Health and Well-Being Start at Home!

March 18, 2014

Most of us think of our home as a healthy and safe place. However, there are scientific studies that demonstrate that small, perhaps unnoticeable issues can create health problems down the road. Early intervention to correct these issues could prevent future health complications.
The CT Department of Public Health (CT DPH) states on their website: The association between health and housing has been known for hundreds of years. People spend around 90% of their time indoors. Your home is a very important environment where you and your family may spend much of your time. If your home environment is unhealthy or unsafe, it can lead to disease, injury or even death. The quality of housing affects the quality of life. A home can support health and well-being.
CT DPH has posted The National Center for Healthy Housing Seven Tips for Creating a Healthy Home on their website. They are stated below:

1. KEEP IT DRY! Prevent water from entering your home through leaks in roofing systems, rain water from entering the home due to poor drainage, and check your interior plumbing for any leaking. Excess moisture can lead to many health problems. For example, moisture supports mold growth, supports pests, may trigger asthma symptoms, and can cause paint to peel and chip. Clean up water spills right away.

2. KEEP IT CLEAN! Control the source of dust and contaminants, creating smooth and cleanable surfaces, reducing clutter, and using effective wet-cleaning methods. A clean home reduces allergens, asthma triggers, and the build-up of lead -contaminated dust and debris. Clean up dirt and dust. Reduce clutter.

3. KEEP IT PEST-FREE! All pests look for food, water and shelter. Seal cracks and openings throughout the home; store food in pest-resistant containers. If needed, use sticky-traps and baits in closed containers, along with the least toxic pesticides such as boric acid powder.

4. KEEP IT SAFE! Store poisons out of the reach of children and properly label containers and items. Secure loose rugs and keep children’s play areas free from hard or sharp surfaces. Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and keep fire extinguishers on hand. Keeping it safe includes your yard and garden, too!

5. KEEP IT VENTILATED! Ventilate bathrooms and kitchens and use whole house ventilation for supplying fresh air to reduce the concentration of contaminants in the home. Poor ventilation can result in too much moisture in a home. Ventilation is also necessary for all fuel-burning appliances. Carbon monoxide can build up in a home when an appliance is not vented properly.

6. KEEP IT CONTAMINANT-FREE! There are several contaminants that already may be part of a home, and there are several contaminants that you may be introducing to your home. Lead paint, radon, asbestos, and contaminants in your well water may already be in your home. Reduce lead-related hazards in pre-1978 homes by fixing deteriorated paint, and keeping floors and window areas clean using a wet-cleaning approach. Test your home for radon, a naturally occurring dangerous gas that enters homes through soil, crawlspaces, and foundation cracks. Install a radon removal system if levels above the EPA action-level are detected. Asbestos should be left alone, and is not considered a health hazard if it is in good condition. If it is in poor condition (flaking or falling off of your boiler or pipes) contact a licensed professional to have it removed from your home. Your drinking water should be free from contaminants. If you are served by a public water system, ask the water company for a copy of the “Consumer Confidence Report.” If you have a private well, make sure to maintain the well and have your water tested every year to ensure it is safe. You may also be introducing contaminants to your home by storing chemicals and fertilizers improperly, through your cleaning products, or even in the building products you choose. Store chemicals and fertilizers properly and consider alternative natural products. Consider switching to green cleaning products for household cleaners. Reduce the use of dangerous chemicals. Do not smoke in the house.

7. KEEP IT WELL-MAINTAINED! Inspect, clean and repair your home routinely. Take care of minor repairs and problems before they become large repairs and problems. Carbon monoxide poisonings, lead poisoning, falls in the home, asbestos exposure, and well water quality are all related to maintenance of a home. Inspect, clean and repair often. 

Visit the CT Department of Public Health website (keywords: healthy homes) for more information about healthy homes. For questions or comments on the information in this column, call Quinnipiack Valley Health District, 203 248-4528 or contact District residents (Bethany, Hamden, North Haven and Woodbridge): Ask about our free healthy homes assessment.