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As We Live And Breathe - A Tale Of Toxins

Updated on December 21, 2012

Breathe in, Breathe out.

We breath to live, we live to breath.

An average adult breathes 12 to 20 times a minute, roughly 20,000 breaths per day, approximately 6 million breaths a year.

The average American spends 90% of their time indoors.

Since we spend so much time indoors, it's a good idea to know the quality of air we are breathing everyday.

After all, air is necessary to life. Air envelopes us, becomes a part of us. Air is an integral life sustaining energy force, defused into our bloodstream, traveling through our body giving life to every cell.

Without oxygen, our cells would die in just three minutes.

Home Is Where the Toxins Are

President's Cancer Panel says that environmentally caused cancers are "grossly underestimated" and "needlessly devastate American lives."

The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and its Science Advisory Board have ranked indoor air pollution among the top five environmental risks to public health.

Here's the kicker: the inside of your house is 5% more toxic than outside.

If your home is surrounded by heavy automobile traffic, or factories, think how toxic the inside air must be if it is 5% more toxic than the outside.

Toxins come in the form of liquids, solids, sprays, powders, gels, lotions, soaps and plastics. Toxins can be hard, soft, sticky, smooth, pretty or ugly. They can be smelly or not smell at all.

The scented candles you love so much, the pretty air freshener you just plugged in; even the very bed you sleep in may be toxic.

Somewhat like a horror movie, toxins are like invisible little monsters ready to pounce when you least expect it.

I'm not exaggerating, though I wish I were.

But once you get to know these little devils you may see that they can be tamed and many of them eliminated.

How Toxins Move Through the Body

Toxins enter our body through breathing, absorption through our skin our eyes and ingestion.

Whatever route these toxins take they end up in our bloodstream.

Like oxygen the toxins travel through our bloodstream. They pass through organs and go through chemical changes which can cause immediate problems or may take years for problems to arise.

Before we delve into the different toxins in our homes, it's important you know there are solutions. Having house plants in combination with making some simple changes not only improve our quality of life but may make our life a little easier. So please read this article in it's entirety for the complete solution.

Nature's Air Purifiers: House Plants

NASA research has determined that certain common indoor plants are the answer to indoor toxins.

All plants remove toxins in the air but according to NASA only certain common house-hold plants remove 90% of chemicals like Benzyne, Formaldhyde, Carbon Monixide and Trichloroethylene, in just 24 hours.

Here are NASA's recommended plants:

English Ivy (Hedera helix)

  • *Golden pothos or Devil's ivy (Scindapsus aures or Epipremnum arum)
  • *This plant is listed as toxic to cats and dogs by the ASPCA,
  • Peace lily (Spathiphyllum 'Mauna Loa') The *Peace Lily may cause skin irritation, burning sensation in the mouth, difficulty swallowing, and nausea. May be toxic to cats and dogs.
  • Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema modestum)
  • May cause skin irritation. If ingested, the sap causes irritation of the mouth, lips, throat and tongue.
  • Snake plant or mother-in-law's tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata 'Laurentii')
  • Selloum philodendron (Philodendron bipinnatifidum, syn. Philodendron selloum)
  • May be harmful to cats and dogs
  • Pot Mum or Florist's Chrysanthemum (Chrysantheium morifolium)

Placement and caring of your Plants:

1. For effective purification placing 10 to 12 inch potted plant every 100 square feet is recommended.

2. Start with the bedrooms for a restful toxic free sleep.

3. It's important to keep the leaves dust free by cleaning them periodically with a wet cloth.

4. Water and feed soil. Adding a capful or two of Theives all purpose house-cleaner to your water will give your plants superior nutrition. (There is more about Theives in household cleaning section of this article.)

"I have found that even my house plants can benefit from the natural benefits of Thieves Household Cleaner. Every time I water my plants, I add a cap or two of Thieves cleaner to the plant water. They seem to be healthier and actually bloom better when I do this. I have also been able to nurse a plant back from almost dying by treating it with Thieves cleaner. Within less than two weeks my dying plant had four new blooms on it. Thank you, Thieves cleaner!" - Jilline Dodge, Young Living e-News Jun 29, 2010

Now it's time to talk about those scary monsters so you can get them, before they get you.

