“Home Sweet Home” isn’t always true. We’d like to think that our house, condo, apartment, castle, cave or wherever we lay our head at night is a healthy place to live and enjoy time with family and friends. But you’d be surprised to know that your home may be a source of illness for those living in it.
This is such a common problem that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control has a National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH). Their sole purpose is to find better ways to make America’s homes safer and healthier places to live. The NCHH’s principles for a healthy home can help you to take steps to ensure you’re living in a healthy environment:
KEEP IT DRY
Damp homes can invite roaches, rodents, mildew and mold. All of these have been associated with asthma and respiratory problems.
- Replace cracked tiles and missing caulk in the kitchen and bathroom to stop the growth of mold behind walls.
- Dehumidify by running the ceiling vent fan for at least 20 minutes after every shower to move moist air outside. If you don’t have a ceiling vent fan – open a window, leave the shower door and bathroom door open to get outside air flowing into the bathroom to dry it out.
KEEP IT CLEAN
A clean house can staunch a pest infestation and keep contaminants out.
- Have a small mat on both sides of an exterior door. Most of the dirt that gets tracked inside can be stopped at the front and back doors. Better yet, have people take off their shoes when entering. This can halt allergens, bacteria and outdoor chemicals from spreading throughout your house.
- Clean kitchen prep surfaces, including cutting boards, with hot soapy water every time you use them. And if you have a cracked wooden cutting board, throw it out. Germs can linger in those cracks. Hard plastic cutting boards are easier to clean.
KEEP IT PEST-FREE
Any exposure to mice, fleas and cockroaches is unhealthy. Natural preventions are better, because inappropriate use of some chemical treatments can cause other health problems.
- Keep pet food in sealed plastic containers. Most of us remember to safely store our open food, but forget the big bag of dog food left open for the ants and roaches.
- Mothballs contain carcinogens. Don’t use them. Studies show that cedar chips can repel or kill pests like cockroaches, termites and cloth-eating moths. Keep some in your closets in small open containers or in sachets you make from cheesecloth. Replace the chips when they lose their scent.
KEEP IT SAFE
Most household injuries to children are caused by falls, injuries from home objects, burns and poisonings.
- Do not let small children around the stove area while you are cooking.
- Do not transfer medication into non-childproof containers. Toddlers are attracted to pills that look like candy to them.
KEEP IT CONTAMINANT-FREE
Chemical exposure tends to be stronger inside the home than outside because of the enclosed air flow.
- Filter your home’s drinking water. Activated carbon filters come in pitcher, tap-mounted and under sink models. They can reduce exposure to chlorine, lead and other contaminants.
- Prohibit smoking in your home, even electronic cigarettes.
KEEP IT VENTILATED
Increasing your home’s supply of fresh air can improve quality of health and breathing.
- Open your windows for part of every day, unless you have a strong pollen allergy.
- In the kitchen, it is best to have a vent fan that vents outdoors instead of one that just recirculates air. This will get pollutants and odors out of your house.
KEEP IT MAINTAINED
Homes that are poorly maintained can harbor indoor pests, moisture and safety issues.
- At the first sign of a problem, fix it or report the issue to your landlord. A problem left unrepaired only gets worse.
- Schedule an HVAC checkup annually to make sure that your furnace, boilers and water heater is venting carbon monoxide correctly.