We often think of our homes as safe places, but they can be rather unhealthy. The Environmental Protection Agency has dubbed poor indoor air quality as one of the top five environmental health risks. From reducing plastic use to opting for hard surfaces for flooring and nontoxic materials, there are a plethora of things you can do right away to start reducing the toxic exposures you are unknowingly subjecting yourself to. Every improvement will make a difference in your health today, in the future, and in the health of our planet.
Don’t Ignore Mold
While you might be able to turn a blind eye to windows that need washing or lawns that need mowing, you don’t want to mess with mold. It is something you probably don’t want to think about, but ignoring it can lead to severe health problems. To keep mold at bay, the key is to reduce moisture in the home.
- Check for leaky pipes or plumbing that could result in excess moisture, especially in poorly ventilated areas like the basement, attic, garage, and bathroom.
- Always use an exhaust fan when showing, and leave it on even after you’re done. Investing in a small dehumidifier is another way to keep humidity levels in check.
- Service your HVAC system. Rather than let dust and debris, a prime source for mold, sit all spring and summer in the filters and vent, clean the system now so it’s ready for next season.
Rid Your Home of Radon
A naturally occurring gas that causes lung cancer, radon can be found indoors and even in drinking water, but because it has no color, odor, or taste, you likely have no idea it’s there. It causes approximately 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year, which is even more than the annual deaths caused by drunk driving. Most of it come from the soil under your home, forming as uranium breaks down and seeping up into your home.
Testing your home for radon is both easy and inexpensive. If high levels are found, radon reduction systems can reduce them.
Catch Carbon Monoxide
While most people know that smoke detectors are a must in any home, too often carbon monoxide detectors are overlooked. Unlike smoke, carbon monoxide has no taste, no color, and is poisonous. What makes carbon monoxide so dangerous is its ability to displace oxygen in the blood, which deprives your heart brain, and other vital organs of the oxygen needed to function properly. Prolonged exposure or large amounts of CO can overtake a person in minutes without warning. So long story short you need a carbon monoxide detector.
Not only is smoking bad for your body but it can have horrific effects on your home. Besides the stench, secondhand smoke contains more than 7,000 substances, several of which are known to cause cancer. Just because smokers take their cigarettes out to the garage doesn’t necessarily help. Secondhand smoke has been shown to travel between rooms of a home, and even between apartment units.
Don’t Clean Your Home Sick
While dust and pests can cause problems of their own, the chemicals often used to get rid of them can be even more dangerous. For example, some pesticides can cause serious damage to a person’s nervous system and kidneys and even increase the risk of cancer, while many common household cleaners can release volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, which can cause serious health damage as well. The EPA recommends using nonchemical methods of pest control and cleaners without VOCs.