Is your home making you ill?
Americans spend the majority of their time indoors, much of which is spent within the confines of their homes. It’s important to understand which household factors contribute to ailments and how they can be prevented.
Below, we’ll discuss some of factors that can make you sick at home and what can be done to eradicate them.
Arsenic is a preservative that was used in wood furniture, fencing and decking prior to 2005. Its purpose was to keep the wood from rotting. Children that touch wood that contains arsenic and then place their hands in their mouth can be susceptible to side effects such as nausea.
More severe side effects from long-term exposure are cancer and blindness. Arsenic can also leak into the ground and affect plants growing nearby. Arsenic is a threat only if the wood is not sealed, so to be sure to use a sealer once per season.
Radon is a gas that is created when uranium breaks down in the soil, rocks and water. In small amounts, it is not harmful to your health. However, in large amounts, radon can cause lung cancer.
Radon can contaminate your drinking water, especially if it comes from a well. Because it is the lowest level in your home (and closest to the ground), radon can also be found in your basement. Sealing a home can help reduce radon levels and home testing kits are available. Be sure to closely follow the directions on the testing kits as failure to do so can result in a false reading.
Like radon, carbon monoxide, is an odorless colorless gas that can be fatal, but at a more rapid rate. Sources of carbon monoxide in the home can be gas appliances with improper ventilation, a malfunctioning furnace and a clogged chimney.
High levels can cause death rapidly. However, non-lethal levels can also cause headaches, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and confusion. Because these symptoms are similar to many other medical conditions, it can be difficult to diagnose carbon monoxide poisoning.
When too much moisture builds up, it causes mildew, which leads to mold. One of mold’s favorite places to grow is the bathroom. To prevent mold, dry off all surfaces that collect standing water.
It’s also important that your bathroom has proper ventilation. It’s recommended that you run a vent fan after every shower for at least 20 minutes to prevent mildew production. Make sure your fan is a true exhaust fan that dissipates the humid air. A fan that does not do this can vent damp air into an area such as your attic that encourages mold growth.
Believe it or not, household cleaners, the very thing that is supposed to protect you and your family from illness, can actually cause them. Components of the cleaner evaporate into the air and can be inhaled, while ingredients in cleaners such as bleach can make you dizzy, nauseous and light-headed.
Fragrances in cleaners can also cause irritation because of the ingredients they are comprised of. Use natural cleaners with ingredients such as baking soda, vinegar and water when cleaning for a healthier home.
Sponges are an environmentally friendly alternative to paper towels. However, they can also be hazardous to your health. Cleaning them with a bleach solution may not completely eradicate germs, leaving you susceptible to illness.
The best ways to disinfect a sponge are to place it in the microwave in a small bowl of water for a minute or run it through a cycle in your dishwasher.
Dust mites are invisible to the naked eye but they can wreak havoc if you are allergic to them. Often found in beds, they can cause itchy eyes, congestion, sneezing and shortness of breath.
Wash your sheets and comforter weekly in hot water to minimize your exposure to dust mites. It’s also recommended that you wash or replace your pillow twice a year.
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