Did you know Hong Kongers only get around 50 safe air days per year, by WHO’s standards?
We are particularly vulnerable to pollution in the air as the pollutants become trapped between the city’s numerous high-rises and infiltrate our homes and offices.
Air. Water. Food. Skincare products. Household furnishings. Household cleaning products and more – these are all sources of toxins that can wreak havoc with your health and wellbeing. Don’t be terrorized by toxins. Drawing on our 25 years’ experience helping people to stay healthy in Hong Kong, we’ve consolidated our top ten tips to protect you and your family at home and in the workplace.
1. Minimise indoor air pollution
That cute little dollhouse and toy train set are harmless, right? Unbeknown to you, they could be exposing you and your young ones to toxins. Construction material, paints, furniture and soft furnishings can also emit Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) – synthetic and natural substances found in everyday products. Formaldehyde is a particularly harmful VOC causing respiratory and gastrointestinal allergies and irritation to the eyes. It is a listed carcinogen, yet it is found in just about every furnishing in the home. It’s important to choose and clean furnishings wisely.
- Avoid furniture with a plastic coating or if it emits a strong smell. Look for furniture with low VOC emissions or second-hand furniture that has already off-gassed. Carpets can emit VOCs and also conceal bacteria and mould. If you have access to an outdoor space, air the carpets regularly.
- Place several green tea bags in drawers and other furnishings that emit formaldehyde. Change the tea bags every two months for optimal effect. Drinking green tea can also reduce the symptoms associated with formaldehyde exposure.
- For a breath of fresh air, invest in Highly Efficient Particulate Air (HEPA) filtration systems with carbon filters such as Amaircare and Alen BreathSmart. A HEPA system removes harmful particulates that trigger health problems like asthma, allergies and lung disease, and the carbon filter removes airborne VOCs.
- Regularly clean and replace filters in all of your air-conditioners, heaters and de-humidifiers.
- Bring the beauty of nature indoors. Plants like the mother-in-law tongue, the money plant, and the areca palm are proven to produce fresh air, according to research by NASA.
2. Don’t let mould creep up on you
In Hong Kong humidity over 80% is normal for much of the year. Unfortunately, our homes become a breeding ground for fungi or moulds. By the time we’re alerted to mould – be it because of musty smells or dark spots on the walls – millions of toxic mould spores have already been released (causing the odour). These super-sneaky toxins decrease our immunity and increase our likelihood of health challenges.
- Get to moulds before they get to you – regularly bust them with bleach. Vegetable containers, refrigerator drip-trays, garbage cans, sinks, laundry areas, shower recesses and wet wall areas are all common sites for domestic mould growth.
- To allow damp areas in your home some breathing space, leave your windows open during lower humidity periods. During higher humidity periods, close your windows, open cupboard doors, and leave your dehumidifier running for several hours, twice weekly.
- Constantly exposed to dampness, your dehumidifiers and air conditioners will need a helping hand too. Spray with a mould inhibitor or wipe with a bleached cloth regularly.
- Bathrooms are popular havens for mould. Wash tiles and grout frequently with bleach. If there is a false ceiling in bathroom, look above the ceiling tiles. Clean corners behind toilet and under your sink – wherever moisture is apt to collect.
- For a sweet-smelling approach to minimizing mould, we recommend clove oil, lemon grass, or cinnamon oils in aromatherapy burners. Thieves Household Cleaner is a firm favourite at IMI – an aromatic blend of clove, cinnamon, lemon peel, eucalyptus and rosemary oil.
3. Filter your water
Lead exposure usually comes from lead-paint dust, and as we’ve recently found in Hong Kong, from materials used in the installation of water pipes. Lead accumulates in the liver and brain and is particularly damaging to children.
- When there is no obvious cause for a child’s poor health or behaviour, or they are showing signs of developmental delays, parents should consider a screening for heavy metal toxicity.
- Proven to remove up to 99% of chlorine, fluoride, arsenic and lead, a high-quality water filtration system such as Doulton and Jupiter Orion Ionizer is an absolute must for families in Hong Kong.
4. Eat right
Our bodies are designed to digest and process real whole foods like fruits, vegetables, unprocessed meat, fish and chicken, dairy and nuts, and not processed, pre-prepared foods which are often packed with toxins.
