Staying healthy involves more than the amount of kale you eat or the number of times you frequent the gym. Your health can also be affected by your environment. Whether it’s your city’s air pollution or your newly carpeted house, where you live has an impact on your overall health. Your home is supposed to be your haven, but it can harbor pollutants, irritants, and chemicals that can damage your respiratory system. And some of these culprits aren’t always easily identified.
Notice you’re feeling inexplicably fatigued, dizzy, or nauseated, or your asthma has worsened? Pay attention to whether your symptoms improve once you leave the house. That could be a sign that you need to take a closer look in your home to find the cause. Read on to learn how to counteract common household hazards to keep your house — and you — feeling healthy.
1. Improve Your Air Filtration
Inadequate air filtration enables the buildup of airborne particles that continue to circulate within your home. It creates an environment where dust, pollen, pet hair, and other allergens can wreak havoc on your respiratory health. Inadequate airflow and filtration could even foster mold and mildew growth. Proper filtration is essential for people with existing respiratory conditions, as insufficient circulation of clean air can worsen asthma, allergies, and bronchitis symptoms.
Improving the air filtration in your home may be as simple as changing the filter in your AC unit. Most filters need to be changed every three to six months. It’s a low-maintenance task that can vastly improve the air quality in your home. You can also maximize the filter’s performance with frequent dusting and vacuuming. Regularly wiping down shelves, tabletops, bookcases, and the blades on any overhead fans can reduce the irritants in the air.
2. Watch Out for Mold Growth
Mold growth in a home can lead to both serious health risks and home damage. And since mold can thrive in places that aren’t easy to see, your mold problem can sneak up on you. Mold grows in environments that have high humidity, a lack of ventilation, and persistent sources of moisture. Mold can release spores and gases into the air that are especially harmful for people with respiratory issues or compromised immune systems.
The first step to resolving your mold problem is to eliminate the moisture source that’s fueling its growth. Sometimes water can seep into cracks in your home’s foundation, fueling mold growth beneath the flooring. You might find mold proliferating in a bathroom that doesn’t have proper ventilation. Or it could thrive in a poorly insulated basement.
Regular cleaning, proper ventilation, and monitoring for leaks can help to prevent mold growth. A mold inspector can also help to detect mold in hard-to-reach places and create a mitigation plan.
3. Be Aware of Chemical Pollutants
Not all allergens and air pollutants come in the form of pollen, mold spores, or dust mites. Volatile organic compounds are chemicals that evaporate into the air at room temperature. They can be found in a variety of common household products, like:
- Household products,such as cleaning supplies, air fresheners, and pesticides
- Construction materials and home furnishings, includingcarpet, paint, adhesives, vinyl flooring, upholstered furniture, and mattresses
- Personal care itemslike perfumes, hair spray, and cosmetics
The health effects of VOCs vary in severity and can worsen over time. Typically, people with respiratory conditions and allergies will be most impacted by high VOC levels. That’s why it’s important to make sure that your home has proper air circulation and filtration. It’s also beneficial to opt for products that don’t contain VOCs. If that’s not possible, try to store products like paint, caulk, and solvents away from any living space.
4. Prioritize Natural Light
The quality, source, and amount of light can have an impact on your physical and mental health. Studies have shown just how important exposure to natural light is for optimal health. Sunlight governs your circadian rhythm, telling your body when it should sleep and when it should wake up. Without sufficient exposure to natural light, your sleep cycle and sleep quality can be negatively impacted.
Natural light — especially direct sunlight — is also a significant source of vitamin D. Low vitamin D levels can result in a weakened immune system and increase the risk of bone disorders. Sun exposure can also help to ward off seasonal depression.
To maximize the amount of natural light, try to keep curtains and blinds open at home. If that’s not feasible, it can be helpful to eliminate fluorescent lights and replace them with fixtures that use warmer-hued LED bulbs.
5. Monitor Carbon Monoxide and Radon Levels
Sometimes the health risks in your house won’t be easy to spot. Carbon monoxide and radon are two gases that can have drastic health implications if they’re not detected and treated.
Carbon monoxide gas is produced when fossil fuels burn incompletely. It can be released by faulty gas-burning appliances and is tasteless and odorless, making it tricky to detect. Exposure to carbon monoxide is serious and can even be deadly. That’s why it’s important to have carbon monoxide detectors in your home and properly maintain all your appliances.
Radon gas is radioactive and can infiltrate homes through cracks in the foundation, floors, or walls. It’s produced when uranium decomposes within rocks, soil, and water. Radon is also odorless and tasteless, so relying on a radon detector is crucial. If high levels of radon are detected, there are mitigation systems that can be installed to make your space livable. Radon exposure is one of the main causes of lung cancer, so you’ll want to resolve any issues right away.
Restoring Your Home’s Health
Preventing the issues discussed above — or addressing them when they occur — can help you maintain your health. Plus, taking steps to avoid or mitigate these hazards will keep your home in good condition and maximize its value.