GH Re­port Con­sumer news and prod­uct re­views

Get this: in­door air can have lev­els of some pol­lu­tants up to five times higher than out­door air, ac­cord­ing to sci­en­tific re­ports. So what are the cul­prits, and what can you do? Our ex­perts have the low­down….

Good Housekeeping (South Africa) - - CONTENTS - By Tula Kar­ras

1 OPEN A WIN­DOW

Sure, you don’t want your heat­ing or cool­ing bill to go through the roof, but keep­ing your home air­tight can lock in ir­ri­tants, says con­sumer-science spe­cial­ist Carolyn Forte. To help, open win­dows on nice days. Crack one as you make din­ner to di­lute cook­ing pol­lu­tants, and cre­ate a stronger cross draft by open­ing win­dows on op­po­site sides of the room.

2 LOSE THE LAM­I­NATE

In­stalling new floors? Opt for pre­fin­ished solid wood or tile. Lam­i­nate is a po­ten­tial source of formalde­hyde (which may in­crease can­cer risk if a per­son is ex­posed to very high lev­els) and other volatile or­ganic com­pounds (VOCs), all of which give off harm­ful gases and can ir­ri­tate air­ways and in­crease al­lergy symp­toms.

3 SWAP THE DUSTER FOR A MI­CROFI­Bre CLOTH

In­stead of send­ing par­ti­cles into the air with a feather duster, use a mi­crofi­bre cloth. The ul­tra­fine fi­bres trap and hold dirt.

4 MON­I­TOR HU­MID­ITY

Mould thrives in damp base­ments and bath­rooms and can trig­ger breath­ing is­sues. Avoid prob­lems by run­ning the fan or open­ing a win­dow when show­er­ing – and watch­ing your home’s hu­mid­ity (30% to 40% is ideal). If it’s over 40%, con­sider a dehumidifier, says en­ergy re­search an­a­lyst Jen King.

5 TRY A SCENTFREE DE­TER­GENT

Your clean laun­dry may have a dirty lit­tle se­cret. A study at The Univer­sity of Mel­bourne in Aus­tralia on chem­i­cals com­ing out of a tum­ble-dryer vent af­ter clothes were cleaned with fra­granced de­ter­gent and dryer sheets found dozens of VOCs, and haz­ardous pol­lu­tants. If a fam­ily mem­ber is sen­si­tive to scent, try a fra­grance-free prod­uct.

6 CHOOSE SPRAY BOTTLES

Some aerosol clean­ers, per­son­al­care prod­ucts and de­odoris­ers use VOCs (like bu­tane, propane, isobu­tane) as pro­pel­lants to re­lease what’s in­side. If you’re con­cerned, skip aerosols in favour of pump and trig­ger sprays, or opt for an al­ter­nate form, like a solid or a roll-on. For more info on in­gre­di­ents, check com­pany web­sites or re­sources like the En­vi­ron­men­tal Work­ing Group’s Skin Deep ( www.ewg. org/skindeep) and global safety-science com­pany UL’s healthy-prod­uct scor­ing tool, www.goodguide.com, which rates in­gre­di­ents by their health haz­ards.

7 re­think your vac­uum

Buy one that’s sealed and has a bag. They’re best at trap­ping dust in­stead of send­ing it back into the air. Look for one with a high-ef­fi­ciency par­tic­u­late air (HEPA) fil­ter to re­move at least 99,97% of ul­tra­small par­ti­cles that can cause health prob­lems. Our ex­perts rec­om­mend Miele. In tests, the vac­u­ums clean like a dream and cap­ture dust and dirt par­ti­cles.

8 CLEAR THE AIR – LIT­ER­ALLY

Nab dust, pollen and smoke from cook­ing or can­dles with an air pu­ri­fier. Make sure it has the right clean-air de­liv­ery rate (CADR) for your room size (most list square footage on pack­ag­ing or the web­site). Prefer­ably look for one that draws in air from all sides and is easy to set up.

9 WASH BE­FORE YOU WEAR

If your new shirt is made from wrin­kle-free fab­ric, it may con­tain a low level of formalde­hyde. Most peo­ple are not both­ered at this level, but if you have sen­si­tive skin, give it a spin in the ma­chine be­fore you wear it.

