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Is Your Home Making Your Family Sick?

It's what most of us look forward to at the end of a busy day: coming home, putting our feet up, and taking a deep breath of polluted air. Shocking, yes. But many times, we are doing just that. You may be surprised to find out that the air we breathe inside our homes every day can be several times more polluted than the air outside. It makes sense when we take stock of the many chemicals we bring into our homes. Do your part and reduce indoor air pollution when you make smarter choices about the furniture, paints and cleaning supplies you buy for your home.

When shopping for furniture, you need to do more than pick out pieces that are attractive or comfortable. It's important to also find out how the pieces are made and whether they will slowly emit toxins into your home.

For the times when you need something new, there are a few items you should definitely avoid. Pressed woods like particleboard, plywood, and medium density fiberboard (MDF) are known to contain urea-formaldehyde resin. Of the three wood materials, MDF releases the most formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is a colorless gas that can cause skin rashes, chronic headaches, and is also a suspected carcinogen.

Household paint is another item that can continue to emit dangerous gases into your home's air, even after the fumes are gone. In fact, paints and finishes are the leading source of Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs, in our homes. VOCs can cause all kinds of breathing problems and have been linked to rapidly increasing asthma rates in our children. When you're redecorating a room or re-finishing a piece of furniture, shop for low- or no-VOC products. Most paint companies have these options and they're just as durable and cost effective. And buy only the amount of paint, thinner or finish than your project needs. When your project is complete, if you do have any products left over, remember, all of these items are considered household hazardous waste and need to be disposed of properly.

And don't forget about all the cleaners you bring into your home every day. Household cleaners that are chemical based can pollute your home as the toxins evaporate into the air or are left behind on cleaned surfaces. As a rule of thumb, if the product has a warning or danger label, it's likely not good for you or the environment. Choosing a plant-based or natural cleaner like vinegar or baking soda will also reduce the amount of pollution in your home.

Do your part and make your home a healthier place to unwind. It's something we can all breathe easier about.

(Terri Bennett is an Earth scientist, syndicated columnist and mom. Send questions to terri@doyourpart.com. Get more every day green living tips at www.DoYourPart.com.)

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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