By MIKE FUNSTONSTAFF REPORTER
Originally published in The Toronto Star, Jan. 10, 2008 here
Lisa Borden was at a loss over what to do about her newborn daughter’s eczema, which persisted despite several months of treatment with a prescribed ointment.
It was her father, a physician, who suggested that the skin condition might be an allergic reaction to a household detergent or chemical.
So Borden eliminated a strong cleanser she was using for the bathtub along with some other household chemicals. Within three days, she noticed a dramatic improvement in daughter Joey’s skin.
The experience opened Borden’s eyes. The marketing consultant has since become a strong proponent of reducing the use of toxic chemicals in favour of greener alternatives. Now she counsels some of her clients on how to keep their indoor air fresh. She sells the Eco-Me line of green products for the home, body and even pets.
“We’ve become too afraid of dirt and germs,” she says.
“Bacteria actually stick to chemicals. A clean dry surface without chemicals retards bacterial growth.
“You don’t realize how bad some chemicals are until you eliminate them. I suggest going without them for a week. Use a cloth and water instead.”
Borden does much of her household cleaning with an E-cloth, which is made of millions of tiny fibres that trap and absorb minute particles of dust and dirt. They’re washable and may be reused. They retail for about $8. (For GTA locations, see lyndhurstnaturals.com.)
The Ontario Lung Association suggests that, whenever possible, people should avoid using hazardous household chemicals, such as pesticides, air fresheners, aerosol sprays and cleaning agents. Concentrations of indoor air pollution can exceed outdoor levels greatly, because of the number of chemicals being used in the home, combined with poor ventilation.
Risks associated with indoor air pollution include respiratory problems, irritation of the airways, asthma, bronchitis, a reduction in the functioning of the lungs and even lung cancer, the association says.
Some people are more sensitive to household pollutants than others, particularly those with allergies or weaker immune systems, such as children and the elderly.
Gord Cooke, a professional engineer, is an indoor air quality investigator and owner of Air Solutions Inc. (airsolutions.ca).
He’ll go into homes looking for causes of indoor air pollution and detail a plan to reduce or eliminate it. Cooke does an inventory of every factor affecting the air, using everything from electronic instruments to his nose, and provides recommendations to follow. The process takes about two hours.
Indoor air pollution is a growing problem because of our modern lifestyle. People are spending more time indoors – 90 per cent, not the 60 per cent of a few decades ago, Cooke says.
“And houses are tighter,” he says. They are sealed to prevent air leaks in the interest of energy conservation, and people don’t leave windows open as often as they used to.
“Right now, mould is a big issue. If you have a moisture problem in the basement and a musty smell, you should have it looked at; mould can cause serious allergic reactions in some people.”
One simple way to improve ventilation is to run bathroom fans a few hours a day, he says.
For most people, the presence of mould in the house has no effect, just as pollen in the air does not affect everyone. For asthmatics and those with allergies, it can cause major reactions.