• If your home was built before 1970, check for lead paint.
• If your home was built before 1970, check for asbestos insulation.
Issue: Homes built before 1970 likely contain lead paint and asbestos insulation, both of which are serious health hazards.
Solution: If you suspect you have lead or asbestos in your home, have it tested by a professional. Only a trained professional should be allowed to remove these materials.
•If you’re building a new home or remodeling, use nontoxic building materials.
Issue: New building materials and products can introduce volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and toxic chemicals into your home. Remodels can disturb older building materials that may be moldy or release fine particulate matter into the air.
Solution: If you’ve made changes in the last few years, ventilate your home by opening windows daily and use a HEPA air filter that can trap fine particulates and gases.
• Check for water damage.
Issue: Water damage can quickly result in mold growth.
Solution: Have a certified professional locate and fix the source of any water damage within 24 hours to prevent mold problems.
• Keep up with your heating system’s maintenance
Issue: Some heating systems are more hazardous to health than others. Hazards include blowing around dust and other particulates, creating toxic combustion byproducts, and generating electromagnetic radiation (EMR).
Solution: If you’re building a new house, choose the healthiest heating option (radiant floor heating, wall-mounted radiators, or a sealed combustion fireplace). If you already have a system installed, regular and thorough maintenance is essential.
For forced-air systems (which 80 percent of American homes have), make sure you change the pleated media HEPA filter every two to three months and have all ducting professionally cleaned (without fragranced products) every two years.
• Check your home for radon.
Issue: Radon is a serious health hazard in the home. It’s the second leading cause of lung cancer.
Solution: Radon levels should be checked annually. Home radon tests are inexpensive and easy for homeowners to perform. If you detect high radon levels, contact a certified radon professional for advice and mitigation.
• Filter your water.
Issue: Municipal water systems are only required to test for 87 of the 2,100 contaminants that pollute drinking water. If you have your own well, have your water checked for a thorough spectrum of contaminants.
Solution: Whole-house water filtration, maintained regularly, can make a big difference in your and your family’s health. Have your water tested so you can decide which filtration system will best suit your family’s needs. Different systems have different filtering efficiencies. Some offer very little protection. If you discover problematic organisms in your well water, deal with these first before filtering your water.
• Do not use pesticidies inside or outside your home.
Issue: Pesticides are designed to kill. They’re now found in many common household products from ant sprays to antibacterial soaps to antimicrobial coatings on shower curtains and rubber gloves.
Solution: Read labels on products and remove anything that contains chemical pesticides. Replace with nontoxic alternatives.
• Consider replacing synthetic carpet.
Issue: Synthetic carpet, backing, and adhesives can contain a multitude of toxic chemicals that pollute your indoor air quality. Watch out for carpets with antimicrobial treatments that put your children and pets directly in contact with more pesticides.
Solution: If you must have carpet in your home, make sure it doesn’t contain chemicals. Thoroughly vacuum carpet with a HEPA vacuum cleaner at least twice a week and more often in high-traffic areas.
• Clean out your cleaning cupboard.
Issue: Many store-bought cleaning products contain toxic chemicals that you breathe in or absorb through your skin when you clean.
Solution: Make your own nontoxic cleaning products or buy those that list all ingredients.
For more solutions to help you upgrade the health of your home, see Homes That Heal (New Society Publishers, 2004) by Athena Thompson.