Homes Affect Health
Most of us don’t think about how our homes may affect our health. We decorate it, clean it (hopefully), and hang out in it, but rarely consider whether anything in our house can make us ill.
The fact is there are things in our homes that can impact our health. For example, indoor air pollution is said to increase the risk of stroke, COPD, lung cancer, ischemic heart disease, and respiratory infection. Here are some things that may be lurking in your house and be detrimental to your health.
We know that mold can appear in the bathroom on the shower curtain, around the tub, and on bathmats. Mold can also be in the basement, garbage disposal, behind wallpaper, and in air conditioning ducts. Mold may develop under the plastic bands around food and water containers as well as beneath wall-to-wall carpeting.
At a minimum, inhaling mold spores can be irritating. Additionally, they can cause a reaction in those with allergies or cause an asthma attack. Inhaled mold spores can also cause headaches, sinus infections, digestive disorders, muscle pain, shortness of breath, and other symptoms.
Here’s a link to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services on how to control indoor mold: https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/mold/indoor.htm
Our indoor spaces are filled with chemicals; many we aren’t even aware of but can cause harm. Chemicals may produce headaches, breathing problems, irritate eyes, and be carcinogenic. George Washington University researchers found 45 toxic chemicals in examined dust samples from inside of homes.
The most common chemical to show up was the flame retardant TDCIPP. It’s typically found in furniture. Phenols found in cleaning products and phthalates found in toys and vinyl floors were also discovered in high amounts. Here are a few more common chemicals that may be in your home:
Formaldehyde – found in glues, adhesive, pressed-wood products, wallpaper, permanent press fabrics, carpeting, insulation, and more. Formaldehyde gases off and the amount reduces over time. Levels can vary from home to home.
BPA – BPA (bisphenol A) has received a lot of attention because it disrupts the body’s hormones and was found in everything from baby and reusable water bottles to the lining of canned goods. While many plastics are now made with “BPA-free” plastics, experts say the plastic in these products may have chemicals that are just as harmful.
VOCs – Volatile organic compounds are chemicals found in many products we use. They are released into the air. Paint, glues, dry-cleaned clothing, air fresheners, cleaning supplies, and other household products can be loaded with chemicals. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) recommends avoiding products with these chemicals:
- Alkylphenol extholytes
- Pine or Citrus oil (which can react with air—particularly smoggy air—and turn into formaldehyde)
- Quaternary ammonium compounds
To avoid chemicals in cleaning products, buy ones labeled “green.” You can also make your own. Vinegar and water to clean windows is a mixture that was used long before window cleaners came on the market. Baking soda is an effective abrasive, and shampoo (not combined shampoo and conditioner) can clean bathtubs.
Buy glass storage containers instead of plastic. If you have plastic containers, don’t heat food in them in the microwave. Also, wait until food is cooled before storing it in plastic containers. Use stainless steel water bottles instead of plastic ones. Purchase canned products that say “BPA free.”
Good thing we can’t see dust mites. Under a microscope, dust mites are nasty looking creatures. And they lurk everywhere in our houses. Pillows, mattresses, carpeting, furniture, inside vacuum cleaners, and basically wherever there is dust there are dust mites. Dust mites according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) are the number one trigger for allergies and asthma.
Dust mites can’t be completely limited, but taking these steps can help reduce them. Wash bed linen weekly and use a dust-proof pillow and mattress covers. Also, dust furniture regularly; change or empty the vacuum filter every time you vacuum. Don’t forget to vacuum under beds and behind furniture. Read more from the AAFA on how to reduce dust mites in your home: http://www.aafa.org/page/dust-mite-allergy.aspx.
Plants to the Rescue
Consider purchasing some plants for your house. Researchers at NASA have shown that plants can help reduce indoor air pollutions. The plants they studied were English Ivy, Chinese Evergreen, bamboo, and gerbera daisies. Houseplants also offer these benefits:
- They absorb and break down toxins
- Enhance positive mood
- Regulate humidity
- Improve concentration and productivity
- Reduce stress levels
Eliminating all chemicals from your home is impossible. However, since more and more research shows the extent to which chemicals have a negative impact on our health, it’s incumbent to take all steps possible to reduce indoor pollutants for better health.
Atkins, Andrea. 7 Ways Your House Is Making You Sick (December 6, 2017). Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/29/household-pollutants-_n_5226769.html
Bright Light Improves Dementia Symptoms (June 10, 2008). Retrieved from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/bright-light-improves-dementia-symptoms/.
Controlling Indoor Mold. Retrieved from https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/mold/indoor.htm
Dust Mite Allergy. Retrieved from http://www.aafa.org/page/dust-mite-allergy.aspx.
Lee, Sophie. Why Indoor Plants Make You Feel Better (July 13, 2017). Retrieved from https://www.nbcnews.com/better/health/indoor-plants-can-instantly-boost-your-health-happiness-ncna781806
Mercola, Dr. Why Almost All Sinus Infections Are Misdiagnosed and Mistreated (September 10, 2011). Retrieved from https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/09/10/fungus-hiding-in-your-house-and-making-you-ill.aspx
Moisture and Mold Problems: Preventing and Solving Them. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/women/mold-mildew#1.
The Perks of Being a Plant Lover (October 14, 2016). Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/importance-plants-home#alternatives.
Atkins, Andrea. 7 Ways Your House Is Making You Sick, December 6, 2017. Web