8 Powerful But Simple Changes to Make You Healthier

8 Powerful Yet Simple Changes to Make You Healthier at Home

Sometimes it seems that making healthy choices is a burden. It’s easy to become overwhelmed with that healthy choice list that you “should” do, but can’t fit into your life.  Trying to fit more “healthy” into your life can feel like trying to fit into that pencil skirt after the holidays. Fortunately, you can make powerful yet simple changes today that will reduce your exposure to nasty additives, making it easier to live well at home.

8 Simple Changes to Live Healthier at Home

Here’s a list of 8 changes you can make today, with little effort. No shopping needed. In fact, some might actually save you some time.


1. Stop Using Scented Candles


Perfumed candles have a few strikes against them. First, most candle makers use paraffin, a chemically-bleached petroleum by-product. When you burn paraffin, it pollutes your air.

Second, candle makers use synthetic perfumes to scent candles. Neither the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) nor the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) aggressively regulates these synthetic perfumes. As a result, you have no way of knowing what’s being released into your air. Perfumes can contain any one of 3,000 or more ingredients many toxic and unregulated. Some fragrances contain phthalates and other substances known to cause cancer and disrupt hormones.

The third strike against perfumed candles are the wicks. Some manufacturers make candles with wicks that contain lead. By avoiding scented candles, you can improve your indoor air quality and breathe easier. Healthier substitutes are available.


2. Toss Scratched Kitchen Plastic


If you’re still using plastic in your kitchen, take a look at your collection. You probably have more than you think if you include plastic storage containers, drinking cups, water bottles, cooking utensils, and other plastic. Chances are that your kitchen plastic is scratched from use.

Consider tossing your scratched and worn kitchen plastic into the recycling bin. The scratches may make it more likely that plastic toxins can leach into your food and drink. Plus anything hot can also cause a transfer of plastic materials into your food. Not exactly appetizing, or safe.

Plastic has a way of accumulating in a kitchen, so you probably won’t even miss the items you toss, and you’ll be healthier.


3. Avoid the Self-Cleaning Oven Feature


You may think that using the self-cleaning setting on your oven is a brilliant solution because it cleans without oven cleaner.

Unfortunately, the self-cleaning oven can fill your house with pollutants. When your oven reaches over 600 degrees, it can start emitting nasty fumes. These fumes come from your oven’s interior coating off-gassing or residual food burning and releasing carbon monoxide. Neither is good.

While it is well documented that pet birds can succumb to self-cleaning oven fumes, it’s unclear how toxic the fumes are to humans, with the exception of carbon monoxide.

Why risk it?

You know when you use the self-cleaning feature, your house fills with fumes that last for hours. Do you really want to breathe that?

Learn how to safely clean your oven without the dangerous fumes. It won’t consume more time. And, the benefit is much cleaner and healthier indoor air.


4. Open Your Windows


One of the simplest things you can do to make your home healthier is to open your windows.

Why? Because indoor air is dirtier than outdoor air. Airing out your house periodically will improve the air you breathe. EPA studies confirm that indoor air pollutants are typically 2-5 times higher than outdoor air.

How does indoor air get so polluted? It’s pretty simple. Your household furnishings and daily activities release Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). And then to make matters worse, most of the time you’ve got your windows closed trapping pollutants inside.

So, what is to blame for all the VOCs in your bedroom?

Here’s a partial list: carpets, paint, wall coverings, fabrics, scented candles, air fresheners, perfumes, pressed wood furniture, polyurethane foam furniture, adhesives, and showering.

One of the main indoor air polluting culprits is formaldehyde. Tests show formaldehyde in homes is 20-200 times higher than outdoor suburban air.

If it’s not practical to open your windows, you’ve got other options like an air cleaner that will purr gently, cleaning your air while you sleep. The top rated air cleaner is ideal for removing 99.97% of airborne dust, mold, formaldehyde, bacteria, viruses, pet dander, and pollen.


5. Stop Using Air Fresheners


If you only do one thing on this list, stop using air fresheners. Because government regulators like the CPSC have banned only a handful of hazardous chemicals, your air freshener can contain dangerous toxins. For example, the Environmental Working Group tested Febreze Air Effects and found 89 airborne contaminants including acetaldehyde which the EPA considers a likely human carcinogen.

In 2010, a University of Washington study found that eight widely used air fresheners released an average of 18 chemicals into the air. On average, one in five of these chemicals were hazardous substances. In addition, half the air fresheners tested released acetaldehyde, a likely carcinogen.

It’s frightening, isn’t it? By using air fresheners, you are releasing carcinogens and hormone disruptors into your home.


6. Toss Non-Stick Cookware


Non-stick cookware can release dangerous fumes if overheated. There’s actually a name for the flu-like symptoms. It’s called Polymer Fume Fever in humans. Overheated non-stick cookware fumes are sometimes fatal to birds.

You should try to avoid any type of non-stick cookware like pans, pie tins, and cupcake tins. And, don’t forget the cookie sheets. Non-stick pans that are scratched or worn may be more likely to release hazardous fumes and leach into your food, so consider tossing those items now.

Try these other great ways to cook without the worry or risk.

  • Stainless Steel (actually better for cooking than non-stick)
  • Cast Iron
  • Ceramic Baking Dishes
  • Glass Baking and Pie Dishes

7. Don’t Microwave in Plastic


Heating plastic in a microwave may result in more toxins leaching into your food. Find other options for safer microwaving. Use glass or ceramic and cover it with a paper towel rather than plastic.

