Indoor air quality continues to be a cause for concern in many homes across America. Studies have shown that the air within our homes is at times as polluted as the outside air—even in industrialized cities. So far, we have looked at the air quality in our bedrooms, living rooms and kitchens. In this continuing series, today we’ll focus on the bathroom. What can we do to ensure this room is safe for our families?
One of the contributors to poor indoor air quality in bathrooms is chemicals. If you look under your bathroom sink or in the closet, you’ll probably see a selection of cleaners that you use regularly to keep your bathroom sanitary. Most likely you’ll find all-purpose cleaners, drain cleaners, air freshners, tub and tile cleaners, toilet cleaners and bleach or another disinfectant. Of course, we need to keep the bathroom sanitary, but what you may not realize is that the cleaners you are using to do this are also contributing to poor air quality in your home. These cleaners contain chemicals called volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
When you use cleaners, the VOCs evaporate into the air, contributing to poor indoor air quality. Sometimes they can even be emitted into the air just through normal storage in your cupboard. According to the EPA handout “Care for Your Air,” the danger in this is that VOC compounds can irritate the eyes, nose and throat. They can also cause headaches, nausea and damage to the liver, kidneys and central nervous system. Some of them can even cause cancer.
Obviously, you can’t stop cleaning your house. What you can do is look for safe cleaners to use in your home that reduce or eliminate the VOCs. Shaklee makes a line of cleaners that are non-toxic and biodegradable. You can also look for the Green Seal stamp of approval on a product. Become a label reader. For example, Sparkle makes a glass cleaner that is VOC free.
Follow good cleaning practices. When cleaning your bathroom, clean it first with hot soapy water, rinse it and then disinfect it. You may also want to consider some of the new cleaning tools on the market that steam clean. They use only hot water to create steam, which sanitizes surfaces. Finally, installing a home air cleaner will help filter the air in your home.
Bathrooms have about the highest humidity level of any room in the home, so it’s not surprising that bathrooms often have mold problems. Mold is a toxic substance that can cause allergic reactions, asthma and other respiratory problems. The best way to control mold is to control the humidity level in the bathroom. You do this by properly ventilating the bathroom. Make sure that your bathrooms have ventilation fans installed and use them when showering. If your bathroom has a window, open it periodically to further reduce the moisture levels. Also, take a minute to dry off damp surfaces in the bathroom. Store a squeegee in the shower and wipe down the tub or shower after bathing.
Doing what you can to improve the air quality in your home may pay off in better long-term health for you and your family.