Tiny particulates from emissions are causing diabetes

It has been suggested for some time that PM2·5 (the smallest type of particulates found in emissions which go unfiltered into the lungs) are associated with increased risk of diabetes; however, nobody really knew how big the effect was. 

To really dig down on what was happening, last year scientists took a group of 1,729,108 US veterans and followed them to see what happened over an 8.5-year period, taking note of the all the fine details, where they live and PM2.5 levels. 

Diabetes was recorded by using the International Classification of Diseases-9 code, diabetes medication prescription or abnormal blood glucose level tests.

A 10 μg/m3 (micrograms per cubic metre) increase in PM2·5 was associated with increased risk of diabetes and exposure to PM2·5 was associated with increased risk of death. An integrated exposure response function showed that the risk of diabetes increased substantially above 2·4 μg/m3, and then exhibited a more moderate increase at concentrations above 10 μg/m3.

Globally, ambient PM2·5 contributed to about 3.2million incident cases of diabetes, about 8.2million disability adjusted life year (DALYs) caused by diabetes, and 206,105 deaths from diabetes attributable to PM2·5 exposure, especially in low-income and lower-to-middle-income countries.

Importantly, the study shows that substantial risk exists at concentrations well below those outlined in the air quality standards of WHO and national and international regulatory agencies, meaning targets need to tighten even further.

The biological mechanism underpinning the association is based on the premise that pollutants enter the bloodstream where they might interact with tissue components to produce pathological effects. This mechanism is now supported by evidence both in experimental models and humans that inhaled nanoparticles, which when sufficiently small can enter the bloodstream and interact with distant organs—including liver tissue—and exhibit affinity to accumulate at sites of blood vessel (vascular) inflammation.

Both research studies and human evidence suggest that exposure to ambient air pollutants can lead to clinically significant disturbances in oxidative stress, inflammation, cell division and broad metabolic derangements in glucose and insulin homoeostasis. This includes glucose intolerance, decreased insulin sensitivity and impaired secretion, and increased blood lipid concentrations, thus providing biological mechanistic plausibility to the association of PM2·5 exposure and the risk of diabetes.

The global burden of diabetes attributable to PM2·5 air pollution is significant. Reduction in exposure will yield substantial health benefits, but protecting the body from not only breathing particles in, but also providing antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents must also become a focus until things that contribute to emissions, such as diesel fuels, are faded out.

Altruvita’s Air Pollution Formula is designed to provide natural support in a polluted world, click here to learn more about this food supplement.

Photo by Denys Nevozhai on Unsplash

Alternative treatments for Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) remains a common and difficult to manage gastrointestinal condition. There is growing interest in the use of traditional medicine to manage IBS, as prescribed drugs often fail after time and revolve around symptom management of cramps and diarrhoea rather than addressing the cause of the problem. In particular, curcumin, a biologically active phytochemical, has demonstrated anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties in several studies. 

Last year a group of researchers looked at all the studies available with IBS and curcumin. 3 studies were included in the final analysis this included treatment of 326 patients.

They found curcumin to have a beneficial effect on IBS symptoms. With its unique antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities, and ability to modulate gut microbiota, curcumin is a potentially useful agent for IBS. It also appears safe and well-tolerated, with no adverse events reported in the available trials. 

There are more studies on the way looking at even more benefits that it may have in the gut and elsewhere in the body, so watch this space!

Altruvita’s Happy Tum supplement contains highly absorbable curcumin, green tea and vitamin D. Take a closer look at Happy Tum here.

Air pollution – can changing your diet help?

With studies on the impact of air pollution on our health being released on a weekly basis now, it’s no wonder we’re all starting to pay attention. It’s especially emotive when children and babies are at risk too. The latest research shows that children living next to a main road will not have developed lungs which are needed to protect against respiratory infections, and they also have a 10% higher risk of lung cancer in later life. This is along with increased risk of asthma and COPD. Whilst some are considering an escape to the country, and away from main roads, for others it’s impractical to move their home, work or school. 

