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Blog/Opinion: Defining Healthy and Unhealthy Materials

By HHI Staff

There is a growing body of evidence that poor indoor air quality and other indoor pollutants are negatively affecting us all. Yet it is still difficult to define precisely what makes some materials unhealthy. Virtually anything can be toxic in certain situations. Salt or sodium is necessary for survival, but if you consume too much, it can lead to hypertension. Most people can drink milk, but some are lactose-intolerant; for these people, but not for others, milk is unhealthy.


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Regarding materials such as asbestos, lead, and radon, there is sufficient scientific documentation to convince anyone of the need to avoid exposures whenever possible. However, such evidence is obviously not available for all pollutants, and perhaps most critically, for varying mixtures of these pollutants as they occur in the environment. Still, the concept of “prudent avoidance” makes sense, but what can you do when there are reasonable concerns about so many products and their chemical constituents? The short answer is, be informed and ask manufacturers to disclose what's in their products and prove that they are safe in real environments. This step will not solve the deeply systemic problem of global reliance on tens of thousands of poorly tested chemicals, but it's a start. Short of that, strive to buy "simpler" products with shorter ingredient lists consisting of substances or materials with a proven track record for safety.




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The Healthy House Institute (HHI), a for-profit educational LLC, provides the information on as a free service to the public. The intent is to disseminate accurate, verified and science-based information on creating healthy home environments.


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Defining Healthy and Unhealthy Materials:  Created on July 11th, 2011.  Last Modified on July 12th, 2011


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