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Avoiding environmental allergies especially indoors (MCS)

Discussion in 'Lifestyle Management' started by SickOfSickness, Dec 1, 2010.

  1. SickOfSickness

    SickOfSickness Senior Member

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    I have a big allergy to dust mites and have allergies and sensitivities in general... like Multiple Chemical Sensitivity but not too extreme. I am going to move, partly to help my allergies, and want advice on what to avoid.

    I read that if you don't have carpeting that can help a lot. But I also read that there's no point in ripping up your carpet if you're not going to do other things like have no fabric drapes? I would like more input on this. I certainly like the feel and look of carpeting, but I want to lower my exposure to allergens. Are there downsides to living in a place with all wood flooring?

    I already have the pillow & mattress covers, but I also heard that other materials are bad, like a shelf of books can harbor lots of allergens. And even some furniture?

    Obviously a big one is I want to avoid leaks that cause mold, but I don't know much about that in general.

    I am also wondering about propane gas for heating, or for a fireplace. If I am out using the BBQ gas grill, the fumes bother me, so wouldn't it bother me indoors?

    Ideally there are some types of paints and varnishes I woud avoid too... but I hope I would be okay unless the paint is recent? I read the paint can be offgassing for months, even over a year, but there isn't much I can do about that? Use wallpaper instead of painting inside...?

    And how bad is it having an aquarium or a hamster?

    What are some other main considerations?

    Thanks!

    Edit: Are there any couches or soft chairs that won't be playground for dust mites? I know I can't avoid them totally...
     
  2. Mark

    Mark Acting CEO

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    I would say that in terms of reducing exposures, every little counts. What will make the biggest difference depends on what you're reacting to most strongly of course: sounds like you have a fairly good idea what sort of things you react to so trust your experience and your instincts. As far as chairs and couches go, I have my leather sofa and that's just about the only thing I can sit on without "itching". A lot of the measures we're talking about can be fairly extreme in terms of disruption and cost, and of course there's no guarantee you'll see a benefit, so you want to think carefully about what's likely to make the most difference and how much it costs. I'd guess that replacing carpet with wood flooring is probably one of the most worthwhile things you can do - I'd love to do it, it's one of the last things I've got left here that still presents me with problems - but look into the varnish/polish etc on that wood flooring, you definitely don't want to risk creating another new problem. Rings a vague bell that imitation wood flooring is easier to get chemical free than actual wood, which always needs some kind of coating, but I could be wrong about that. Anyway, good luck with whatever you decide to do...hopefully others will pop up with more reliable advice than my vague thoughts...
     
  3. SickOfSickness

    SickOfSickness Senior Member

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    Thanks for your input.

    Yeah my couch is leather too. But has removable cushions and if you lift them out, it's like a normal couch with material. I should probably keep it and not get a fabric normal couch, but I find it a bit uncomfortable. The fabric ones I was thinking if it's scotchguard treated, then steam cleaned / sprayed with the stuff that is supposed to kill dust mites, maybe it's okay.
     
  4. 3CFIDS@ourhouse

    3CFIDS@ourhouse still me

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    Our family has CFS/ME and Multiple Chemical Sensitivity and we've done a lot of research on healthy living options. It can be overwhelming, but as Mark said, you do what you can and try to avoid the big offenders. Carpet not only harbors dust/dust mites, the chemicals outgas for years. Ceramic or porcelain tile is the most inert flooring and can be applied without using toxic substances. Wood laminates are usually made with glues that can be a problem or have toxic finishes. Most people with allergies or MCS cannot use a fireplace and propane is also a problem. If you want to avoid mold, avoid wallpaper. Often, the backing mildews over time; in addition, wallpaper is usually coated with vinyl which also outgases. There are paints that are safer for sensitive people. Please check on past use of pesticides and termite treatments before moving. Our family became ill with CFS one by one after moving into a home that had previously been treated for termites with a now-banned termiticide. If you are already sick, your immune system probably does not handle toxic substances or volatile organic compounds. Our library carries books about healthy living spaces- they were very helpful. I wish you the best!! I know it's hard to navigate all this when you're ill.
     
  5. SickOfSickness

    SickOfSickness Senior Member

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    Thanks, that is quite helpful.

    Yes I should get and read the books, not sure if I have enough time and energy.

    Would I have a problem with a wood burning stove or fireplace?

    So I really should avoid a place with propane heat? :(

    How about vinyl sheeting for floors? Tile would be too odd for a bedroom or hallway.