We’ve known for quite some time that diets high in particular compounds, and supplements, have shown promise in terms of benefit against air pollution. In an attempt to avoid selection of anti-pollution superfoods, here’s some tips to what an anti-pollution super diet could look like:

  • Firstly, don’t starve your body, it needs continuous protection against pollutants. One study has suggested that there may be increased susceptibility to nitrogen dioxide (NO2) when someone is in a fasting state. NO2 is produced by motor vehicles, biomass burning, airports and industry.
  • Children living in the city should eat a diet high in antioxidants. A study of children looked at total antioxidant intake and asthma rates, and there appeared to be a link between higher antioxidant intake (total antioxidant capacity) and diminished sensitivity to inhaled allergens. Children should be encouraged to eat their 5 a day, and even such things as turmeric which contains curcuminoid antioxidants.  Potatoes are an important source of the antioxidant vitamin C.
  • Protect your skin with vitamin C and E. Exposure to ground level ozone (O3) results in dose-dependent depletion of antioxidants vitamin C and E in the skin. (O3) generation is a major component of smog and is formed as a result of a photochemical reaction between O2 and pollutants such as hydrocarbons and nitrous oxides, which is facilitated by sunlight. Foods such as oranges, strawberries and lemons are high in vitamin C, and almonds and avocados are good sources of vitamin E.
  • Keep your vitamin D levels topped up, especially in asthmatics. Although most of your vitamin D comes from sunlight, supplementation is often required because of reduced sunlight. The sun’s UVB rays struggle to get through air pollution smog and have been shown to affect blood levels of vitamin D. Low vitamin D levels are linked to allergic asthma exacerbation. A vitamin Dcontaining supplement and consuming foods such as oily fish may help.
  • Ensure vitamin C and E levels are kept topped up in asthma and COPD. A London-based study looked at whether individual blood antioxidant concentrations (vitamins A, C and E) could modify the response to particulate matter with respect to hospital admissions for COPD or asthma. Two hundred and thirty four admissions were recorded and the level of PM10 (larger particles) was noted 14 days before and after each event. Combined admission rates were related to a 10 μg/m increase in PM10. Serum vitamin C modified the effect of PM10 on asthma/COPD exacerbations. A similar (although weaker) influence was observed for low levels of vitamin E in the blood. Citrus fruits provide lots of vitamin C, whereas almonds and avocados are rich in vitamin E.
  • Vitamin C and E supplements may help asthma patients exposed to high ozone levels. Antioxidant supplementation with vitamin C and E above the minimum dietary requirement led to reduced nasal inflammation and partially restored antioxidant levels in asthmatic patients exposed to high levels of O3. Vitamin E-containing antioxidants also reduced O3-induced bronchoconstriction in subjects with asthma in 2 other studies. High levels of vitamins C and E were provided as supplements and it is not known if diet would have the same effect.
  • Vitamin E supplements may help in people exposed to O3 without asthma. Two trials reported that vitamin E-containing antioxidants reduce O3-induced bronchoconstriction in subjects without asthma, suggesting potential protective effects of vitamin E against the detrimental effects of O3. High levels of vitamin E were provided as supplements and it is not known if diet would have the same effect.
  • Eat turmeric if you live in a city or you are around smoke. In a Singapore population of 2478 people, where air pollution and smoking rates are high, researchers found that people taking dietary curcumin through eating turmeric in curry, had better pulmonary function. The average adjusted forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1) associated with curry intake was 9.2% higher among current smokers, 10.3% higher among past smokers, and 1.5% higher among non-smokers. Turmeric and oil can also be used to marinade meat and fish and in dhal, rice and Moroccan dishes.
  • Fish derived omega 3 oils could protect the heart and blood vessels. Omega 3 oils are known for their effects in alleviating inflammation in the body and there are recent studies which use omega-3 oils to combat the effects of air pollutants. In an animal study researchers demonstrated that omega-3 oils prevented and improve inflammation caused by fine particulate matter. A human study in China found that a dose of 2.5g/day fish derived omega 3 oils led to protection of the cardiovascular system from the tiny particulates in air (PM 2.5). These studies used supplements as it is impractical to try to consume high doses of the oil through eating oily fish.
  • The Mediterranean diet may help if smoke is an issue. A diet high in oily fish, olive oil, fresh fruit, veg and salads does offer some protection against the effects of tobacco smoke in smokers and passive smokers.

