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    Environmental Illness - Toxic Chemicals in Our Environment

    Bacteria, molds, viruses, and other biological contaminants continued...

    Keep humidifiers clean and refill them daily with fresh water. Frequently clean evaporation trays in air conditioners, dehumidifiers, and refrigerators. Water-damaged carpets and building materials can also have molds and bacteria in them. It is difficult to get rid of bacteria or molds. So, if possible, replace or remove water-damaged items from your home.

    You can also:

    • Remove carpets and replace them with hardwood or tile floor.
    • Have sofas with covers that can be removed and washed.
    • Use blinds instead of drapes, because they collect less dust.
    • Have air filters in some rooms, especially in the bedrooms.

    For more information, see:

    actionset.gif Allergies: Avoiding Indoor Triggers.

    Household products

    Many of the products you use to clean your home or use for hobbies and home improvement projects contain potentially hazardous chemicals. Some can be toxic and in sufficient doses can cause eye and respiratory problems, headaches, dizziness, visual problems, and memory impairment. One of the most important ways you can protect yourself is by following the instructions on the label. When you use cleaning or other products, be sure to open windows or use an exhaust fan to provide good ventilation. Never mix household chemicals, such as chlorine bleach and ammonia. Some mixtures can create toxic fumes that can be fatal.

    It's better to use environmentally safe products. Vinegar, lemon juice, boric acid, or baking soda can be used instead of store-bought household cleaners. And they are less damaging to you and to the environment.

    Be especially careful with products containing methylene chloride, including paint strippers, adhesive removers, and aerosol spray paints. If you use products that contain this chemical, make sure you have adequate ventilation or use them outdoors, if possible. Also, wear gloves to avoid skin contact. But whenever you can, use environmentally safe products instead.

    Avoid exposure to benzene, which can cause cancer. Benzene is found in tobacco smoke, fuels, and paint supplies. Also, try to limit your exposure to newly dry-cleaned clothing or furnishings. Dry-cleaned goods may emit perchloroethylene (also known as tetrachloroethylene) and trichloroethylene. These chemicals may cause skin rashes, headaches, and dizziness.6 If your clothes emit a strong odor when you pick them up from the cleaners, they may not have been dried properly and can release more of this chemical. After removing the protective plastic from the clothes, hang them outside, if possible. Consider finding a dry cleaner that uses less toxic chemicals.

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