When it comes to your health, your home environment is just as important as your diet and lifestyle choices. This is especially true today, considering the ever increasing supply of toxic chemicals and pollutants that exist in our outdoor environment (air, soil and water). The range of diseases that have been linked to such toxins and pollutants is both extensive and growing, so you certainly don’t want to be exposed to them in your home, as well.
Is your home conducive to your health?
Even if you think the answer to that question is yes, here are some things to look for in order to make sure:
1. Indoor Air Quality – Nothing is more important to your health than the air you breathe. This includes the indoor air in your home. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), indoor air in the United States can be up to 100 times more polluted than the air outdoors.
To better determine the quality of the air in your home, notice whether it seems fresh to you or not. Also be aware of whether it seems to dry. The healthiest indoor air is not only fresh, but also moist and slightly warm.
You can improve your indoor air with a few simple steps. First, make sure that air circulates freely from room to room. This will help prevent it from becoming stagnant and stale. Also get in the habit of leaving your windows open when you are at home, ideally even when you sleep. This will ensure an ongoing supply of fresh air into your home and also prevent the buildup of offending odors.
To help maintain the clean quality of indoor air, consider placing indoor plants throughout your home. Houseplants provide a number of benefits. Not only do they add more oxygen to indoor environments, they also create more moisture and can also filter out any harmful or irritating organic chemicals that might be circulating through your home. In addition, the beauty they add can enhance your mood.
If you notice that your air is too dry, consider the use of a humidifier, especially in winter months when you typically run your furnace more. You should also make sure that the furnace you use is energy efficient and has clean filters.
Finally, if your home has a basement, make sure that it stays dry, because damp basements act as a breeding ground for harmful microorganisms, including mold. You might even consider having your basement inspected, to protect against leaks and water damage, etc.
2. Household Materials and Products – One of the biggest sources of harmful chemicals and toxins in your home are the household materials and products you use. These include not only many cleaning and other household products, but also carpets, rugs, and furniture, and even building materials. All such items, if they are made from synthetic materials, can expose you to potentially dangerous chemicals on a daily basis. For this reason, building materials made out of natural materials such as wood and metals are superior home choices than unnatural products such as fiber and particle boards, plastics, and polyester. This is true of your furniture, as well, and also of your flooring, wiring, and sealants, depending on what they are synthetic in mature.
Rugs and carpets made from synthetic materials can also be a problem for the same reasons. Additionally, if you don’t regularly clean rugs and carpet, they too can become a breeding ground for harmful microorganisms, including bacteria and mold. (When you clean your rugs and carpets, make sure you use natural, nontoxic cleansing agents.)
Household products are another potential source of unhealthy chemicals, since so many commercial household products contain a plentiful supply of synthetic agents. Such products run the gamut from dish washing and detergents, to cleaning products for tiles, walls, etc. Synthetic air fresheners are another common problem.
To give you an idea of the dangers such products can pose to your health, consider a recently published study that was conducted by researchers at the University of Washington. In the study, the researchers examined six of the nation’s top-selling air fresheners and laundry products. They found that all of the products emitted dozens of chemicals. All told, more than 100 potentially harmful chemicals were found to be emitted by the six products.
More disturbingly, at least one chemical in every product is currently listed as toxic or hazardous under federal laws, and five of the chemicals are classified as carcinogenic “hazardous air pollutants” for which the EPA declares there is no safe exposure level. Yet none of these dangerous chemicals were listed on the product labels! Previous studies have shown that approximately 20 percent of all Americans suffer from health problems caused by common air freshener products, and approximately 10 percent of the population has health issues related to common laundry products
Fortunately, today it is easy for most Americans to find safe and natural alternatives to these and nearly all other types of household products. If you currently have synthetic household products in your home, however, be sure to check that they are properly sealed and stored out of reach from your children and any pets you may have. And once you use them up, consider switching to natural product brands instead.
3. Lead In Your Home – If you live in a house or apartment complex that was built prior to the last 20 or 30 years, chances are high that there is lead in the paint originally used on your walls. Most likely, lead, instead of copper, piping was also used for your water pipes. If so, you and your children could be at risk, because lead is a highly toxic metal that can cause a wide range of health problems over time as it continues to accumulate in the human body’s tissues and organs. If you are unsure as to whether or not there is lead in your home, contact your county health department, which can assist you in finding out for certain, and also advise you on how best to deal with the problem if it exists.
4. The Land Beneath Your Home – Many people do not realize that, although the houses they live in may be healthy, the land beneath them may not be. That’s because soil can contain all sorts of harmful toxins and chemical. If it does, these harmful substances can be “outgassed” from the soil into the home as airborne pollutants. This issue should be of special concern to anyone who lives in areas in which there previously was industrial activity, as well as on lands that abut lakes, rivers or streams located near industrial or chemical plants. Even if such plants have long been closed, the chemicals and other toxins that they produced in the past can remain in water and soil for many years to come.
Once again, if you have any concerns about the land beneath your property (as well as any water ways nearby), contact your county health department.
5. Plastics: A Special Type of Danger – Recently, an increasing body of evidence has appeared showing how plastic products can pose a particularly dangerous and often overlooked health risk. That’s because plastic products are composed of many synthetic chemicals, two classes of which – bisphenol-A and phthalates – are especially noteworthy. Both of these classes of chemicals have been shown to mimic various hormones in the human body, As a result, exposure to either bisphenol-A or phthalates can cause major disruptions in your body’s endocrine (hormone-regulating) system.
Recent research has shown that bisphenol-A and phthalates not only adversely effect the reproductive systems of both men and women, but also cause a variety of other hormone-related health problems, including affecting the normal development of boys and girls exposed to such chemicals from an early age.
Therefore, when it comes to plastics and plastic products in your house, you are best off avoiding them. In addition, beware of the types of toys you may buy for your children. That’s because phthalates are a very common ingredient in many toys manufactured fro children today that are plastic in nature.
Scary as the above information may seem to you, what’s most important to remember is that there is much you can do to limit your exposure to all of the home health hazards listed above. As with everything else, knowledge is power. But knowledge will not serve you unless you are willing to put it into action. If you are unsure about whether or not your home provides you with a healthy environment in which to live, do what you can to find the answers you need. And, if problems exists, know that you can correct them!