Americans spend 90 percent of their time indoors, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, with potentially two to five times higher concentrations of pollutants than outdoors.
Interior designer with a sustainability focus Jillian Pritchard Cooke is a strong advocate for indoor air quality, inspired by personal experience. “I was diagnosed with a rare form of tissue cancer, which my physicians believed to be caused by environmental exposures,” she tells the San Diego Union-Tribune. Cooke's educational program, “Wellness Within Your Walls (WWYW)," is based in Atlanta, and advises industry professionals and homebuyers on making healthier product selections for the home. “WWYW coined the term Tight Box Syndrome to describe the ventilation issue,” says Cooke, adding that harmful toxins are in a variety of products like paint, appliances, furniture finishes, flooring, and even mattresses.
“Allergens in bedrooms have the greatest effect on allergies because of the amount of time one tends to spend there,” the doctor says. “The most common indoor allergens are dust mites, pets and molds. Dust mites are very prevalent in beds, so we recommend covering mattresses, box springs and pillows with special casings and washing all bedding in hot water every two weeks." "Natural bedding made of cotton, linen, hemp or bamboo should be considered for comfort,” Cooke says. “Mattresses made of quilted or tufted all-natural materials including wool and cotton batting should be your first choice in achieving a healthy bedroom.” The others can include toxins, she says, and should be stored in a garage during their off-gassing period.