I want to talk to you about how your home could be harming you and your family's health - and you may not even know it.
Have you ever thought about how the paint on your walls, your carpet, or your food can be causing you harm? This post will show you how to create a healthier home.
This guide will show you what to get rid of in your home and what you can do to make sure your home is a healthier place for you and your family.
Improve Indoor Air Quality
Let's get a scary fact out of the way first: There has been mounting evidence by the EPA that the air inside homes can be more polluted than outside. What's worse is that we spend about 90% of our day indoors.
Scary right? But don't fret. Here's what you can do to quickly improve the air quality in your home.
Gas stoves, wood burning fireplaces, and malfunctioning heating devices are the biggest sources of indoor pollutants. They spew out carcinogens and carbon monoxide. Here are the fixes:
Gas Stoves - 51% of kitchens with gas stoves tested have carbon monoxide levels higher than the EPA standard. When using your gas stove, ensure your kitchen fan is on and set to high as long as your stove is in use. Also, open a few windows to allow fresh air to come in and for the carbon monoxide to leave your home. NEVER use a gas stove as a heat source.
Wood Burning Fireplace - The flame from a fireplace has a mystical effect that we all gravitate to. But honestly, it's not worth the health risk. The smoke that comes from burning wood can cause breathing and heart problems. The best and easiest solution is to simply not use your fireplace. If the fireplace or wood stove is your only source of heat, you can do these things to avoid the health risks of using a fireplace.
- The fireplace damper must be open when the fireplace is in use, which allows the smoke and gasses to exit.
- Ensure a fresh air supply into your home before lighting the fire.
- Some fireplaces come with their own combustion air duct. If yours is not equipped with this duct, you must have a fresh air supply, such as an open window.
- Keep the fresh air supply available, even overnight, until the fire is completely out.
- Keep the damper closed when the fireplace is not in use.
- Never burn wood that has been painted or chemically treated.
Heaters - Ensure the vents are properly vented to the outside and there are no leaks. This can be done with periodic professional inspections.
Open A Few Windows - Get the benefit of fresh air without having to go outside! Open a few windows when the weather permits to cycle fresh air into your home and the stale air out. But you should probably go outside for some fresh air. Netflix has a pause button you know.
Get Dust Under Control
Dust can trigger allergies and affect people with asthma. It even holds onto chemicals for years. The simplest way to get rid of dust is to vacuum frequently, ensuring you get under furniture and the corners along the floorboard. For those who want an excuse to install hardwood floors, now would be the best time as they are significantly easier to clean.
Prevent Mold Build Up
Mold releases spores that can cause respiratory problems, allergies, and rashes. Mold will grow in damp areas so one of the best ways to prevent mold build up is to ensure your home's humidity doesn't exceed 50%. This can be done by either opening windows (if it's dry outside) or by using a dehumidifier.
Other ways to prevent mold buildup:
- Keep areas dry - this means drying wet areas from a leaky pipe or a spill on the carpet right away. You should also keep your shower curtains closed after showering which allows it to dry more quickly.
- Properly ventilate your home to prevent mold from growing.
- Clean your gutters and repair your roof. Often a damaged roof and overflowing gutters allow moisture to build up and leak into your crawl spaces.
Throw Away Air Fresheners
A study tested 72 air fresheners and found that they contained 350 different chemicals and allergens, some known to cause reduced lung function and increase asthma rates in humans. Most air fresheners work by simply masking the smell with a stronger scent. Instead, you should opt to use fragrant flowers and plants as a natural alternative.
Test For Radon
Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer, following smoking. It is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that results from decaying radium in soil. It's also completely colorless, odorless, and tasteless.
When radium decays, it releases a decay product that attaches to airborne particles which are then inhaled and end up in your lungs. You can purchase a radon detection kit online or at your local hardware store. For more information on radon, click here.
Don't Bother With Pesticides
Long-term exposure to pesticides is known to cause a wide range of health issues for young children such as asthma, learning disabilities, and affect early brain development.
