Indoor Plants Improve Air Quality

It may seem counterintuitive, but the air inside your home can contain much more pollution than the air outside. In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has many resources on its website dedicated to educating the public about the adverse effects of too much exposure to pollution from indoor sources.

What are these sources? Sometimes it's something as simple as cigarette smoke, which can have detrimental health effects not just for the smoker but for those around them. Other times it may be the paint on the walls that is slowly releasing toxic particles into the air, or mold spores that have developed in dark, moist corners of a room.

In any case, ventilating your home can mitigate the effects of these pollutants, but that's not always an option. If you live in an area where temperatures drop dramatically in winter, it's simply not economical to leave windows open and waste energy from your heating system.

One solution you may want to consider instead is to stock your house with indoor plants. As LivingGreenMag.com points out, there are a number of species of plant that are particularly adept at purifying the air in your home and removing toxins that can cause long-term health issues. Some examples include the spider plant, ivy and ferns, all of which are very low maintenance, require only indirect light and do a good job of filtering out carbon dioxide and other pollutants.

The effects of too much exposure to indoor air pollution are very real, and range from lung cancer and asthma to heart disease. But by using house plants as air filters, and embracing healthy green living, you can avoid these problems and live a longer, happier life.

Keep checking back with LifeIsGreen.com for continuing coverage of green news, topics and information.

Practice E-cycling To Avoid Toxic Waste

Despite the harms that can be caused by disposing of electronics in landfills along with other refuse, e-cycling is mandated by law in only half of the United States. As a result, in many areas it is left up to the consumer to make sure they throw away their used batteries, computers, cell phones and other equipment through the proper channels.

According to 8NewsNow.com, a Nevada local news station, electronic waste is the fastest growing stream of garbage in the country. But very few people realize that all of those items they're tossing in the garbage can contain heavy metals and toxic substances that, if sent to a landfill, could seep into the groundwater supply and contaminate drinking water.

Some municipalities also burn their trash for energy. When electronic refuse ends up in these incinerators, it can release toxic materials into the atmosphere, causing respiratory problems for local populations.

Another reason to have your electronic products recycled is that they often contain valuable materials that can be reused in other consumer goods. This could result in lower prices for electronics in the long run as manufacturers don't have to mine for new materials, and can instead rely on a steady stream of recycled supplies.

In other words, e-cycling isn't just an environmental imperative, it's also an economic one. If you're unsure where you can dispose of your used electronic items, we recommend checking out the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's website. There you can find information on local recycling programs, as well as the many public health risks associated with improper disposal of e-waste.

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Does Your Nail Polish Contain Harmful Substances?

Heading to the nail salon may be one of the highlights of your day, but recent studies have shown that you might want to be careful about what you let others apply to your nails. You may find that these substances aren't exactly environmentally friendly products conducive to living a healthy lifestyle.

According to The New York Times, many nail product manufacturers have removed what are known as "the toxic trio" of chemicals from their polishes and paints. These include formaldehyde, a carcinogen that is used to preserve cadavers, and two substances known for causing developmental defects: toluene and plasticizer dibutyl phthalate (PBD).

While researchers are quick to note that the occasional nail painting isn't going to lead to any long-term health effects, they caution that many manufacturers have yet to remove these chemicals from their polishes. As a result, doctors recommend not letting young children paint their nails, as they tend to chew on them and could potentially swallow small amounts of these subtances.

As further proof that these products are dangerous, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has an entire website dedicated to educating workers in the cosmetics industry about the risks of long-term exposure to nail products, particularly from breathing in the fumes they produce. 

If you're looking for a greener alternative for nail polish that is non-toxic, you may want to check out Honeybee Gardens or Zoya, two brands that produce all-natural, healthy nail products that contain none of the toxic chemicals listed above. In general, look for items that are labeled "Three Free" or "Five Free," indicating that they aren't made with dangerous substances.

For more information on green living and consumer goods, keep visiting LifeIsGreen.com!

Worried About Allergies This Winter? Watch What You Eat

Those who suffer from allergies tend to see their symptoms flare up in the winter. As a result, people who rely on an inhaler to keep their asthma in check or moisturizers to prevent eczema may have been using these products more heavily in the last few months. In addition to using these remedies, people with allergies should also consider how what they're eating may be contributing to the problem.

A recent article in Business Standard provides some insight into which food items will exacerbate allergies and which will improve them. They advise that those dealing with asthma, bronchitis and other illnesses that can result from intense allergic reactions eat foods that boost their immune system.

