Environmental pollution can cause all sorts of ailments, including asthma, allergies, immune system suppression and even cancer. Though outdoor pollutants do pose a health risk, people largely underestimate how harmful indoor pollutants can be.
Below are some tips to help ensure that your home is environmentally safe.
Don’t Allow Smoking Indoors – In keeping with the public smoking ban in public places, make your home a non-smoking zone. If someone in the household smokes and is unable or unwilling to quit, make sure that individual smokes outside. To discourage smoking, eliminate ashtrays and consider posting “No Smoking” signs for reinforcement. Smoking raises your cancer and heart disease risk, while secondhand smoke aggravates asthma and raises kids’ susceptibility to sore throats and ear infections. Also, the cancer-causing tars in tobacco cling to curtains, carpets and upholstery long after smoking has ended.
Don’t Wear Shoes Indoors – Pesticides, lead and other toxins from the outdoors are tracked in on your shoes upon entering your home, and these chemicals may be difficult to clean up especially when deposited into your carpets. To counter this effect, be sure to use a doormat to scrap your shoes on and if you want to follow in the footsteps (no pun intended) of the Japanese, leave your shoes at the door or carry them inside.
Control Mold and Mildew – Household mold can cause anything from asthma and eczema to joint pain, fatigue and headaches. Some molds even give off toxic compounds that suppress the immune system and cause leukemia. Mold thrives in moist air, so take steps to keep indoor humidity to a minimum, including: 1) purchasing a dehumidifier; 2) installing and using exhaust fans in bathrooms, kitchens, basements and attics where humidity tends to be a problem; and 3) eliminate carpeting in those same areas. You should also empty out old or moldy food from your refrigerator and thoroughly clean bathroom and kitchen fixtures weekly in order to keep mold down to a minimum.
Check and Monitor Gas Appliances – Gas stoves, heaters and clothes dryers must be properly vented to avoid exposure to carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, nitrogen dioxide and other harmful toxins. Invest in carbon monoxide detectors and make sure batteries are functioning. Carbon monoxide exposure can cause memory and hearing loss, while nitrogen dioxide can cause persistent cough and sore throat.
Beware of Formaldehyde – Formaldehyde is a substance commonly found in certain woods and building materials, which can be excreted out of these materials into the air. Air that is polluted with formaldehyde can cause dizziness; shortness of breath; a burning sensation in the eyes, nose or throat; chronic headache; memory loss and even cancer. So avoid using formaldehyde-laden building materials whenever possible, coat your materials with a hard lacquer or varnish to protect yourself from formaldehyde, and air out your new clothing, carpets and furniture which can also emit formaldehyde.
Utilize Air Filters – Air filters are designed to reduce the amount of dust, pollen, smoke, formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs) commonly emitted by office equipment, which can cause respiratory distress, cancer and other illnesses.
Utilize Water Filters – Despite the fact that tap water is usually treated with chlorine to kill bacteria, when organic matter such as leaves fall into the water they form harmful substances like chloroform which are known to cause bladder and rectal cancer. So be sure to use carbon water filters, charcoal filters and trusted bottled spring water.
Control Dust – Vacuum carpets 3 times a week and mop all floors and horizontal surfaces to maintain dust control, as dust can contain harmful lead and VOCs.
Purchase Wisely – Household cleaners, air fresheners and polishes have a variety of toxins, so use nontoxic alternatives. Also, never mix products containing ammonia and chlorine as these products combine to form chloramine which can cause severe lung damage.