Monday, January 2, 2017

Healthy Holidays: A New Year, New Healthy Home

Here are ten simple ways to make your home a healthier and happier place to live in 2017, and beyond!
1.      It is never too early to do some spring cleaning. Make three piles: Keep, donate, and recycle/toss. Set aside a weekend to get rid of items you and your family no longer use. Reducing clutter can reduce stress and create a safer home. Clutter can be a tripping hazard.  
2.      Did you discover some household hazardous waste while doing your spring cleaning? Take your unwanted cleaning supplies, motor oil, light bulbs and more to HazoHouse! Replace these items with green cleaners.
3.      Reduce the risk of mold and moisture damage by running your bathroom fan when you take a shower. Leave the fan on for at least thirty to forty-five minutes after you shower. If your fan is broken, have it fixed or replaced.
4.      Open windows daily to let fresh air in and improve ventilation. Try a “fresh air blast” by going through your home opening each window and then going right back through closing each one. This quick exchange of air can make a big difference in your indoor air quality!
5.      You never know when a fire, stormy weather, or earthquake could impact you and your family. Create a disaster supplies kit for you, your family, and your pets. Keep the kit in an accessible location that everyone living at your home could find during an emergency.
6.      Take your shoes off at the door. Shoes can bring in dirt, dust and other allergens. Don’t want cold feet? Have a designated pair of house slippers or shoes you can wear around the house.
7.      Vacuum at least once a week and damp dust hard surfaces regularly. This can reduce allergy triggers in the home.
8.      Get your septic tank inspected. Get your septic system inspected. You can hire someone or learn how to do it yourself. Inspecting your system every year can help identify issues before they turn into large, costly problems.
9.      Read our Common Sense Gardening guides so you can begin to plan your garden.  Our free gardening guides can help you create a beautiful landscape without the
use of toxic bug and weed killers.

10.  Want to learn more about ways you can keep your home healthy? Schedule a free, confidential Healthy Homes visit. Call the Healthy Homes Program to learn more or schedule a visit (360) 867-2674.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Healthy Holidays: Where do I take my?

Out with the old and in with the new?

If you have some things you need to get rid of, perhaps due to some newly acquired items over the holidays… there is a wonderful resource to help you. It is called

Where do I take my” lists out just about any item you can think of and provides information on where you can dispose of it safely. It also recommends places where you can donate and recycle things. And it provides information on where to dispose of a hazardous item safely.

Disposing of unwanted items responsibly is good for the environment and can help others who are in need. The choices you make when tossing out your old stuff can have a big impact! Your choice makes a difference.

If you’re not able to find information on disposal for something, you can always call our Environmental Health Education Phone Line. Our staff will do their best to find an option that works for you! (360) 867-2674.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Become a Healthy Homes Volunteer!

Thurston County’s Healthy Homes Program trains volunteers to provide free educational home visits to encourage behaviors and actions that promote healthy living spaces – such as preventing and addressing mold, creating healthy indoor air, reducing asthma triggers, reducing exposure to toxins, and more. We have a free volunteer training coming up in February! You can learn all about housing-related health risks and how to identify, prevent, reduce, and address them. This training is fun and the knowledge gained is useful in our daily lives.

Individuals can take this training for professional development if it applies it to their current work and not be expected to become a volunteer with the program.

When: Thursdays in February from 6:30-8:30 p.m. and two Saturdays in March from 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. Saturday sessions include lunch and will be scheduled based on group availability. The training is a total of 16 hours, plus at least three “training visits” before volunteer training is considered complete.

Where: Thurston County Public Health at 412 Lilly Rd. NE, Olympia, 98506; across from St. Peter’s Hospital. Intercity Transit bus routes # 60, 62A, and 62B serve the area. If transportation is an issue for anyone who is interested, please don’t let that stop you from applying. We are close to bus routes and there is a good chance that volunteers attending the training can carpool.

Who: No prior experience is necessary; the training teaches all you need to know to conduct Healthy Homes Visits in pairs. This training is for anyone interested (or who works) in giving back to the community, environmental health, housing, public health, health education, children’s health, and healthy living.

What volunteers do: Volunteers can conduct Healthy Homes Visits, participate in booths at community events, perform outreach, or work on special projects. They are notified of opportunities to volunteer and can sign up as their schedules allow. Healthy Homes Visits are free, voluntary, and completely confidential. We are invited to do the visit by the resident, where we perform a checklist and walk-through. Based on what we find we provide information, guidance, and resource lists to the residents to help them take the next steps. Individuals can take this training for professional development if it applies it to their current work and not be expected to become a volunteer with the program.

Contact Information: (360) 867-2674 or


Thursday, December 8, 2016

Healthy Holidays: Self-care over the holiday season

By Anna Rhoads, Education & Outreach Program Assistant

The holidays are upon us. This time of year can feel as if we have a million things on our to-do lists. By making self-care a priority on your holiday to-do list, you can feel less overwhelmed by the holidays. When you take good care of yourself you are less likely to become sick and can have more energy to be with your loved ones.

