Your home should be your haven, a place to rejuvenate, rest, and raise a family. But it is also a place that may become unhealthy for you if not monitored properly. The following steps were designed to help readers begin the process of creating a healthier home and a healthier YOU. Remember, small changes are just as important as big ones, it all makes a difference!
Tip #1 Choose the Right Vacuum and Clean it Regularly
One of the main culprits in homes is dander. Dander or skin cells can be produced by humans as well as pets. Left behind dander can cause allergies and increased dust mites in a home.
We have all been told to vacuum weekly, but how we do it, how often, and with what type of vacuum are rarely discussed. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
Slow and steady vacuuming helps to keep dust from flying up into the air and also allows the vacuum the chance to effectively remove and contain particulate.
Vacuum every other day, especially if you have pets and carpet.
Refrain from wearing outside shoes in the house, which will help reduce the amount of chemicals and particulate brought on to your floors.
Take your vacuum apart every few months to clean the vacuum bag chamber, the brushes and to check the integrity of the belt.
To prevent mold from forming, make sure to let the vacuum dry completely after cleaning before reassembling.
When buying a vacuum, select a unit with a HEPA filter (High Efficiency Particle Air Filter). This will allow you to clean your home more thoroughly, and pick up small microscopic dander that a regular vacuum cannot filter.
TIP #2 Reducing Volatile Organic Compounds
VOC’s or volatile organic compounds are chemicals that can come from personal care products, carpet, furniture, paint, building products, fragrances and many other sources. They have more complex names like formaldehyde, toluene, methane, sulfur dioxide, naphthalene, perchloroethylene, ethanol, acetone, and hundreds of other compounds. Individuals exposed to a high number of VOC’s may suffer from numerous symptoms such as headaches, malaise, asthma, respiratory system issues, as well as more serious problems.
How can I reduce these chemicals in my home?
First, try to ventilate the house during any construction projects.
Store harsh chemicals (paints, solvents, cleaners and pesticides) away from occupied spaces, ideally outside in a shed or storage area.
Chemicals from paint are often the largest contributor to total VOC’s in a home. To help reduce these levels, store paint outside the home. If you must keep a can or two inside, tip the can upside down and let the paint seal the lid, and then store the can inside a metal sealed bin.
Try to purchase products without synthetic or natural fragrance.
In basic terms, the more CO2 humans produce into the atmosphere, the more we increase the levels of allergens in the air and in our homes. For example, increased CO2 has been shown to increase the level of tree pollen and fungal spores or mold. Since mold proliferates in warmer temperatures and thrives when CO2 levels rise, this means increased mold in our basements, and areas of our home that contain high moisture content. Higher amounts of fungal spores affect our indoor air quality and can cause a range of unhealthy symptoms.
Here are a few things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint:
Try biking or walking instead of driving.
Increase the energy efficiency of your home with new windows, a solar water heater or a more energy efficient furnace.
Reduce your reliance on petroleum based products.
Just by reducing our individual carbon footprints, we can all help to reduce environmental factors that affect our homes and bodies.
Tip #4 Remove Mold
Molds are good because they allow nature to naturally decompose our waste, but unfortunately these species and process can make humans sick as well. If you have a musty/moldy smell or visible mold in an area of your home that is larger than 10 square feet, call a professional to deal with the problem immediately. Use our Find a Pro search engine to find an IAQ professional in your area to help rid your home from mold.
Sometimes mold is not visible to the naked eye or is hiding behind walls, especially in bathrooms and kitchens. Test your home every three years, to make sure your air quality is healthy and not exposing you to unnecessary mold, allergens and chemicals. Damp basements, leaking pipes or water /vapor intrusion are all potential sources that can make your home unhealthy and cause mold to grow. Mold can also be hiding around your home in potted plants, books, sink traps, refrigerator/freezer doors, ground plantings, and bushes outside of the house, along with fish tanks and humidifiers. Doing a simple test every few years will help you check for mold, so you keep these unhealthy spores out of your home.
Tip #5 Old Fashion Tips That Are Useful for Improving Your Indoor Air Quality
Wash your hands regularly – Always wash your hands thoroughly after being outside of your home or playing with your pets to eliminate bacteria and the spread of germs.
Take your shoes off – Bacteria can enter the home on shoes so take them off when entering your home.
Invest in a “paw wiper” for your animals if they go outside – These avoid your pet tracking in unwanted bacteria from the outside.
Keep your home ventilated – Ventilation can help reduce volatile organic compounds or chemicals in the air.
Use an air filter or purifier – HEPA filters (High Efficiency Particle Air Filters) found in vacuums and in air purifiers have been shown to reduce airborne particulate matter, resulting in improved blood vessel health and blood markers that are associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Making your home healthy is not an easy task. It is, however, one of the best choices you can make. We spend a majority of our time at home and this environment should be the best it can be. By improving your home health, you will see changes in your individual health. We hope these tips get you started to improving your home and making it a safe haven for you and your family.
This article was contributed by Public Education Sub-committee member Caroline Blazovsky.
Indoor Air Quality Association 1120 Rt 73, Suite 200 Mt Laurel, NJ 08054