It's the most wonderful time of the year! Between family travels, gifts, decor, meals, heating and cleaning, there are certainly plenty of things to do, but not much attention is given to health. Did you know? Every year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports close to two million hospital or doctor emergency visits each year due to respiratory health concerns, of which a substantial number occur throughout the holidays.
This year, consider the tips below to keep your holidays safe and festive for family, friends and guests of all ages!
Keeping debris, dust and mess under control throughout the holiday season will help prevent them from entering the air and being inhaled. Store cleaning supplies where they are needed to prevent airborne contaminants, which can irritate airways of children, pregnant women and the elderly. For example, store wipes in every bathroom, microfiber towels near TVs and electronics, and include doormats and rugs at every entrance to keep dirt, water and debris from making their way throughout your apartment.
While cleaning and striving for holiday scents, consider the use of eco-friendly cleaners to prevent harmful toxin exposure such as formaldehyde. Home remedies such as oranges, white vinegar, tea bags, club soda, olive oil, salt, baking soda and hydrogen peroxide can be just as effective at removing dust, dirt and grime as other chemical-rich cleaners. Use a slow cooker or boil a pot of cloves, cinnamon sticks and green tea to help provide a natural, warming and welcoming aroma, perfect for the holidays!
Keep in mind that cleaning doesn’t always have to be a dreaded task. Try playing some holiday tunes, it’s a great way to speed up the time and stay productive!
Cooking Your Favorite Holiday Meals
One of the best things about the holidays is all the good food that you get to enjoy with family and friends but how does holiday meal preparation, affect air quality? Sautéing and frying food release a toxin called acrolein into the air, especially when overheated. The EPA has linked short-term acrolein exposure with respiratory irritation. Aerosol cooking and baking sprays also release Volatile Organic Compounds into the air.
Additionally, stovetop cooking can attribute nearly 1/3 of a person’s entire daily exposure to Particulate Matter (PM) which also poses respiratory health concerns. Studies have shown that the more powerful a stovetop, the higher the concentration of PM. Last, gas burners release nitrogen dioxide, formaldehyde, and carbon monoxide into the air. To ensure the quality of air while preparing meals over the holidays, use overhead vents, an air purifier, and or open windows to help circulate air and minimize PM inhalation.
Decorating Your Home
Decorating is part of many holiday traditions, spending time with family while setting up lights, ornaments, trees and more, but where were your family heirloom decorations stored all year round? Dusts, even mold enter the home from storage units, making it essential to clean debris from decorations, before welcoming them to your living spaces. Also, once candles are burned for their decorative ambiance, they can release dangerous chemicals such as benzene and toluene into indoor air which can be harmful and might even cause developmental problems over time. Consider unscented candles with only cotton or paper wicks, or use candles made with soy, beeswax, coconut wax, hemp oil or some combination that does not contain paraffin.
Fun Fact: During the late 1930s, for example, artificial snow made of asbestos was used and sold as a decorative holiday item, until it became known to cause mesothelioma cancer. Thankfully, seasonal and holiday products are tested for safety today.
Establishing a health and safety preparation routine each holiday season, will help keep you on the “nice” and safe list, year over year. Consider use of indoor air filters this holiday to prevent inhalation of PM, cigarette smoke, asbestos and other carcinogens and to learn more about hazards to be aware of this holiday season, join the MAA community on Facebook and Twitter.