You also may want to consider warming food on your stove or in the oven.


8. Air Out Dry Cleaning


The last simple change is about reducing your exposure to dry cleaning chemicals. Most dry cleaners use Perchlorethylene (PERC). Did you know that PERC is a suspected carcinogen and neurotoxin?

It’s true. And, a Georgetown University study proved PERC is retained in dry-cleaned clothes. One way to reduce the amount of PERC in your bedroom closet is to remove the dry cleaning bags and air out the clothes in a well-ventilated area before hanging in your closet.

You can also opt for the “press only” option in some cases instead of using full dry cleaning services.


Want to learn more about reducing toxins in your home and making the best choices for you and your family? Sign up for our 12-week e-course called The Zen of Pure Living. Each week, you’ll get a short email with important information and easy steps you can take.

8 powerful simple changes to make you healthier at home

 

8 Reasons to Love Your Home Air Cleaner

Is a Home Air Cleaner right for you? Check out these 8 reasons to own and love your home air cleaner. Click to read more or Pin to save for later.

Several years ago, I bought a home air cleaner. I put it in my bedroom and loved it. Then, I bought more. In fact, now I have six home air cleaners scattered throughout the house.

I placed air purifiers in the bedrooms, my office, the room with the kitty litter box, and the kitchen/dining area.

Why do I need so many? The air cleaner in the bedroom removes airborne allergens like mold, pollens, and dust.

Yes, dust!

It also removes VOCs generated from the shower and bath. These VOCs are created when the water chemicals used to disinfect water are heated and sprayed. The right kind of air cleaner can absorb these VOCs for cleaner, healthier air.

The one in the kitchen and dining area removes cooking odors, reduces VOCs from cooking on the gas stove, absorbs fireplace smoke particles, and reduces airborne dust. It also cleans up formaldehyde, benzene and other VOCs from new products we bring into our home. Finally, it clears the air when you’ve burned food while cooking.

At first, I was nervous about the background noise, but I find I can sleep soundly with the air cleaner purring quietly. It makes enough sound so I no longer hear the house’s creaks or the cat meowing outside my bedroom door.

Reasons to Own and Love Your Home Air Cleaner


Here’s a list of eight reasons to own and love your home air cleaner.

1. Ditch unhealthy air fresheners.

Why? Because the best air cleaners remove odors. As a result, you won’t need air fresheners. It’s better to avoid air fresheners because so many brands contain harmful substances that simply aren’t good for you.

2. Stop worrying about how your house smells.

You will never have to worry about your home smelling odd to guests because your air cleaner will reduce pet, cooking, fireplace, and moldy odors.

3. Dust less often.

While you’ll still have to do some dusting, you will discover that you won’t have to dust as often because a good air cleaner reduces the amount of airborne dust.

4. Live healthier.

Your air will have less mold, pet dander, bacteria, and viruses making it easier for you to live healthier.

5. Sneeze fewer times.

With fewer allergens in your house, you may have fewer allergy symptoms. A good air cleaner removes 99.97% of airborne allergens.

6. Help your immune system by reducing inflammation.

If you buy an air cleaner that removes chemical irritants, you will help your immune system by reducing inflammation. According to Dr. Mimi Guarneri, the body sees polluted air, chemical irritants, second-hand smoke and pesticides as foreign invaders. These “foreign invaders” turn on our immune system which can lead to chronic inflammation. Read more about VOCs and how they impact your health.

7. Remove neighboring odors.

Living in tight spaces typically means that you are more aware of your neighbors than you’d like. A home air cleaner can remove odors from cigarette smoke or cooking fumes, or whatever else your neighbors might be up to.

8. Reduce pet odors.

Let’s face it, pet odors caused by litter boxes or damp fur can make your place smell bad. An air cleaner can reduce dander and pet odor.

How to Choose the Best Air Cleaner

To get the benefits, you must choose the best home air cleaner designed to reduce allergens and VOCs. The best air cleaners have true medical HEPA filters combined with a special carbon filter. Check out the air cleaners we use in our home and our unbiased air purifier ratings and reviews.

Shop now for our recommended air cleaners!

23 of the Best Ways to a Healthier, Less Toxic Home

23 of the Best Ways to a Healthier, Less Toxic Home

Creating a healthier, less toxic home doesn’t have to be difficult. Get a good start by selecting a couple of the best ways to a healthier, less toxic home because it’s easy and you’ll feel better.

Create a Healthier, Less Toxic Home


1. Switch from perfume scented paraffin candles to pure beeswax candles. Perfume scented paraffin candles have a few strikes against them.

First, most candle makers use paraffin, a petroleum by-product that is chemically bleached and hardened. Burning paraffin pollutes your air. Second, these candles are typically synthetically scented. These synthetic perfumes are not well-regulated so you have no way of knowing what substances are released into your home. Perfumes can contain any one of 3,000 or more ingredients many toxic, unregulated and synthetic. Third, some candle wicks contain lead. Enough said.

You’ll love the natural scent of pure beeswax or you can enjoy scented beeswax with essential oils.


2. Opt for glass storage containers and not plastic. This is an easy change that you will love. The glass containers clean up more easily (no more oily residue), and you can easily see what’s been stored.

Using glass is especially important if you like to microwave leftovers because when plastic is heated, it’s more likely to leach into your food.


