Welcome to Second Nature, a Q+A series with Jute founder, Ali Davin, that explores all things healthy living, with a fond emphasis on that thing she does best—interior design.
It’s common knowledge that we should eat organic food, cook with nontoxic pans, and clean with natural products. We are conscious of what we consume with our bodies, but what about the environment we live in? The next step in living a green, sustainable life is being conscious of the materials in our home, from the surfaces that surround us to the air we breathe.
I grew up in a health-conscious household, and as a former dancer, I’ve always had strong body awareness. But after being diagnosed with an auto-immune disorder, I found that environmental toxins made my symptoms worse. It took me years of seeing specialists and doing my own research to hone in on what toxins were present and how I reacted to them. Now I have to be extra-proactive about having a healthy lifestyle.
Being in construction, I’m bombarded with every toxin at design sites, showrooms, and everywhere I go. Because of my sensitivities, I’m a natural barometer for formaldehyde, chlorine, mold—I now know based on my symptoms what toxic chemicals are in a space. I’ve had to learn what the biggest offenders are in terms of off-gassing, and be proactive about staying clear of them.
It’s when a product releases chemicals into the air. Every single thing you buy—from new clothes to your mattress to the building materials of your home itself—off-gasses. Think of new-car smell—everyone knows to keep their windows open at first. When you have a house filled with new products, you might not notice that the air is as toxic as a new car, but it can be worse.
Because the chemicals being released are toxic, and you absorb them through your lungs, your skin, and through things you eat—food and water can absorb off-gassing too. When you’re constantly ingesting these chemicals, your body never gets to rest and detox, even if you’re doing a cleanse.
The best way to avoid it is to do research to minimize the toxins you’re bringing into your home. If you want to take it a step further, you can do inexpensive genetic testing from a place like 23 and Me to determine if you have a chemical sensitivity. Then you’ll know if you have to be more diligent about what you bring into your home. I always throw everything outside and let it bake in the sun before I bring it inside.
Having clean air is the key to everything. I have HEPA filters in every room—I’m crazy about air purifiers. You can always run tests to check the quality of your air and fix it accordingly. It’s just like lab work for your health—get a baseline of what’s going on in your home, then treat it.
Check for mold and VOCs in your home. You can either hire a professional or order your own kit online.