"Allergy is a reflection of reduced immunity," Ravindra Gupta, an internal medicine consultant at Columbia Asia Hospital, said in a statement. "To improve immunity, fruits rich in vitamin C such as oranges, sweet lime and lemon should be incorporated into the diet."

The article also recommends lowering intake of dairy, bananas and cucumbers, as these items tend to inflame allergy conditions.

The thing to remember about allergies is that they're often made worse by environmental factors, some of which can be controlled but others not. Cigarette smoking is disastrous for people with allergies, and if someone in your home suffers from asthma, you should absolutely refrain from smoking inside. Smog and exhaust from cars can also inflame these conditions, so if you live near a highway or heavily congested area, consider installing an air purifier and adhering to the diet described above.

For more information on healthy and green living subjects, keep checking back with LifeIsGreen.com.

Do Antiques Carry Environmental Health Risks?

One of the best and easiest ways to limit your impact on the environment is to reduce your overall waste and purchase used, recycled furniture rather than new products. Although it's nice to invest in environmentally friendly products, which we recommend doing when used products aren't available or won't suffice, purchasing recycled consumer goods ensures that they won't end up in a landfill.

This line of thinking may lead you to believe that filling your home with antiques not only gives it a classy, ageless vibe, but also helps the environment. To an extent, this is true. But it's important for consumers to understand that antique items can come with their own health risks. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a number of resources on its website that provide information about which types of antiques may present risks.

The EPA focuses heavily on the presence of radioactive elements in many antique products, including watches, clocks, ceramics and glass. Manufacturers of old timekeeping devices would coat the hands and numbers of the clock face with radium because it would give off a glow at night, but would also slowly contribute to the development of bone cancer in those who were heavily exposed. The glaze on tiles and pottery made before 1960 would sometimes contain uranium, thorium or potassium-40, which gave off gamma, beta and alpha radiation. Additionally, glaziers would occasionally add uranium to glass products to give them a greenish tint.

Before you go purchasing antiques for your sustainable home, make sure that the items you invest in are free of these materials so that you don't put you and your family at risk for serious illness.

For more information on eco friendly products, keep visiting LifeIsGreen.com.

OIlsands Mining Releases Mercury Into Atmosphere

The oilsands operations in Alberta, Canada, where mining companies are using advanced extraction processes to capture fossil fuels, has reportedly been covering the surrounding areas in mercury, a potent neurotoxin that causes many health problems. The Montreal Gazette is reporting that scientists have identified a 19,000 square kilometer area around the oilsands operations where mercury levels are 16 times higher than "background levels."

The contamination has been discovered by Canadian researchers who emphasized that the levels they are seeing in Alberta are actually lower than what has been experienced in Southern Quebec and Ontario, where other mining operations are taking place. The discovery of high levels of mercury contamination is further evidence that oilsands fossil fuel extraction is a much bigger ecological catastrophe than previously though.

Some scientists are concerned that mercury is beginning to show up in wildlife. One researcher has found evidence of higher mercury levels in eggs from species that live near the oilsands operations. More work needs to be done to determine the extent of these effects, but as Grist.org notes, it's yet another reason why the Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport oil from these areas down to the Gulf Coast, is so problematic for the environment and public health.

While the case against fossil fuels often centers around the need to mitigate climate change and identify alternative energy sources, there is also a great deal of damage done to human beings as a result of these mining operations. Not only is there a threat to the long term wellbeing of civilzation, but oilsands production and fracking have presented a more immediate threat to public health as well.

For more alternative energy articles and news, keep checking back with LifeIsGreen.com.

California Repeals Law Requiring Flame Retardants In Furniture

California Governor Jerry Brown has reversed a law that he signed during his first stint as governor in 1975 that required furniture manufacturers to use flame retardants in their products. The goal of the law was to reduce the risk of fire from furniture, but in recent years it has come under criticism as more has become known about the environmental health effects of the chemicals used.

According to KQED.org, the law, known as Technical Bulletin 117 (TB 117), required manufacturers to inject their sofas and other pieces of furniture with chemicals that are now thought to cause cancer and reproductive health issues. Even more alarming is the fact that this law was used as a model for similar legislation passed in other states, so its repeal is symbolic as much as it is real.

Somewhat ironically, there is now even evidence that foam treated with flame retardant chemicals can actually increase the combustibility of the furniture piece.

In place of TB 117, a new standard was created that allows manufacturers to test their products using a "smolder test." Instead of using retardant-injected foam for cushioning, they can now use fabrics and linings that are treated with chemicals that do not emit toxic particles.

If you're in the market for new furniture, make sure to look for the "TB 117-2013″ tag. This label indicates that the piece was made after January 2014, and that it adheres to the new standards put in place by the repeal of the old law.

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