Posted by Danielle Downs on Jan.26, 2009
The increase in asthma cases illustrates the relationship between the sensitivity of small children and the increased use of petrochemicals and toxic household products. Asthma is an all too common problem in children. EPA reports that since 1980, the biggest growth in asthma cases has been in children under five. Understanding the causes of asthma illustrates the direct relationship between indoor air quality and health.
Chlorine has been linked to childhood and adult asthma. Chlorine, when combined with organic substances such as skin particles, hair follicles, water-borne bacteria, and even sweat and urine, forms a dangerous family of compounds known as Trihalomethanes (THMs). Prolonged inhalation of all levels of THMs and such chlorine gases as those found near an indoor swimming pool, will not only cause asthma, but will irritate the sensitive areas in the eyes, nose, and throat, as well. Amazingly, the chemicals found near indoor pools constitute only about 1/4 of the chemical vapors that result from showering in chlorinated water.
Municipal water, chlorine bleach, and chemical whitening agents can all increase the risk of developing asthma because of the THM compounds. Two recent European studies deeply scrutinized these substances in order to determine their negative health effects. Researchers found that nitrogen trichloride, one of the many known THMs, was a main culprit in many forms of occupational asthma. Fortunately, once the study participants were removed from exposure to the harmful chemical, their asthma symptoms showed dramatic improvements over a relatively short period of time. Many of the participants were even relieved of the burden of steroid inhalers. These studies have now proven that these harmful chemicals may actually cause asthma in previously healthy individuals.
Chlorine has long been known as a dangerous chemical, yet we use it in our water supply and homes every day. It is commonly used as a bleaching agent in household bleach such as Clorox. Though it will get whites whiter, this chemical is extremely irritating to the lungs, skin, and mucus membranes. It was used as a powerful poison in World War I. Chlorine is the household chemical most frequently involved in household poisonings. Chlorine also ranks first in causing industrial injuries and deaths resulting from large industrial accidents. The residues left behind, known as organochlorides, have been linked to many cancers including breast cancer.
Getting the Bleach Out
For whitening clothes, it’s best to do away with bleach all together. Peroxide based whiteners are an alternative. Choosing natural fabrics that are unbleached or dyed with natural dyes are a great way to green you wardrobe and eliminate the demand for dangerous cleaning products.
The chlorine that is in your tap water is easy to remove. A pitcher of tap water left uncovered will off-gas or release it’s chlorine into the atmosphere if left to stand for several hours. For watering house plants, placing water buckets outdoors over night is a safe, effective, and economical way to allow that chlorine to off-gas without harming your indoor air quality.
For drinking and cooking water, a distiller is eco-nomical. A counter top water distiller costs about $80 and is virtually maintenance free. Some come with additional charcoal filters that need to be replaced every 50-70 gallons, depending on the quality of the water source. Having a home distiller is cost effective and ideal for the environment because it eliminates the need for plastics, shipping, and refrigeration of bottled water. The water distiller will remove chlorine, heavy metals, and minerals. It will also have a lower pH than tap water. Families on alkaline diets should invest in alkalinity mineral enhancers to mix into their water after distillation.
Whole home filters are also available to remove particulate matter from incoming water. These filters contain carbon, salts, or synthetics fibers to remove impurities from the water supply. Filters range in price and complexity. Investigate instillation options before beginning a whole home water filtration project.
Maintaining quality pipes can significantly impact your water quality. Copper piping has long been considered ideal for incoming waterlines. The trace minerals may have health benefits according to a variety of studies. Piping however does not remove chlorine from your water system.
If you have a well and use a water softener, it is important to check for chlorine compounds in the softening salts. Most properly dug and maintained wells have trace minerals that are beneficial to your health.
Article By: Danielle Downs
Profile: Danielle is an environmental advocate and health junkie. She has worked on sustainability initiatives in the US and abroad to reduce the use of petrochemicals and increase awareness of unsafe business practices. Eating local is how she keeps her family healthy, her carbon footprint low, and her dinner table ethical.
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