No particular dietary intervention has been tested in a high pollution environment yet and you’ll see that most research suggests that supplements are required to get enough of a particular compound.

We’ve developed Air Pollution Formula, the very first supplement of its kind, to offer natural support in a polluted world. Take a closer look at the ingredients chosen for our unique Air Pollution Formula here.

Suffering from stiff and creaky joints?

Stiffness and aching joints are often associated with winter, in particular the dropping temperatures and increase in wet weather. The exact science behind why colder weather increases joint pain is still slightly unclear, but there’s plenty of evidence to show levels of discomfort rise when it’s cooler. For those living with arthritis or stiff, aging joints it’s worth exploring natural support to get through the winter in comfort. Introducing turmeric, a vibrant yellow spice that could be a secret weapon in the battle against join stiffness and pain. 

Turmeric has traditionally been used in Chinese and Indian Ayurvedic medicine to treat arthritis. Curcuminoids within turmeric are collectively called ‘curcumin’ and we are confident in the science which shows that curcumin blocks inflammatory cytokines and enzymes, including cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), in the same way as the common non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) painkiller ibuprofen. A study on knee osteoarthritis patients compared the ability of curcumin and another NSAID called diclofenac to inhibit cyclo-oxygenase 2.Both the groups showed significantly reduced cyclo-oxygenase 2 secretions, meaning inflammation levels were lower after the use of a painkiller, but also after the use of curcumin.

Several recent studies show that turmeric/curcumin has noticeable anti-inflammatory properties and it also modifies immune system responses related to arthritis.  A 2006 study showed turmeric was more effective at preventing joint inflammation than reducing joint inflammation. However, a 2010 clinical trial found that a turmeric supplement provided long-term improvement in pain and function in 100 patients with knee osteoarthritis.

One study compared the effects of ibuprofen (2 × 400 mg/day) with those of curcumin (4 × 500 mg/day) in patients who were over 50 years of age, had severe knee pain and their radiography showed the presence of osteophytes. Both the groups showed improvements in all assessments but the curcumin group was statistically better in patient satisfaction, timed walk or stair climbing and pain during walking or stair climbing. 

A pilot clinical study evaluated the safety and effectiveness of curcumin alone, and in combination with diclofenac sodium in patients with active rheumatoid arthritis. Forty-five patients diagnosed with RA were randomized into three groups with patients receiving curcumin (500 mg) and diclofenac sodium, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). (50 mg) alone or their combination. The curcumin product reduced joint pain and swelling in patients with active rheumatoid arthritis better than diclofenac. More importantly, curcumin treatment was found to be safe and did not relate with any adverse events.

Another study evaluated the comparative efficacy of two different doses of curcumin with that of a placebo in active rheumatoid arthritis patients. Twelve patients in each group received placebo, 250 or 500 mg of the curcumin product twice daily for 90 days. Patients who received the curcumin product at both low and high doses reported statistically significant changes in their clinical symptoms at the end of the study. These reported changes were backed up by changes seen in patients’ blood tests. 

Curcumin+ is a powerful anti-inflammatory*, antioxidant* formula that helps support inflammatory issues for optimum wellness. It helps protect and support joint comfort and flexibility*.

* EFSA ARTICLE 13.1 BOTANICALS ON HOLD LIST.

Photo by Anna Auza on Unsplash

Banish smartphones and turn WIFI and TVs off for better quality sleep

You may remember the news from last year that the artificial blue light emitted by our smart phone screens is too stimulating for our brains at bedtime, but did you know that there are also plenty of other electronic devices which can impact sleep?

WIFI emits Electromagnetic Frequency radiation (EMF).  In 2013, the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at The University of Melbourne published a study on how EMF affects the quality of our sleep, especially in relation to the pineal gland which sits in the brain.

They found that our bodies sense EMF radiation in a similar way to how we perceive light. The pineal gland (the gland responsible for producing melatonin, the hormone that regulates our sleep and circadian rhythm) slows down production. When we’re unable to get proper sleep, our ability to fight bacterial, viral and fungal infections and repair tissue damage is impaired. Sleep is one of the most important parts of a healthy lifestyle, and EMF radiation dramatically affects our ability to get that sleep- a fact also understood by NASA.