    That sucks to learn about wallpaper and wood laminates... wow...
     
  6. Dainty

    Dainty Senior Member

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    I should note here that there is currently a house for sale in western Washington that would be excellent for someone with MCS. It has all hardwood floors that are very old (as in, the finish is completely worn off), the house is old but has no musty or moldy odor, it's at the end of a culdesac, it has a back porch, garage is not attached (no exhaust fumes make their way to the house) there's been no improvements on it, it's uphill of other houses so the wind is better to dissipate pollution, has a fairly large yard...the house is just amazing for anyone with chemical sensitivities, and I can hardly bear the thought of a regular person buying it and ruining it with toxic stuff. So if anyone is interested, please PM me. :)

    When selecting houses, you definitely want to go for as little carpeting as possible, due both to chemicals and dust mites. There's a big difference in the way curtains collect dust than the way a carpet collects and stores dust so that it's never really clean. If the comfort of a carpet is important to you, I strongly recommend investing in rugs, ideally organic, unbleached, undyed. Rugs can be washed and thus cleansed much more thoroughly than carpet ever can be. And as a bonus, you take them with you when you move so you get to hang on to that investment, unlike carpeting. If they could be tossed in the washing machine that's even better....much easier than vacuuming so you're more likely to be able to do it often.

    If propane triggers a reaction then you definitely want to stay away from it. That doesn't necessarily mean you must get a house without it, simply that if you do then you won't get to use those appliances and you'll probably want to have the supply shut off to the house to make sure there's none of that stuff at all anywhere near you.

    That being said, realize that not all gas powered appliances are propane....in the city most of them are natural gas. (I only recently learned the difference, lol). It's possible you don't do well with propane but are fine with natural gas, however the only way to know this is to test it for yourself.

    You definitely want no new paint or other fix-ups if you can at all avoid it. Foreclosure houses are great in this regard, as the bank can't be bothered to expend the effort. One home my family recently looked into even had a pile of dog poop in the corner - no kidding! That's the kind of house you want to look into, one where no one's bothered to clean with toxic chemicals or put new paint on the walls or anything.

    Edit: Note that there's a kind of natural vinyl, Marmoleum, that some people do fine with. It's made of all natural materials. It isn't something I'd personally choose to use, but that is another possibility, and if you find a house that has Marmoleum flooring I'd give it ia chance.

    The older the better, as long as you don't smell any mold or mildew. If you smell either, get out. It isn't worth it. Houses about 20 years old or so tend to be lacking a vapor barrier, which is a good thing....that means moisture in the walls has a chance to escape, greatly reducing the likelihood of mold.

    There are, however, some things you can do to improve a house. The first course of action is ozone. I'm not talking about an ozone air purifier that only emits low doses, I'm talking about an ozone generator capable of producing a lethal concentration of ozone into its surroundings. You can either buy or rent one. You set it up and leave the house while it does its job and then wiat to enter until the levels are safe enough. The ozone breaks down the chemicals and outgasses new stuff, basically "aging" it very quickly. It will also kill every single dust mite in the environment. Of course, the allergic reaction is usually to their feces, so that might not be immediately helpful, but you can see how it would be handy.

    Mold will also be killed with this method, however, if there's mold inside the walls the ozone won't get to it. So again, stay away from houses that smell like mold.

    Another thing you can do is some home improvement of your own. AMC safecoat has sealants for trying to seal in chemicals that you can use on walls, carpets, wood, etc. In my experience success varies. I still would strongly recommend against carpets due to the dust mites. LIme or clay plaster is being sold as a paint alternative, and though I have no personal experience with those options I know that if tolerable, covering paint with them should neutralize the issue of pain chemicals outgassing into the room.

    Due to the dust, you want to avoid a house with a heating duct system. Those things collect dust and then blow it all over the house. In-floor radiant heat is ideal, other radiant heating options are good, anything that doesn't depend on blowing air. Of course, if that isn't possible, you can make do by adding a whole house filtration system or not using it at all and covering up all the ducts.

    Houses on busy roads usually have more dust.

    A back porch/verandah/screened room/gazebo is very helpful for airing out chemical stuff outside.

    WIth dust mite allergies (ask me how I know :p) cleaning the house regularly and thoroughly is very important. You want to keep in mind whether or not a house would be easy to clean, and especially size. Smaller houses are generally easier.

    It's a good idea to take a look at how well-kept the lawn is, and especially the neighbors' lawns as well. If they are immaculate, that probably means your neighbors use chemical fertilizers and herbacides to keep them that way and living there could turn into an MCS nightmare. I have a friend who knows. You want neighbors who are low maintenence about their landscaping.

