Our Home and Environment

Starts With the Toxic Things In Your Home...

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?

No... Jump to the real reasons below...

Bearing the Responsibility of Our Home and Environment

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.

Do we need to think about our health and environment on date night? Of course not, but let's give you some food for thought while you entwine your toes over that log burning fire...Do we need to think about our health and environment on date night? Of course not, but let's give you some food for thought while you entwine your toes over that log burning fire...

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?

Your fireplace!

You may get a cosy feeling from sitting around your fireplace, but studies suggest that burning solid fuel has a harmful effect on the environment. So cosy toes, yes, but healthy toes, no!You may get a lovely cosy feeling from sitting around your fireplace, but studies suggest that solid fuel fires have a very harmful effect on your home and environment. So cosy toes, yes, but healthy toes, no!

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...

Online Environment Classroom

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11 Everyday Products We Should Eliminate from Our Home 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...

The Best, Safe, Sustainable, Non-Toxic Furniture Supplier...

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. 

If you are planning a high-quality project, call TopEco, they are very helpful.

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Dangers in Our Home and Environment With Solid Fuel Fires

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...

Many everyday items around your home are carcinogenic when burned. Check out this list of 10 Things Not to Burn...Many everyday items around your home are carcinogenic when burned. These include wet wood, cardboard, paper with colour print, Christmas trees, painted or treated wood, plywood, particleboard, chipboard and plastics.

10 Things You Should Not Burn in the Home

  1. Dryer Lint - Dryer lint contains toxic chemicals that release when burned and can put your family and your home at risk. While dryer lint may be an effective fire starter, it is not safe and should never be used to start a fire in your fireplace or stove.

  2. Stained or Treated Wood - Stains and paint release toxic fumes when burned. The fumes and chemicals stay in the air a long time, and some substances travel in the air and stick to other surfaces around your home, releasing dangerous gasses for months.

  3. Plastics - Burning plastic releases toxic gases like dioxins, furans, mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls (better known as BCPs) into the atmosphere and threatens plant life, human and animal health.

  4. General Rubbish - Your fireplace is not a household incinerator. Styrofoam cups, empty containers, boxes printed with coloured ink, and plastic wraps are a few of the many items that can create a dangerous combination of poisonous fumes that linger in your home.

  5. Coloured paper - Or paper in general, except traditional newspaper. Coloured ink used to print magazines, newspaper inserts, and wrapping paper can release toxic fumes.

  6. Accelerants - Gasoline or kerosene-based accelerants can create flames that burn at an extremely high temperature and even flare up in your chimney. These flare-ups can ignite by-products on your walls if you haven't kept up with annual chimney cleanings.  

  7. Real Christmas Trees or Evergreen Foliage - Evergreens contain a resin that burns quickly and produces embers that pop and rise through the chimney onto the roof. Creosote residue is created when wood burns and smoke moves up the chimney. The sticky condensation residue from the rising heat then sticks to the inside of the chimney, creating a toxic fire hazard.

  8. Creosote is the common name used for various products, including wood creosote, coal tar creosote, coal tar, coal tar pitch, and coal tar pitch volatiles. Exposure to creosotes may be harmful to your health. Eating food or drinking water contaminated with a high level of these compounds may cause a burning in the mouth and throat as well as causing chronic stomach pain.

  9. Charcoal or coal - Charcoal and coal are suitable for outdoor barbeques but not for any fireplace indoors. These fuels burn far hotter than firewood and produce deadly carbon monoxide. 

  10. Cloth or clothing - Last but not least. Not only does the smell from burning cloth offend the senses, but clothing produces an excess amount of smoke and soot that will end up adding to the creosote build up in your chimney lining and because cloth burns so hot, the likelihood of a chimney fire increases.

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5 Scary Ways Your Fireplace Could Be Killing You

TopEco Green knows the dangers of burning everyday rubbish in your fireplace or wood-burning stove and how toxic gases can affect your health and environment.TopEco Green knows the dangers of burning everyday rubbish in your fireplace or wood-burning stove and how toxic gases can affect your health and environment.

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:

  1. Asthma Attacks - People with asthma always need to look for unforeseen triggers for an asthma attack. The particulates in the air from burning wood could exacerbate breathing difficulties associated with asthma, unfortunately provoking random attacks.
    Green Alternative: Use high-quality HEPA air purifiers.

  2. Bronchitis Symptoms - The EA warns that short-term exposure to wood smoke could lead to the development of acute bronchitis—and after several repeated exposures to wood smoke, a higher risk of developing chronic bronchitis.
    Green Alternative: Increase the humidity in your home with a humidifier.

  3. Carbon Monoxide Poisoning - A scary danger to our home and environment, and one of the hardest to detect is carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is the odourless, colourless toxic byproduct of burning fuel. Exposure to this gas can poison or suffocate you without warning and cause numerous symptoms like headaches, dizziness, and nausea. Even a tiny amount can impact your body's ability to carry oxygen to the cells. When carbon monoxide is emitted into the atmosphere, it increases greenhouse gases linked to climate change and global warming.
    Green Alternative: Install carbon monoxide detectors & seek alternative fuel.

  4. COPD Progression - People with chronic respiratory conditions like COPD could put themselves at risk by regularly burning solid fuel in a fireplace or even using gas appliances. Epidemiological evidence suggests that there may be a modest adverse effect of exposure to domestic gas appliances on respiratory health. If you use a wood-burning stove, pay close attention to air quality in your home. 
    Green Alternative: Get a nanotechnology air filter and humidifier to help remove impure particulates and stop burning solid fuel. Change your gas appliances to electric.

  5. Lung Cancer - A 2010 study published in Environmental Health Perspectives found that fireplace users did have an elevated risk of developing lung cancer. Repeat exposure can permanently damage the lungs and increase cancer risk, similar to smoking. These are the signs of lung cancer you could be ignoring.
    Green Alternative: Stop smoking and gain a healthier lifestyle. Easier said than done, but you will never change bad habits until you have the 'intention' first.

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Additional Thoughts About Our Home and Environment

Sometimes Ambience is a Killer

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.

No Smoke Without 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. 

People don't like to be told to change habits they have done consistently for years. Sometimes you have to make it very simple for them.People don't like to be told to change habits they have done consistently for years. Sometimes you have to make it very simple for them.

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...

It's in the Smoke

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.

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The Solution to the Pollution

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.

8 Benefits of Bioethanol Fuel

Bioethanol Fuel Has Significant Benefits for Our Home and the Environment

  1. The net effect of bioethanol use results in a decrease in the depletion of the ozone layer in the atmosphere. The emissions produced by ethanol combustion are less reactive with sunlight than those produced by burning gasoline, which causes minor damage to the ozone.

  2. Bioethanol neutralizes the carbon availability in the atmosphere. Meaning carbon dioxide released in the bioethanol production process is the same amount as the plants absorbed during photosynthesis.

  3. Bioethanol comes from renewable sources, crops that are not from finite resources.

  4. Any plant can produce bioethanol, provided it contains sugar and starch. And the best choice is sugarcane, maize, wheat or sorghum.

  5. Bioethanol is biodegradable and less toxic than fossils fuels.

  6. Any fuel spills are more biodegradable or diluted because of the non-toxic concentrations.

  7. Because bioethanol undergoes complete combustion, the exhaust gases of ethanol are much cleaner.

  8. Blending ethanol with petrol will help extend the life span of diminishing oil supplies and ensure greater fuel security worldwide.

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