10 ADOPT HARD-WORK­ING HOUSE PLANTS

Cer­tain plants are champs at fil­ter­ing formalde­hyde and VOCs from the air, says Dr Bill Wolver­ton, who has stud­ied plant fil­tra­tion for NASA. The mother of all fresh-air plants? The golden pothos, which thrives in­doors in a hang­ing bas­ket, in a pot or on a trel­lis. Go even greener by grow­ing plants in peb­bles or us­ing a hy­dro­cul­ture method, which ‘in­creases air­flow to roots and re­sults in up to 50% more formalde­hyde re­duc­tion than from pot­ted plants,’ says Wolver­ton. Su­per-air-fil­ter­ing plants that are hy­dro-friendly in­clude palms, rub­ber plants, peace lilies and Alii fi­cuses. (They all grow well in soil too.)

11 to 16 COOK CLEANER!

RUN YOUR OWN HOOD… ‘Every time you cook, ul­tra­fine par­ti­cles, among other pol­lu­tants, are cre­ated,’ says Brett Singer, a sci­en­tist at the Lawrence Berke­ley Na­tional Lab­o­ra­tory in the US who has stud­ied pol­lu­tants from cook­ing and how to re­duce the hazard. Help get rid of them by turn­ing on a vent hood fan that ex­hausts to the out­side. …AND KEEP IT RUN­NING Switch it on be­fore pre­heat­ing the oven or fir­ing up the burn­ers, and leave it run­ning for a few min­utes af­ter you’re done.

CON­SIDER AN ELEC­TRIC STOVE Gas burn­ers emit ni­tro­gen diox­ide that can ex­ceed ac­cept­able clean-air stan­dards when you cook a lot and don’t ven­ti­late.

PUT IT ON THE BACK BURNER Tests done by the Berke­ley Lab­o­ra­tory found that pol­lu­tants were ex­tracted from the air at a higher rate by ex­haust fans when food was cooked on back burn­ers.

HEAT ON MEDIUM Cook­ing at high tem­per­a­tures cre­ates more air pol­lu­tants, so opt for medium- or low-heat tech­niques such as slow-cook­ing, baking, sim­mer­ing and steam­ing on low.

AVOID FRY­ING FOODS Steam­ing, boil­ing, mi­crowav­ing and sautéing at low heat in­stead of fry­ing are not only ben­e­fi­cial for your heart health but also pro­duce fewer par­ti­cles that can get into the air than fry­ing at high heat does.

17 SLAP ON A COAT OF LOW- OR NON-VOC PAINT

Ex­pert test­ing shows that the re­sults you get with these newer for­mu­las are as high qual­ity as with tra­di­tional op­tions. When choos­ing your paint, seek one of these op­tions. They have a lower en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact – with­out sac­ri­fic­ing per­for­mance or colour se­lec­tion.

19 GET YOUR HOME TESTED FOR RADON

In Europe, the US and Canada, radon lev­els in homes are reg­u­larly tested, but this is less com­mon in SA, de­spite stud­ies show­ing high radon lev­els in some ar­eas. Radon, a nat­u­rally oc­cur­ring in­vis­i­ble and odour­less ra­dioac­tive gas – the lead­ing cause of can­cer in non­smok­ers – trav­els through ground soil into your home’s air. It’s not al­ways lim­ited to a par­tic­u­lar ge­o­graphic area, so even if your neigh­bour’s radon level is low, that doesn’t mean your home is clear. All homes should be tested for radon at least once. Buy a test­ing kit on­line or at a home-im­prove­ment store (three- to seven-day tests are about R600) or hire a cer­ti­fied radon pro­fes­sional to ad­min­is­ter tests.

20 COOK UP A HOME FRA­GRANCE

‘Some scented prod­ucts con­tain chem­i­cals that can cause or ag­gra­vate asthma and al­ler­gies,’ says Dr Bill Pease, chief sci­en­tist at UL. For a nat­u­ral al­ter­na­tive, turn to your spice rack or herb gar­den. Sim­mer cit­rus peels and cin­na­mon on the stove or ar­range fresh herbs (mint, rose­mary, laven­der) in vases.

18 GAUGE THE GLUE

Some cab­i­netry and pressed-wood fur­ni­ture may have been made with glue that has formalde­hyde, though it’s used less now. Ren­o­vat­ing? En­sure your new cab­i­nets are clean-air friendly.

21 use vac­uum at­tach­ments

Any soft sur­face will col­lect dust and pollen. Time to whip out your dust­ing and upholstery brushes and crevice tools to suck up dust from couch cush­ions, cur­tains and other items you can’t pop into the wash­ing ma­chine.

22 SEAL OFF AL­LER­GENS

The right mat­tress and pil­low cov­ers, like those avail­able from Pro­tect-A-Bed, not only pre­vent dust, pollen, pet dan­der and mites from set­tling into bed­ding, but also keep any­thing al­ready trapped there from es­cap­ing into the air.

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