The Healthy Bedroom
by Pamela Portwood
Although we spend a third of our lives in our bedrooms, they are typically a low priority in our home design. Thinking about the first impression our living room makes, our family's comfort in the den or the resale value of our kitchen is almost always higher on the list than designing a bedroom to promote our health and well being.
Bedrooms should be near the top of the list. Just think about how a bad night's sleep affects the way you feel the next day.
Having good indoor air quality (IAQ) is important throughout your home, but it's crucial in your bedroom because of how much time you spend there. Dust, pollens, particulate matter and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) all compromise air quality.
VOCs are carbon-based compounds that evaporate easily into the air. (Think new paint smell.) VOCs cause respiratory problems, and some are carcinogenic.
The first way to improve your bedroom's IAQ is to keep your shoes out of your immediate sleeping area, or better still, leave them at the front door. Shoes track pollen, dirt and more around your home. Keep your pets out of your bedroom to avoid pet dander in the air.
Dust mites are the big IAQ violators in bedrooms. Millions of these microscopic bugs live in moist bedding and mattresses, feed on dead skin cells and leave their dead bodies and feces behind. They're a major trigger for asthma in children. Plus, who wants to lie around breathing bug droppings all night?
How do you cut down on dust mites? Ideally, get a mattress made of latex and wool, both of which naturally repel dust mites. Also, both are fire resistant, so you can get a mattress without chemical fire retardants. Natural mattresses are available at Copenhagen (520-795-0316) in Tucson and at several Phoenix-area stores.
Whatever type of mattress you get, don't scrimp on the price because a good night's sleep is worth it. Cover standard pillows and mattresses with allergen-impermeable barriers, preferable made of organic cotton. Select a comforter that can be washed regularly.
Use organic cotton sheets, and wash them weekly in hot water (130 degrees) to kill those mites. Going organic with cotton is healthy and sustainable because approximately 25% of the world's insecticides and over 10% of its pesticides are used to grow cotton.
In terms of flooring, the traditional recommendation has been to install hard flooring using loose rugs, if needed, to avoid mites and particles that wall-to-wall carpeting retained.
However, recent European and Canadian studies have suggested that carpet vacuumed regularly with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) vacuum cleaner is more effective at reducing dust than a hard floor surface that has been damp mopped. The reason is that dust clings to the carpet but floats around the floor. Using a non-HEPA vacuum cleaner or keeping old carpet will not achieve these results.
To avoid flooring VOCs, buy Green Label Plus certified carpet, or be sure that your hard floor product and its installation glue are VOC free.
For furniture, look for water-based glues and varnishes as well as formaldehyde-free plywood, particleboard and pressed board. For window coverings, select a product that is either easy to clean or easy to take down and wash. Finally, using a HEPA air filter can improve your bedroom's IAQ.
Bedrooms are sanctuaries, places where televisions, office equipment and exercise equipment are best left behind. Neutral color palettes are soothing, but if a splash of color makes you or your children happy, splash away (with no-VOC paint) because bedrooms are personal spaces.
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Article is reprinted courtesy of The New Southwest (formerly Tucson Green Times).