3. Filter your water using a counter top or water pitcher filter. Both solutions are portable and effective. And, you can easily install a counter top water filter in ten minutes or less.

You may think that your tap water is healthy, and your local water department has you covered.

But, do they?

A couple hundred common contaminants aren’t regulated yet. And, your water department isn’t perfect, so even regulated contaminants exceed safe levels from time to time. Learn why you should drink filtered water.


4. Rethink your use of plastic wrap by using it less often or not at all. Plastic wrap can be made with PVC or BPA. Neither is good.

Try Bee’s Wrap. It’s the perfect way to cover bowls and wrap cheeses, produce, sandwiches and nuts. Really anything. It’s made of organic cotton and bee’s wax.

And, it lasts. Up to one year. Wash it in cool water with mild soap.

Watch this short demo. The wraps are so versatile. The warmth of your hands molds the beeswax to whatever you are wrapping.

Read more about which plastics to avoid.


5. Fire your pest exterminator. Instead, use Diatomaceous Earth (DE) to control ants, roaches, and spiders. Sprinkle DE in problem areas under sinks, garages, basements, attics, and behind appliances. Never heard of DE?

DE is a white powder that is the fossilized remains of marine phytoplankton. When a roach (or any bug with an exoskeleton) comes into contact with DE, it gets under the shell, punctures the body, and kills the bug.

Sounds like just what you need, right?

But, admit it. It also sounds dangerous.

You don’t have to worry though because DE is completely non-toxic. While it certainly is dangerous to bugs with exoskeletons like roaches, all mammals are safe from its effects.

More good news.

There is no buildup of tolerance like poisons because the killing method is physical, not chemical.

Keep these things in mind:

  • Remember to keep the DE dry
  • Although you can eat food-grade DE and rub it on your skin, do not inhale DE because the silica is bad for your lungs (wear a mask when applying)
  • Buy it at your local natural gardening store or order from arbico-organics.com
  • Always use food grade DE and not pool grade DE

It’s the perfect all-natural insecticide. No harm to humans, your pets or the environment, but deadly to bugs.


6. Reduce dry cleaning chemicals in your closet. Most dry cleaners use Perchlorethylene (PERC). Did you know that PERC is a suspected carcinogen and neurotoxin?

It’s true. And to make matters worse, a Georgetown University study proved PERC is not only retained in dry-cleaned clothes, but also builds up with repeat cleanings.

You can get PERC out of your bedroom by following a few quick tips.

  • Remove the dry cleaning bags and air out your clothes before hanging in your closet.
  • Reduce dry cleanings by opting for the “press only” option.
  • Find a green alternative like a wet or CO2 cleaners–try nodryclean.com for details.

7. Replace toxic dryer sheets. Dryer sheets have two problems. They contain harmful chemicals that adhere to your laundry AND filter into your air. What should you use instead?

Try dryer balls. You can either make your own or buy them. Dryer balls made of 100% wool naturally soften your laundry in the dryer. They last for months.

Wool Dryer Balls

Add a couple drops of lavender essential oil to the dryer balls so when you slip into bed at night, your sheets will smell great.


8. Dust more! You may want to move dusting and vacuuming closer to the top of your housekeeping list.

Many products in your home contain flame retardants including:

  • Electronic devices – computers, TVs, and clocks
  • Polyurethane foam – mattresses and pillows

So what do flame retardants have to do with dusting and vacuuming?

Chemical flame retardants escape from your home products and become household dust. You can inhale flame retardant dust or ingest it. Ingestion happens primarily with small children who put everything into their mouths.

The EPA “is concerned that certain flame retardants are persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic to both humans and the environment.”

It’s scary, right?


9. Change your hand soap to a Triclosan-free soap. Read the label on your liquid hand soap. Does it contain Triclosan and triclocarban? They are antibacterial chemicals commonly added to consumer products. Laboratory studies show they disrupt hormones and can encourage the growth of drug-resistant bacteria or “superbugs.”

It’s a challenge finding a hand soap without these harmful ingredients. What to use instead? Try this foaming hand soap or this liquid soap that are free of parabens, phthalates, and triclosan. The Environmental Working Group rating is a 0 out of 10 meaning these are the safest products you can use.

Foaming Hand Soap - Triclosan-Free


10. Stop using air freshening products. The Environmental Working Group tested Febreze Air Effects and found 89 airborne contaminants including acetaldehyde which the EPA considers a likely human carcinogen.

In 2010, a University of Washington study found that eight widely used air fresheners released an average of 18 chemicals into the air. On average, one in five of these chemicals were hazardous substances.

Half the air fresheners tested released acetaldehyde, a likely carcinogen.

Kinda frightening, isn’t it?

By using air freshener chemicals, you are releasing carcinogens and hormone disruptors into your home.


11. Ditch your vinyl shower curtain. Plastic shower curtains made with Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) are toxic to your health. You may have noticed a strong smell when you opened a new vinyl shower curtain or had a vinyl shower curtain in your hotel room.

A study showed these PVC shower curtains release as many as 108 volatile organic compounds (VOCs) some of which cause developmental damage as well as damage to the liver and central nervous, respiratory and reproductive systems.

In addition to VOCs, the shower curtains were also found to contain phthalates and metals. The study found some of these chemicals lingered in the air 28 days after a curtain was hung. Clearly, this is a significant contributor to indoor air pollution that is easily avoided.