Is Staying Home Hazardous To Your Health?

Cleaning Products

It's important to have a clean home, somewhat clean anyway. Some of us are more comfortable with semi-clean homes while others, like my mother, make cleaning their house a full time career. My motto is, don't clean unless it looks dirty; sorry mom.

Oftentimes those wonderful smelling cleaning products that promise us a sparkling clean home in just half the time, while killing that nasty bacteria, forget to mention they have the potential to poison us, too.

Alcohols, ammonia, formaldehyde, bleach and lye are in many house-hold cleaners. VOCs Volatile organic compounds (VOC) such as toluene, styrene, xylenes and trichloroethlene which you will find in contaminated food, paints, paint thinner, medicine, dyes, detergents, nail polish, etc., mix with other compounds in your home and form an invisible toxic smog.

Breathing this toxic fog in all day and night has been linked to respiratory problems such as asthma, to neurological problems, to liver disease, to kidney damage and even to cancer.

A Non Toxic Solution

Steam Cleaner

I invested in a steam cleaner for my floors. It was one of the smartest purchases I ever made. No sloppy mops, dirty water or smelly detergents, no more getting on my hands and knees and scrubbing (only kidding----I never did that) those days are gone. It's a new generation of cleaning and all you need is water. I own the Haan steam cleaner and I love it. I have had it for at least five years now and it's never let me down. Just pour in water and plug in.

Thieves All Purpose Cleaner

Thieves? That's the brand name.

There are some safe cleaners on the market but the best I have found is Thieves household cleaner. Thieves smells delicious and is made with 100% pure cloves, lemon, cinnamon, eucalyptus and rosemary essential oils. Essential oils are distilled from the different parts of plants, like the roots, leaves, stems, flower and bark.

Thieves is a product of Young Living Oils which, in my experience, are the purest of essential oils. The distillation process is what makes Young Living Oils such high quality. Young Living's low-temperature, low pressure steam distillation ensures a high quality product.

Young Living oils are pure therapeutic grade oils, they are pure an unadulterated with synthetic fillers, like so many of the cheaper brands on the market today.

'I spray the shower with Thieves Household Cleaner every day after use and the mold and dirt just disappears without scrubbing! Thieves is my own natural 'cleaning bubbles.'"
- Donald Toomi 2012

A recent study suggests essential oil are MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus)inhibitors.

The EWG (Environmental Working Group) a non profit organization who specializes in research and advocacy in the area of toxic chemicals, has given Thieves the "green" rating which means it is totally safe for people and the environment.

Thieves is a concentrate you dilute with water, so it lasts for a long time.

Home-made Cleaners

You can also make home-made cleaners. A good all-purpose household cleaner is liquid dish or hand soap mixed in hot water. Add baking soda and you have one of the best scrubs on the market. Add peroxide to the mix and it is a great toilet bowl cleaner.

Hydrogen Peroxide: can replace your bleach

Home made all purpose spray: 1 cup white vinegar to 1 cup water.

Home-made Glass Cleaner: 1 cup of water to 1 cup of rubbing alcohol with a tablespoon of white vinegar.

Carbon Monixide (CO)

Basically anything that is combustible produces CO. Automobiles, furnaces, gas stoves, chimneys, wood stoves, etc.

CO is an invisible killer, odorless and colorless gas that when inhaled produces flu like symptoms. A person with heart problems may have chest pain.

It may be difficult to determine whether it is CO making you sick or the flu. A good indicator would be if you suddenly feel better when you go outside.

There is a good chance that someone who may be sleeping or has been heavily drinking may not experience CO poisoning symptoms, which may lead to death.

CO Solutions

  • Place carbon monoxide detectors on every floor of your house, including bedrooms.
  • Keep gas appliances properly adjusted.
  • Open flues when fireplaces are in use.
  • Have your furnaces and chimney inspected and cleaned annually.
  • Do not keep your car running in enclosed spaces like a garage.


