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8 Tips for a Healthier Home

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Asthma & Chemical Sensitivites
Home Safety & Maintenance

8 Tips for a Healthier Home

Studies have shown that our homes can be many times more polluted than outside. Here are a few Tips for Making Life Easier from Shelley Peterman Schwarz to make your home, cleaner and healthier.

Making Life Easier1. Eliminate Dust

  • Dust mites eat skin cells and grow well in humidity over 45% (most homes). To keep dust mites and other respiratory hazards out from underfoot and in the air you breathe:
  • Vacuum carpets and floors once or twice a week using a good quality sealed or True-HEPA vacuum cleaner. For maximum cleaning, vacuum the room lengthwise, then repeat crosswise. Miele vacuums are rated in a scientific study as having “zero emissions.” Find a local Miele vacuum dealer or order at 800-640-2623; www.Miele.com
  • Vacuum your mattress regularly with a True-HEPA vacuum cleaner that will trap dust and mites.
  • Wash bedding weekly in HOT water to kill bedbugs and dust mites.
  • Encase mattresses and pillows in dust mite/bedbug covers made of cotton barrier cloth.
  • Replace pillows every one to two years.

Making Life Easier2. Clear the Air

  • Use room air purifiers to help clean the air you breathe. Inexpensive models will control large particles such as molds and pollen. A HEPA filtration system will remove 95 to nearly 100% of particles including dust; an activated charcoal filter will remove gases as well. Avoid air cleaners that emit ozone, a lung irritant. For a selection of air purifiers, see www.AllergyBuyers.com
  • Change furnace filters every three months. The higher the MERV rating the better the filtration. The blower needs to run to circulate air so switch the thermostat to fan during seasons when the furnace does not run. (Check with your heating contractor to see if high mold content or other conditions make running the fan inadvisable.)
  • Always use your stove exhaust fan when cooking, especially if you use a gas stove, and make sure it is vented to the outside.
  • Go fragrance free. Air fresheners, candles, and other scented products add chemicals to the air you breathe. If you must have a scent use a few drops of lemon or other non-toxic essential oil in a diffuser.

Making Life Easier3. Go “Green”

Many commercial products are filled with toxic chemicals; that’s why they say “Keep away from children,” “Use in a well ventilated room,” or list the poison control center’s number on the back. Instead of using toxic chemicals to clean your house, treat your pets, or beautify your lawn, choose “green” products that are made from non-toxic ingredients.

  • For a list of the top 10 non-toxic cleaning products (you probably already have in your kitchen) and how to use them, follow this link to www.naturalhealthlifestyles.com. You will also reap the bonus of saving money; they are cheaper to use than anything you will find at the store!
  • Use organic fertilizers and look for pesticides that contain diatomaceous earth or boric acid.
  • Ask your veterinarian about non-toxic flea products for pets.

Making Life Easier4. Don’t Track It In

You can have the cleanest, safest home in the world but if you wear your shoes into the house, you will defeat your efforts. Shoes track in pesticides and herbicides, oil deposits, dirt and dust (which grow mites), molds and more.

  • So institute a “No shoes in the house” policy.
  • Make it easy to remove shoes by placing a bench by the door to sit on, and keep slippers handy for family members and a basket of washable “footies” for visitors.
  • Steam clean (steam only, no chemicals) carpeting (and upholstered furniture) regularly to rid your environment of chemical residue that comes in on clothing.

