Greenguard Environmental Institute

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Editor’s Note: Each Wednesday My Green Side brings Simple Tips for Green Living to The Christopher Gabriel Program. We also highlight a favorite green site each week. You can stream the segment at approximately 1220pm (central) every Wednesday at or, if you’re in North Dakota or western Minnesota, listen on your radio at AM970 WDAY.

GREEN TIP: Finding ways to sustainably improve the quality of your indoor air will minimize your health risks. 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the American Lung Association, the World Health Organization and other public health and environmental organizations view indoor air pollution as one of the greatest risks to human health.

People can experience health effects from indoor air pollutants soon after exposure or years later. Immediate effects include irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, headaches, dizziness and fatigue. Such immediate effects are usually short term and treatable. Indoor air pollution may also trigger symptoms of some diseases, including asthma, dermatitis, allergic rhinitis and hypersensitivity pneumonitis soon after exposure. More serious health effects may show up either years after exposure or only after long or repeated periods of exposure. These effects include some respiratory diseases, heart disease, cancer, reproductive and developmental problems, and they can be severely debilitating or fatal.

Indoor air is typically 2 to 5 times more polluted than outdoor air

Most of our exposure to environmental pollutants occurs by breathing the air indoors. These pollutants come from activities, products and materials we use every day. The air in our homes, schools and offices can be 2 to 5 times more polluted, and in some cases 100 times more polluted, than outdoor air.

People Spend 90 Percent of Their Time Indoors

Indoor air quality is a significant concern, because when the hours spent sleeping, working in offices or at school are added up, people on average spend the vast majority of their time indoors where they are repeatedly exposed to indoor air pollutants. In fact, the EPA estimates that the average person receives 72 percent of their chemical exposure at home, which means the very places most people consider safest paradoxically exposes them to the greatest amounts of potentially hazardous pollutants.

Source: Greenguard Environmental Institute

Some ways to improve indoor air quality:

1.  Houseplants are some of the most effective air cleaners.

  • Aloe Vera soothes burns and removes formaldehyde from the air.
  • Corn plants remove benzene and cigarette smoke from the air.
  • Spider plants absorb carbon monoxide.
  • Peace lilies remove acetone, trichloroethylene, benzene and formaldehyde.
  • Dwarf date palms negate harmful effects from xylene (found in paints).

Source: Natural Health Magazine, July/August 2010

2.  Minimize chemical pollutants.

  • Avoid smoking indoors. Tobacco smoke contains thousands of indoor pollutants at high concentrations.
  • Minimize the use of harsh cleaners or cleaners with strong fragrances. Anything that is artificially scented pollutes your environment. The word “fragrance” on a label can mask up to 100 different chemicals, and synthetic scents have been found to trigger migraine headaches and asthma attacks.
  • Don’t idle cars, lawnmowers and so on in the garage (especially attached garages).

For more tips on improving indoor air, visit Greenguard Environmental Institute.

Check out this really amazing air purifier – the ANDREA air filter. ANDREA employs both active plant filtration, along with water and soil to provide a multistage system that cleanses air from harmful toxins that can irritate and be harmful to your lungs. It naturally purifies air by drawing it with a whisper-quiet fan to propel it through the leaves and root system of a plant, then out through water and soil filtration and back into the room environment.

My Green Side’s web pick of the week:

Greenguard Environmental Institute
The GREENGUARD Environmental Institute (GEI) was founded in 2001 with the mission of improving human health and quality of life by enhancing indoor air quality and reducing people’s exposure to chemicals and other pollutants. In keeping with that mission, GEI certifies products and materials for low chemical emissions and provides a free resource for choosing healthier products and materials for indoor environments.

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