“I can breathe here.” It’s a Colorado moniker. We joke when we travel, especially to places of high humidity, that it’s nice to get back to “good air”. We step off the plane and inhale deeply, then walk on with a deep satisfying smile. For those who are not lucky enough to live with Colorado air, let me tell you, it’s not something we take for granted.
Today I am going to talk about clean air. This vital element of our planet that allows life to exist here. Not one living creature on this big blue ball can live (long) without air. In many cases, we cannot control the quality of what we breathe. Take allergy season for instance. We can’t run around and destroy all of the pollinating plants in the spring. We sniffle and blow our noses and take medications to help, but mostly just suffer through until it passes. Some poor folks suffer much more than others. I, myself, am again lucky in that regard. Maybe you live near some sort of manufacturing building that gushes out obnoxious fumes or smells. Or a big city with a lot of traffic and vehicle exhaust. How about an area where there are no regulations on air quality?
The discovery that coal burns and creates heat seems to be the beginning of humans polluting the air to greater than tolerable levels. Regulations on burning coal were around as early as the 1200’s in Europe. But here in the US, it wasn’t until the middle of the 20th century when the true connections between air quality and people dying from it, that any sort of solid, enforceable regulations were passed. It still took 20 more years, but in 1970 the Clean Air Act was created.
I was just a kid then, but I remember it was a BIG DEAL. We did projects in school and learned about <in a big booming voice> Air Pollution.
Ok, so big factories had to clean up their acts and cars had to have cleaner burning engines. But it wasn’t until 1988, EIGHTEEN YEARS LATER, that smoking was banned on airplanes! And 2007! that it finally was banned in public places. 800 years before we really connected (most of) the dots. Humans are slow learners and we seriously dislike change.
Let’s take smoking cigarettes again. Thankfully, that is now fairly stigmatized at least here in the US. But…we’ve replaced it with even MORE harmful vaping. At least tobacco is a plant. I could go on here, but I won’t.
In order to compensate for the icky tangs, we cover it up with more pleasant aromas. Humans have a fixation on good smelling things. We LOVE our perfumes, air fresheners, and candles. So many things have a fragrance added to it: dish soap, bath soap, dryer sheets, cleaning solutions, lotions, hair products, deodorants (?)…. We are surrounded with fragrance. Do you know what “clean” smells like? Nothing. That’s right! We have been conditioned through advertising and practice that in order to be considered “clean”, it needs to have a pleasant smell. It doesn’t. So, the smells we assign to “clean” are just as bad, if not worse than the dirt and grime we’re cleaning up.
The culprit is usually phthalates, but “fragrance” is a toxic soup of chemicals that just happen to smell good. It’s not good air.
Have you walked into one of those popular household stores and you instantly smell …cinnamon for example. That’s not cinnamon, but a mixture of compounds that is very similar to what cinnamon smells like. Go further back into the store and you get hit with blast of multiple odors…probably the candle section, right? Cruise around and maybe the bathroom section has another compilation. In any case, by the time you leave, your brow is furrowed with the beginnings of a headache and maybe you start sneezing or coughing. Depending on your personal constitution, you may even feel nauseated and unwell. Your body is trying to dispel the affects of all the heavily polluted air you just took in.
Indoor air has been noted in recent years as a growing problem. There is a misconception that if it is pleasant, it’s not bad for us. Our aversion to stench, be it natural or man-made, has brought forth a whole industry of perfumes. The particles that trigger our olefactory are microscopic, but no less harmful than breathing visible smoke. They inhibit our body’s ability to take in enough oxygen for health and vitality.
I used to clean for a woman who had been diagnosed with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS). (Still not widely recognized as a “real” illness or condition, it usually means that the person is SO sensitive to chemicals, especially fragrance, that it makes them physically ill.) She moved into a house where the previous occupant was a plug-in air freshener zealot. Despite the fact that that person had been gone for some months, the house still reeked of the air fresheners. The airborne substances had penetrated the wall board and other porous surfaces. We (my client and I) spent 2 weeks in February using several hundred pounds of baking soda and gallons and gallons of vinegar to pull the smell out while every single door and window in the house was open. A chilly cleaning job, indeed!
My point is, that we DO have some options when it comes to air quality. Quit smoking or vaping. Don’t use air fresheners like plug-in types, or candles with fragrance added, or incense. Open up doors and windows, even in winter on nice days, to allow a breeze to come through. Buy unscented natural personal care products for you and your family. Better yet, make your own! If you MUST have a happy smell nearby, opt for essential oils on a cotton ball. They are plant derived and won’t cause reactions that artificial fragrances can (unless you have an allergy to that plant…use common sense here). Or maybe some sweet-scented fresh cut flowers! A bowl of oranges. Blooming potted plants!
To clean your indoor air, again, open doors and windows. Potted plants are amazing! They will keep your space fresh and full of oxygen even when your home is sealed up against the rages of winter or the heat of summer.
Clear the air, literally. You will think more lucidly. You will feel better. You will inhale health and vigor.
“Let the clean air blow the cobwebs from your body. Air is medicine.”