When you come home after a long day at work, all you want to do is relax and maybe cook a nice dinner. You expect your home to be a haven from all the stress of the outside world. But what if every time you came home you felt ill? You might think you are going crazy, but it is possible that your house is making you sick. Below are some things to watch out for and a few that cause more serious illnesses, such as lung cancer, when exposure occurs over a longer period of time.
Many of those common household cleaners you keep under your sink can be hazardous to your health. Some of the bottles will have warnings on their labels (keep out of reach of children, hazardous), others might not, but unless they specifically say they are “green,” they probably have dangerous ingredients.
Luckily, you can easily make safe cleaning products from common kitchen items such as white vinegar, baking soda, olive oil, salt, and water. If you miss the lemony scent of your caustic cleaners, lemon essential oil is a great alternative. It will also clean up any gummy messes and shine your stainless steel.
Unless you live somewhere really hot, there is nothing nicer than carpet on bare feet, especially in the winter. However, that carpet harbors a lot of allergens: dust, dust mites, and pet dander. Every time you walk across it, it disturbs the allergens and they can become airborne.
Cleaning carpets regularly with a hepa-filter equipped vacuum will keep the dust down. However, consider having your carpets professionally steam cleaned. The steam will kill the dust mites and industrial-strength suction will pull more of the dirt out than a vacuum cleaner. If you are not the original owner of the carpet, you might also consider examining your carpet with a blacklight. It will find any human or pet bodily fluids that might have been inexpertly cleaned, so you can have your carpet-cleaning professional spend extra time in those areas.
If you have someone in the house with allergies, seriously consider replacing all carpets with vinyl or wood flooring. While dust and allergens settle into the carpets, they can be easily removed from flooring with a thorough cleaning, once again with green or homemade products.
Whether you are using them in the house to control indoor bugs, or outside to keep the critters from eating your garden or lawn, eventually they end up in the air or on surfaces in your home. Unfortunately, you can’t completely control this because your neighbors and maybe even your local government are using pesticides to control mosquitos or other bugs. To minimize the health hazard, don’t use pesticides yourself.
By keeping your kitchen clean, all food stored in tight containers, and not letting water accumulate under sinks or in plant trays, you are eliminating many of the reasons bug come into the house. For outside, grow some of the plants that naturally repel pests. They might not keep everything away, but you will be healthier without all the chemicals.
Mold can be extremely dangerous to your health, or harmless. Of the over 100,000 species of mold, only 50 have been declared toxic. Unfortunately, those 50 can cause serious and hard to shake symptoms including: skin rashes, fatigue, breathing problems, digestive tract issues, and poor memory or difficulty concentrating.
Since our homes are now being built so they are sealed tighter, moisture can get locked in and encourage or exacerbate mold growth. To prevent mold, wipe up any standing moisture and use proper ventilation. If you have any musty smells in the house that you cannot identify or you have any of the above symptoms, call in a mold professional. Mold will often hide in walls or crawl spaces and a professional will have a better idea of where to look. They can also help with elimination, if any is found.
Radon is a naturally occurring, colorless, odorless, radioactive gas formed from the natural breakdown of uranium. It can cause lung cancer, being listed as the second highest cause behind smoking. You can easily test your home for yourself with a kit from a hardware store. However, if you do have radon, you will want to hire a certified radon-mitigation expert to install a ventilation system.
If you have a home built before 1978, it might have lead paint. Lead poisoning is dangerous for everyone, but children are the most susceptible. It can affect all parts of the body, but the brain and nervous system are the most susceptible. The worst part is that it is hard to detect until levels in the body reach dangerous proportions.
Have the paint in your home tested, even if it isn’t flaking so you will know. If you do have lead paint, carefully explore your options for mitigation, including encapsulation, removal, and replacement. The method you choose could affect your health and your ability to sell the house.
Your home should always be a haven for you. By following these guidelines, you can make sure your home stays a safe place, not a place of illness.
Valerie, originally a computer programmer, is just starting her new career as a writer. She loves the sun, her Australian Shepherd dog, and her husband. When she isn’t mountain biking, practicing her public speaking skills, or reading, she is writing about everything she has learned.
Follow her on twitter: @vkjocums