Local holistic living consultant Krystal Dawson says she noticed something odd when she was working for a carpet installer in Boise, Idaho, eight years ago. Workers were told it was imperative that they open all the windows at a job site during installation.
"When we came back the next day, we would see all these insects dead right inside the windows on the carpet," she says. "It's because the glue used is so incredibly toxic that the moment a bee or fly comes in the room it dropped dead."
Toxins like these are called "out-gasses" or "off-gasses." It's when gas that's been trapped in a solid or liquid is slowly released. That's what happens when household cleaners evaporate or when glue cures.
Practically everything releases some level of gas — that's what you're breathing in when you smell something. A lot of manmade things like carpet, paint, vinyl and fiberboard emit formaldehyde, cyanide and other nasty stuff.
It wasn't until several years later, when Dawson and her husband had a baby, that they recognized how widespread the problem was. Dawson says her son's extreme hypersensitivity to anything toxic made him break out in a rash from coming into contact with even the polyester tag inside his cotton shirt. Fresh paint caused their child to break out in a rash on his face, and common household cleaners affected him like mace.
Everything from the new car smell to tap water produces gas. (It's the chlorine in water that does this.) These toxins make inside air pollution many times worse that the outdoor variety.
"When you see symptoms, it's not only going to be affecting those areas but other areas of the body systemically," Dawson says.
Husband Brandon explains that we're conditioned to think that bleach, harsh cleaners and industrial smells are good, but we should trust what our noses tell us — that there's something wrong.
"As you become more aware of it you realize when you're smelling something bad it's doing something bad to you," Brandon says.
The alternative is eliminating your exposure when possible with non-toxic paints and building supplies as well as limiting exposure with proper ventilation or painting your house just before going on vacation so the worst stuff gasses off while you're away.
CONTACT STEPHEN CARTER-NOVOTNI: snovotni(at)citybeat.com