Healthy Home Basics

Health and Safety
Woman cleaning oven

You design your home as your safe haven, the one place in the world that’s exclusively for you and your family. Did you also know that it could be the biggest health hazard in your life? Studies show that the average home has higher concentrations of a number of toxins than does outside air. While these toxins are rarely concentrated enough to cause major health issues, they may impact your health over time. Here are a few simple ways that you can cut down on potential health hazards inside your home.

Check your cleaning products. A number of common ingredients in your cleaning products may cause respiratory irritation, especially if you already have a respiratory disorder such as asthma. While these products are generally sold with a warning label, they are frequently used without appropriate ventilation or skin protection. Products that contain ammonia and bleach, among others, are common culprits. You may opt to switch to organic cleaners or simply ensure proper air flow while you’re cleaning. Thoroughly rinse all cleaned surfaces in order to remove residue that could cause irritation.

Eliminate mold and pest traps. Mold and pests can bring all manner of health hazards into your home. According to a 2004 report from the Institute of Medicine, “The growth of some bacteria (germs) and molds is one effect of indoor dampness. Damp indoor environments also benefit house dust mites. Standing water supports cockroach and rodent (rats and mice) problems as well.” The easiest way to prevent these issues is to remove potential sources of food and/or water. Make sure to clean out under your sinks, in every nook and cranny of your kitchen (especially under the stove and dishwasher), and wipe down counters after every use. Have all of the plumbing in your home inspected for leaks on a regular basis, and make sure that the roof is sound and leak-free.

Get fresh air. Indoor air generally contains a much higher concentration of toxins than outdoor air. You’re constantly breathing; equipment such as water heaters are running; and paint, dyes and wood finishes may gas off small amounts of chemical into the air for some time after manufacture. In real terms it’s still below a hazardous level, but speculation implies that continued exposure over time could cause health issues. The solution? If you live in a low-pollution area, opening the windows on a nice day to allow additional air flow may help tremendously. Install and maintain filters on heating and cooling systems. Finally, introduce houseplants into your home for a beautiful and hassle-free way to help clean the air.

Ensure regular inspection and maintenance of equipment. Every home contains potentially hazardous equipment, especially anything that runs on gas. At least once a year, it’s a good idea to have your gas stove, water heater, furnace or other equipment tested for proper function and to make sure there are no leaks or visible abnormalities. These few steps may serve to significantly reduce potential hazards in your home, as well as give you peace of mind that your home is every bit as safe for your family as it appears.

This article was originally published as Healthy Home Basics on

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