All you need is the air that we breathe?

by Anna Webb Broadcaster, Author, and Trainer has studied natural nutrition and therapies with the College of Integrated Veterinary Therapies (CIVT)

In yogic terms Prahna, or the breath, is the energetic force that keeps us youthful and vibrant.

In our modern world the quality of the air we breathe, like the food we eat and the water we drink is being compromised by a host of chemical, biologic and physical contaminants. Our ‘air’ may not be the natural life force nature had once intended.

The air we (and our pets) breathe indoors contains airborne irritants, allergens, pollutants, or infectious agents, which can negatively impact on your pet’s health.

We live in a world that can be looked at like a ‘toxic’ soup. Outside we’re familiar with the dangers of environmental factors like exhaust fumes. We’re made aware of the toxic effects of a potent combination that is ozone, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, lead, and sulpher dioxide that we’re regularly inhaling via particle matter in dust that surrounds us.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, most people spend 70 per cent of their time indoors where air is generally more polluted and a greater health hazard than outdoor air.

The cumulative risk assessment of chemical exposure indoors has been studied by Ragus AM Environ Int 2011 as Ragus AM et al 2011 studied how five air pollutants: PM(10), benzene, tolune, nonane, and naphalene and six food pesticides (acetamiprid; carbendazin; chlorpyrifos; diazinon, imidacloprid and permethrin) invaded indoor environments and contributed to more chemical exposure indoors than outdoors.

The air we (and our pets) breathe indoors contains airborne irritants, allergens, pollutants, or infectious agents, which can negatively impact on your pet’s health. A combined effect of chemical and biological contaminants can be released into the air by way of heat, moisture, humidity and through inadequate ventilation.

Air quality is also compromised by ‘Off Gassing’: this is when VOCs are released into the air. Analyses of indoor air samples demonstrate that between 50-300 different Volatile Organic Compounds can be present in the home. (Dr Michael Peterson).

This can occur from contaminated building materials, furniture, wood stoves, furnishings, household cleaners, second hand tobacco smoke etc. Often the ‘technically’ cleanest homes are the most toxic. This is due to chemicals laden in commercial cleaning products, aerosols, air fresheners and bleach, which releases sodium hypochlorite into the environment.

Inhalation of these chemicals via ‘offgassing’ can promote a range of health effects ranging from mild to severe like damage to the kidneys and liver. On the milder side dizziness, nausea, and headaches are common symptoms.

With more natural plant based cleaning agents available on the market, like Ecover and essential oil based de-odourisers, you can make choices to make your indoor air even cleaner.

PBDEs (flame retardant chemicals) and Formaldehyde are common substances that ‘off-gas’ and negate health.

PBDEs are found in furnishings, foam and engineered wood products like flooring.

There’s evidence to show that cats inhaling airborne dust containing PBDEs, and licking this dust from their fur, causes hypothyroidism.

In a study by Janice Dye, December 2007, Dye proved that older cats with hypothyroidism showed up to 3 x times levels of PBDE’s than younger cats.

Worryingly Formaldehyde is commonplace in every home. It’s a horrific thought that unwittingly your pet is inhaling one of the most toxic substances that’s in almost all solvents used to construct engineered floors, office marker pens and modern furniture.

A study by the Tokyo Metropolitan Consumer Centre in 2010 discovered that the Tannin in commonplace black tea absorbs the toxic VOCs from Formaldehyde by 60 and 90 %. I have literally scattered unused PG Tips bags all over my engineered floor and on shelves!

Contaminated dust particles (Indoor Particle Matter PM) emitted from candles, house dust, gas stoves, and wood-burners release carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and hydrocarbons, which can cause severe respiratory issues and damage to the immune system.

Studies have shown that children living in homes with a wood burning stove have a significant increase in respiratory symptoms compared to children living in homes without wood burning stoves: (US EPA and US Consumer Product Safety Commission 1995).

