Is Your Home Making You Sick?
3 Tips for Staying Healthy at Home
By Charlotte Meier
While you may not like to consider the possibility that your home could make you and your family sick, there is a very good chance that it is, especially if your family members have eye, nose, and throat irritation, congestion, or a rash that dissipates an hour or two after leaving home. While older homes typically have more materials that cause illness, newer homes also may be responsible for making you sick. Below, we share a few tips for helping you and your family stay healthy at home.
1. Get a home inspection
One of the first steps you should take to ensure that you reside in a healthy home is to schedule a home inspection with a certified inspector. Professional home inspectors examine both the exterior and interior of the home and check the electrical, plumbing, and ventilation systems, the home’s structure, and the paint and other finish elements. Inspectors also look for evidence of pests and rodents. If the inspector finds a major issue, he will suggest inspections by specialists who can give a more detailed report on the problems.
The home inspection will guide you toward repairs that you can make to solve any problems the inspector uncovers. For example, the inspector may have discovered that there is lead-based paint in your home. If the paint is in good condition and the surface of the paint hasn’t been broken, your family’s health is not in serious danger. But, if the lead paint is deteriorating, flaking, or leaving lead dust, your family is at increased risk of lead poisoning.
If you do have lead paint, immediately clean up paint chips, clean your child’s play areas, and dust on a regular basis. Do not wear shoes in your home, and contact a certified lead abatement contractor immediately, because painting over lead paint does not eliminate the problem. These certified contractors will either remove the paint, seal it, or enclose it safely. If you need assistance in finding a certified lead professional, contact the National Lead
Information Center at 1-800-424-LEAD.
2. Test for radon
As many as 20,000 people die each year from lung cancer caused by radon; in fact, radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer. Testing is the only way to determine the radon levels in your home, and you can purchase a radon test kit online or at a home improvement store. Be sure to follow the instructions in the kit carefully and to test in the lowest lived-in level of your home. Keep in mind that for the test to be most effective, you need to maintain closed-house conditions for 12 hours before the test and during the duration of the test.
If you discover that your home has radon levels over 4 pCi/L, the EPA’s recommended action level for radon exposure, you should take steps to reduce it to acceptable levels as soon as possible. DIY repairs to reduce radon levels include sealing gas entry points, using natural ventilation, burning a candle, and turning on ceiling fans. For higher levels of radon, use a fan with a positive ion generator.
3. Avoid carpeting and engineered wood products
If you are building or remodeling, or if you are looking for materials to remove from your home to improve your family’s health, avoid carpeting and engineered wood products. Carpeting may be soft, but most wall-to-wall carpeting manufactured outside of the U.S. is synthetic; it’s materials put toxins that have been linked to cancer, nerve damage, respiratory issues, and immune system damage into your home.
Engineered wood products are manufactured with glue, and the adhesives and bonding agents emit pollutants such as formaldehyde into the air inside your home. Many cabinets, furniture, wall paneling, and kitchen counters are constructed with these wood products, so it is much better for your family’s health if you purchase natural, solid wood products that contain significantly fewer, if any, chemicals.
It is possible that your home is making you and your family sick. If you have even the slightest inkling that your home is not as healthy as you’d like, you should follow the tips we have suggested here. You may just find that your family stays healthy if you make corrections to your home.
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