Keeping your home safe and secure is the most important priority as a homeowner. But sometimes, it’s hard to know that you are even being exposed to harm. From toxins in the air to mold in your walls, there are lots of threats to your home’s health that you can’t even see. To help ensure that we know how to keep our home free of these hard-to-see invaders, we asked our home improvement experts for some tips. With their help and our own research, we created the infographic below to help guide you towards a safer, healthier home.
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Caution! Home Health Invaders
Your home is meant to be your sanctuary—a place where you can relax and forget about the world outside. So you might be surprised by the amount of chemicals and critters that can (and do) sneak in. From toxins in the air to dust mites in your carpets, any number of health threats might be lurking in your home. Learn more about these invisible invaders, the risks that they might pose to your health, and how you can keep you and your family out of harm’s way.
Steer Clear of these Harmful Chemical Inhalants
Radon – Radon is a product of radioactive decay. You can’t see, smell, or taste it, but it’s the second most common cause of lung cancer, after smoking. Found in: cavities inside walls, gaps in floors and walls, and your water supply. Causes: lung cancer (risk increases if you are also a smoker). Prevention: test any living areas below 3rd floor height with a long or short-term test kit.
VOCs – Volatile Organic Compounds can be naturally occurring or man-made. Many household products contain harmful varieties that have long-term health effects. Found in: paints and scents, pesticides and cleaners, and printers and copiers. Causes: headache/nausea, loss of coordination, and organ/nerve damage. Prevention: buy no-VOC products, don’t leave out open bottles, and seal painted surfaces.
Asbestos – Asbestos is a mineral fiber that’s often used for insulation and as a fire-retardant. Exposure to it is extremely hazardous, because it’s a known carcinogen. Found in: roofing materials, ceiling and floor tiles, and cement products. Causes: lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis. Prevention: hire a trained asbestosis professional to check your home for possible exposure.
Beware of These Potentially Problematic Areas
In Your Bedroom – After 2 years, up to of a pillow’s weight is in allergy-causing dead skin cells, dust mites, and their droppings. Most mattresses release VOCs from a combination of adhesives, pesticides, or flame retardants. Look for: natural latex, organic cotton, and organic wool.
In Your Living Room – There are over 100 different pollutants in wood smoke, many of which are carcinogenic; they can be released through a stove or fireplace. Keep safe: use carbon monoxide detectors, get annual chimney inspections and cleanings, and never burn newspaper, garbage, or plastic; this could release toxins into the air.
On Your Floor – Avoid buying rugs and rug pads that were treated with VOCs or made with pesticides. Don’t buy: foam rubber, treated wool, plastic, or synthetic latex. Do try: sisal, untreated wool, seagrass, and abaca.
In Your Bathroom – It only takes 24-48 hours for mold and mildew to start growing in a moist room. Keept it ventilated: start your fan 15 minutes before you shower, and turn it off 15 minutes after; heated floors or added ventilation in bathrooms allows water to evaporate; air ducts should be completely sealed.
In Your Kitchen – An average cutting board has 200% more fecal bacteria than a toilet seat. Disinfect surfaces regularly, and use disposable wipes. You can also microwave sponges to disinfect them.
On Your Walls – Remember to buy no-VOC paint, and don’t leave old cans lying around.
Find Out More:
- Radon: http://www.epa.gov/iaq/homes/radon.html
- VOCs: http://www.epa.gov/iaq/voc.html
- Asbestos: http://www.epa.gov/iaq/asbestos.html
Sources: discovery.com; greenlivingideas.com; hpba.org; online.wsj.com; motherjones.com; nh.gove