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December 21, 2006

Clean Air for Christmas

This time of year is perfect for candles and roaring fires, and Greenguard.org tells us how to choose the right candles and wood--so we don't end up pumping our homes with toxic chemicals. Good idea. Check out their tips...

Tips for a Healthy Holiday

The holiday season is upon us - a time for creating a warm and festive environment and entertaining guests and family. But before decorating the home, preparing a holiday feast or lighting the hearth, take a moment to consider how popular holiday activities might affect the indoor air and your health from harmful chemicals.

Decorating the Home
Many people use scented candles this time of year to help create a festive environment and to enhance the holiday spirit. A good tip is to avoid scented or slow-burning candles with additives, such as fragrance and essential oils, which can release toxins into the indoor environment when they are burned. Instead look for candles made with beeswax and bayberry wax, which are two naturally scented waxes -- beeswax offers the sweet smell of honey and bayberry a spicy, fresh aroma. Also, remember to cut the wick to about one-quarter of an inch to properly heat the wax for efficient burning; and it is always important to keep candles away from drafty places and not to shake or tip them because the candle can smoke and send soot and toxins into the indoor air.

Building a Fire
Fireplaces create a comfortable and cozy room, but anyone who owns a fireplace has experienced the challenge of building a fire. A good tip is to select seasoned, non-treated hard wood, which burns cleaner and longer than green, moist wood, which generates smoke and ash when burned. Treated wood contains resins that are released when the wood is burned. Also, never use your fireplace as an incinerator to burn garbage. While it seems easy and convenient to toss holiday paper into the fireplace, gift wrapping and other colored paper contain dyes that can release toxic chemicals when burned. Other tips include checking to make sure the damper is open, using a fireplace screen, and finally, never leaving the fire unattended. Santa surely will appreciate this last gesture!

Protecting indoor air from chemical emissions is not just a seasonal event; it's important to examine the products and materials we bring into our homes everyday, and to take protective measures as we go about our daily routines. The first step to improving indoor air is identifying the sources, and then taking action.

For more information and to search for low-emitting products and materials, visit greenguard.org. Have a safe and happy holiday.


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