When at home, we want to feel comfortable and safe from the outside world. While we may be safe from outdoor elements, there are factors of indoor health that are important to keep in check. One such factor is the air we breath, and how that air can affect our immediate and long term health. Some toxins that can exist indoors can be invisible and odorless. Read the tips below on how to protect your home and family.
1. Cleaning Supplies and Sprays
Store bought aerosol sprays and household cleaning supplies can be detrimental to your health and the environment. Chemical cleaners can contain Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) that can be dangerous when inhaled over time. Exposure to chemicals like Formaldehyde and 2-Butoxyethanol have also been linked to respiratory issues and asthma, especially when used in confined and unventilated spaces like a bathroom.
For the best and healthiest results, create an all natural DIY solution from common household goods. White Vinegar and a microfiber cloth will work wonders on windows and glass, while a little baking soda is effective for scrubbing tile. When making natural cleaners, also be aware of what types of cleaners you should never mix. Mixing ammonia and bleach is toxic as well as bleach and vinegar. Creating your own products can be safer and less expensive than store bought materials, but only when mixed properly….so do your research before combining any cleaners.
2. Check for Asbestos
Anyone building a home today understands the dangers that asbestos poses to human health, however homeowners whose homes were built in the early to mid-20th century may be at risk for exposure. Asbestos is a natural mineral that was mined and used abundantly in manufacturing and construction through the 1970s. The material was once touted as a great building and packaging material because of its sturdy and fire resistant qualities. It wasn’t until the late 20th century that asbestos became linked directly to lung cancer and another rare cancer known as mesothelioma.
If you own an older home, are undergoing renovations, or notice any disturbed pipes or insulation, don’t handle or fix loose insulation without testing the area. Asbestos becomes dangerous once airborne, putting those in the home at risk of inhaling asbestos fibers. Be sure to contact a professional if your home acquires any damage, so they can properly check for friable asbestos and can properly handle the toxin.
3. Seek Eco-Friendly Solutions
Along with cleaning products, your furniture, paint and flooring could be releasing VOCs into your air. These dangerous chemicals and pollutants might exist in many products within your home, and can be dangerous to inhale as well as detrimental to the environment. When doing home renovation projects, make sure that any finishes, paints, paneling, or wood is free from chemicals like toluene, formaldehyde and benzene.
Dangerous toxins are often odorless and invisible, so doing your due diligence when researching supplies can help you identify which products are safest to use. Be weary of products that market themselves as “green” and stay up do date with consumer reports. Products that claim to be eco-friendly and clean can sometimes have identical ingredients and a different label. Always read the label before buying supplies and use a dust or ventilation mask for added protection when completing DIY home projects.
4. Invest in Radon and CO2 Detectors
Radon and carbon monoxide are other colorless and odorless threats to be aware of inside the home. Radon can occur as natural gases break down in the soil and rise through cracks in a structure’s foundation. The gas can be especially prevalent in basements and crawl spaces with limited ventilation. Exposure to radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, so protecting your home from the gas is an extremely important step in protecting your family’s health. The best way to monitor if radon is present in your home is to purchase a radon detector or test kit that will alert you to dangerous radon levels.
Carbon monoxide (CO) should also be monitored by a detector within your home, as it can have more immediate and dangerous health effects. Fuel burning appliances, or leaks from gas stoves and heaters can produce dangerous levels of CO and can be silent killers if left unchecked.
When there is too much CO in the air, those affected might feel a dull headache, shortness of breath, and dizziness. Carbon monoxide can be mistaken for the flu, so you should get fresh air and contact a doctor immediately when symptoms develop. Installing a carbon monoxide alarm in your home will help catch alarming levels of the gas if they arise. Additionally, homeowners should take precaution by having your appliances and heating system inspected annually by a professional.
It’s important to keep tabs on your indoor air quality in order to ensure the short and long-term health of you and your family. By staying educated and investing in the appropriate sensors, you can monitor toxic gases and enjoy peace of mind when spending time at home. If you are interested in further “greening” your home and wiping out potential toxins, take a look at this article on shopping for clean and non toxic beauty products.
Sarah Wallace is a health advocate for the Mesothelioma and Asbestos Awareness Center and is passionate about educating others on environmental safety and public health issues.
Photo by Tim Trad on Unsplash