As we all frantically separate our plastics from our banana peelings and wine bottles from our pizza boxes. We understand that recycling our waste from last evening's date night in front of the fire is as commonplace as reusing the bag-for-life we brought it all home in, in the first place.
But where's the poison in a cosy date night?
Possibly the appearance of the green-eyed ex or an allergic reaction to cheap aftershave?
It's normal to have greater awareness and respect for the environment. The media constantly reminds us about Government directives and targets regarding consumption and carbon footprints. We are happy to oblige and do our duty, of course. We think having multiple bins under the kitchen sink and replacing all the old incandescent light bulbs with LEDs is typical. And becoming electricity Gestapo after your smart metre is installed is standard in most suburban households.
However, that impromptu date night in front of the fire was dangerous in ways you could not imagine. I'm not talking about the unplanned pitter-patter of tiny feet in nine months time or the extra pounds around the waist that cheesy pizza will add; I'm talking full-on death sentence stuff here!
OK, well, maybe I'm being a little dramatic, but there's definitely no denying that right in front of you as you sip a full-bodied Merlot and chuck another log on the fire, there's a myriad of damage coming your way without you knowing about it.
What am I talking about?
Yes, your fireplace could be dishing you up with more than a romantic setting. It could be handing you a severe disease on a plate.
A roaring fire can make chilly evenings more enjoyable and, of course, romantic, but could this traditional living room setting be the catalyst for detrimental health side-effects?
Sadly, after a scientific study and analysis, the answer is yes.
And here is why...
Our home and environment are severely affected by burning everyday items in the fireplace. I know of people with open fires and solid fuel stoves, and they chuck almost anything into the open flames all the time.
My mother did when I was growing up. She lived way out in the countryside of North-Norfolk and threw many household waste items on the open fireplace and inside the woodstove.
But the fireplace is not the only danger to our home and environment. If you have any sort of green conscience, then thinking about your fireplace will probably kick off thinking about the rest of your home too.
I did and, without wishing to alarm you, here's some recommended reading to get you pondering about and acting on pollution solutions for our homes and environment...
1. Plastic Microbeads - The 1990s saw a massive increase in these little nasties. Toothpaste, creams, lotions, shampoos and detergents all include microbeads. And, wastewater-filtering systems don't catch them, resulting in microbeads ending in the marine food chain. The UK banned them, but the EU still allows them.
Green Alternative: Buy organic and local. Check your toothpaste!
2. Pesticides & Weed Killers - A 2009 study from the National Centre for Biotechnology Information shows overwhelming evidence that pesticides pose a potential risk to humans and have unwanted side effects on the environment, too.
Green Alternative: Kick these pesticides to the curb and use natural methods to maintain your garden instead.
3. Wet Wipes - Used as nappy wipes, deodorants, cleansers, disinfectants, hand soap and toilet paper, wipes create ''fatbergs'' that accumulate in drains and block sewerage networks.
Green Alternative: Buy biodegradable wipes.
4. Meat - Meat consumption has to go down worldwide to save our planet. The vast amount of land and water required to rear beef cattle and other livestock has adverse consequences on worldwide climate change.
Green Alternative: Cut out meat from your diet at least one day a week or go vegan.
5. Fast Fashion - The fashion industry is responsible for 10% of all global emissions, and fast fashion worsens the problem. Cheap, planet-harming synthetic-fibre items end up in landfills much quicker than quality-made natural fibre options that don't harm the environment.
Green Alternative: Buy high-quality natural fibres.
6. Sunscreens - Various ingredients in sunscreens are harmful to marine life, especially oxybenzone, an ultraviolet filter present in many of these products which are toxic to corals.
Green Alternative: Buy reef-safe sunscreen.
7. Bottled Water - Plastic bottles take up to 450 years to biodegrade, inflicting years of damage on the Earth. Water is a natural resource that should not be placed in a harmful chemical-releasing container and charged a small fortune for the privilege.
Green Alternative: Filter your tap water.
8. Plastic Tea Bags - Several tea companies have replaced the traditional paper sachet with mesh nylon or polyethylene terephthalate (PET). These ''plastic'' bags do not biodegrade and add to the global plastic pollution problem.
Green Alternative: Stick with paper teabags.
9. Tampons & Pads - With 50% of the population needing these every month, you can see why these feminine hygiene products create severe problems. Did you know a menstrual pad contains the same amount of plastic as four carrier bags, and a single tampon takes 500 years to decompose?
