What’s in the air you’re breathing?

Do you think that's air you're breathing? Remember when air was made up of only oxygen, nitrogen, water, carbon dioxide and argon?

One of the reasons I look forward to the end of Winter is so that I can get out of the house and enjoy the fresh air.

Believe me, the air here is fresh compared to most other places where pollution and vehicle exhaust hang in the air – and in your lungs.

But, as much as I adore the sunshine, green grass and working in the dirt, the reason for getting out of the house is to get away with all of those household chemicals that fill the shut-in air.

I’m not talking about the air fresheners or the perfumed this and that. Unless you live in a log cabin with dirt floors, your house is full of products with chemicals that offgas. Carpets, vinyl flooring, drapes, furniture, anything plastic – TVs, stereos, computers, etc., countertops, bedding, cat litter with anti-bacterial additives, etc.

Every product you buy is chemically enhanced to make it water resistant, make it bond to something else, make it take a nice shape… you name it.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that everything is safe unless government regulators say it isn’t. The way it used to work is that regulators would isolate chemicals and test them. But what may be safe by itself may not be safe when combined with others – or when burned. The way is works now is that the government just relies on the manufacturers to do their own testing and to report any toxic findings because it doesn’t have time to test the thousands of chemicals being used commercially these days.

Less is better. I try to stay away from perfumed products in my house. I don’t use chemicals outside in my yard. I try to avoid artificially scented body products. It makes for a few minor inconveniences, but I’m convinced it is for the better.

For most people, the thought that their home is full of possibly harmful chemicals will come as a complete shock: those with environmental allergies are probably already aware of how these manmade chemicals affect them.

You don’t have to sell your house and move, but just think about it before you buy that next can of air freshener.

Wendy Coomber is editor of the Ashcroft-Cache Creek Journal