I’ve traveled a lot over the past couple of months, speaking on wellness and prevention in countries from Norway to Nigeria, and many in between. I’ve been greeted warmly in so many different homes, hospitals, meeting facilities, hotels, and work environments. As much as I’ve enjoyed those trips, it’s brought into the limelight one topic for me. Something that’s sometimes easy to ignore.
I”m talking about pollution. Not just the toxins and pollutants in our land, air and water, but the pollutants in the indoor spaces we occupy every day. The ones we are sitting next to on the couch, sleeping with in our beds at night, working at our desks with, and mingling and meeting in on a frequent basis.
The Wold Health Organization has some staggering figures on how many people die each year prematurely from illnesses attributed to household air pollution. We are talking millions of people around the world. Almost half of the deaths caused by pneumonia of children under 5 are contributed to pollution inside those children’s own homes. If numbers like that aren’t a wake-up call, I don’t know what is.
So what is causing this pollution inside our homes and indoor spaces? The truth is, those answers vary around the world, and often by economy. In lower to middle income countries, much of that indoor pollution is caused by cooking with solid fuels — things like crop waste, charcoal, wood, and even dung. But also by cooking with kerosene in open fires and with stoves that are wildly inefficient.
In wealthier countries, the sources change but are no less dangerous. Take for example the radioactive gas radon. It seeps in through the ground beneath our homes and in our well water. Then there’s factors like secondhand smoke, mold and mildew in our walls and ceilings, carbon monoxide leaks, and VOC’s in our cleaning supplies, markers, pesticides and even our printers.
The particles we breathe in from fireplaces and wood stoves can increase our risk of cancer. So can the pesticides we track in from lawns, not to mention the asbestos that many older homes and buildings were built from the ground up with. And these are just some of the factors people face every single minute they spend indoors.
But do not despair. There are things we can do. One of my consulting services even addresses this topic specifically. Both from a scientific and human perspective, thankfully there is hope.
There are tests that can be conducted inside homes and buildings to accurately determine specific pollutants, uncovering their sources and their severity. Once discovered, individualized plans can be implemented to either remove completely or severely reduce pollutants. Environmentally sustainable designs for heating, air conditioning and ventilation can be considered and implemented. Even small things like household plants, especially aloe vera, Boston ferns and English ivy can help. They are good at removing chemical and biological compounds from the air.
As a community, we can advocate for cleaner fuels, more efficient stoves, and lower or no VOC’s in products. We can support wood-stove exchange programs, better ventilation in school systems and education-based programs that help people understand the dangers of indoor pollution.
To counteract what those household pollutants are doing to our bodies, we can detox not as a quick fix, but on 365 day a year basis. We can ingest the non-gmo, organic fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts and supplements that help to replenish our cells and make us stronger and healthier every day.
One of my goals is to help people make a positive and sizable difference in their indoor environment. Together, we can help to prevent the onset of illness brought on by indoor pollution — heart disease, pneumonia, asthma, cancer, and stroke. So that one day, we will all be able to sit back, relax and really enjoy the great indoors.