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Sleep deprivation is on the rise globally, and toxins have a role to play in that. It is estimated that approximately 50-70 million people are suffering from sleep disorders in the U.S. alone. These disorders include insomnia, restless leg syndrome, narcolepsy, and breathing-related sleep disorders. On top of that, a study published in the journal Sleep found that nearly one-third of Americans sleep fewer than six hours per night (1). Most people struggle to get in their 8 hours of beauty rest because of problems such as too much screen time before bed, stressful things on their mind, and other unhealthy habits. But what about the unhealthy chemicals and toxins in the bedroom?  The ones inside your wall, in your paint, and your bedding? What effect are they having on your quality of sleep and your overall health?

In this article, we’ll look at the toxins in the bedroom, what they can do to your health and how to get rid of them.

1. Paint

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While painting the walls of your bedroom a fresh, new color may seem like a great idea, it’s always best to inquire as to what exactly is found inside that Java Cream 4 that you’re eyeing. Unfortunately, the fumes that many paints give off are anything but good for you.

According to a study published in Postgrad Medical Journal, when a previously healthy 60-year-old man was heavily exposed to polyurethane gloss paint, he started suffering from an acute confusional state. After 3 days of this condition, it remitted, but liver cell damage and transient bone marrow suppression followed. The study indicated that the white spirit was the culprit, being the major volatile solvent in this type of paint.

The problem with a lot of traditional paints is that they give off what is known as volatile organic compounds or VOCs.

In addition to white spirit, they also contain dangerous chemicals and toxic pollutants like formaldehyde, benzene, ethyl acetate, xylene, and methylene chloride, amongst others. 

When the EPA’s office of research as development conducted their “Total Exposure Assessment Methodology Study,” they discovered that organic pollutant levels were on average 2 – 5 times higher indoors than outside. Not to mention, when paint stripping was happening, this number rose to 1000 times that of background outdoor levels. These chemicals have all been subjected to testing, and the results aren’t reassuring. In addition to causing cancer in humans, exposure, can cause headaches, dizziness, fatigue, memory impairment, nausea, and visual disorders.

Thankfully, today you can opt for toxin-free options that contain little or no VOCs. According to the Winston Salem Journal, brands such as Benjamin Moore, Lullaby Paints, and Sherwin Williams manufacture and supply these options.

2. Pets in your bed

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If you’re a pet owner and you love your fur baby, you probably know how important regular bathing is. If they sleep with you in bed – lucky duck – then you’re probably running a bath at least once a week. And that’s great – if you know what’s in the shampoo or wash that you’re using on them.

If you’re reading this article, you’re probably already familiar with toxins in human hair care products and the damage they can do. Toxins like sodium lauryl sulfates, phthalates, and parabens cause all sorts of health problems. Moreover, because cosmetic companies are not required to test their products for safety before being sold, it’s safe to say that pretty much everything goes.

What you may not know is that the same toxins are also in your pet’s shampoo or cleanser. And the same problems apply to this situation. Pet cleaner products often contain better-known toxins such as formaldehyde, mineral oil, cocamide-MEA, and polyethylene glycol. Again, no manufacturers in the US selling these products are being required to test for the safety of their ingredients.

What makes them dangerous, and how do you avoid it?

The problem arises when nitrosamines are formed during the production process. These chemicals are considered to be carcinogenic. Other health issues related to nitrosamines include organ system toxicity, as well as developmental and reproductive toxicity. Avoid toxins such as SLS, phthalates, and other toxic additives, opting instead for natural, certified-organic pet cleaner products and healthy, fresh-smelling fur babies. Your skin and your pet’s skin will thank you for it.

3. Mold

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In this article, we’re looking specifically at the black mold type. This is considered to be a sort of fungus. Black mold can be recognized by its mildew-like smell, which can also smell musty or damp. It’s usually either a dark green or black color and can grow in areas where the air is damp and warm. In addition, the type of surfaces where it grows most typically includes wood, paper, gypsum board, or fiberboard. It can become a problem in your bedroom when it starts to grow in spaces that aren’t usually visible. This is usually between wall layers or underneath floorboards or carpets.

While black mold isn’t inherently dangerous, the type of toxins they can definitely release into your bedroom definitely can be. These are called mycotoxins. Your respiratory system would be especially at risk because you would be inhaling these toxins. If you inhale too many of these over an extended time, your risk of developing mycotoxicosis will be higher.  According to Medical News Today, those suffering from a weak immune system have a higher chance of being affected by black mold poisoning. That’s because when your immune system is down, you have a harder time battling external toxins. For people who suffer from asthma or other respiratory conditions, black mold poisoning can worsen the situation. They could also develop symptoms like allergic reactions, sinus inflammation, or fatigue.

Short-term symptoms of black mold poisoning can be similar to those of a common cold or flu. These include:

  • a runny nose
  • a sore throat
  • coughing
  • nosebleeds

Llong-term symptoms, while rare, are usually more serious.