Turn your WIFI off at night.

And it’s not just WIFI that effects the quality of our sleep, a new study published in JAMA Internal Medicinedraws a very interesting link between weight gain and sleeping with a television on.

The study followed women between the ages of 35 and 74, and showed that sleeping with the TV on, or any other source of bright light in the bedroom, led to weight gain. The data from a five-year period shows that those who have a TV or other light source on while they sleep gained over 10lbs during the period of the study.

We are meant to sleep in the dark, we are equipped with a pineal gland to wake us up at sunrise.

Getting enough solid sleep every night is one thing essential to health, and lack of sleep has indeed been associated with a variety of conditions. Lack of deep sleep and not getting enough sleep overall are both correlated with obesity.

Artificial light has been shown to hamper sleep quality, and that’s one of the reasons why blue-light-dimming features have crept into our mobile devices and computers. Remember, no phones under your pillow either! Why not buy an old-fashioned alarm clock and banish tablets and smartphones from the bedroom altogether?

As well as embracing darkness and electronic device-free zones to promote better quality sleep, it might interest you to know that hops have been known for their calming abilities for centuries. This is thought to be partly due to the xanthohumol that they contain, which induces mental wellbeing and brings better sleep*. Take a closer look at our Hops and Dreams supplement here

*ESFA Article 13.1 botanicals on hold list

Photo by Mohamed MAZOUZ on Unsplash

Air pollution is as bad for respiratory health as smoking 20 cigarettes a day

Air Pollution

New research unveiled this week reveals that air pollution in some major cities is as bad for us as smoking 20 cigarettes a day. Scientists from the University of Washington monitored the levels of fine particulate matter, nitrogen oxide, ozone and black carbon in the air outside the homes of over 7,000 adults (aged 45- 84) living in 6 major US cities. Over an average of a 10-year period between 2000 and 2018, the research also tracked the development of emphysema and monitored lung decline in participants with CT scans. The researchers’ discovery is a startling reminder of the negative effects of breathing polluted air, particularly for those who live in a city environment.

The findings in more detail

The scientists found that long-term exposure to all the pollutants they were monitoring was linked to an increased percentage of emphysema. Emphysema is one of several conditions, along with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and chronic bronchitis, that are grouped together and referred to as chronic lower respiratory disease. Chronic lower respiratory disease is the third leading cause of death in the world.

Ground-level ozone – the levels of which are increasing worldwide due to the use of fossil fuels – was found to be the deadliest pollutant measured and was linked to a decline in lung function. The results of the research show that long-term exposure to ground-level ozone increases chance of a person developing emphysema by the same as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day for 29 years.

What is Air Pollution Formula?

Air Pollution Formula is the very first food supplement of its kind. It is an innovative option for those looking to support their health in a polluted world and has been developed to provide powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.

Air Pollution Formula includes the antioxidant vitamins C and E, which contribute to the protection of cells from oxidative stress*, curcumin to help control inflammatory responses within the body* and vitamin D for its role in the process of cell division and immune system function*, as well as choline and omega 3 fatty acids.

How can a dietary supplement tackle the effects of air pollution?

It’s a question that we often get asked about our Air Pollution Formula – how can taking a pill help mitigate some of the harmful effects of breathing in polluted air? The key ingredients chosen for our air pollution supplement are absorbed into the bloodstream where they are then distributed throughout the body. This means that their effect is far wider than just the digestive system.

Learn more about Air Pollution Formula and Altruvita

Altruvita’s evidence-based food supplements are developed by leading experts using carefully chosen premium materials, minerals and plant extracts to support your health.

Click here to take a closer look at Air Pollution Formula from Altruvita: https://altruvita.com/air-pollution-formula/

* EU REGISTERS ON NUTRITION AND HEALTH CLAIMS AND EFSA ARTICLE 13.1 BOTANICALS ON HOLD LIST.

MagnEASY sleep

What’s the truth about magnesium and sleep?

You may have read in the past that taking a magnesium supplement can help aid a more restful night in the land of nod, but is there any truth in this?

