While it is true that cleaning chemicals represent a small fraction of the chemicals found in the world today, we spend about 90 percent of our time exposed to a toxic fog of indoor chemicals found at home and in our workplace.
Our response is always to launch a thorough cleaning of every area, sometimes removing the furniture, carpeting and other materials that might cause the irritation.
Yet, do we stop to consider the impact of using toxic products and chemicals to relieve health symptoms?
A chemically aggressive cleaning may or may not produce any real relief and will be costly.
Replacing furniture, carpets, etc., may be difficult, if not fiscally unrealistic.
You can also consider spot and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) air purifiers with high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA), carbon and other filtration; ultraviolet (UV) light and ionization also have a capability to help remove troublesome contaminates from the air.
Yet, even these alternatives can be expensive to buy and maintain.
In addition, their filters need replacing periodically, they can be noisy and they add to your electricity expense.
There is an alternative that you may not have considered: Plants.
Research is demonstrating that certain plants are very effective natural air purifiers.
Not only are they cheaper to buy than chemicals or mechanical air purifiers, they don''t need filter changes, use no electricity and improve our health.
Taking Root In Air Purification
The Chemical Free Cleaning Network (CFCN) reviewed a study on indoor air quality conducted by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Associated Landscape Contractors of America (ALCA).
The "Interior Landscape Plants for Indoor Air Pollution Abatement" study determined that poor indoor air quality is a major threat to human health and the environment.
This study explored several strategies for reducing this pollution, with a focus to four popular exposure causes.
Benzene is commonly used as a solvent and shows up in many common items like paints, inks, cleaning products, cigarette smoke and gasoline.
It has been suggested that even relatively low levels of benzene are associated with headaches, drowsiness, loss of appetite, nervousness and diseases of the blood system, including anemia and bone marrow diseases.
• Best benzene-removing plants
Gerbera daisy, pot mum, peace lily, bamboo palm, dracaena warneckii, English ivy and mother-in-law''s tongue.
Formaldehyde, known to exacerbate asthma and trigger attacks, is just about everywhere.
It can be found in common cleaning products, fire retardants in furnishings, carpet backings and elsewhere, including facial tissues, paper towels and other products found in our offices, break areas and cafeterias.
There is evidence to suggest that formaldehyde will irritate the mucous membranes of the eyes, nose, throat and respiratory system.
It can also cause headaches and trigger symptoms in those with multiple chemical sensitivities.
• Best formaldehyde-removing plants
Bamboo palm, dracaena "Janet Craig," mother-in-law''s tongue, dracaena marginata, peace lily, green spider plant and golden pathos.
Some research is finding that trichloroethylene is a central nervous system depressant.
Like alcohol, it can cause headaches, dizziness and confusion and can lead to unconsciousness.
There is some evidence to suggest that it may cause liver and kidney damage.
Some are even suggesting that, with prolonged exposure, it could be cancer-causing.
Trichloroethylene is a widely used industrial solvent and is found in printing inks, paints, lacquers, varnishes and adhesives.
• Best trichloroethylene-removing plants
Gerbera daisy, dracaena marginata, peace lily, dracaena "Janet Craig" and bamboo palm.
• Carbon Monoxide
Carbon monoxide is generally produced from some type of combustion.
That would include things like open fires, gas stoves, central heating boilers, etc.
By depriving oxygen to the body''s cells, carbon monoxide can lead to death.
Even low levels of carbon monoxide can cause dizziness and headaches.
• Best carbon monoxide-removing plants
Bamboo palm, spider plant, golden pathos, dracaena "Janet Craig," dracaena marginata, snake plant, peace lily, chrysanthemum, English ivy and heartleaf philodendron.
Vincent F. Elliott is the founder, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of Elliott Affiliates Ltd. of Hunt Valley, Maryland. For more information, visit www.EALtd.com. He is widely recognized as the leading authority in the design and utilization of best practice, performance-driven techniques for janitorial outsourcing and ongoing management. Elliott is also the founder of the Chemical Free Cleaning Network (CFCN). More information about that initiative can be found at www.CFCN.info.