If you’ve been exposed to high levels of black mold toxins, you may experience the following:

  • anxiety
  • difficulty with concentration
  • numbness in the hands and/or feet
  • Memory Loss
  • light sensitivity

It’s best to speak to your healthcare provider if you suspect that you may have a problem with black mold in your house. Check for a strange, musty smell, and take note of flu-like symptoms. He or she may suggest a blood test that can help to determine whether or not it is a problem and treat you accordingly.

Removing black mold can be a tricky thing, because of the materials required to do so. If it’s located in a difficult area, it’s especially important to get professional cleaners for the job.

4. Bedding and towels

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Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the toxins bite. When your sheets have been washed in volatile organic compounds that rub off on your skin while you sleep, and through this rubbing process many of the skincare problems will be resolved while you sleep, how peaceful will your rest be?

But it’s just normal laundry detergent, right? Well, yes, but traditional laundry detergents aren’t necessarily devoid of toxic ingredients. Especially if you haven’t checked the ingredients inside the bottle you’ve been using.  Moreover, manufacturers don’t have to disclose the ingredients used to make laundry detergents. So, how can you even be sure that you’re washing your family’s bedding?

Research results aren’t reassuring when it comes to toxins in the bedroom

A recent study conducted by the University of Washington looked at the chemicals that were emitted through laundry vents. After buying a few new organic towels, the researchers pre-rinsed the towels. Two homeowners were then asked to volunteer for their washers and dryers. They also had to use vinegar to clean the inside of their machines. The idea was to have as little residue left over.

The former homeowner ran one regular laundry cycle. Then they analyzed the vent fumes for three cases: one time without any products, another time with the dominant brand of scented liquid laundry detergent, and the last time with both the detergent and a leading brand of scented dryer sheets. They then placed a canister inside the dryer vent opening. It captured the exhaust 15 minutes into each drying cycle.

In their second home, the researchers repeated the procedure with a different washer and dryer. The results were alarming. The vents expelled over 25 VOCs – of which seven were hazardous air pollutants. The Environmental Protection Agency classified two of those chemicals – namely acetaldehyde and benzene – as carcinogens. There is currently no safe exposure level for these chemicals. Unfortunately, these toxic residues from detergents not only linger in the fabric but rubs off on your skin. Most people use the same detergent to wash their bedding, towels, and clothing. See where we’re going with this?

“These products can affect not only personal health but also public and environmental health. The chemicals can go into the air, down the drain, and into water bodies,” said Anne Steinemann. She is the lead author of the study, as well as a UW professor of civil and environmental engineering and public affairs.

How to avoid toxic laundry detergents?

Once again, the best option is to opt for products you know you can trust. ‘Certified organic’ is the label you’re looking for, and you want easily-recognizable, plant-based ingredients like water, potassium jojobate (jojoba oil soap), potassium coconate (coconut oil soap), potassium olivate (olive oil soap), and plant essential oils.

5. Candles and toxins in the bedroomtoxins in the bedroom | Longevity LIVE

How great is the feeling of burning a scented candle in your bedroom? The soft, warm glow, the fine scent that’s released and fills the room. Oh, and don’t forget about the lead emissions and carcinogenic soot!

Wait, what?

Yes, that’s unfortunately true. Most scented or aromatherapy candles – the ones people love burning in their bedrooms – contain ingredients like paraffin or paraffin wax, synthetic oils, and petroleum byproducts. When these ingredients burn, they release harmful compounds that not only contribute to indoor air pollution but can also have negative effects on your health.

Speaking to Green America, Eric Johnson of Candleworks explained the impact toxic aromatherapy candles have on our health.

“Burning an aromatherapy candle made of paraffin is similar to preparing a healthy drink of fresh-squeezed juice and adding a shot of gasoline,” he says. His company, Candleworks, is based in Iowa City, Iowa. It specializes in wholesaling nontoxic aromatherapy candles.

Instead of burning toxic candles, choose synthetic fragrance-free candles made from bee wax, palm wax, or soy wax. Better yet,  diffuse your favorite essential oils or apply a few drops to your pillowcase before going to bed. This will not only freshen and clean the air in your bedroom but also help you sleep better and more deeply.

Johane du Toit

Johane du Toit

Johané du Toit is the Health Writer at Longevity Magazine. With an Honours degree in journalism from the North-West University at Potchefstroom, she has a keen interest in medical and scientific innovations and aspires to provide the public with the latest reliable news in the fields of medicine, fitness, wellness, and science. Johane is happiest outdoors, preferably near a large body of water or in the mountains, and loves waterskiing, cooking, travelling and reading.

The content in this editorial is for general information only and is not intended to provide medical or other professional advice. For more information on your medical condition and treatment options, speak to your healthcare professional.

One Comment

  • Eric Potter says:

    Thank you for raising awareness of these toxins. As a parent of 6 children, we are working to protect our children from the myriad toxins most of society accepts as normal. Once we became aware through my work as a physician of these toxins, simple shopping has been more difficult but knowing our children are safer is worth the time. We spent a few weeks researching low VOC beds made with natural products that would not cost an arm and a leg. As a physician, I try to share what we learn with our patients to both restore their health and prevent future disease from developing. We need more people raising awareness like this.
    Dr. Eric Potter