Making Life Easier5. Reduce Toxic Gases and VOCs

  • Do not smoke in the house. Second hand smoke is one of the major causes of respiratory diseases and lung cancer. Ask family members who smoke to take it outside the home and at least 15 feet away from any air intake vents.
  • Seal out toxic fumes from the garage. Garages are full of toxic chemicals like gasoline, motor oil, lawn products, etc. If you have an attached garage chances are those fumes are seeping into your house.
    • Use a smoke or incense stick to see where vapors are coming in and seal the leaks with gaskets (on doors) or non-toxic foam spray.
    • Install a small, quiet exhaust fan on the bottom of one of the garage walls to pull contaminants outside of the house. Some can be programmed to run automatically every time the garage door is closed.
    • Use a detached shed to store gasoline, motor oil, lawn care products and other toxic chemicals.
  • Use zero VOC paints and varnishes. And never sand or scrape loose paint unless you know without a doubt that there is no lead paint underneath. Sources for non-toxic paints and products are Bio-Shield, www.BioshieldPaint.com and AFM, www.AFMsafecoat.com.
  • Let toxic fumes “off-gas” before bringing them into the house. Hang dry cleaning outside or in the garage for at least 24 hours and let any new fabrics, drapes, upholstered furniture, or carpet off-gas for at least 2 to 3 weeks before bringing into the house.  If you can smell it, do not bring it inside. NOTE: Carpet must be rolled out flat to off-gas.
  • Eliminate sources of carbon dioxide. Burning candles and using hair sprays or other spray on products including deodorants, pan sprays etc. replaces breathable oxygen with carbon dioxide making it hard to breathe. Resist the urge to burn or spray anything indoors.
  • Install CO2, radon and smoke detectors and change the batteries regularly; pick an annual event like a birthday, anniversary, Thanksgiving weekend, or the autumnal equinox to remind you to change the batteries.

Making Life Easier6. Reduce Radiation Exposure

  • Reduce or eliminate microwave oven use. Microwaves are a form of radiation; not only does that radiation destroy the nutrients in your foods but using them causes radiation to leak into your home. Instead:
    • Heat water quickly and easily with an electric teapot.
    • Use a toaster oven to cook and reheat smaller quantities of food.
    • Plan ahead and defrost meats in the refrigerator or on a special defrosting board.
  • If you must use a microwave oven, use only glass or ceramic dishes (carcinogenic toxins can leach into your food from plastic covering or paper plates) and stand at least 12 feet away while it is cooking.
  • Minimize the number of electrical appliances in the bedroom. Keep all electric alarm clocks, radios, TVs, and similar electric devices at least 3-4 feet away from where you are sleeping.
  • Minimize cell phone usage, especially around children. Check the Website www.blockemf.com or www.Lessemf.com for safer headsets and other radiation blocking tips.
  • Be aware of cell phone and microwave towers in your neighborhood. Do not position your bed or favorite chair in a direct line with the tower.

Making Life Easier7. Filter Your Water, and Not Just the Water You Drink; Install Water Filters on Sinks and Showers Also

  • Chlorine, fluoride and 100s of chemicals, even lead and prescription drugs are found in municipal water supplies. When you wash, do dishes, or shower, these chemicals can enter your body through your skin. You will find shower and faucet filters at drug and home improvement stores.
  • Instead of buying water in plastic bottles, which is not only expensive but can leach Bisphenol-a or BPA, a known toxic chemical into your water, purchase a stainless steel water bottle and carry filtered water with you from home. Thermos makes an 18-ounce hydration bottle with a flip top that pops open at the press of a button, yet locks closed to prevent accidental spilling. Find this water bottle at Walgreen’s, Target and other stores that carry Thermos products. 

Making Life Easier8. Stay Safe

  • Wear gloves when cleaning or gardening.
  • Never use mothballs (natural cedar will deter pests) or store other chemicals in the home.
  • Avoid carpeting, soft vinyl, upholstered furniture, treated fabrics (drapes, bedspreads) and use natural materials (untreated cotton, wool, wood, cork, bamboo, stone, ceramic tile) whenever possible.
  • As you repair or add-on to your home, choose natural materials (wood, stone, clay, tile) that breathe and let condensation and humidity evaporate. Avoid vapor barriers, like vinyl wallpaper, that trap moisture and encourage mold growth.

Thank you to Martine Davis, Indoor Environmental Testing Inc. of Madison, WI for her help in providing information for this list. For more information, home testing, or do-it-yourself kits, call 608-772-8847 or outside the Madison area 800.MY.AIR.TEST. Visit her on the Web at www.airinspector.com.

 ©2011 Meeting Life’s Challenges, LLC         www.MakingLifeEasier.com
For reprint permission contact Shelley@MakingLifeEasier.com

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