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What Is a Healthy Home?
A healthy home is designed, built, and maintained to support our health. Most people spend at least half of every day inside their homes. A healthy, safe, affordable, and accessible home supports their basic needs and protects them from illness and injury.
The purpose of this picture slideshow is to provide information about the connection between housing and health as well as steps to make your house a healthy home.
A Home's Purpose
Historically, a home's main purpose has been to provide people with such basics as walls to keep out animals and a roof to keep out rain. As health knowledge increased, people added openings to let in fresh air and to let out smoke and fumes. By the 1800s, health officials had learned that to help prevent disease, a home had to have safe water and ways to treat waste.
Over time, we've learned that our homes can sometimes make us sick. To most, unhealthy housing conditions may seem like cosmetic problems. But health hazards can lurk where you least expect them: peeling paint can contain lead, too much moisture can result in mold, clutter can shelter insects and rodents, secondhand smoke and pesticides can lead to serious illnesses, and some invisible hazards, such as carbon monoxide and radon, can be deadly.
Many Homes Have Unhealthy Conditions
According to the CDC on Unhealthy Homes:
- One in 16 have high radon levels
- One in 10 have water leaks
- One in six have structural problems
- One in four have lead-based paint
- One in four do not have a working smoke alarm
For Bedrooms, Living Rooms, and Family Rooms
- Install smoke alarms on every floor and near all rooms family members sleep in.
- Test smoke alarms monthly; change alkaline batteries annually.
- Install carbon monoxide alarms near bedrooms.
- Do not smoke or allow anyone else to smoke in the home.
- Test your home for lead paint.
- Fix peeling or chipping paint using lead-safe work practices.
- Use safe work practices when painting, remodeling, and renovating to prevent spreading lead dust
- Keep floors clear of electrical cords and clutter such as shoes, clothing, and children's toys, as they provide places for rodents and insects to nest and they can be a trip hazard.
- Never use the stove or oven to heat the house.
- Use a range hood fan or other kitchen exhaust fan. The best fans vent outside; a fan that is not vented outside keeps the poisons and moisture in the house.
- Install a carbon monoxide alarm.
- Never leave food unattended on the stove.
- Avoid wearing clothes with long, loose-fitting sleeves when cooking.
- Use safe cleaning and pest-control products (keep them locked away from children, follow label directions and dispose of these products safely).
For Kitchen Pests
Stop cockroaches, ants, and mice without pesticides:
- Keep them out: Seal openings to the outside and between rooms.
- Starve them: Put away food, clean up, and cover the trash and garbage.
- Deny them water: Fix leaks and wipe up spilled water.
- Use closed baits, traps, and gels only when necessary.
- Never use bug bombs or foggers.
- Install grab bars on the wall of the bathtub and shower and next to the toilet.
- Keep prescription and over-the-counter medications away from children by locking them in a medicine cabinet and using childproof caps.
- Clean up moisture and mold safely.
- Open windows and doors to get fresh air.
- Use a bathroom exhaust fan that is vented outside; a fan that is not vented outside might move air, but it keeps moisture in the house.
- Check for water leaks from the roof.
- Ensure proper ventilation in the attic to prevent moisture that promotes mold growth.
- Seal gaps around roofing and attic openings to keep rodents and insects out of the house.
- Clean up clutter to deny rodents and insects any places to nest.
- Older insulation may contain asbestos. If insulation must be removed or disturbed, hire an expert.
For Basement, Crawl Space, Utility, and Laundry Areas
- Set the water heater at 120° F to prevent burns.
- Change the furnace/AC filter regularly.
- Have gas appliances and furnaces checked yearly by a professional to make sure they do not release CO.
- Vent the clothes dryer to the outside.
- Test for radon (if a high level is detected, hire a specialist to eliminate the hazard).
- Lock up products used for cleaning, car maintenance, gardening, and pest control.
For Stairways and Halls
- Use stair gates at the top and bottom of stairs if children live in or visit the home.
- Keep a working light bulb in overhead lights in the hall and above the stairs.
- Fix loose or uneven steps and rails on stairs.
- Attach stairway carpet firmly to every step– or remove carpet and attach nonslip rubber stair treads.
- Keep stairs free of clutter.
- Install handrails on both sides of the stairs.
For Outer Parts of House and Yard
- Keep pests away by fixing exterior holes, cracks, and leaks, eliminating standing water and food sources, and keeping trash covered with a lid.
- Maintain gutters, downspouts, and roof to prevent moisture from entering the home.
- Use safe work practices when painting, remodeling, or renovating a home built before 1978.
- If you have a septic tank or private well, properly maintain it to prevent illness.
- If you have a swimming pool, use self-closing and self-latching gates and four-sided fencing to prevent small children from unintended access.
- Complete a playground safety checklist if you have playground equipment in your yard.
Cleaning Tips for a Healthier Home
Tasks that you can perform during your annual spring cleaning, or anytime for that matter, may actually improve your family's health. The following cleaning activities will help make you, and your home, healthier and safer.
Dust Your Home
Thoroughly dust your home and clean air conditioning and heating filters, ducts, and vents to decrease your exposure to pollens and other airborne allergens.
Organize Your Medicine Cabinet
Discard expired medications and old prescription medications no longer in use. You'll reduce your chances of becoming victim of a medication error and gain some storage space.
Check the Garage, Basement, and Under the Sink
Check each location for old cleaning products, cans of paint, thinners, oils, solvents, stains, and other forms of "toxic" trash. Call your city or county sanitation department to find the location of the hazardous waste drop-off center, and get rid of anything you're not going to use.
Have your chimney professionally cleaned and you'll reduce the chances of carbon monoxide exposure from your chimney when it's fire season again.
Mold and Mildew
Clean all mold and mildew from bathrooms and other damp areas with non-toxic cleaning products. Mold is a fungus which can trigger allergic reactions in susceptible people.
Check Your Rugs
Check your rugs to be sure that rugs on bare floors have nonskid mats. Older mats that have become dusty may need to be washed or replaced to provide effective protection from falls. Outfit your bathrooms with nonskid bath mats.
Inspect outdoor playground equipment and be sure that it remains sturdy and in good repair. Pay particular attention to guardrails, protruding bolts, swing rope/chain attachments, and other potential sources of injury.
Change the batteries in your smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector. Collect old batteries throughout the house for disposal in a battery recycling or hazardous waste center.
Your Healthy Home
Good health begins at home. With knowledge, having a healthy home is in everyone's reach. Get started today!
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