Instead, prevent insects and rodents from coming into your home by:
Cleaning your home
- Wiping up spills immediately and clean any sticky surfaces using water and soap.
- Take out the garbage daily or ensure your garbage can has an air tight lid. Make sure there is no food residue on the outside or lid of the garbage can.
- Keep ripe fruits in the fridge.
- Vacuum and sweep floors regularly.
- Keep all your food and beverages in covered containers. This also means any ingredients you use for cooking/baking such as sugar, flour, etc.
- Check for any small pools of water in your home caused by leaky faucets or pipes.
- Use silicon caulk to seal cracks and crevices by windows and doorways.
- Keep tall plants and other tall objects outside, away from windows and doors of your home to prevent pests from climbing them to get into your home.
Use chemical free traps like flytraps, jar traps, pheromone traps, and light boxes.
If you're still having pest issues you should consult a professional pest management company that can offer low-toxicity products to manage your pest problem.
Limit Use Of Plastic Bottles
Some studies have shown that higher levels of Bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical found in polycarbonate plastics, in a person's urine meant they were more likely to have a history of heart disease or diabetes. While BPA is deemed safe to hold food, it is advised that you do your best to decrease exposure to it as much as possible. This means you should:
- Use baby bottles made of tempered glass or plastic bottles with the recycling symbols 1, 2, or 5. Avoid those marked with a '7' or 'PC'.
- Don't microwave plastic containers as the heat breaks down plastic fibers.
- Don't microwave cling wrap. Cover your food with a paper towel or waxed paper instead.
- Use ceramic or glass containers to store food.
Ditch Bottled Water
I used to be one of those chumps who would buy something that was marked up 4000% even though I could get it for dirt cheap. That something was bottled water.
Not to mention the fact that all those water bottles are devastating the environment. Here's what to do instead - Drink tap water! Tap water is rigorously tested and regulated by the EPA while bottle water has no such requirement. In fact, some bottled water tested had MORE chemical contaminants than allowed by health-protective limits in California (where the 4-year study was conducted).
Use a glass, ceramic, or aluminum water bottle to hold tap water. If you want to filter your tap water, a simple pitcher-type filter is all you need. If you're feeling fancy, you can install a filter that attaches directly to the faucet for instant filtered water.
Check Your Paint For Lead
If your home was built before 1978, there is a chance the paint covering your walls and exterior contain traces of lead, a toxic metal that can cause serious harm to you and your family. If you're planning to do some remodeling of your home, you might be spreading lead around the house as it mixes with the dust and soil.
A simple way to test if your walls is to call an inspector. It is highly recommended you hire a professional to conduct this test due to the toxicity of lead paint. Unfortunately, the only way to get rid of lead paint is to hire a certified lead abatement contractor.
Know Which Food Is Worth Buying Organic
Despite what health magazines and talk shows are telling us, eating completely organic is not necessarily worth the extra costs as the health benefits are minimal. Yeah, we know everyone loves Whole Foods but if you have other expenses besides food, you should know which organic produce is actually worth buying.
Apples - Pesticides line the skin of apples, which also happen to contain the most nutrients. Organic apples are worth buying as the price difference is fairly minimal.
Baby Food - Babies are more susceptible to the negative health impacts of pesticides, which is why buying organic baby food is recommended. To offset the cost, look to purchase it in bulk.
Strawberries and Blueberries - Their relatively thin skin means pesticides are liberally used to protect against pests.
Peaches and Nectarines - Same deal here - thin skin means pesticides will be used and can seep into the fruit even if you get rid of the skin.
Celery - Due to its porous nature and that it grows mostly above ground, opt for organic celery.
Milk - Milk cows are being treated with hormones so they produce more milk. If you drink a lot of milk, opt for organic.
Tomatoes - Organic tomatoes actually contain more nutrients according to a study.
Cucumbers - Cucumbers are treated with a petroleum-based wax to preserve freshness, however, this wax often clings onto pesticides and is very difficult to completely wash off.