Indoor air quality is critically important to the health of everyone in both their homes and also their workplace.
Did you know that poor ventilation, humidity, damp, moulds and odours, formaldehyde and other invisible chemicals found in everyday household cleaning products like surface cleaners, window cleaners etc. and personal care products like laundry detergent, body wash and shampoo - even dishwashing liquid have been linked to health effects ranging from mild irritation to cancers?
Often these little irritations can manifest in itchy skin, runny nose, sneezing etc. to more severe effects like unexplained headaches, dizziness, brain-fog etc. and the longer the accumulation, often the greater the symptoms felt by the occupants.
In the workplace, employers have a responsibility for providing staff with a healthy and safe working environment. This is a risk that should be managed carefully.
In the past 25 years, the incidence of allergies has doubled in western countries and scientists are at a loss to explain this phenomenon (Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy). Here are some sources of allergens likely to be in a home.
Dust - consisting of a plethora of agents including micro-organisms, pesticides, dirt, pet hair, clothing and furnishing fibres, cigarette smoke, flame retardants, dust mites… plant debri, particles from insects, heavy metals such as lead from road dust and old paints and insulation fibres (asbestos) just to name a few! Dust also consists of a plethora of other agents from soil, pet hair, clothing and furnishing fibres, cigarette smoke, biologicals (bacteria, viruses, fungal spores, pollen), insect parts, dust mite and their faeces, plant debri, particles from insects (cockroach body parts, rodent excretions..), pesticides, flame retardants, car exhausts, heavy metals such as lead from road dust and old paints, insulation fibres (asbestos), photocopiers and food debri. As you can see, dust encompasses a wide range of potentially allergenic agents! An allergy to dust could therefore signify an allergy to pollen, chemicals or to micro-organisms such as fungi or dust mite.
Dust mites - these little critters are the most common cause of asthma and allergies worldwide with up to 10% of the general population sensitive to them. Wherever there is dust and humans... there are dust mites. Microscopic, these creatures thrive in warm moist places including our beds, furnishings and carpets, feeding off dead skin cells and mould.
Pets (dander) - There are no ‘low allergy breeds’ of dogs or cats as it is the skin or saliva not the fur that allergy sufferers are likely to react to (ASCIA, 2010).
Pollens - Pollens are a common cause of seasonal allergies. Around 10% of flowering plants rely on the wind to carry their pollen instead of birds and insects. These plants are the ones that people with allergies are more likely to react to. Their pollen is smaller and lighter and produced in larger quantities which can be carried over long distances from their source (hundreds of kilometres in some cases). A list of wind pollinating plants can be found in the book Healthy Home, Healthy Family. Pollens may trigger hay fever, (sneezing, congestion, itchy and watery eyes and runny nose), asthma, sinus headaches and even joint pain which occur in a particular season. Symptoms may be immediate upon exposure, or can be delayed by a few days. Contact dermatitis and eczema may also occur in some individuals.
Chemicals - Tobacco smoke, asbestos, leaded paint, benzene, polychlorinated biphenyls, pesticides, vinyl chloride, BPA.. are just some examples where warnings were ignored decades prior to the emergence of devastating public health issues. Most of the ingredients used in conventional cleaning products will not only expose your family to potentially toxic and in some cases, known carcinogens, they also have the capacity to mutate bacteria so they become resistant and potentially more dangerous (just ask anyone who has contracted a Golden Staph infection during a hospital stay). In addition, it is impossible for the consumer to assess a product as the manufacturer is not required to list the ingredients on the label (most only list the active ingredient). Add to this the time it takes for the toxic vapours to ‘out gas” in your home and you can’t help but question as to whether there is a better, more healthier option. Well there is!
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