Many people would consider their homes one of the safest places to be healthwise— especially during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, there can be dangerous things in your home right now that can be harmful to your health. This can be something as simple as dust that’s causing you to sneeze a little more, or something more serious such as a dangerous chemical. Here’s what you need to be aware of in your own home to ensure that you’re not getting sick.
Air Quality of Your Home
Did you know that the quality of the air you breathe inside of your home can make you sick? Indoor air quality, or IAQ, is the air in and around a building as it relates to the health of those who enter and exit (and dwell inside) the building. Most people are familiar with outdoor air pollutants, but pollutants can be found indoors as well. The four major indoor air pollutants include:
- Carbon monoxide
- Excess moisture (which creates mold and mildew)
- Volatile organic compounds (VOCs), or gasses from liquids or solids
These indoor pollutants can come from anywhere within your home: electrical appliances, your fireplace, your basement, and even the paint on your walls. The key to keeping your home free of indoor pollutants is keeping your home properly ventilated. Make sure that your vents are clean and you’re changing your filters at least once a month. You can also add some plants to various rooms inside of your home since plants are great for indoor air quality.
Common Household Items
After evaluating the air quality of your home, you may find that you’ll start to feel less stuffy and as if your allergies have disappeared. However, it’s important to take a look at some common household items that can also be making you sick.
Going back to the air quality of your home, making the switch from carpet to hardwood, laminate, vinyl, or tile flooring can dramatically improve your home’s IAQ. Carpet is notorious for trapping dust mites, dirt, and pet dander— even the best carpet cleaners can’t remove 100% of the particles that get trapped in carpet. However, if you absolutely love carpet, consider keeping carpeted floors limited to low-traffic areas of your home, and use area rugs on top of your harder flooring.
Most people are aware that they should use separate cutting boards for raw meat as to not cross contaminate when cutting vegetables and fruit, but many people may not be washing their cutting boards correctly— especially if they’re wood. Bacteria can seep deep inside of a wooden cutting board, and washing it but not leaving it in the open air to dry can make it worse. This means that the bacteria can get transferred onto the food you’re cutting the next time you use the cutting board. To be on the safe side, you can switch to plastic, dishwasher-safe cutting boards.
The majority of people also know that sponges are a breeding ground for billions of bacteria, yet some still use the same sponge for weeks on end, washing it with soap and water between uses. Unfortunately, this method doesn’t always kill the bacteria that is harbored inside of the sponge. Instead, include the sponge with your dishes in your dishwasher (on the hottest cycle setting), and replace it every week.
Cleaning and Other Household Supplies
It’s no secret that common household cleaners can be harmful to our health. Fortunately, there are “greener” cleaning products that are better for both human health and the environment, and they’ll typically have an EPA Safer Choice label. However, if you must use stronger cleaners such as ammonia and bleach (never use these two together), make sure that your home is properly ventilated while you’re cleaning.
Some other common products in the home that many people don’t think about are their pesticides (both indoor and outdoor) and herbicides. Many of these chemicals are harmful when they come in contact with the skin or even if they’re breathed in. These can cause normal irritation, such as lung irritation and nausea, but they can cause even more serious problems, such as in the case of paraquat exposure causing Parkinson’s Disease.
To make sure that your home isn’t harming your health, start by improving your indoor air quality. Next, make sure that you’re washing and sanitizing common household items properly. Finally, make the switch to more natural and green cleaning and other products.