When we think about maintaining our physical health, we tend to focus on internal influences of our health like diet and exercise. But the external influences of our home and neighborhoods plays an equally critical, often overlooked role on our health. This is particularly true during the Covid-19 pandemic with many of us spending much more
time in our homes than we were previously.
Why Be Concerned about Having a Healthy Home?
The air we breathe and the water we drink impacts our health as much as our diet and exercise routine. Because we spend at least 6-8 hours sleeping in our living spaces—and longer if you work, cook, or take part in leisure activities at home—exposure to indoor air and water pollution can have adverse effects on our health.
Here are the main offenders to indoor air and water quality:
Lead - If your living space was built before 1978, it may contain lead paint, which was banned in that year. Lead may also be present in your water through the presence of lead pipes, faucets, and fixtures in your home, which were commonly used before 1986.
Lead is a toxic substance and can accumulate in the body over time, leading to high blood pressure and brain, kidney, and reproductive health issues in adults. In children, who are particularly vulnerable to lead poisoning, it can cause developmental learning and behavioral problems.
Smoking - Tobacco smoke contains carcinogens that can contribute to asthma, respiratory issues, and lung cancer in the smoker or in people living with the smoker through secondhand smoke inhalation.
Mold - Anywhere where there is dampness in a home like basements and bathrooms, mold can grow. Molds are fungi that are invisible to the naked eye and will easily spread in moisture-prone areas. They can cause asthma and other respiratory problems.
Dust - Dust is typically a combination of dirt, pollens, and soot from outside and dead skin, pet dander, carpeting, rugs, clothing, and other materials inside. Like mold, when inhaled, dust can illicit immune reactions that can cause allergies and asthma.
Radon - Radon is an odorless, radioactive gas found in soil that can get trapped indoors when it seeps into buildings through cracks and other holes in a foundation. With prolonged exposure, it can cause lung cancer. In fact, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after tobacco smoke!
Healthy Home Solutions
One of the most effective actions you can take against indoor air pollutants is proper ventilation.
Change air filters in your heating and air conditioning units regularly and also have your air ducts cleaned on a yearly basis. And simply opening windows to air out your living space can do wonders to improving your indoor health.
Lead paint is not an issue unless you disturb the surface of a wall through home renovations or other contact. In this case, contractors will need to follow strict rules from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to adequately seal off construction areas, properly dispose of materials, and keep everyone involved safe.
All smoking of tobacco should ideally be done outside the home to reduce indoor air pollution and secondhand smoke exposure.
To combat mold, install fans in bathrooms to reduce humidity. In basements or other damp household locations, use a dehumidifier to remove moisture from the air to reduce the likelihood of mold development.
Dust levels can be decreased through frequent dusting, vacuuming, and cleaning of your living space. Carpets can accumulate pet dander and dust, so opt for hardwood floors to lessen the amount of dust that builds up. For maximum dust removal, use vacuums with HEPA filters.
Radon can be mitigated by first getting your home tested to determine the potential levels of radon in it. Other than proper ventilation, sealing cracks in floors and walls will assist in keeping radon out.
With lead and other toxins in your living space’s drinking water, filtering and purifying your water will help to remove them. Options range from water filter pitchers to home water filtration systems, so do your research to determine which alternative is best for you.