    Also pay attention to who has chimneys nearby, and if possible ask a neighbor about wood burning in the area. Unfortunately, the worst stuff is caused my human error and not inherant properties of wood burning. Nevertheless, I can't tolerate any smoke at all. As for you, I have to say if you come accross a house with a masonry heater (also known as a Russian stove, a Swedish fireplace, a Finnish fireplace, and other things) then that's a big bonus in my eyes. They are not like a normal fireplace. I'll keep this short and just say you light a fire that only burns for an hour or two and the heat radiates in the house for the next 12-24 hours.

    This page has a breakdown of some things chemically sensitive people should look for when buying a house.

    3CFIDS, I'm so sorry to hear about your family's illness and experience.
     
  7. Nielk

    Nielk

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    There are some brands of laminate flooring that do not have to be glued. They lock in place. Some are allergen free like "laminate floorings from Krono Original provide the basis for free breathing: They are Anti-Static, which is why dust practically does not stick to the floor at all. Instead you can wipe down laminate flooring without any great effort with a slightly damp cloth. " There are other brands too. I'm sure you can find them on google.
     
  8. justy

    justy Senior Member

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    Hi, my problems are very similar to yours. in our latest hous we have all woden flooring from reclaimed old 150 year pine, whcih we varnished with Ecos eco varnish. We also installed undefloor heating, although we also have a wood stov which i am fine with and a log burning bio mass bioler, whcih s ok, but i cant clean it out.
    We painted all the rooms with Ecos paints whcih are safe enough to eat! a bit expensive -but we got there. we have blinds and non curtains and havnt bought a ne sofa in years becuase of the chemical gassing.
     
  9. glenp

    glenp "and this too shall pass"

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    Scotchgard is not good either

    "SLOW DEATH" by Rubber Duck Rick Smith / Bruce Lourie -they did some interesting testing using themselves as the guinea pigs
     
  10. Dainty

    Dainty Senior Member

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    One more note on natural gas: it's said to burn much cleaner than propane. So it seems very possible to me that you might be fine with it.
     
  11. SickOfSickness

    SickOfSickness Senior Member

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    Wow. Lots of useful info! Thanks everyone.

    Oh yes, natural gas, big difference. I forgot about that.

    Unfortunately the house I am looking at moving to was recently painted. It is good in other ways - no carpeting, no mold, the air will be 10 times better than I have here, etc. Can't pass it up just because of one or two environmental issues.

    Online it does say that most VOCs dissipate in the first days, and the ozone generator sounds like what I want. BUT I read online that they can destroy anything rubber in your house, like dishwasher gaskets and also your home wiring. I read you can wash the walls with baking soda. And heat up the room to make it offgas faster, so you can air it out and get more out faster. Well, if I move there, I will research this more and do what I can.

    I am planning to get allergy shots for the dust mites, but wanted to keep in mind some major things to change or do (new couch or not, wood burning stove or not, get rid of aquariums or not, laminate flooring or not, etc). So now I have a lot to consider.

    For one house I went to see, I stopped taking my Allegra, which makes me much less allergic. So I would have a stronger reaction and be able to judge better, but I can't decide if that is a good idea or not. Maybe keep the Allegra as a filter, so I only pick out the worse issues.
     
  12. Dainty

    Dainty Senior Member

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    House with no carpeting is a rare find worthy of your consideration. The perfect house isn't out there--go with the best compromise you can get.

    Like I said, it basically "ages" everything. Rubber will break down over time all on its own; ozone simply fast-forwards the process according to your specifications. If the wiring isn't exposed then the ozone shouldn't be able to reach it. You can remove what gaskets you want to save before starting the ozone or else cover them with something like plastic wrap to keep the ozone from hitting them. That said, my family ozonated their house thoroughly about 6 months ago and everything still works fine. I've done my residence twice without removing or protecting anything, and everything's still good. A large percentage of air purifiers emit low concentrations of ozone and even though people might run them constantly there generally aren't complaints of everything rubber breaking down. So go easy on the horror stories. :) Yes, ozone breaks things down, but you're in control of how much and it isn't any different than what happens over time.

    Yes, heat helps things to outgas, that's a good one to look into. Baking soda....I personally wouldn't think that would help enough to be worth the effort. If the paint is new, a good strategy is to first outgas it as much as possible, i.e. heat, ozone, etc....and then seal it in with and AFM safecoat or a plaster or other natural paint alternative or something of the sort.

