the most vulnerable to indoor pollutants