How to Maintain a Healthy Home and Reduce Environmental Toxins
When it comes to trending topics around homeownership, most discussions used to be about energy efficiency. Now that energy-efficient appliances have become more common, homeowners are starting to spend more time learning about ways to create a healthier environment at home.
In a study by the Farnsworth Group, over 40% of homeowners aged 25-34 expressed specific concerns about home health hazards:
We spend a lot of time at home, and we want to make sure that our families are safe from toxins and other harmful elements. Many household irritants can cause a variety of symptoms that aren’t caused by a particular virus or infection, but by the home itself — something known as sick building syndrome.
What is sick building syndrome?
Sick building syndrome is the name given to a number of symptoms experienced by people that are associated with spending time in a particular building. The symptoms aren’t always the same for everyone, but in most cases, the symptoms alleviate when a person leaves the building. Symptoms of sick building syndrome include dry coughing, itchy or dry skin, irritated eyes, headaches, dizziness, and nausea.
So what causes sick building syndrome? It can be caused by a number of things, from poor ventilation to household chemicals to mold and mildew. There are plenty of steps you can take today to create a healthier home environment. In this article, you’ll learn how to reduce toxins in your home and create a safer, healthier environment for yourself and your family.
Stop using chemical cleaning products if possible.
Even products labeled “green” or “natural” could still have irritating chemicals in them. A good rule of thumb when evaluating cleaning products is to look out for warnings on the label. If it’s something that could irritate your skin or send you to a poison control center, consider finding an alternative to cleaning your surfaces. Soap, water, vinegar, and baking soda can take care of most of your cleaning needs.
Use an air purifier.
Air purifiers work wonders for improving the air quality in your home. There are some really expensive models out there, but there are also some quality options for around a hundred dollars or less. Air purifiers cycle the air in a room through a filtration system, removing dust, allergens, dander, mold, smoke, and odors.
Make sure your home has adequate ventilation.
The most common cause of sick building syndrome is poor ventilation. Many older homes were built during a time when ventilation standards were much looser. Keep windows open as much as possible to allow for circulation. Run ceiling fans often (and keep them clean — fans have a habit of collecting dust) and make sure your attic, kitchen and bathrooms have properly working vents.
Get some house plants.
Not only are they aesthetically pleasing, but house plants also do their part to purify the air in our homes. Plants are like natural air filters, breathing in all that old, stale air and letting out fresh oxygen. They might not do as much as a dedicated air purification system, but having some plants in addition to a purifier will go a long way toward making your home a healthier place to live and breathe.
Watch out for mold and mildew.
When areas of your home are exposed to moisture and not properly ventilated, toxic mold can start to develop. Mold is commonly found in bathrooms, kitchens, basements, and attics. But if you have a leak somewhere, mold could be building up in unexpected places, like behind drywall or on the actual frame of your home. That’s why it’s important to detect leaks and stay on top of water damage.
Test your home for radon.
Radon is a naturally occurring gas that is formed when uranium in soil and rock breaks down. Radon is practically everywhere, and in small amounts, it’s mostly harmless. But when we’re exposed to large amounts of radon, we can start to experience some serious health issues. In fact, radon exposure is the number two cause of lung cancer behind smoking.
The symptoms of radon exposure are similar to those of lung cancer: persistent cough, shortness of breath, chest pains, wheezing, and chronic lung infections. You can buy an at-home radon test kit and test your home yourself.
Install and maintain working carbon monoxide detectors.
Just like radon, carbon monoxide is an invisible, odorless gas. While radon makes you sick over a long period of time, carbon monoxide poisoning can happen suddenly. Carbon monoxide poisoning results in over 400 deaths every year in the U.S. Having a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector in your home will help you keep your family safe from this invisible killer.
Dust and vacuum regularly.
Carpets and rugs trap a lot of nefarious particles. Having a schedule for regular vacuuming can help clear some of that up. Don’t forget to dust, too. Surfaces and ceiling fans collect a lot of dust, and once you start circulating the air, that dust starts blowing around.
Don’t smoke indoors.
This might go without saying, but you shouldn’t smoke indoors under any circumstances. Secondhand smoke is a tremendous health hazard, especially to children, who can develop asthma and other respiratory illnesses. Cigarette smoke will also leave an odor in your home that is almost impossible to get rid of without some serious heavy-duty cleaning.
Use a water filtration system.
It’s not just the air we breathe that determines our well-being. Make sure the water you’re drinking is free from dangerous particles by using a filter. You can buy a filter for your faucet or use a filtered water pitcher. If you want to take it to the next level, you can even invest in a whole-home water filter.
Keep Your Water, Air and Surfaces Clean
Our homes are vulnerable to all kinds of toxins and contaminants. Some you can see and smell, while others can go totally undetected for years. Having a healthy home environment takes work, but you’ll notice the difference when you have fresh air, pure water, and clean surfaces.