    A word to the wise: proceed with caution. My body did not respond well to allergy shots. Another topic for another thread.....but I'd just recommend you not bank on them when considering housing possibilities. I don't know if you are or not, but I felt compelled to mention it.

    I really hope you find something that works!
     
  13. leela

    leela Slow But Hopeful

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    Here is a great resource for all things MCS:
    http://www.ei-resource.org/

    Also, I have a very powerful ozone generator that I use whenever I can. You must remove pets and houseplants when using it, unless you are doing one room at a time (a strategy I like for deep blasting) and sealing off the room with duct tape around the door and something like oilcloth at the bottom. Actual rubber things do get a little sticky (but not ruined) in my experience, but natural latex should not be exposed. Otherwise, the machine is a godsend, despite the hassle of either having to vacate the premises or seal off a room for 24 hours. I would use it more but everyone wants to borrow it!
     
  14. dannybex

    dannybex Senior Member

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    Hello all,

    Okay, I'll ask a silly question. If a powerful ozone generator (and that sounds crazy-powerful Leela!!!) can clean and "purify" the air/surroundings/environment...are air purifiers with ozone and or UV components a good idea? If so, can anyone recommend a relatively inexpensive one?

    I'm still very confident my main issue is heavy metals, especially mercury, but also arsenic (from that 'other' thread - "Can Probiotics Methylate Mercury"), and have no idea if my tiny apartment has a mold problem (I don't think so), but it definitely has carpeting on half the apt, that has been vacuumed with a hepa filter but hasn't been properly cleaned in probably 5 years (!!!), so I'm sure I could use some cleaner air.

    I know I can't move for now, so cleaner air -- if I can afford it with help -- is my only option.

    Would appreciate any tips/suggestions.

    Thanks in advance,

    Dan
     
  15. SickOfSickness

    SickOfSickness Senior Member

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    Plants may be an option. Search for the air purifying type. Keep in mind, most of them are toxic to pets and small children, if they eat the leaves. I plan to hang plants up but some get large so that would look odd.
     
  16. leela

    leela Slow But Hopeful

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    Dan,

    An air purifier that also generates ozone is not a great idea--ozone is irritating to the respiratory system at higher levels (which is why I have to leave or seal off a room), and though an air purifier with ozone would not be generating levels high enough to really "kill" pathogens, some sensitive people find even that level of ozone irritating (athsma people in particular.) WHen I was flusher I was able to acquire an IQ Air filter that is fantastic for running all the time, and the separate ozone machine for deep blasting.

    I have recently purchased a bottle of EM-1, a microorganism concoction that allegedly EATS toxins, including mold, VOCs, petrochemicals. I haven't used it yet, but a friend finds it works like a charm. I'll report back after I've sprayed everything down with it. You can wash your clothes with it too, if you suspect there is mold in them,or if they are new and all chemically, spray it on furniture, etc. I hope it works!
     
  17. SickOfSickness

    SickOfSickness Senior Member

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    Wow I hope that works. That would be wonderful.
     
  18. Dainty

    Dainty Senior Member

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    Danny,

    Just to augument what leela said, it generally isn't a good idea to breathe ozone. Air purifier have a "safe" level, but at least for me I react badly even to that. Unless you're doing ozone therapy it's much better to allowit to dissaipate.

    Note that there is a very significant difference between an ozone generator and an air purifier that emits ozone. THe latter has been tested and approved to give off only levels considered "safe", whereas the former is designed to give off megadoses that are not safe for any living thing to be around. They're two completely separate machines.

    I've looked into this, and while it seems like it could be an excellent option, my research hit a snag: you have to wipe off the leaves once a day.

    That just isn't doable for me.

    There have been remarkable results when it's done right, for example, I was reading one office building in some city somewhere had cleaner air indoors than outdoors with only plants as their purifier, and there was a higher amoung of oxygen inside hte building than there was in the air outside. Plants are amazing things. However, it should be noted that it was something like 10 shoulder high plants per person with the leaves wiped off every day.
     
  19. Wayne

    Wayne Senior Member

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    Emerald Earth - Natural Solutions for a Clean Environment

    Hi Leela,

    Thanks much for posting this; I'm already sending this information out to some friends. Thought I would post a link which has lots of information on this product.

    Emerald Earth - Natural Solutions for a Clean Environment

    Wayne
     
  20. maryb

    maryb iherb code TAK122

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    Thanks for the link Wayne - what a great find - only availabke in the US at present though:(
     

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