Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Seven Keys to a Healthy Home

By Sonya Rombough, Healthy Homes AmeriCorps Member

I am the first to shout that autumn is my favorite season. I love how the weather changes, the vibrancy of the leaves and the crispness of cool air. I like to brew up a hot beverage and settle in to watch the wind and rain come through. I find that I am a prime example of the average American who, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, spends about 87% of their time indoors, especially in the fall and winter. But while home is cozy and familiar, it can also present a whole host of challenges to our immune systems and well-being.

Here in the Pacific Northwest problems with excessive moisture and mold are very common, and while these issues are of significant concern, there are other potential dangers lurking in your home. Homes built prior to 1978 may contain lead and asbestos, and a quick peek under your sink might just reveal a whole slew of hazardous chemicals. The good news is, with a few small adjustments to your cleaning routine you make your home a healthier haven.

There are seven basic ways, also known as the “Seven Keys to a Healthy Home” to improve the health of your home for you and your family.

  • Keep it clean!  Keeping your home clean and clutter-free will help prevent pests by eliminating access to food, water and hiding places. It may also help with your family’s stress levels and comfort. Check out this post on green cleaning alternatives!
  • Keep it contaminant free! There are many products that seem safe, but can cause harm to your family including fertilizers, harsh chemical cleaning products and scented aerosols. If possible stick to green cleaners, and when they aren’t an option, always select the product with the lowest risk, avoid anything that says “Danger” or “Poison” as these are the highest hazard words.
  • Keep it ventilated! Always use fans in the kitchen and bathroom. Make sure these fans are vented all the way outside. Use your fans while cooking and bathing and run them for 30-45 minutes afterwards. Additionally, it can be beneficial to make a habit of using fans and opening windows when using cleaning products or other chemicals. Opening windows daily can help exchange air and allow moisture to escape, even on stormy days.
  • Keep it dry! Mold cannot grow without moisture so it’s important to clean up all spills immediately. It’s a good idea to check under sinks and around plumbing regularly to ensure nothing is leaking. If you find a leak, repair it quickly and dry out the affected area within 24-48 hours. Help the area to dry by leaving the cupboard open, cleaning up any standing water and running a fan in the affected area to create airflow.
  • Keep it maintained! Not only does this refer to pipes and plumbing, but to all the features of your home. Combustion appliances, such as natural gas water heaters or propane furnaces, need to be maintained by professionals regularly to ensure that no carbon monoxide back drafts into the home. Similarly, septic systems need routine checks and maintenance to prevent back-flowing and contamination of the groundwater. Even small things like peeling paint, which may contain lead, can represent a danger in your home and loose floors can be a trip hazard. Keep a checklist of all things in your home you need to keep an eye on and make repairs as soon as possible.
  • Keep it safe! Keep your family safe by storing chemicals out of reach, putting child locks on upper level windows, and installing smoke detectors and carbon monoxide monitors and outside of every sleeping area in your home. Check your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide monitors regularly to make sure they are functioning properly.
  • Keep it pest free! Prevent pests by keeping your home free of clutter, keeping pet food off of the floor and in airtight containers, and filling any cracks, holes or gaps in the exterior walls. If you do end up with a pest problem avoid bringing poison into your home at all costs and implement a strategy of integrated pest management including these preventative measures. 

Our Healthy Homes Program offers free, confidential Healthy Homes Visit to residents in Thurston County. Visits occur in the comfort of your home with expert volunteers who can teach you about the hazards in your home and how to address them. Call (360)867-2674 to schedule a free and confidential healthy homes visit today!