Your best bet is to look for shower curtains with a vinyl-free or PVC-free label or ones made of organic cotton. Also, many bath mats are made with vinyl, so shop for mats made with silicone instead.


12. Use Zero VOC paints and stains. Here are a few facts you need to know about paint.

– Low VOC paints actually have a lot of VOCs, so don’t buy low VOC paints.

– Zero VOC paints only have 5 grams/liter or less of VOCs, but these paints may include other chemicals that simply aren’t good for you.

Look for Zero VOC and the Green Seal 11 -2008 certification.

It’s not just about the odor. Paint releases VOCs long after the paint is dry and you can no longer smell the odor. So, buying zero VOC paints is a healthy choice.

Zero VOC Paints

Finding paint without carcinogens, reproductive toxins or ozone depleting compounds was a chore. It’s easier now. Benjamin Moore Natura™ and Aura™ interior latex paints are good choices because the paints are Zero VOC as well as Green Seal certified. And, they are readily available.

Get information on other safe paint brands. And, remember to choose zero VOC primer.


12. Limit use of bottled water. Aside from the astounding waste problem, there’s another problem with bottled water. The bottled water industry is completely unregulated, so no one is watching out for you.

Who knew?

The water quality might be better or worse than your tap water. No one really knows.

In a Natural Resources Defense Council study, 22% of bottled water brands contained chemical contaminants at levels above health limits. That’s almost a quarter over the limits for what’s deemed healthy.

Sigh.

Also, phthalates can leach from the plastic bottles or lids on glass bottles after being stored for just ten weeks. Unlike tap water, no one regulates phthalates in bottled water. (source: NRDC: bottled water)

So, what to use instead? Carry your own water in a glass or stainless steel bottle. Or, get a bottle that filters water as you drink so you always have clean water.


13.  If you are using a pillow made with synthetic materials, you could be sleeping with any number of dangerous chemicals like toluene diisocyanate, formaldehyde, PBDE’s just to name a few.  Toss that old chemical-laden synthetic pillow and start sleeping with a chemical free natural pillow.

You have many options for all natural pillows without flame retardants like natural latex, lambswool, buckwheat, and kapok. You may even find you have less neck and shoulder pain sleeping with a new all natural, well-made pillow.

All Natural Pillows


14. Try an all natural deodorant that really works. If you’ve tried other all natural deodorants, you know how difficult it is to find one that really works. So, if you’re like most people, you revert back to your original brand with the questionable ingredients. After all, you’re not interested in offending people.

Here’s one deodorant with safe ingredients that works. It’s free of parabens, phthalates, triclosan, and aluminum. So if you’ve got it in you to try one more, this is a good bet.


15. Instead of liquid fabric softener add 1/2 cup white vinegar to your laundry final rinse. Many washers have a special rinse cycle setting that you can use.

Why switch? Many liquid fabric softeners can harmful ingredients that you should avoid.


16. Use safe kitchen cleaners. Many kitchen cleaners contain harmful ingredients. The Consumer Products Safety Commission regulates these items and has lax guidelines for ingredient disclosure.

So lax, in fact, that manufacturers can disclose all, some or none of the ingredients. So, even if you do a good job of label reading, you could still be using a product that produces harmful fumes.

It’s disturbing, isn’t it?

Learn more about what’s in your cleaners and soaps. Find safer alternatives for kitchen cleaning products.


17. Do not use your self-cleaning oven feature. You may think that using the self-cleaning setting on your oven is a great idea because you’re simply heating up the oven and not using any cleaners.

Unfortunately, when your oven reaches over 600 degrees, it can start emitting nasty fumes. These fumes come from your oven’s interior coating off-gassing or residual food burning and releasing carbon monoxide. Neither is good.

While it is well documented that pet birds can succumb to self-cleaning oven fumes, it’s unclear how toxic the fumes are to humans, with the exception of carbon monoxide.

Why risk it?

You know when you use the self-cleaning feature, your house fills with fumes that last for hours. Do you really want to breathe that?

Learn how to safely clean your oven without the dangerous fumes.

The Surprising Way to Clean Your Oven Without Fumes


18. Opt for an organic, all natural mattress. Due to strict fire safety standards, conventional mattress makers use large amounts of flame retardants to meet safety regulations. While it is generally accepted that these fire-retardant chemicals are toxic at a certain level, the debate continues to wage about safe levels.

All natural/organic mattresses use naturally flame retardant wool coverings to comply with safety regulations. With organic mattresses, you don’t have to worry about inhaling or absorbing harmful chemicals.

When shopping for an organic mattress, look for 100% all natural latex.

Why?

Because man-made latex can release harmful chemicals.

If an organic mattress is not practical, you have other options. Consider an organic mattress topper. It can act as a safe, chemical-free barrier between you and your conventional mattress.


19. Open your windows. One of the simplest things you can do to make your home healthier is to open your windows.

Why? Because indoor air is dirtier than outdoor air. Airing out your house periodically will improve the air you breathe. EPA studies confirm that indoor air pollutants are typically 2-5 times higher than outdoor air.

How does indoor air get so polluted? It’s pretty simple. Your household furnishings and daily activities release Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). And then to make matters worse, most of the time you’ve got your windows closed trapping pollutants inside.

So, what is to blame for all the VOCs in your bedroom?

