In the middle of winter, it’s easy to assume that those dull headaches, raspy throats and stuffy noses are just another bout of flu or the common cold, but those symptoms could also be triggered by irritating chemicals inside your home.
Furthermore, there are some indoor air pollutants that you may not be allergic to but still pose other, less obvious health risks in the long term. Evicting these sneaky houseguests is extremely important during the short days and long months we spend cooped up inside.
A 2003 study published in Environmental Science & Technology and conducted by the Silent Spring Institute, an environmental health organization, found 66 endocrine-disrupting compounds (EDCs), which interfere with reproductive function in animal studies, in the vacuum-cleaner dust of all the 120 homes studied. In a 2005 study by Clean Production Action, a Canadian-based nonprofit, researchers found EDCs, including phthalates, alkylphenols, pesticides, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), organotins and perfluorinated compounds, in the vacuum-cleaner dust of all 70 homes they tested.
Here’s a short breakdown of the most common chemical pollutants:
Alkylphenols: found in household cleansers, laundry detergents cosmetics, textiles and paints
PBDEs: flame retardants used in electronics
Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanyl sulfonate (PFOS): chemical finishes used on water- and stain-resistant fabrics, non-stick pans, microwave popcorn bags, pizza boxes and other food wrappers
Phthalates: chemicals used to make vinyl products flexible and synthetic fragrances last longer
Pyrethroids: pesticides used in many household bug sprays and moth-proofing treatments
Ammonia: can trigger asthma; skin/eye/throat/lung irritant
Formaldehyde: emitted by pressed wood, particleboard, wood finishes, paints and some fabric finishes
Toluene: emitted by automobiles, some paints and thinners, fingernail polish and carpet adhesives