Did you know that as Americans, on average we spend 90 percent of our time indoors? Did you also know that the air inside our homes is at least 2 to 5 times more polluted than the air outside, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Environmental Working Group (EWG).
Despite this clearly looming hazard, most people never even pause to think about the contaminants they're exposed to daily indoors, much less take action to get rid of them—there tends to be a dangerous lack of awareness that indoor pollutants are even an issue.
Enter: EWG’s Healthy Living: Home Guide, which was released today. Though there are guides for construction and other commercial applications, the new EWG guide is the only green homes guide that focuses on human health, in addition to sustainability and green building for the average person.
Tasha Stoiber, EWG Senior Scientist, explained why the new guide is so important:
"I think awareness is one of the big problems when it comes to building materials and housewares. There's a false sense of security—people see things in the store and assume they're safe. I think it's really common to overlook toxic substances when you’re shopping for housewares."
"But slowly, people are really catching on to that, and real certified eco-friendly and nontoxic products (rather than just green-washed "natural" labeling) are becoming more mainstream."
Stoiber said, "We wanted this guide to be accessible and easy-to-use for everyone buying any type of homebuilding products. We also wanted to provide information on what certification you should trust and what labels matter." She emphasized that labels like FSC- certified, or Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified are trustworthy examples. When shopping for paint, you can look for labels like Green Seal-11 certified, water-based latex, and less than 50g VOC per liter.
Through the EWG Healthy Home Guide, you can search by room or project to making working on your home easy. It ranges from inexpensive changes like painting a room to bigger investments you can take on when building, remodeling, or redecorating.
The guide also includes more than 20 different types of products for building, making improvements, and furnishing your home. "There are some databases already out there, but we found a lot of them were fairly technical and geared towards builders or designers," Stoiber explained.
Keep in mind that it's not only indoor pollutants you need to worry about. You can also monitor your local air quality using resources like the EPA’s AirNOW website, and pay attention to air quality reports and advisories posted by your local government. You can search AirNOW using your zip code to learn more about your air quality, and what precautions you can take.
Another thing that’s really easy to do, but makes a huge impact, is to reduce household dust. There have been many household dust studies, and a lot of things shed fragrance and chemicals in household dust. All of them can have adverse health effects when we're exposed to them on a daily basis. To avert, "Use microfiber cloths to dust, and vacuum with a HEPA filter," advises Stoiber.
Here are four easy-to-make succulent planters to introduce some greenery to your home.
If you aren't going to replace your furniture, says Stoiber, something else that’s easy to do is swap out the foam in the cushions and get foam that does not have flame retardants applied to it. "If you remove the source of these flame retardants the pollutant levels will go down in your home, just like if you reduce household dust," she advises.
Final advice? Make sure to review the EWG Healthy Home Guide when you're making updates and renovations to your home.
"On a bigger scale, once people get more in tune with [what's in a lot of products], hopefully the demand for better products will go up," Stoiber says, "Right now you have to wade through a lot of shelves to find what you’re looking for. We're hoping to change that."
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