We know that magnesium contributes to the reduction of tiredness and fatigue, and is required for normal psychological function and the normal functioning of the nervous system.* But does it do this by increasing the amount or quality of our sleep? The answer to this may be complex.

You may know that any kind of inflammation is not a good thing, especially when it continues chronically. It involves swollen tissue and the release of inflammatory markers leading to a state called ‘inflammatory stress’. For example, someone who has an inflamed skin condition, or gum disease. One factor that may increase inflammatory stress is disrupted sleep/sleep deprivation. Inadequate sleep duration has been associated with increases in several inflammatory biomarkers including plasma C-reactive protein (CRP). Sleep quality also has been associated with increased morning concentrations of inflammatory biomarkers IL-6 in healthy adults, elderly women and spousal Alzheimer’s caregivers. Higher circulating levels of IL-1β have been seen in women, but not men. Magnesium intake has been found to be inversely related to elevated circulating CRP concentrations, a marker of acute stress to the body. Thus, subclinical magnesium deficiency through exacerbating a low grade inflammation could be a factor in sleep disruption or deprivation. The possibility that magnesium deprivation affects sleep quality is supported by a few human and animal studies:

A study found 27 patients with unusual behaviours of the nervous system during sleep (parasomnias) displayed low blood magnesium, and also had nocturnal EEG abnormalities occurring during slow wave sleep.

In a placebo-controlled, randomised cross-over experiment with 12 older patients (aged 60 to 80 years), magnesium supplementation significantly reversed brainwave electroencephalogram (EEG) changes, including decreased slow wave sleep, that occur during aging.

Magnesium treatment of alcohol-dependent patients (who often have magnesium metabolism disturbances), significantly decreased sleep onset latency and improved subjective sleep quality as assessed by the Pittsburg Sleep Quality Index (PSQI).

In rats, magnesium deficiency significantly increased wakefulness at the expense of slow wave sleep; magnesium supplementation restored sleep organization to its original pattern.

In addition to a chronic inflammatory stress relationship, sleep architecture and magnesium may have a biochemical relationship. It has been suggested than magnesium regulates sleep because it is an N-methyl-D-aspartate antagonist and a γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) agonist. Sleep architecture, especially slow wave sleep, apparently is closely associated with the glutamatergic and GABAergic system.

So how do I improve my own sleep?

If you have a poor diet, high intake of alcohol, or any reason to believe you’re not absorbing food properly, and you have poor sleep, it may be worth a trial of a magnesium supplement. You may want to get your blood levels measured first. The nutrient reference value is 375mg per day for magnesium so you, unless you have a proven deficiency you wouldn’t want to go too much higher than this, or for too long.

* EU REGISTERS ON NUTRITION AND HEALTH CLAIMS

Photo by Krista Mangulsone on Unsplash

Most fragrances cause indoor air pollution

From our hand soap to our surface spray, our body wash to our perfume, air fresheners and candles, household cleaners and laundry liquid; scents are all around us. This may not make any sense according to gathering research.

Contrary to popular belief, most exposure to hazardous pollutants that affect health and well-being occurs indoors. A primary source of these indoor pollutants and exposures are dyes, smoke, sealants, fire retardants and now fragrances.  Common fragranced consumer products include air fresheners, cleaning products, washing powder/liquid, and deodorants/body sprays and perfumes.

Do you feel unwell when you’ve been indoors for a few days or do you have symptoms that you think must be related to food sensitivities?

Exposure to fragranced products have been associated with a range of adverse human health effects, including migraine headaches, contact dermatitis, asthma attacks, respiratory difficulties, and mucosal symptoms In two previous surveys, it was found that 17.5% and 20.5% of the general US population (between 2002–3 and 2005–6 respectively) reported breathing difficulties, headaches, or other health problems when exposed to air fresheners and deodorizers.

Fragranced consumer products emit dozens of different volatile compounds, including terpenes (e.g., limonene, alpha-pinene, and beta-pinene) that are primary pollutants, and that react with ozone in our households to generate secondary pollutants such as formaldehyde and acetaldehyde. Even some so-called ‘green’, ‘atural’ and ‘organic’ fragranced products emit hazardous pollutants, similar to regular fragranced products because it may only include 1 ingredient of better quality. Little information exists, however, on potentially hazardous compounds emitted from fragranced products, in part because products are not required to disclose all ingredients. Thus, knowledge of potential exposures and effects is essential to effective risk reduction.