I always feel my best after a good workout. Exercise doesn’t need to feel like a chore if you have a fun fitness routine. Take a walk or bike ride on the Chehalis Western Trail, shake off stress at a Zumba class (many gyms offer Zumba and other cardio-based dance classes), or do a half an hour of gentle yoga in your living room (you can find hundreds of free yoga videos on YouTube). Have family visiting for the holidays? Have them join in on the fun by organizing a game of touch football or Capture the Flag in the backyard. You’ll create a new holiday tradition and get a workout in!

Eat well and drink in moderation
As a self proclaimed foodie, it’s not surprising that food is one of my favorite parts about the holidays. It is easy to indulge in all the classics (any garlic mashed potato lovers out there?) and to pile a plate with sweet treats for dessert. Remember to indulge in moderation. If you are going to a holiday potluck, bring a healthy dish to share. Be aware of liquid calories in holiday drinks, including alcoholic beverages. Eating food that is healthy and nutrient rich can help you have more energy to go do things with family and friends.

Volunteer in the community
Giving back to an organization or cause that you care about can improve your mood and lift your spirits. There are many organizations that would love volunteers during and after the holiday season. Check out to find a local volunteer program that is a good fit for you. In fact, Thurston County  Healthy Homes Program is seeking volunteers to start after the New Year.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Have a million and one things you need accomplish before the in-laws arrive tomorrow? Are you in charge of cooking Christmas dinner and have guests coming with a multitude of dietary restrictions? One of the best ways to handle stressful scenarios is to ask for help. Delegate household chores to family and ask guests to bring a holiday dish to share at dinner. With a team of helpers, you will likely feel less stressed about what you need to get done. Remember that everything doesn’t need to be perfect, it’s a time for fun and togetherness! 

Monday, November 21, 2016

Healthy Holidays: Holiday lighting safety tips

Does your family break out holiday lights and decorations after the turkey and pumpkin pie have been gobbled up? Many people begin putting up their holiday lights and decorations starting Thanksgiving Day through December. Putting up holiday lights is a tradition for many people and it can create a festive atmosphere. We encourage you to understand the health and safety risks of decorating your home with holiday lights before hanging them in and outside your home.

1.        Is there lead hiding in your lights? Believe it or not, most holiday lights in the United States contain lead. One study found that four ordinary brands of holiday lights have high enough lead levels to harm children. Lead is found in PVC (polyvinyl chloride), which is used to insulate the holiday lights to prevent water exposure. Over time, the PVC breaks down from sunlight exposure and heat, releasing lead as a form of dust. If you choose to hang holiday lights, hang them at a high enough level so children will not be tempted to play with them. Wear gloves when you put up the lights and wash your hands after you’re done decorating. If you hang holiday lights inside, damp dust frequently to reduce lead exposure in your home.

2.        Replace damaged bulbs and outdated lights. If you have any damaged bulbs on your holiday lights, replace them if possible. Broken bulbs can be a safety hazard for children and pets. You will also save energy by replacing damaged bulbs. Unplug your lights before you replace damaged bulbs. If your lights are beyond repair, purchase LED holiday lights. They are made with epoxy lenses which are much more durable than glass bulbs and are the more energy efficient option.  

3.       Hang lights carefully and conscientiously. Avoid piercing holiday lights with nails or staples because that damages the cords and can create a potential hazard. Try wrapping holiday lights around hooks or nails, or purchase plastic clips to hang the lights up. Avoid wrapping lights around hot electric sources such as home theaters, stereos and water heaters. Keep holiday lights away from heat vents and electric heaters. The additional heat may damage and even melt your holiday lights. Keep indoor holiday lights away from drapes, furniture or carpeting. Place cords in low-traffic areas where they won’t be a tripping hazard or be worn out due to being stepped on. 

4.       Use extension cord(s) safely. Do not overload an extension cord. Find out the wattage rating of your extension cord and holiday lights before plugging the two together.  

5.       Hang only weather resistant lights outside. If you are hanging holiday lights outside, make sure they are rated for outdoor use or are marked waterproof. Do not use indoor holiday lights outside, that can be an easy way to blow fuses or start a fire.

6.       Use ladders safely. If you plan on using a ladder to hang your holiday lights outside, there are several ladder safety measures you can take. Pay attention to the weather forecast; pick a dry day with calm winds. Choose a ladder size that is appropriate for the job and inspect it before using it. While you are up on your ladder, make careful moves as sudden movements may cause you to lose balance, and have a second person available to spot you.  

7.       Turn off your lights. Before you go to bed or leave your house, turn off your holiday lights. You will save electricity by turning your lights off and reduce the risk of a fire.

The risks of injury and fire are reduced when you practice safe handling of holiday lights. Take the time to celebrate the holidays safely to have the best holiday season yet!