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Be Aware of What Are You Breathing this Holiday Season

candle vocsBring on the home decorations and holiday get togethers – let’s do it green and healthy.  The holiday season is here in earnest!

A couple years ago I went to a friends house in San Jose for a holiday visit.  I was really looking forward to it.  So, I showed up at the door, gifts in hand.  The eggnog appeared, with laughter and good times all around. The only problem was, between the fireplace and the scented candles, it sure smelled great, but I couldn’t breath!  I ended up having to leave and the hostess was horribly insulted.  But, you know, breathing is one of those mandatory things.

Just How Clean Is Indoor Air?

For a lot of people, this is no small issue.  I don’t mean to be a scrooge, but, did you know that indoor air is up to 10 times more polluted than outdoor air?  Some of the biggest culprits are smoke and VOC’s. Fragrance from candles, and even potpourri, can also set off asthma and difficulty breathing.  Believe it or not, smoke from chimneys can make the outdoor air hard to breath for entire communities. The EPA publishes some information and guidelines on their website.

Breathing Signs to Look Out For

Be on the look out for wheezing, coughing, hoarseness or voices that are changing in quality or pitch, and people pulling out their inhalers.  These can all be signs of trouble breathing.  And just because someone usually uses an inhaler doesn’t mean they can just take more of their inhaler to deal with the air.

Weighing The Green AND Healthy

Keeping with the theme of green energy, now might be a good time to switch over that old open fireplace to an efficient insert or an enclosed natural gas fireplace.  Yes, I know, neither one is perfect, and yes, some people have problems being around gas appliances as well ( on top of gas being a non-renewable resource), but they are better solutions than an open fireplace.  And they reduce particulates and pollutants in the air from a health standpoint.

What’s in That Scent, Anyway?

And those candles and scents?  Consider electric flame candles and go easy on the scent.  Always go for scent that comes from natural sources such as essential oils over synthetic.  The word “fragrance” on the label means it is synthetic unless it specifically says what natural sources are used.  Most fragrances are synthetic and come from petroleum and chemicals.  And, there’s nothing wrong with subtle amounts of scent.  Even at that, some folks just can’t do scents.  Respect that and Christmas past will bring lots of warm happy memories upon you!

Well, time to go dig out all of those holiday tunes…

drAnnDr. Ann Haiden, DO is a holistic functional medicine physician based in San Jose, California.  She is an advocate of eating whole foods and living a clean environment life.

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  • Ophelia December 14, 2009, 8:46 pm

    Thank you for this – air quality is one of the things I’m most concerned with as my daughter is asthmatic. I’m esp. concerned about the schools as I know they are stepping up disinfection in light of stepped up disinfection for H1N1 prevention. Did some research and found this great report from the Environmental Working Group: EWG Report on Green Schools as well as this list of questions for administrators: H1N1 Schools

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