Imagine this common scenario; you recently buy an expensive candle ‘made with the finest natural ingredients’. You open it and on the back it says ‘extremely hazardous to aquatic life’ and ‘may trigger allergic reactions’. Made in China. It doesn’t state what the wax is, so it’s probably the cheapest material- paraffin. So apart from being useful for lighting the room, the company stated it’s selling something really toxic at the same time as stating it has ‘finest natural ingredients’. 

Not so relaxing to breath that scented candle any more…

There are now calls for fragrance free zones as well as smoke-free zones being initiated in the US and Australia. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Indoor Environmental Quality Policy (CDC, 2009) states that “Scented or fragranced products are prohibited at all times in all interior space owned, rented, or leased by CDC.” 

For health professionals and patients, when faced with health problems such as headaches, respiratory difficulties, mucosal symptoms, rashes, asthma, and others, consider the possibility that fragranced products could be a contributor. Many people who believe that food may be making them ill may be surprised that even their favourite perfume may be the culprit.

Most fragrances cause indoor air pollution.

Look out for vitamins, oils and botanicals that have been used in air pollution studies, within our products.

Photo by Marina De Salis on Unsplash

Multi-tasking plants in combating air pollution

Air pollution is on the rise. When indoor and outdoor air pollution are combined, WHO estimates that in 2012, some 14% of deaths were due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or acute lower respiratory infections, and 14% of deaths were due to lung cancer.

Emissions from vehicles are a major contributor to air pollution. They release nitrogen dioxides and fine particles, leading to local pollution especially in urban areas. The most damaging type of outdoor air pollution is fine particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometres in diameter (PM2.5 ).
Other sources contributing to PM2.5 concentrations can come from afar however, as there have been many occasions where ‘Saharan dust’ has triggered respiratory problems in the UK population, but the dust has been found to contain these fine particulates and ammonium nitrate from Europe.

Air pollution reduces overall life expectancy in healthy individuals, but in combination with other existing health conditions can also cause early death.

A study from 2017 looked at the role of woodland, grassland, moorland and crops in removing a suite of air pollutants which are known to have substantial impacts on human health. The study looked at levels of PM2.5, nitrogen dioxide, ground level ozone, and sulphur dioxide in these areas. 

The study showed that plants are great at removing pollutants right across the UK and this overall reduction in the levels of pollutants leads to a substantial health benefit.

Several groups got together and estimated the health benefits of removing each pollutant and calculated the economic value. The main health impacts originate from respiratory and cardiovascular health effects, and deaths. The benefits are greater in urban areas because that is where most people live.

Plants remove air pollution by providing a large surface area for particulate matter to settle on, and by active uptake of gases into the leaves or chemical reactions with the leaf surface. Collectively these processes are called ‘dry deposition’. The amount of pollution a plant can remove depends partly on its leaf area and size, but also varies greatly depending on the weather, the time of year (for deciduous species which drop their leaves in winter), and on the other pollutants present in the atmosphere.

The health benefits calculated were substantial, with estimated avoided health costs of one billion pounds in 2015, the majority of this is from removal of PM2.5. The study also estimated 5,800 fewer respiratory hospital admissions, 1,300 fewer cardiovascular hospital admissions, 27,000 less life years that were lost, and 1,900 fewer premature deaths.

So it looks like if we are filling our garden or hedges with plants, we want those with big surfaces that don’t drop leaves Autumn-Winter.

Meanwhile, indoor air pollution is also a constant problem and a threat to health. So looking further into the idea of how houseplants can fend off the potentially harmful effects of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), a main category of air pollutants, a team of researchers have made some new discoveries. They found that certain plants are better at removing specific compounds from the air – this is especially meaningful for indoor air, as studies have shown that interior air can have three to five times more pollutants than outside (apart from in high traffic areas).

VOCs include things like acetone, benzene, formaldehyde and tolulene – they are emitted as gases and can cause short- and long-term health effects. People with asthma and COPD are especially sensitive. They are invisible to the eye and come from common things many of us have around the house, things as innocent-seeming as candles, furniture, copiers and printers, cleaning chemicals.