Here’s a partial list: carpets, paint, wall coverings, fabrics, scented candles, air fresheners, perfumes, pressed wood furniture, polyurethane foam furniture, adhesives, and showering.

One of the main indoor air polluting culprits is formaldehyde. Tests show formaldehyde in homes is 20-200 times higher than outdoor suburban air.

If it’s not practical to open your windows, then get an air cleaner that will purr gently, cleaning your air while you sleep. The top rated air cleaner is ideal for removing 99.97% of airborne dust, mold, formaldehyde, bacteria, viruses, pet dander and pollen.


20. Try a new perfume that doesn’t contain harmful substances. Perfumes can include any one of 3,000 or more ingredients that are synthetic, petroleum-based and toxic. Some formulations include formaldehyde (a known carcinogen) and phthalates which are increasingly linked to brain, behavioral changes, cancer and reproductive system harm.

Givescent is one brand to try. Its perfumes are free of alcohol, formaldehyde, parabens, phthalates and sulfates. The scents are lovely and alluring. And, they support wonderful organizations that aid women including Women for Women International and Every Mother Counts. Five percent of each sale goes to these worthy organizations.

Givescent All Natural Perfume


21. Avoid non-stick cookware. You should try to avoid any type of non-stick cookware like pans, pie tins and cupcake tins. And, don’t forget the cookie sheets.

Non-stick cookware can release dangerous fumes if overheated. There’s actually a name for the flu-like symptoms. It’s called Polymer Fume Fever in humans. Overheated non-stick cookware fumes are sometimes fatal to birds.

Try these other great ways to cook without the worry or risk.

  • Stainless Steel (actually better for cooking than non-stick)
  • Cast Iron
  • Ceramic Baking Dishes
  • Glass Baking and Pie Dishes

22. Switch to safer personal care products. Research shows that harmful ingredients from your personal care products like phthalates, parabens, triclosan, and sunscreen ingredients are commonplace in the bodies of men, women and children.

So, how do you find safer products?

Use the EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. The site has over 70,000 product ratings. Start with one product type like hair and bath products, and then move on to other products. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, so take small steps. After you enter the product name, the database will return a rating and risk information. The database also provides safer alternatives.

To get you started, try these highly rated brands.

 


23. The last way to a healthier, less toxic home is to sign up for the 12-week email series called The Zen of Pure Living. Each week, you’ll cover a different topic.

The emails take about 5-6 minutes to read. If you’re a real overachiever, you can click on the “learn more” links within the emails, but it’s not necessary to get the facts you need. And, most importantly, you’ll get a short list of next steps.

Subscribers call it a “must read”.

Zen of Pure Living Register Now

Sign up today! You’ll be happy you did.

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How to Know if You’re Buying the Best Air Purifier

How to Know if You're Buying the Best Air Purifier

Deciding on an air purifier is a big decision, so you’ll need reliable information. You need the facts because you don’t want to buy an inferior product that won’t work as advertised. You also don’t want to spend a small fortune maintaining your purifier. Sadly, many purifiers end up costing more to maintain over five years than the original cost!

How to Buy the Best Air Purifier

In this article, you’ll learn a few critical facts about indoor air pollutants, how air purifiers work and which is the best air purifier.

So whether you’re looking for the best air purifier for smoke, mold, VOCs, pet dander, allergies, dust or asthma, this is your best air purifier buying guide. By the time you finish this article, you should know which air purifier you’re going to buy.


Why You Want an Air Purifier that Removes Both Types of Indoor Pollutants


Indoor air pollutants fall into two categories. For your health, it is important to control both types. And, it’s good to remember, indoor air is 2 to 5 times more polluted than outdoor air (EPA.GOV).

  • Fine & Coarse Particulate Matter (PM) – includes dust, cooking and tobacco smoke, pollen and plant spores, animal dander, dust mites, molds, bacteria, and viruses. Exposure to Fine PM has been linked to many health risks including premature death (EPA.GOV).
  • Gaseous Pollutants or Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) – These can come from flooring, gas cooking stoves, carpets, upholstered furniture, paint, adhesives, cleaning products, pesticides, new construction, electronics, and sadly enough air fresheners. One of the most prevalent VOCs in the home is formaldehyde, a known carcinogen.

Results from research show that VOCs from materials and finishes, cleaning products, personal care products and other consumer products result in increased risk of asthma, pulmonary infections, and allergies (Mendell 2007). Some chemicals may have health impacts at extremely low levels; studies have found that exposure to very small traces of VOCs in homes and schools can disrupt the endocrine system (hormones), gene activation, and brain development.

The best air purifiers reduce PM and VOCs. Reducing these in your home is important to your health.


Isn’t My HVAC System Filtering My Indoor Air?


You’re probably thinking that your HVAC system has air filters that you change every 1-3 months, so aren’t they filtering your indoor air?

While it is true that your HVAC has in-line air filters, these filters were really designed to protect your furnace and air conditioning system from dust and other large airborne particles. They will not remove fine PM or VOCs.


How to Remove Dangerous PM From Your Home


The best solution for removing indoor PM is a HEPA filter. In order to trap the finer, more dangerous particles that can travel deep into the lungs and cause health problems, you need a filter that incorporates a High Efficiency Particulate Arrestance (HEPA) filter. True HEPA medical filters remove at least 99.97% of all airborne particles 0.3 microns in diameter or greater.

