Can a house be sick or healthy ? I think it can. Where we live can have a significant influence on our health. Here are are some tips on how to play doctor for your house.
Consider house “physiology” and house “anatomy”. You must evaluate the air quality, the water quality, the surfaces, the organization and the light. This week we will focus on indoor air quality.
Indicators of poor quality:
- smelly or stuffy air (step outside first then back in to check)
- dirty central healing or cooling equipment
- areas storing moldy items like books, shoes
Particular concerns about air quality:
The federal government recommends that you measure radon in your home. It is odorless, colorless, radioactive gas which can cause lung cancer. It can be in any house of any construction, and there are ways to correct it. The link below is a useful pamphlet on radon:
Weatherizing is important for energy conservation. However, it can lead to inadequate ventilation, moisture buildup and mold, which produces allergens.
Asbestos is a natural fibrous material that causes cancer. It was once used in many building supplies. In place and undisturbed, it does not cause problems. However, when it is disturbed during processes like remodeling, it can enter the air microscopically and be inhaled into the lungs. If you think there is a chance of this happening in your home, obtain a licensed professional to evaluate and deal with the situation.
Carpets trap dirt and dust mites which produced allergens which end up suspended in the air. When carpets are installed they release VOCs ( volatile organic compounds) which are toxic .
This colorless odorless and deadly gas can be produced as a by product of incorrectly installed or maintained furnaces, fireplaces or wood stoves. It can also enter the home from stoves that have no dedicated outdoor air supply.
Ways to prevent bad indoor air quality:
- Ensure proper ventilation of stovetops and bathrooms.
- Forbid any smoking indoors.
- Check for and remedy any leaks or standing water anywhere including basement and attics.
- Do not store paints or solvents in an attached garage.
- Do not use odor- masking chemicals or “air freshening” devices.
- Do not use pesticides or herbicides around the home. Your county extension agent can advise you on safe alternative for around the home.
- Test for and remedy any radon problems.
- Avoid disturbing old building materials which may contain asbestos.
- Chose hard surfaced flooring instead of carpeting and use cleanable area rugs where softness is desired. As everyone to remove shoes before entering.
- When carpeting is chosen ask installers to unroll it for at least 72 hours at the warehouse to off gas before installing at the home. Then allow another 72 hours before occupying the space. Make sure the carpet can be removed without the use of toxic chemicals.
- Vacuum any carpet frequently with a HEPA filter vacuum.
- Damp mop floors and wash bedding in hot water weekly to prevent dust mites and their airborne allergens.
- Ensure heating stoves are properly designed, installed and maintained. Ensure they are vented to the outdoors.
- Avoid toxic household cleaning products and craft supplies. Many natural cleaning alternatives are available. Please see this post on that subject:
There is a lot more to this than I anticipated. I’ll confess, I learned a lot in preparing this post. Stay tuned for Wellness Wednesday next week when we will explore water quality.