Green Alternative: Swap pads and tampons for reusable menstrual cups or period underwear.
10. Glitter - Glitter is small fragments of PET, a microplastic that contaminates the aquatic environment just like all the other microplastics.
Green Alternative: Buy biodegradable alternatives.
11. MDF Furniture - Contains a mixture of wood solids, wax, and resin bonded together under high temperatures and high pressure to create a uniform wood-like product that is far cheaper than natural wood. In layman's terms, MDF is sawdust held together with glue serving as the base for piece-of-trash furniture you get from cheap supply stores and foreign furniture chains.
MDF items usually have a life span of 1/10th of something made from properly constructed solid wood. MDF is manufactured using formaldehyde, a known human carcinogen. Cutting, sanding, or releasing particles of MDF into the air is high risk and should be avoided, and if the furniture isn't adequately sealed during manufacturing, which in many cases is true, the materials can leak formaldehyde for years in the future, pumping it into your home or office. Not for me, no thank-you!
Green Alternative: Buy sustainable, natural furniture from reputable local suppliers...
TopEco Home specialises in safe, non-toxic furniture from sustainable sources.
TopEco is not like a traditional online store where what you see is what you get. The TopEco store pages are there to give you and idea for your own inspiration to take over. Many of the products TopEco supplies are bespoke and handmade for the customer.
They cater for hotels, interior designers, architects and property developers. Their in-house experts take care of everything for your project, from start to finish.
Learning how to keep our home and environment safe from harmful substances and situations is a valuable lesson, so let's take a seat in our home and environment classroom and discover a thing or two. You never know; it could save your life...
Click the scary symptoms below to discover the consequences of burning certain items in our home and environment that can have a detrimental impact on your health:
It is not always what is in your fireplace that poses a danger, but what is around the fireplace may be causing respiratory problems, and you wouldn't even know it.
Take a look at the items around your fireplace. Plastic bins, plant pots or ornaments, vinyl flooring or man-made fibre carpet all pose a serious threat to your health when they get hot. Sometimes embers fall, and PVC (vinyl) gets burned, causing carbon monoxide, dioxins, and chlorinated furans. Dioxins and furans are two of the most toxic chemicals you can mess with, as even the lowest amount can cause cancer and even congenital disabilities. Burning PVC can also generate hydrochloric acid in your lungs and cause possible ulceration of your respiratory tract.
So it goes without saying that you should not leave plastics, chemicals or cleaners near heat, as these could be flammable or toxic when exposed. Also, do not use tape around vent ducts, as this could cause the build-up of carbon monoxide. If you have vents or air-flow channels that are blocked or not working, things can get pretty dangerous at the fireside. Check your surroundings for possible hazardous, flammable items or fit a stone hearth. Better yet, change your fireplace to a safe bioethanol-fuelled fire.
So with all that said, there are many common fire hazards to think about if you have an open flame. Making our home and environment safe may be too much worry and process for many. Most give up on the mere thought of having to deal with changing the way they've lived for years. And this is why it's essential to get the message out there. So we can understand and do something about it.
It's too late for my mother. She has annual bouts of bronchitis due to years of exposure to wood and coal-burning fireplaces. She cooked and heated her house on a solid fuel stove for years. I often caught her burning plastic cartons, magazines, wrapping paper, wet cardboard and MDF. And, often it's too late to help some people, and sometimes people don't want to be told. My mother certainly didn't appreciate the information. I printed some facts and pictures for her to look at because she wasn't computer savvy. She said thank you and then burnt it.
Perhaps I didn't make it simple enough. Now I know the message about fireplace safety is very clear. And that message can be summed up in four words...
All the significant health hazards come from the smoke. According to the EA (Environment Agency), wood smoke contains some pretty potent toxins. These toxins include benzene, formaldehyde, acrolein, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). And they are as nasty as they sound. These vicious particulates get into the air, harming your lungs and inducing severe respiratory problems.
Using smokeless bioethanol fuel is a solution encouraged by many governments and directives. There are several advantages reported in the production of bioethanol from algae. Bioethanol is a clean-burning fuel and environmentally safe as its greenhouse gas emissions are less than fossil fuels.
During combustion, the emissions from bioethanol are heat, steam and a trace amount of carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide absorption by plants and processes via photosynthesis is the infinite clean cycle of creation and energy combustion, making bioethanol a carbon-neutral fuel source.
Bioethanol Fuel Has Significant Benefits for Our Home and the Environment