When buying an air purifier look for true HEPA medical filters. If the description doesn’t say HEPA medical filter, don’t buy it. Pay attention to the number of sq. ft. of HEPA medical filter. The higher the sq. footage of filter, the longer the filter will last and the higher the value to you.


How to Remove Unhealthy VOCs From Your Home


VOCs are generally so small they cannot be removed by HEPA filters. To remove these pollutants, you need a material called a “sorbent” which is a highly porous substance that can adsorb or bind with VOCs on a molecular basis across a large internal surface area.

The most common adsorbent (not a typo – there really is a word adsorbent) material used in air filters is activated carbon. One pound of activated carbon has a surface area equal to about 125 acres. Another adsorbent is the alumino-silicate crystal structure known as “zeolite”.

Activated carbon and zeolite have different pore sizes and structures, and when used together, they can adsorb a greater range of chemicals. Finally there are “chemisorbents” that are designed to remove specific chemicals and impregnated into the filter.

When evaluating air purifiers, pay special attention to the adsorbents. Adsorbent materials have a finite capacity, so the more activated carbon and/or zeolite present in your filter, the greater the capacity to remove VOCs and the longer the life of the filter.

Compare the number of pounds of activated carbon in air purifier filters. Determine if the filter has added adsorbents and chemisorbents. The best air purifiers have many pounds of activated carbon along with adsorbents and chemisorbents.


Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) Doesn’t Tell the Whole Story (so don’t be fooled)


The CADR is flawed. CADR measures (1) an air filter’s effectiveness at removing specific particles-dust, pollen, and smoke; and (2) the volume of air cleaned during a 20 minute test.

Sounds great, right? Well, there’s more to the story.

There are good reasons to look beyond these numbers when deciding which air filter to buy. First, the CADR standard only tests for particle filtration and does not consider VOC removal which is critical for clean air.

Second, the range of particles tested is from 0.1 to 11.0 microns, but it does not specify results at removing smaller particles vs. larger particles, just overall removal. And, we know that the Fine PM are the most damaging to our health, it is important to know the air filters efficiency at removing these finer particles.

So, when comparing air purifiers, don’t bother using the CADR to decide. Why? Because an air purifier could have a very good CADR, but it could be failing to remove the most dangerous contaminants like Fine PM and VOCs.


What Does CFM Mean for Clean Air?


CFM is a measure of how many cubic feet/minute the air purifier handles. The higher the CFM, the more air changes per hour and the cleaner your air.

Here’s the formula to understand how many times an hour your air is changed/cleaned based on the air purifier’s CFM cleaning rate:

(CFM x 60 min) / (room height x width x length in feet)

Example: (400 CFM x 60 min) / (9′ x 40′ x 30′) = 2.2 changes/hour

Compare a lower CFM rating of 250:

(250 x 60) / (9′ x 40′ x 30′) = 1.4 changes/hour

The higher CFM rating of 400, cleans the air 36% more often than the lower rated version.

The air purifier you buy should have a high CFM to be most effective at cleaning your air.


Air Purifier Reviews – A Look at the Best


We searched the marketplace for air purifiers that could effectively remove PM and VOCs. We scoured the spec sheets on literally dozens of air filters and spoke with the manufacturers. We also looked at a lot of “best rated air filters” web sites (most are pushing one particular brand, certainly not the best). What we found was just a lot of plain old bad or misleading information.

Most of the companies that claimed their filters removed VOC’s were actually using filters “impregnated” with activated carbon and not a true carbon filter.

Kind of disappointing, right?

If you are serious about removing VOC’s and gases from your indoor air, you’ll want an air filter that measures their activated carbon in pounds, not ounces.

Ultimately, we found only a handful of companies that were making air purifiers that used significant amounts of both true HEPA medical filters and activated carbon in their filters. We included those in the final air cleaner rankings and reviews listed below.

Air Purifier Review

Look at the 5 Yr Filter Costs!

If you bought a Blueair 503 with SmokeStop, you’d pay a whopping $1490 in filters over five years. Compare that to the Austin Air Healthmate Plus at a fraction of the cost ($353).

Air Purifier Five Year Cost


Why We Recommend Austin Air Cleaners


Clearly, in terms of performance and long-term value, no other air cleaner manufacturer really comes close to Austin Air. As you can see from the chart above, the Austin Air Cleaners are ranked at the top in size of HEPA filter, number of pounds of Activated Carbon, added Chemisorbents, amount of air cleaned per minute (CFM), filter life and total five-year cost of ownership.

In fact, the Austin Air machines are the only ones who have a five-year filter cost LESS than the initial purchase price. That means the disparity in the total cost of owning those other machines is only going to INCREASE the longer you own them!

The more closely you look at Austin Air Cleaners, the more impressed you will become. In addition to having a large HEPA filter, pounds of Activated Carbon, additional VOC/gases removal capability, great air cleaning power and the lowest cost of ownership, the other benefits include:

  • Austin Air unit is well-designed. By vacuuming the outside of the case, you are also vacuuming the pre-filter. This allows Austin Air to project an overall filter life of up to 5 years
  • Only company to offer any type of filter warranty and it’s a full five years
  • Made in USA for more than 30 years
  • Made with highest quality materials certified to not off-gas; powder coated all metal housing
  • Designed and built for continuous 24/7 operation
  • Chosen by the US Government (after extensive independent testing) to fulfill the largest deployment of air cleaners in American history
  • Selected by FEMA and The Red Cross to address serious indoor air quality concerns after 9/11

Which Austin Air Cleaner is Right for You?