Radon is an odorless, tasteless, invisible cancer causing gas. Radon is produced by the natural decay of uranium in soil and water.

EPA estimates that Radon is responsible for about 20,000 lung cancer deaths every year. The second leading cause of lung cancer, smoking being the first.

I found upon purchasing my present home that the radon level was three times higher than acceptable range. The owners at the time had the house retested, since the results from their Radon test 5 years prior was at an acceptable range. The retest proved that the radon was in fact very high.

The addition of a french drain in the basement floor turned out to be the culprit. A french drain is common in flooding areas of NJ. It's a deep ditch around the perimeter of the basement floor only an inch or so wide. Once the floor was opened up the radon gas below was free to flow through.

It was remediated by a simple exhaust system.

If you have added a sump pump, french drain or the foundation is cracked, it is a good idea to test for Radon.

You can buy your own test kit and exhaust system in your local hardware store. The EPA suggests a charcoal-based test. It's a simple test, anyone can do. Just place the canister in the basement or lowest area of your house. This is where radon is the most concentrated. Then just wait for however long the test instructions say, usually 3 to 7 days. It's important to keep windows closed while testing to get an accurate radon reading. Mail the test to the manufacturer for the results. If your radon level is above4pCi/l this is too high. You may want to retest or put and exhaust system in. You can buy and exhaust system or have it professionally done. You can call the National Environmental Health Association - National Radon Proficiency Program (NRPP) for more information.

Added protection with a Radon Gas detector is a good idea for you and your family to remain safe from radon gas.

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)

According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) Vinyl chloride is known carcinogen and has been associated with tumors of the liver, brain and lung. Vinyl chloride is a synthetic formed by other manufactured substances, such as, trichloroethylene.

At room temperature Vinyl Chloride is a colorless gas. Most of the vinyl chloride produced in the United States is used to make a polymer called polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which consists of long repeating units of vinyl chloride.

PVC can be found in such products as flooring, ceiling tiles, furniture, upholstery, insulation, glues,toys, carpet, fake christmas trees, even some baby products.

Phthalates in PVC

PVC contains harmful phthalates, endocrine disrupters which mimic estrogen. Endocrine disrupters are associated with breast cancer, infertility and heart disease.

Phthalates for Lunch

Plastic wrap we use for covering food, baggies for sandwiches and snacks contain harmful phthalates. Plastic table cloths, even the babies' soft plastic teething ring most likely contain Phthalates.

Are you really squeaky clean after your shower?

Shower liners and shower curtain contain phthalates. That smelly plastic smell is usually the give away. You know that new car smell? You guessed it phthalates.

Despite the chemical industries claims that some plastics are a low risk for phthalates and other toxins a study suggests that phthalates even in very low doses are a health hazard.

Phthalates build up in our systems and may create health hazards later in life. For us our children and unborn children as well. Pregnant mother's carry these harmful chemicals to their unborn baby's through the placenta.

Toxic free alternative alternatives for your and your children's food:

LunchSkins Sandwich Bag are reusable sandwich bags, manufactured in the US they are food-grade plastic liners, phthalate free.

PVC Products and non-PVC alternatives


Formaldehyde is not only used as an embalming fluid to preserve dead bodies.

Formaldehyde is also a dangerous toxic gas found in the air in your home.

Particle board, plywood, fiberboard, adhesives, permanent press fabrics, water repellents, fire retardants, bags, waxed papers, and many common household cleaner, may contain Formaldehyde.

Formaldehyde a potential carcinogen is associated with brain cancers, possibly leukemia, respiratory allergies and asthma.

Columbia Forest Products

John Manville

Smith Fong’s Plyboo

IKEA is on board

  1. From IKEA's website:
  2. First we cut formaldehyde-based lacquers (1993) from our products. Next, we removed formaldehyde from glue systems used to glue veneer surfaces on furniture. DAVE laptop table, for example, has a fiberboard top that has contributed to cutting formaldehyde emissions by nearly 40% in recent years. The levels are now significantly below EU (European Union) requirements.