Invest in some Zeolite rocks to place in every room to absorb off gassing from toxic outdoor pollutants, new paint, a wood stove, engineered floors. Zeolites make for a decorative feature and their absorption capacity will last for years.

Air purifiers and conditioners can also improve indoor air quality. Combined with an awareness to reduce dust through ventilation, regular vacuuming and using micro-fibre cloths in lieu of unnecessary cleaning products.

It’s easy and cheap to make your own natural ‘all purpose’ cleaning product. Simply using bi-carb of soda, cider vinegar and a splash of vodka!

Common sense says that in a well ventilated home, these invisible attackers are minimized by 50 per cent. These days we build homes for energy efficiency to reduce fuel bills. Homes with poor ventilation, maximum insulation and damp are the most affected.

Back in the mid 1970s Dr Michael Peterson invented the term ‘sick buildings syndrome’. Since then several studies including, Douwes J Eduard W, Thorne PS, (Elsevier, 2008) revealed that exposure to mould and biological PM are potential carcinogens in people.

Soft furnishings can absorb the VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) released from wood floors, household products, paint, solvents and other chemical or biological substances in the environment.

Acting like a sponge they absorb the airborne chemicals re-releasing them back into the atmosphere through dust particles that are then inhaled by people and pets.

Furnishings allow pets to accumulate house dust on their fur; much modern furniture is laden with PBDEs found in flame retardant fabrics, which is released in airborne dust.

Simply choose vintage furniture with natural fabrics like cotton, hemp or linen, helping to minimise any chemical distribution through synthetic fabrics like nylon or PVC. Choose from many natural fibre bedding options for your pet!

Add lots of indoor plants as decoration with a purpose including: ‘Money Trees; Mother in Laws Tongues, Spider plants and Palms work to naturally absorb offending CO2 gasses.

Dry cleaning is another health risk to our pets. A potent chemical, Tetrachloroethylene constitutes the process of dry cleaning. It’s VOCs smell nauseous to a human nose, let alone that of a dog!

Another invisible source of contaminants in today’s world is wi-fi. Radiation, EFs and EMFs are ubiquitous in all our homes and on the increase. Whilst research is in its early stages, Electromagnetic Fields and Radiation are now thought to prolong the life of free radicals, contributing to oxidative stress.

A study by: Yokus B etal (Free Radic Resource 2005) Oxidative damage to rats exposed to extremely low frequency electro-magnetic fields). The results revealed exposure induced oxidative DNA damage and lipid peroxidation. In another study: Reif JS, Lower KS, Olgive GK Residential exposure to magnetic fields and risk of canine lymphoma Am J

Epidemiol 1995 Feb 15, 141 (4) 352-9) showed that the higher the level of ‘High wire codes, the greater the incidence of canine lymphoma.

By placing computers and wireless equipment on wooden desks helps absorb EMFs. Symptoms of headaches, anxiety, insomnia, depression and fatigue are common ailments in today’s generation and this can similarly affect our pets.

It’s the cumulative effect of toxins being inhaled and absorbed on a daily basis, which over time that is the concern. Our pets being smaller than us, with faster metabolisms, potentially absorb ‘ xenobiotics’ (toxins) more efficiently than we do if absorbed into the bloodstream.

Some pets may also be more prone to certain environmental triggers than others. Brachycephalic breeds like Bulldogs and Pugs will be more susceptible to poor indoor air quality than some others.

Adhering to a precautionary principle and be aware of potential toxins in the indoor environment. Being prudent and making some simple changes can only be beneficial for both you and your pet.

The ‘naturopathic’ approach is to minimise the toxic load. It is about nurturing the three pillars of health: the immune system; natural nutrition; and the physical frame. Adding a daily immune system boost can help your pet better weather the ‘toxic’ storm. I use a raw unpasteurised Colostrum or Diet Dog’s SuperFood supplements, which are minimally processed.

Ultimately good health is not only affected by the air that we breathe, but in the food we eat and the water we drink: both future topics for discussion.


Anna Webb