- Choose real foods high in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Broccoli, garlic, green tea, berries, kiwifruit, sweet potatoes and papaya – these are all major sources of essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
- To avoid consumption of pesticides, we recommend organic produce. It is proven to give you 80% more antioxidants than conventionally grown foods.
- If organic produce isn’t an option, opt for a non-organic produce with the lowest pesticide levels. Read the Environmental Working Group’s (EMW) useful guide.
5. Don’t eat toxin-rich foods
You can reduce pesticide exposure by almost 90 per cent by avoiding the most contaminated fruits and vegetables, according to EMW.
- Apples. Strawberries. Grapes. Spinach and more. These are all seemingly harmless produce that feature on EMW’s list of the Dirty Dozen.
- The biggest risk from seafood consumption globally is the presence of mercury, which is a neurotoxin – a toxin that damages nerve tissues. Tuna, shark, and swordfish are the most contaminated. Smaller fish are safer. Pregnant women are especially advised to avoid this toxic trio of mercury-contaminated fish.
- Other foods to avoid are animal processed foods such as sausages, bologna, salami and other preserved meat products, fast-food hamburgers, beef, pork, and liver products.
6. Remove pesticides with a powerful wash
Water can only do so much to reduce levels of some pesticides. Peeling may also remove pesticides, but valuable nutrients often go down the drain with the peel.
- When organic options are not available wash all produce with a fruit and vegetable wash. Grapefruit seed extract can lift off much of the oil-based pesticides that are sprayed on plants.
7. Say no to soft plastics
Soft plastics contain hormone-disrupting toxins such as phthalates that can leach into foods. Phthalates have been linked to hormonal imbalances in children and breast cancer in women.
- Hard plastics with a higher recycling code are a safer choice. For food storage use glass, ceramic, or stainless steel.
8. Read the label and choose natural
Commercial soaps, laundry detergents and household cleaning products contain synthetics, fragrances and chemicals that cause skin irritations. Parabens are chemical preservatives found in many cosmetics and pharmaceutical products, as well as some processed foods, and have been linked to breast cancer.
- Look for paraben-free products and those with natural ingredients you can recognise. Opt for the highest-quality natural products and brands that you can find.
- Clean your home with a blend of hot water, bicarbonate of soda and vinegar. Natural cleaning products, Thieves Household Cleaner and microfiber cloths are all great options too.
- Avoid dry cleaning. Most dry-cleaners use perchloroethylene (also called perc), a chemical that has been found to cause cancer in animals. Inhaling this chemical is potentially harmful and it can cause skin irritations. Hand-wash delicate garments instead.
9. Boost your immunity
A weak immune system is more vulnerable to surrounding pollutants; having a diet with plenty of essential vitamins and minerals such as A, C, E, zinc and iron can all help to bolster your immunity.
- Often a healthy diet may not offer enough of these key vitamins and minerals. IMI stocks high quality supplements that can be absorbed easily by the body to boost these essential nutrients.
- A common, but often neglected cause of a weakened immune system in children is vitamin D imbalance. Sun exposure is the major source of vitamin D, but we are unlikely to see enough sun in the winter months and from February to October it is often too hot to go outdoors for long periods without sunscreen. However, sunscreen inhibits the production of vitamin D from sun exposure.
10. Do a detox but do it right
Our body is masterfully designed to self-regulate and heal. It is eliminating and detoxifying every day. However, prolonged exposure to toxic pollutants can place a heavy burden on our body, compromising its normal function. No matter how clean we live, we’re all exposed to toxins every single day.
- Don’t risk your health with an off-the-shelf juice fast or detox programmes. Proven to do more harm than good, they don’t actually remove toxins – they simply move them to your already overworked liver. This leads to a build-up of dangerous toxins in your body that can damage your DNA, all while depleting your body of essential nutrients and enzymes.
- Opt for a detox programme that addresses your unique detoxification needs. Designed and led by experienced naturopaths, IMI’s series of personalized detox programmes are recognized for stimulating the detoxification process and safely removing toxins from the body. Tailored to your needs, we can support your body appropriately with the essential nutrients, medical food, potent herbal medicines, high quality supplements, and homeopathic remedies to eliminate toxins.