Austin Air HealthMate™

Austin Air HealthMate™ Standard comes with 60 sq. ft. of certified medical grade true HEPA filtration that removes 99.97% of all particulates as small as 0.3 microns, and 95% of all particulates 0.1 microns and smaller.

In addition to an impressive HEPA filter, they use a full 15 lbs. of a proprietary blend of activated carbon and zeolite, the only company using such a blend in that large a quantity. Austin Air uses a powder coated all metal housing and is rated to 400 CFM.

Austin Air unit is well-designed. By vacuuming the outside of the case, you are also vacuuming the pre-filter. This allows Austin Air to project an overall filter and pre-filter life of 3-5 years, and they are the only company that offers a 5 year pro-rated warranty on their core HEPA/Carbon filter so if it does have to be replaced before 5 years, you will get a pro-rated cost reduction. This means that the long term cost of ownership for Austin Air is much better than their competition.

The standard size cleans up to 1500 sq. ft. while the Junior size cleans up to 700 sq. ft.

Austin Air Clean HealthMate

 


Austin Air HealthMate Plus™

In addition to the HealthMate™, Austin Air offers the HealthMate Plus™ developed for people suffering from chemical sensitivity as well as for people who have remodeled or are have future remodeling planned. Like the HealthMate™, the HealthMate Plus™ uses 15 lbs. of activated carbon/zeolite but the Plus air cleaner is impregnated with potassium iodide to offer even greater gas and VOC removal.

We think everyone needs the expanded gas and VOC removal capabilities since just about everything you bring into your home off-gases. Furniture, flooring, paint, wall and window coverings, cleaners, pesticides, air fresheners and more all release chemicals into your indoor air that are simply not good for you.

For those people suffering from extreme chemical sensitivities, selecting the HealthMate rather than the Plus is a good idea. Highly chemical sensitive people can smell the potassium iodide and are better off with the standard version.

The standard size cleans up to 1500 sq. ft. while the Junior size cleans up to 700 sq. ft.


Austin Air Allergy Machine™

Austin Air also offers the Allergy Machine™ designed for people struggling with severe allergies, asthma, and those living in areas prone to high amounts of seasonal pollen and dust issues. Austin Air developed a unique HEGA (High Efficiency Gas Absorbtion) filter for the Allergy machine. The HEGA filter combines a high-tech Military Grade Carbon Cloth filter for removing gas, VOC’s and odors with their medical grade true HEPA filter to deliver a filter especially well suited to removing airborne allergens.

The standard size cleans up to 1500 sq. ft. while the Junior size cleans up to 700 sq. ft.


Why Do We Only Sell Austin Air Cleaners?


We only sell Austin Air Cleaners for two simple reasons: first, we know we are selling the best product with the best value and second, it’s our mission to make your life easier. Having to check different choices and read a lot of comparisons and research makes your life hard. So, we’ve kept it simple. We’re fanatics about details and research so you can relax, buy an air purifier and move on with your life. Sound good?

Still have questions or are curious about another model? We’ll be happy to answer your questions or give feedback on other brands. Contact us. Check out the Austin Air Cleaner FAQs.

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Why It’s Not Healthy to Ignore Indoor Air Quality

How's Your Indoor Air Quality?

If you’re like most people, you don’t give much thought to indoor air quality. You’re more worried about outdoor air problems like ozone alert days.

But, what if you learned that your indoor air quality really matters to your health? That indoor air is typically more polluted than outdoor air?

Admit it. You’re skeptical.

But it’s true. Check out these facts because you owe it to yourself and your health.


The Facts About Indoor Air Quality Problems


  • Indoor air typically has considerably more pollutants than outdoor air (source epa.gov). For example, tests show that formaldehyde measures 20 to 200 times higher indoors compared to outdoor air. It’s a bit staggering to think about, isn’t it?
  • The most prevalent pollutants are Volatile Organic Compounds or VOCs.
  • Where do these VOCs come from?
    • carpets
    • plywood
    • perfumes
    • air fresheners
    • cleaning products
    • fabrics
    • mattresses
    • paint
    • solvents
    • lacquers
    • upholstered furniture
    • foam insulation
    • particle board
    • adhesives

Admit it. You’re surprised at some of the items on the list like air fresheners or your upholstered furniture. And, perfume? It’s really disappointing to learn that perfumed products release VOCs.

  • Formaldehyde is the most prevalent VOC pollutant in your home.
    • Since the 50’s, formaldehyde has been a basic material used in particle boards and plywood.
    • According to estimates, 85% of wood materials have adhesives containing formaldehyde.
    • Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen.
  • Formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds are more prevalent in new construction.
  • VOCs from common indoor materials and products result in increased risk of asthma, pulmonary infections, and allergies.
  • Some chemicals may have health impacts at extremely low levels.
    • Studies have found that exposure to very small traces of VOCs in homes and schools can disrupt the endocrine system (hormones), gene activation, and brain development.

How to Improve Indoor Air Quality and Breathe Easier


Before you despair, consider the following list of ways to improve your indoor air quality:

1. Open the windows

That’s right. To improve your indoor air quality, simply open your windows 15-30 minutes a day.

