Saturday, May 10, 2014

Indoor Air

Along with water being essential to all of life, air is another basic essential element. I have noticed many people do not give much thought to the indoor air they are breathing. Being a pet sitter, you might think I'm talking about pet smells, and sometimes that can be a problem, but I want to talk about other air pollutants -- ones that are maybe not so obvious.

I'm sure you've heard how even as polluted as our outdoor air may be (especially in the cities), indoor air is even worse. Studies done by the EPA indicate that indoor levels of pollutants may be 2 to 5 times – and occasionally more than 100 times – higher than outdoor pollutant levels. Indoor air pollutants have been ranked among the top five environmental risks to public health. The problems they cause can be subtle and don't always produce easily recognized or immediate impacts on health. 

For instance, if you have cats you know that cat litters are not created equal. Some brands, especially the less expensive brands are so incredibly dusty that if I just gently scoop the box while wearing my contacts, I have to take them out to rinse them off afterwards because they get coated with a layer of dust. If I wear my glasses, I have to wipe them off as well. You can see the dust as it settles on everything nearby. If you have to add litter: pour and run for air -- from the huge cloud of dust! Now I hate to think about all that cat litter dust that I have inhaled into my lungs over the years. I have used some of these excessively dusty brands in the past myself. It's worth the extra money not to have to inhale so much dust. As a pet sitter, I have experienced just about every kind of cat litter imaginable over the years. They are continuously coming out with new ones too. I mean, have you ever seen so many kinds of cat litter? 

I buy the least dusty scoopable cat litters I can find that are unscented. So far, I've found Dr. Elsey's Cat Attract or Precious Cat scoopable cat litter to be one of the least dusty (99% dust free and it's true!) that works well and doesn't have any odors. I recently received an advertisement for another new 99% dust free litter so I'm sure there are more, I just haven't tried them all. Cats' sense of smell is more sensitive than ours and I know being sensitive to odors and chemicals myself, that if a cat litter's scent is over bearing to me, it surely is overwhelming to the cat. Cats prefer the closest thing to what they would naturally use, which is dirt or sand. Now I'm not saying use dirt (although I think the cats would appreciate it). I'm saying dirt doesn't smell like all these over powering scents they add to the litters to appease us. The cats are the ones who have to use it. Scratching around in dirt doesn't give them a lung full of dust either. Buy litters that have the least amount of dust. Not only are the cats breathing it in, so are you and I. Cats get the dust on their fur and end up licking it off as well. If you buy scented litter, try buying unscented and using baking soda instead. The cats will appreciate it, and so will I.

While writing this article, I had a client whose cat developed a cough. After being checked out by a veterinarian and unable to find a cause, it occurred to my client that maybe the cat litter dust was the culprit. A couple of weeks after changing to a much less dusty cat litter, my client noticed her cat's cough not only got better but it's almost completely gone.

Sometimes the cleaning products that are used in homes can be harmful to breathe for us and our pets. Do you use environmentally safe cleaners in your home? If you use a housekeeping service, do you know what cleaners are being used around your pets? When we have pets we have to be more conscious of the products we use around them. Pets are always closer to the ground where everything in the air settles. Plus, their sense of smell is way more sensitive than ours. Cats sense of smell is around fourteen times greater than ours, while a dog's is 10,000 to 100,000 times as acute. I have experienced walking into homes after housekeeping has been there and the smell of cleaners is so powerful, it's nauseating. I know it also has to be for the animals. 

Remodeling projects are another powerful culprit of noxious fumes. Keep pets out of these areas and be sure to air the rooms out with fresh air as much as possible until all the fumes are gone before allowing them back in those areas.

Of course if you have birds, all the above can be deadly for them. Not to mention other things that can be deadly to birds such as using non-stick Teflon coated cookware. You have to be extra careful what is used around birds. They are the most sensitive. I stopped using Teflon (or similar type) coated cookware years ago. If the fumes kill birds, what is it doing to us? 

The biggest indoor air problem for me has become commercial air fresheners. In an effort to mask or prevent unpleasant odors inside their homes, or just to smell a pleasant aroma in the environment, people are inadvertently filling the air in their homes with toxic chemicals. Our home is where we spend the majority of our time, other than at work -- if you work outside the home. I have the benefit of working from home, and so all my time is spent at home, outdoors or in other people's homes. 

There are so many kinds of air fresheners these days. There are ones that plug in and even battery operated ones that spray every few minutes automatically. I have walked by them and been sprayed. I have seen them placed so that the spray lands in the pet's bowls or the pets themselves get sprayed. We really have gotten carried away with air fresheners. I have become more sensitive to them and can usually smell if there is one air freshener in the house. When people have multiple air fresheners, it is overwhelming and I can't stay long without starting to get a headache. Is it any wonder? If people knew what these commercial air fresheners actually contained and what studies have been done, or lack thereof, on the effects to our health, I don't think they would continue buying them. The majority of them contain toxic chemicals. Do you use commercial air fresheners? See how the ones you use rate when tested by EWG (Environmental Working Group) by clicking hereHere you can also view what products are safer and received an “A” rating and would be healthier alternatives.

The problem is a lot of people don't think about what they are putting in their air (or on their skin, or in their body) or their pet's. So if this article makes just one person be more consciously aware of the products they are buying and putting into their indoor environment -- the air they breathe, and the air their pets breathe, and that I breathe -- then it has served its purpose. There are other alternatives to using toxic commercial air fresheners and toxic cleaning products. There are healthier products available now than ever before and there are more resources for finding them. Even the city we live in gives us a page full of recipes for alternative homemade natural cleaners when they deliver our garbage bags. Here are some helpful tips on improving the quality of your indoor air.

Before starting our pet sitting business, my husband and I both worked for many years in the air conditioning wholesale industry. We are not only familiar with, but also sold the many products and equipment available to help clean and improve your indoor air quality, like electronic air cleaners, filters, ion generators/ozone transmitters and other products. There are things you can use to help clean your indoor air without using toxic chemicals.

We are inundated with chemicals, pollutants and toxins everywhere we turn -- in our foods, our pet's foods, our water, our earth, our bodies, and in our air. Even a significant percentage of pregnant women's breast milk, placentas and umbilical cords have been tested and found to have many chemicals in them. Isn't it time we became more conscious of the products and foods we are using and consuming? And those we are exposing and giving to our animal friends as well?

One alternative to chemicals I have enjoyed for the last twenty years or so are essential oils and essential oil products. I used to make essential oil products as a side business before I started my pet sitting business. As I got busier with pet sitting, I drifted away from that; but in the last couple of years, I've gotten back into it again. There has been a lot of progress made (and continues to be made) with studies done in the area of essential oils and pets, which I'm really excited about. I am proud to own the first of its kind -- The Animal Desk Reference for Essential Oils for Animals written by holistic veterinarian Melissa Shelton, which was just published in 2012. (More on this later!)

 I use H2EO Ultrasonic Diffusers in our home for diffusing essential oils and have for years. I love them! Click here for a short video to see how the H2EO Ultrasonic Diffuser works. Not only are essential oils safe if used properly, they have many therapeutic benefits. I use essential oils from Young Living Essential Oils. (This is the brand recommended and tested by Dr. Shelton.) 

I also recently made my own essential oil air freshener. Not only is it completely natural and safe for you and the environment, it's safe for use around pets! Go to our Shop page to read more about it or to purchase some for yourself using PayPal, the secure and easy way to shop.

Note: If you're a current client and would like one delivered on our next pet sitting visit, please click on the local pick up only button and note your request with the order. (If you prefer not to use PayPal you can email us your order.) Thanks!

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