Benzene is a carcinogen that is present in gasoline.

Benzene is a widely used chemical that is used to make plastics, resins, nylon, and some synthetic fibers.

Some products such as glue, paint, furniture wax and detergents contain Benzene. Well water may also be contaminated with Benzene if there are leaking underground storage tanks nearby. Inks used for printing may contain Benzene.

High levels of Benzene can cause dizziness, weakness, headache, nausea, blurred vision, respiratory problems, irregular heartbeat, liver and kidney damage, even paralysis and bone marrow disease.

Suggested Reading:

Being informed is your best weapon against toxins.

The New England Journal of Medicine highly recommends the book:

Indoor Air Pollution: Problems and Priorities by G. B. Leslie and F. W. Lunau

Now You Can Breathe Easier

Of course there are other toxins we did not cover, but we have accomplished a lot with this first introduction to toxins in your home. More to come (I know, you are waiting with bated breath.)

I have researched and found toxic free products which are for sale on this blog. I believe these products will improve your lives by making life happier, healthier and more pleasant all the way around.

Happy Breathing :o)

Ms. Immortal


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    • Cathy Fidelibus profile imageAUTHOR

      Ms. Immortal 

      6 years ago from NJ


      Thanks for your comment.

      I agree pollution is way out of control. The good new is we can at least control our indoor environment.

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 

      6 years ago from Dubai

      Thanks for sharing this very useful and informative hub. We do not know the hidden dangers of what we eat and breathe. Pollution is hitting us hard. Voted up.

    • Cathy Fidelibus profile imageAUTHOR

      Ms. Immortal 

      6 years ago from NJ


      thank you so much for reading and commenting it is very much appreciated.

    • Express10 profile image

      H C Palting 

      6 years ago from East Coast

      This is excellent and useful information that can help inform anyone on how to make their home healthier and cleaner.

    • Cathy Fidelibus profile imageAUTHOR

      Ms. Immortal 

      6 years ago from NJ


      Thank you so much, so glad you like it and found it helpful.

    • Eiddwen profile image


      6 years ago from Wales

      Well informed and so interesting my friend.I vote up and share.


    • profile image


      6 years ago

      You are very welcome, Cathy.

    • Cathy Fidelibus profile imageAUTHOR

      Ms. Immortal 

      6 years ago from NJ

      Emmanuel Kariuki ,

      Thanks for passing this post on, that is appreciated.

      The plants are such a perfect solution and beautiful too.

    • Emmanuel Kariuki profile image

      Emmanuel Kariuki 

      6 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

      This is valuable information. Will have to go over it a second and third time. I am glad to learn that indoor plants can detoxify a room. Will share this.

    • Cathy Fidelibus profile imageAUTHOR

      Ms. Immortal 

      6 years ago from NJ


      You are so correct about the steam mop. It is one of the best investments I ever made!

    • Jennifer Mandel profile image

      Jennifer Mandel 

      6 years ago from Bridgewater, New Jersey

      Wow, great information and so thorough. I love the idea of a steam mop like the one you are selling on this post. The thought of being able to wash all my floors with nothing but water, is very inticing and makes a lot of sense. No smelly cleaners or hard work, and very economical, I am definiately getting one.

    • Cathy Fidelibus profile imageAUTHOR

      Ms. Immortal 

      6 years ago from NJ


      Thank you very much for your compliment and your vote!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      That is so informative and I voted way up.

    • Cathy Fidelibus profile imageAUTHOR

      Ms. Immortal 

      6 years ago from NJ

      Thanks for your comment and stopping by!

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 

      6 years ago from South Carolina

      A worthy goal, indeed!

    • Cathy Fidelibus profile imageAUTHOR

      Ms. Immortal 

      6 years ago from NJ


      Thank you for your comment, voting up and sharing.

      My goal is to research and get the facts out there. Help as many people as I can to make the right lifestyle choices.

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 

      6 years ago from South Carolina

      What a comprehensive hub with much information that can potentially improve health and save lives.

      This is a great primer about the issue of toxins in our homes and I particularly liked the fact that you included specific measures that will reduce exposure to these toxins.