2. Use plants

Plants can absorb VOCs. According to Dr. Bill Wolverton an Environmental Scientist, plants can be used effectively to reduce VOCs. You’ll need two plants in 10-12” pots per 100 sq ft. It’s a lot of plants, so it may not work for every room. But, it’s a good option if you’ve just installed new flooring or furniture in your family room. You could put 3-5 plants in that room.

Want more information? Check out Wolverton’s book “Plants: Why You Can’t Live Without Them”.

  • Here are the top plants to buy based on the type of VOC you want to remove and the amount of sunlight required:
    • English Ivy
      • Thrives in low sunlight
      • Absorbs formaldehyde (carpeting, curtains, plywood, particle board furniture, and adhesives)
    • Peace Lily
      • Adapts well to low light but is poisonous to pets
      • Rids air of the VOC benzene (paints, furniture wax, and polishes) and acetone (electronics, adhesives, and some cleaners)
    • Lady Palm
      • Tree-like species
      • Targets ammonia (cleaners, textiles, and dyes)
    • Boston Fern
      • One of the most efficient air purifying plants for formaldehyde according to study published in HortScience
      • Requires moisture and humidity to thrive
      • Removes formaldehyde (carpeting, curtains, plywood, particle board furniture, and adhesives)
    • Snake Plant or Mother-in-Law’s Tongue
      • Thrives in low light
      • Lowers carbon dioxide and rids air of formaldehyde and benzene
    • Spider Plant
      • Easy to grow
      • Reduces formaldehyde and benzene

3. Use air cleaners/purifiers

The right air cleaner can effectively remove VOCs like benzene and formaldehyde. And, it will also remove 99.97% of airborne particles like dust, pollens, mold, pet dander, viruses, and bacteria.

Not all air cleaners eliminate VOCs, so read everything you need to know about air purifiers before purchasing. Austin Air makes a highly rated air cleaner. Learn more about the best rated Austin Air HealthMate Plus air cleaner. It’s whisper quiet and you’ll love how clean and fresh your home will smell.

4. Install drywall that absorbs VOCs.

AirRenew drywall absorbs VOCs for 75 years even when finished and painted with most paints up to 25 coats. It works by capturing the VOCs, converting the VOCs into inert compounds and safely storing the inert compounds within the drywall/gypsum board. It also provides enhanced moisture and mold resistance.

Sounds too good to be true, right?

Fortunately, UL Environment validated the drywall and Greenguard Indoor Air Quality certified it. Both reputable and worthwhile certifications. For more information, go to www.airrenew.com.

Unless you are renovating or building new, you may not be able to redo your entire home, but it could make sense to do the bedrooms and nursery.

5. Reduce the sources of the VOCs.

Well, this one is obvious. If you reduce the sources of pollutants, then you don’t have to spend so much time cleaning up.

But, how, and where do you start?

A great place to start is by signing up for the 12-week email series called The Zen of Pure Living. Each week, you’ll cover a different topic.

The emails take about 5-6 minutes to read. If you’re a real overachiever, you can click on the “learn more” links within the emails, but it’s not necessary to get the facts you need. And, most importantly, you’ll get a short list of next steps.

Try one or two of the suggestions. You don’t have to do them all. Any step toward reducing indoor pollutants will help you.

Zen of Pure Living Register Now

Sign up today! You’ll be happy you did.

 

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Sources:

NewScience UL – Indoor Air Pollution Overview 2014

Kim, Kwang Jin, Jeong, Myeong Il, Lee, Dong Woo, Song, Jeong Seob, Kim, Hyoung Deug, Yoo, Eun Ha, Jeong, Sun Jin, Han, Seung Won, Kays, Stanley J., Lim, Young-Wook, Kim, Ho-Hyun. Variation in Formaldehyde Removal Efficiency among Indoor Plant Species. HortScience, 2010; 45: 1489-1495

Birnbaum LS, Staskal DF. 2004. Brominated flame retardants: cause for concern? Environ Health Perspect 112(1): 9 – 17. January 2004.

Bornehag CG, Sundell J, Weschler CJ et al. 2004. The association between asthma and allergic symptoms in children and phthalates in house dust: a nested case-control study.Environ Health Perspect 112(14): 1393 – 1397. October 2004.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 2005. Third National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals 2005. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Atlanta, Georgia. 2005. Available online at http://www.cdc.gov/. Search for Exposure Report.

Mendell M. 2007. Indoor residential chemical emissions as risk factors for respiratory and allergic effects in children: a review.

Indoor Air Journal 17: 259 – 277. August 2007. Available online at http://pt.wkhealth.com/pt/re/inai/ abstract.00025549-200708000-00002.htm

Waldman, P. 2005. Levels of risk. Common industrial chemicals in tiny doses raise health issues.The Wall Street Journal. July 25, 2005. New York, New York. 2005.

Wilson PM, Chia DA and Ehlers BC. 2006. Green Chemistry in California: A Framework for Leadership in Chemicals Policy and Innovation. Prepared for The California Senate Environmental Quality Committee and The California Assembly Committee on Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials. California Policy Research Center. Berkeley, California. 2006. Available online at http://www.ucop.edu/cprc/documents/greenchemistryrpt.pdf.

Zajac L, Sprecher E, Landrigan P et al. 2009. A systemic review of US state environmental legislation and regulation with regards to the prevention of neurodevelopmental disabilities and asthma. Environmental Health. 8:9. March 26, 2009. Available online at www.ehjournal.net/content/8/1/9.