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Make a clean sweep this spring

Dr. Stephanie Rile began her career as a biomedical engineer designing medical devices for the treatment of heart disease and osteoporosis. Through a mix of personal discovery and 10 years of experience in the conventional medical world, she became interested in the impact of environment on health. Seeking to better understand the root cause of disease, Dr. Rile chose to change focus and obtain her doctorate in Naturopathic medicine.

In work with patients, Dr. Riley emphasizes the importance daily choices have on our health and the health of our children. She maintains a private practice in Tahoe City and is the EcoMom Expert on Environmental Medicine for the EcoMom Alliance, an organization harnessing the power of mothers for a more sustainable future. Visit http://www.dr-riley.com.

Spring is here, and for most of us that means some spring cleaning. But does that cleaning make your house a healthier place? The answer is, often not.

Along with conventional cleaners comes a host of chemicals that have contributed to the declining quality of indoor air over the past few decades. Unfortunately, cleaning agents are not the only contributors to this decline, anything we bring into the home becomes a part of our home environment, good or bad.

It is estimated we spend roughly 80 percent of our time indoors. According to the EPA, current estimates on indoor air quality place it as five to 10 times worse than outdoor air quality. As construction practices have changed to be more energy efficient, airflow is dramatically reduced, leading to an accumulation of potentially toxic compounds. These compounds can be naturally emitted, such as radon, they can be emitted from a construction and household products and they can be carried into the home on our clothing and shoes.

This decline has been implicated in the rise in allergies and asthma. In addition, many of these compounds are considered likely carcinogens, or cancer-causing agents, by the EPA.

There are an estimated 80,000 chemicals in use. Less than 1 percent of these have been tested for carcinogenicity. By extrapolating from the small percentage of chemicals that have been tested, and the number that have been demonstrated to be cancer-causing, conservative estimates are 4,000 to 8,000 of the chemicals in use today are likely to trigger cancer.

As a Naturopathic Doctor, prevention is a large focus in my work with patients. This work begins with daily habits. The healthier your day-to-day choices are, the less work needs to be done to bring the body back to a healthy balance. Most of us think of our homes as an inert enclosure, but it is an integral piece of your overall health.

Small changes can make a big difference. Below are my top 10 steps to making your home a healthier environment, and a first step in updating your spring cleaning. Breathe easier!

Have a “shoe’s off” policy, leave toxins at the door.

Eliminate the synthetic fragrances, scented products and air fresheners. Most synthetic fragrances are solvents and are derived from petroleum products. Opt only for fragrance derived from 100 percent pure essential oils.

“Cleanse” your cleaning supplies. Conventional household cleaners are a mix of toxic compounds that effect many systems of the body. Opt for cleaning products that are non-toxic, this applies to laundry products (soaps, spot cleanser and fabric softeners) as well as general cleaning supplies.

Minimize the dry cleaning. Conventional dry cleaning is accomplished with a wide range of toxic solvents that are damaging to the nervous system. If you must dry clean: do it minimally. Opt for a “green” cleaner, remove dry cleaning from the bag immediately (before bringing it into the home), discard the bag, and air out the clothes for a minimum of two weeks before placing in your enclosed closet or wearing.

Pass on the cut flowers. Freshly cut flowers have the highest pesticide content of any grocery item. If you must have fresh flowers, plant your own garden or purchase organic cut flowers. Visit http://www.organicbouquet.com.

Avoid cooking with Teflon-coated products. Teflon (or non-stick coating) releases a family of compounds called PFOA’s, deemed by the EPA “a likely human carcinogen.” Replace with a high-grade stainless steel or enameled cast iron.

Address potential mold sources. Leading sources of mold problems include:

Moisture behind bathroom tiles, HVAC Systems, Leaky windows, wet carpet (anything longer than 48 hours), drain pan under your refrigerator, water pipe leaks, roof leaks and wet insulation, dampness and water leaks under sinks, high humidity in basements or crawl spaces, inadequately vented bathrooms and shower curtains, drain pan in your air conditioner, or other cooling coils and more!

Check your home for radon. Radon is a naturally occurring, radioactive gas emitted from volcanic rock and is the leading cause of non-smoking induced lung cancer. Contact the link below for test kits provided by the state for $5: http://www.cdph.ca.gov/HealthInfo/environhealth/Pages/RadonTestKits.aspx

Filter your water. At a minimum, opt for filters that remove chlorine. This applies to your drinking water, and shower and bath water! Look for NSF-certified filters.

For further information visit http://www.ewg.org”www.ewg.org and their “National Assessment of Tap Water Quality” database. Visit the California EPA’s Indoor Air Quality Guidelines at http://www.arb.ca.gov/research/indoor/clguide.PDF for more information on effects of chlorinated water in the home.

Change your air filters. If you have a forced air system, don’t overlook changing your filters regularly. This should be every three months, and opt for the high quality pleated filters. Also, having your ducts cleaned professionally every two years is highly recommended.

” Dr. Stephenie Riley is a Naturopathic Doctor practicing in Tahoe City, emphasizing the use of diet and lifestyle modifications as the primary tools for preventative medicine and achieving optimal health. Visit http://www.dr-riley.com or call (530) 583-0002.


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