      Voted up, useful and interesting. Also shared.

    • Cathy Fidelibus profile imageAUTHOR

      Ms. Immortal 

      6 years ago from NJ


      Thanks for you comment and sharing, it is appreiciated.

      Thieves is an awesome line of products sold by Young living Oil.

      YLO also has a food grade Thieves essential oil too. I think it saved my son from having to go to the doctors for a terrible sore throat, which I suspect was probably strep.

    • CrisSp profile image


      6 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

      Very informative, useful and well researched hub. I love scented candles but I don't burn them all the time, only when the mood calls for it. I also have a diffuser that I'd use sometimes with my favorite essential oil. Again, when the mood calls for it.

      As for cleaners, I've now adopted to a more eco and money saving solution to do that, depending on what or where am I going to use it, but usually, vinegar mixed with water and lemon does the work.

      I've never heard of "Thieves" though but sounds interesting. Thanks for sharing.

      Voted up, interesting and useful. Will share...

    • Cathy Fidelibus profile imageAUTHOR

      Ms. Immortal 

      6 years ago from NJ


      Thank I am flattered by your compliments. My mission is to give the most accurate information and make it easier for people to make healthy choices.

      I am

    • healthwealthmusic profile image

      Ruth R. Martin 

      6 years ago from Everywhere Online ~ Fingerlakes ~ Upstate New York

      Cathy, what an awesome and thoroughly researched hub! Very informative! I am more sensitive to odors than most people, so the air I breathe has always been of a concern to me :) Keep up the creative writing! Voted up!

    • Cathy Fidelibus profile imageAUTHOR

      Ms. Immortal 

      6 years ago from NJ


      Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. On the bright side, you can get Young living essential oils. They not only smell delicious but have many health benefits as well. You can dab some on your light bulbs or better yet buy a diffuser. I have the travel diffuser, which I love and is resonably priced.

    • shiningirisheyes profile image

      Shining Irish Eyes 

      6 years ago from Upstate, New York

      I never would have guessed my love of scented candles would be hazardous to my health as well as so many other common sources.

      Well researched hub.

    • Cathy Fidelibus profile imageAUTHOR

      Ms. Immortal 

      7 years ago from NJ


      Thanks for commenting. Consider yourself impowered, not scared. The more we know, the more we have control our health and our lives.

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Cathy, you have just made me think about how scary it is to live and breathe! What we breathe in can really be bad for us. Thanks for the breakdown on Toxins as well! Sharing!

    • Cathy Fidelibus profile imageAUTHOR

      Ms. Immortal 

      7 years ago from NJ

      Thanks Rebekah,

      I am glad you liked my hub.

      Unfortunately there are problems with most furniture. For instance some leather couches have an antifungal agent (DMF) this is supposed to prevent leather from getting moldy. I think it's mainly a problem if the furniture is from China.

    • rebekahELLE profile image


      7 years ago from Tampa Bay

      Great article, Cathy. I need to buy more plants for my home and my workplace. It's incredible how many toxins are in the very homes we go to for rest and refuge. It makes we want to find out more about furniture.

      I wonder about those great leather couches and chairs we love? Thanks for giving us helpful information and incentive to dig a little deeper into making sure our homes are healthy.

    • Cathy Fidelibus profile imageAUTHOR

      Ms. Immortal 

      7 years ago from NJ


      Thank you for the compliment, I'm glad you enjoyed it.

      Cigarettes are one of the leading causes of lung cancer, with harmful chemcials such as arsenic, benzene, formaldhyde and nicotine. I t's hard to believe that cigarettes are legal everywhere, but something as healthy as raw milk is illegal in many states.

    • Esrom Art profile image

      Esrom Aritonang 

      7 years ago from Indonesia

      I thought you are mastering this issues. I love to read it. I found in research that home with smoker (cigarette) inside the house is dangerous to our health, especially for children. Cigarette smoke contain dangerous toxic, etc. I am not expert about this, but I read in some hubs that smoking will polluted the air. Thanks for wonderful hub.


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