A Few Ways We Can Provide a Healthy Indoor Environment
November 5, 2019
Last year, I took a class presented by our local Healthy Homes Program. During the day-long class, we learned what can define a healthy home, how to recognize unhealthy conditions in a home and how to get help mitigating an unhealthy home environment. Here are just a few of the ways that we can provide a healthy indoor environment for the ones we love.
Ventilate Indoor Air
Families spend more time than ever before inside their homes. That’s why proper ventilation that reduces indoor pollutants is important.
- Air out your home. Opening your doors and windows for a few hours daily can reduce accumulated indoor allergens and pollutants, and it’s free. If seasonal outdoor allergens are a problem, use a good stand-alone or built-in air purification system during those times.
- Use your kitchen vent. Cooking can contribute to unhealthy air. Strong cooking odors can irritate lungs and cooking at high heat can emit smoke so always use the fan or open a window while cooking.
- Run the bath fan. It’s very important to use bath ventilation fans for at least 20 minutes after showering to reduce moisture, a leading cause of mold growth in many homes. Mold can show up in many forms and can cause symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, itchy skin and red irritated eyes. For people with asthma or allergies, mold can make them very sick.
Keep It Clean
Erma Bombeck said, “My idea of housework is to sweep the room with a glance”. When my children were little, I felt the same way. But keeping a home clean is really very easy if you set some standard practices, such as
- Vacuum and mop at least weekly, emptying the canister or changing the bag often. Consider having a shoes-off policy.
- Dust often and use a damp, microfiber cloth to wipe away allergens and indoor pollutants. Don’t bother using a dusting product. Keep the counters wiped down.
Reduce VOCs and Harsh Chemicals
Scented products, cleaners and air ‘fresheners’ pollute our indoor air. They are a source of VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) produced by chemicals, many of which are listed as hazardous to human health. Even products listed as ‘green’ or ‘natural’ can contain chemically created scents. A general search of the Internet for information about VOCs in scented products will yield several articles about the topic. You can easily reduce your family’s exposure to VOCs.
- Reduce, or stop, the use of scented plug-ins, air freshener sprays, candles and wax melts.
- As you use them up, replace scented products with unscented ones but remember that ‘Fragrance-free’ could mean a chemical was added to mask an unpleasant fragrance.
- Consider making alternative cleaning products. Here’s a recipe for an all-purpose cleaning product: 1 2/3 cup baking soda, ½ cup liquid castille soap (available in most drug and grocery stores), ½ cup water, 2 tbsp white vinegar. Mix b.soda, liquid soap and water in a bowl. Add vinegar last. Poor into 16 oz bottle and shake well. Test in an inconspicuous space if you’re concerned about using it safely on certain surfaces.
Practice Good Home Maintenance
- Properly heat your home. A good system provides a consistent flow of comfortable temperatures and proper humidity. People often close off areas of their homes to save on heating bills which results in creating a cold, damp environment where mold can grow. Consider installing a more efficient heating system that is affordable to run and that filters the air.
- Make repairs to home systems to prevent shock, burns or fire, and prevent exposure to lead or other harmful substances.
- Make sure drains are open and carry water away from the home. Eliminate standing water.
Keeping your home well-ventilated, clean and free of scented products are three easy steps to take right now on the road to having a healthy home. The other steps may be more time consuming and expensive. But the benefits of providing a healthy home for your family far outweigh the costs if infections, chronic respiratory illnesses and other possible health impairments can be prevented.