Since the NASA research in the 1980s, a number of studies have looked into how plants improve air quality, but most of the research has looked at the removal of single VOCs by individual plants from the air; but one groups wanted to compare the efficiency of simultaneous removal of several VOCs by a number plants. The team used a sealed chamber in which they monitored the VOC concentrations over several hours with and without a different type of plant. For each plant they measured the VOCs the plants took up, how quickly they removed these VOCs from the air, and how much of the VOCs were removed altogether. They gathered five plants (spider plant, dracaena, Caribbean tree cactus, bromeliad and jade plants) and gave them 8 VOCs.

They found that all of the plants were good at removing acetone, but the dracaena plant took up the most, around 94 percent of the chemical. The bromeliad plant was great at removing six of the eight VOCs, taking up more than 80 percent of each over a 12-hour sampling period. Likewise, the jade plant was very good for toluene.

Particular botanicals and nutrients from food have been tested in combatting all sorts of nasty bits floating around in our air, so take a look at our products!

Photo by Thomas Somme on Unsplash

Indoor air pollution getting on your wick?

The stresses of daily life are continuing to take their toll on many of us, so it’s little wonder that candles are as popular as ever. This week I even saw scented Christmas candles being advertised on prime time TV. There’s nothing like turning the lights out and breathing in the smell of vanilla and spice or gingerbread biscuits.

But while sniffing your favourite candle before bed often offers stress relief, many are made of nasty stuff, which can be really harmful. This is because they contribute to indoor air pollution (along with log fires, glue, paint, varnish, oil, flame retardants and dyes etc). The World Health Organisation say 4.3 million premature deaths were attributable to household air pollution in 2012. When indoor and outdoor air pollution are combined, WHO estimates that in 2012, some 14% of deaths were due to COPD or acute lower respiratory infections, and 14% of deaths were due to lung cancer.

Finding candles that are totally free of nasty chemicals can be tricky, especially as front labels often make it hard to distinguish what is and isn’t natural (a “blend” may mean a mixture of natural and synthetic ingredients, for example). 

So what are most candles made from?

Paraffin. When burned, paraffin wax (made from the residue leftover from oil refining) creates toxic benzene and toluene chemicals, both of which are known carcinogens. They are classed as volatile organic compounds (VOC’s- which you see a percentage for on paint tins). They are linked to cancer and neurological damage.  It means that breathing them in is as bad for your health as second-hand smoke. If you suffer from headaches when a candle is burning, it may well be down to the paraffin. Some candles even contain lead in the wick. Check with the candle’s manufacturer for a list of ingredients.

What’s better than paraffin?

As a renewable resource, soy candles are the real slow burners- more hours for your money! But while soy candles are certainly superior to the toxic fragrances and additives in conventional candles, it’s worth noting that most soy is genetically modified. Unless it boasts the certified organic label, it’s likely that your candle is made from GM soy. Is that a good or bad thing? Nobody knows!

The best of a bad bunch; beeswax is the only naturally occurring wax on earth, unless you count ear wax ….(Hmmm). Pure beeswax candles are non-toxic, non-polluting and may actually cleanse indoor air of odours and allergens. They also smell of yummy honey too so win win!

What about the scent?

Smells like… vanilla and cinnamon, nope its…

Phthalates? If you’re smelling fragrance, then there’s probably phthalates in your candle. These artificial scents and dyes often used can also release harmful chemicals when burned, possibly triggering asthma attacks and allergies. Do you sneeze or get wheezy with candles It is known that phthalates are widespread contaminants in both indoor and outdoor environments with the plastic industry being a major contributor. The toxicants can be delivered into the body via inhalation and other methods, then cause an inflammatory response, disrupt hormones and affect respiratory health.

If you want scented, I’m afraid you have to pay for pure essential oil fragrances.  If you ever wondered why some candles are so expensive, it because they aren’t made out of cheap rubbish.

Particular botanicals and nutrients from food have been tested in combatting all sorts of nasty bits floating around in our air, so have a look at our website!

Photo by Daiga Ellaby on Unsplash