What Is a Healthy Home?
Most of us spend at least half of our lives inside our homes without realizing there is a connection between our housing and our health. This slide show will explore that connection, along with ways to make your house a healthy home.
Our homes can make us feel safe, but they can also make us sick. Some homes may have health hazards including lead-based paint, mold, rodents and insects hiding in clutter, secondhand smoke, and pesticides. Other health hazards are invisible and can be deadly such as carbon monoxide and radon.
Many Homes Have Unhealthy Conditions
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports many homes have unhealthy conditions, including:
- One in 16 have high radon levels
- One in 10 have water leaks
- One in six have structural problems
- One in four have lead-based paint
- One in four do not have a working smoke alarm
For Bedrooms, Living Rooms, and Family Rooms
Here are some ways you can make your bedrooms, living room, and family room more healthy:
- Install smoke alarms on every floor and near all bedrooms, test these smoke alarms monthly and change the batteries every year.
- Install carbon monoxide alarms near bedrooms.
- Do not smoke or allow anyone else to smoke in the home.
- Clean up clutter so insects and rodents don't have a place to burrow
- Keep your floor clear of electrical cords and other clutter such as shoes, toys, and clothing
If your home was built before 1978:
- Have your home tested for lead paint.
- Fix peeling or chipping paint using lead-safe work practices.
- Use safe work practices when painting, remodeling, and renovating to prevent spreading lead dust.
There are also ways to ensure your kitchen is healthy:
- Never use the stove or oven to heat the house.
- Use a range hood fan or other kitchen exhaust fan. Ideally, it will vent outside; fans that do not vent outside keep poisons and moisture in the house.
- Install a carbon monoxide alarm.
- Never leave food unattended on the stove.
- Avoid wearing clothes with long, loose-fitting sleeves when cooking.
- Use safe cleaning and pest-control products (keep them locked away from children, follow label directions, and dispose of these products safely).
For Kitchen Pests
If you find pests such as cockroaches, ants, or rodents in your kitchen, there are safe and healthy ways to stop them:
- Seal openings to the outside and between rooms to keep pests out.
- Put away food, clean up, and cover the trash and garbage to starve pests.
- Fix leaks and wipe up spilled water so pests have nothing to drink.
- Use closed baits, traps, and gels only if necessary.
- Never use bug bombs or foggers. Look for home pest control sprays and home pest control products that are nontoxic and safe to use around kids and pets.
To keep your bathrooms safe:
- Keep all medications away from children by locking them in a medicine cabinet and using childproof caps.
- Clean up moisture and mold safely.
- Open windows and doors to get fresh air.
- Use a bathroom exhaust fan that is vented outside; a fan that is not vented outside keeps moisture in the house.
- Install grab bars on the wall of the bathtub and shower and next to the toilet if anyone in the house has mobility challenges.
Steps you can take to keep your attic safe and healthy include:
- Check for water leaks from the roof.
- Make sure your attic is properly ventilated to prevent moisture that promotes mold growth.
- Seal gaps around roofing and attic openings to keep rodents and insects out of the house.
- Clean up clutter to deny rodents and insects any places to nest.
- Older insulation may contain asbestos. Hire an expert if insulation must be removed or disturbed.
For Basement, Crawl Space, Utility, and Laundry Areas
Remember to safety-proof your basement, utility, and laundry room as well. Steps you can take to keep these areas safe include:
- Set the water heater at 120 F to prevent burns.
- Change the furnace/AC filter regularly.
- Have gas appliances and furnaces checked yearly by a professional to make sure they do not release carbon monoxide (CO).
- Vent the clothes dryer to the outside.
- Test for radon (if a high level is detected, hire a specialist to eliminate the hazard).
- Lock up products used for cleaning, car maintenance, gardening, and pest control
For Stairways and Halls
Stairways and hallways should be free of clutter and safe:
- Use stair gates at the top and bottom of stairs if children live in or visit the home.
- Keep a working light bulb in overhead lights in the hall and above the stairs.
- Fix loose or uneven steps and rails on stairs.
- Attach stairway carpet firmly to every step or remove carpet and attach nonslip rubber stair treads.
- Keep stairs free of clutter.
- Install handrails on both sides of the stairs.
For Outer Parts of House and Yard
To have a safe and healthy home, also consider your yard and outside areas as well:
- To keep pests away, fix exterior holes, cracks, and leaks, eliminate standing water and food sources, and keep trash covered with a lid.
- Maintain gutters, downspouts, and roof to prevent moisture from entering the home.
- Use safe work practices when painting, remodeling, or renovating a home built before 1978.
- If you have a septic tank or private well, properly maintain it to prevent illness.
- If you have a swimming pool, use self-closing and self-latching gates and four-sided fencing to prevent small children from unintended access.
- Complete a playground safety checklist if you have playground equipment in your yard.
Cleaning Tips for a Healthier Home
A clean home is one way to have a healthier home. Following are some suggestions to keep your home clean.
Dust Your Home
Dust thoroughly, and clean or replace air conditioning and heating filters regularly, clean ducts and vents to reduce pollen and other airborne allergens. Home dust control should be a top priority for a healthy home, especially if you or anyone in your family suffers from allergies or asthma.
Organize Your Medicine Cabinet
Keep your medicine cabinet organized and free of older medications. If a medication is expired, discard it safely. Check with your local pharmacy. Many of them now offer medication disposal services.
Check the Garage, Basement, and Under the Sink
Get rid of any old and no longer used items that could be "toxic" including cleaning products, pain cans, thinners, oils, solvents, and stains. Do not throw these items into the regular trash. These should be disposed of properly so contact your local sanitation department to find out where the hazardous waste disposal center is located.
If you have a fireplace with a chimney, have it professionally cleaned to reduce the chances of carbon monoxide exposure.
Mold and Mildew
Mold can be dangerous and can make people in the household ill and trigger allergic reactions and neurological problems. Clean mold and mildew in bathrooms and other damp areas with a nontoxic cleaning product.
Check Your Rugs
Make sure all rugs are secure. Rugs on bare floors should have on-skid mats underneath them, and old mats should be washed or replaced to ensure they do not slide. All bathrooms and the kitchen should have non-skid mats and rugs as well.
Keep the kids safe by ensuring outdoor playground equipment such as swing sets and slides are in good shape, and sturdy. Make repairs if needed. Pay attention to guardrails, protruding bolts, swing rope/chain attachments and other things that could injure children.
Make sure batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are changed regularly and working. Do not throw batteries in the trash - dispose of old batteries by recycling or taking them to a hazardous waste center. How often should smoke detector batteries be changed? The US Fire Administration recommends changing the batteries at least once a year. Additionally, you should test your alarms monthly and replace them every 10 years.
Your Healthy Home
A healthy home can help you have a healthy body! Use these tips and make your home a healthy one!