The Invisible Health Dangers Lurking In Your Home:
As I’m typing this post, my girls are playing outside with the neighbor kids. They’ve got the plastic “slow down” yellow safety person out on the street, and they’re wearing their bike helmets. They know to stay away from cars and people they don’t know. And that if it starts thundering, they need to come inside. We spend so much time keeping our children safe when they’re outside our homes. But have you made sure there are no hidden health dangers IN your home?
Sure, you baby-proofed everything as soon as your little one came home from the hospital, if not before. But there are plenty of other menaces hidden inside our homes, in the air we breathe every day. Air that can sometimes be much worse inside our dwelling-spaces than outdoors.
RELATED POST: Is Poor Indoor Air Quality Making Your Family Sick?
Pecisely because you can’t see them, these inside threats to your health are much harder to guard against. Which begs the question: how safe is the air in your home?
So if you want to make sure your children are truly safe inside as well as out, make sure you’ve got this checklist covered.
This is a collaboration post. However, please know I stand behind everything written here, and only include links to products/services/resources I’m willing to recommend personally.
Hidden Health Dangers In Your Home You Can’t Afford To Miss
1. When was your HVAC unit last serviced?
So many homes now have year-round climate control for their air with an integrated HVAC heating/cooling unit. Having spent my pregnancy with Kimmie huddled in our bedroom to take refuge from the summer heat, in front of our window AC unit, I insisted that central air was non-negotiable in our next home.
But as I’ve written elsewhere, you need to have your HVAC unit professionally serviced every spring and fall if you want it to do its job well. If your Magic Pak heat exchanger fails, your filters aren’t regularly cleaned, or your AC doesn’t get checked out before each summer season starts, you’re putting your family at risk:
- Your unit could run less efficiently than it should, running up your electric bills in the process.
- Or it could break without warning. Which will almost certainly happen on the hottest night of the summer. (Been there, done that.)
- Or it will keep on humming along, while collecting all sorts of crud in its inner workings. Which it will then redistribute throughout your entire home.
Poorly-maintained units are dark, damp, and warm places that are prime breeding grounds for all sorts of nasty bugs. Including the potentially-fatal Legionnaire’s Disease, which my mother picked up from a poorly-serviced unit when I was about 10 and we were traveling. She was in the hospital for what seemed like forever, and almost didn’t make it.
So believe me when I tell you that keeping your AC unit well-maintained won’t cost a fortune, but it can literally save lives.
2. Have you declared war on dust and dander?
Thanks to our family’s collective allergies, keeping our home as allergen-free as possible is a top priority for us. Dust mites, pet dander, and the common crud that pets and shoes bring inside, all add up over time. And if you or any of your loved ones have allergies and/or asthma, this buildup is a recipe for disaster.
RELATED POST: How To Allergy Proof Your Home
Your home may look spotless, but unless you’ve taken steps to control the dust mites and dander lurking in your furniture, surfaces, carpet and flooring, it’s not. Dust and dust mites can be a harmful allergen to small children, causing both short-term health problems and long-term damage to the lungs of kids and vulnerable adults alike. (Middle-of-the-night asthma attack, anyone? Been there, done that.) Moms with babies and toddlers should be especially wary here.
For the full rundown on what to do to protect your family from these microscopic critters, see my ultimate allergy-proofing guide. But for starters,
- keep your pets out of sleeping spaces,
- insist that everyone park their shoes at the door,
- vacuum/dust at least weekly,
- launder towels and sheets at least weekly, and bedding/stuffed animals at least once or twice a month,
- encase bedding, and
- avoid carpeted spaces.
3. Is your bathroom or basement a breeding ground for mold?
Maybe your bathroom never had a decent fan to vent out that warm, damp air after showers. Maybe the fan is on its last legs and sounds like an airplane ready to take off, like the fan in the girls’ bath upstairs. Or maybe it’s died altogether (that would be our bathroom fan, which is on our summer house projects list.) Any one of these situations can put your family into another kind of hidden danger, as can an unexpected summer storm or other cause of flooding.
Bathrooms and basements are often damp places that collect moisture. When they don’t have windows or are poorly ventilated, they can be a perfect breeding ground for molds, spores and fungi. Like dust, the spores released by mold can trigger an allergic reaction in young kids and make them sick, even when they don’t feel any symptoms.
Already there? No worries; check out these great tips on getting rid of bathroom mold.
4. Have you tested your home for this deadly substance?
As I’ve written elsewhere, many families are at risk for lung cancer and don’t even know it. Not because someone smokes, but because their home is filled with radon gas emissions from the ground underneath it.
Before you think, “Oh, that could never happen to OUR family,” consider
- that 10% of lung cancers occur in people who have NEVER smoked;
- that the second leading risk factor for lung cancer, after smoking, is exposure to radon,
- that 12% of lung cancer deaths can be linked to radon exposure,
- and that 1 in 15 homes in the U.S. is at risk for unhealthy levels of radon.
You can’t see or smell radon gas, but it can still kill you, your spouse, or your child. Before we closed on our current home, I insisted we get it tested for radon. When the levels came back just barely within “safe” limits, we had a radon-remediation system installed. The peace of mind this has brought us, by knowing we’re protecting the girls from this deadly gas, is priceless. (To see the risk where you live, check this map if you live in the U.S.; if you live in the U.K., you can check this map.)
5. Is your home safe from this silent killer?
Finally, radon gas isn’t the only silent killer that could be lurking in your home. Radon exposure often takes years to show any negative health effects. But another odorless, colorless gas – carbon monoxide – can kill you a lot faster.
Carbon monoxide occurs whenever fuel isn’t fully burned. Although it can reach dangerous levels anywhere, at any time, this is especially likely to happen in tightly-insulated enclosed spaces. Such as newer homes, particularly during winter heating season. Or in the kitchen if you’re cooking dinner with the windows closed. Or in a garage if your car is running with the garage door closed.
When inhaled in high concentrations, carbon monoxide can be harmful; breathe in too much, and it will kill you in a relatively short period of time. Fortunately, installing one or more carbon monoxide detectors around your home will help you keep alert to this risk. You can typically pick one up for anywhere from $15-$30. That’s a small price to pay to protect your family!
How many of these indoor health hazards have you protected your family from? Which am I missing? Let us know in the comments!
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