While most home owners are lulled into a sense of safety and security, there are hidden dangers that can lurk within a home that are odorless, invisible, and seemingly undetectable that are having negative consequences on their health and well-being. With most people spending 80 to 90 percent of their time indoors, the effects of these hazards can be very consequential over longer periods of time.
There are three main areas that can make a home unhealthy: 1) Biological Hazards, 2) Chemical Hazards, and 3) Structural Hazards.
Biological hazards in the home are substances derived from animal products that can adversely impact human health through contact, ingestion, or inhalation. For most homes, the primary biological hazards are allergens and mold/moisture related issues.
Chemical hazards in the home are non-biological substances that harm humans through contact, inhalation, or ingestion. Typical chemical hazards in the home include exposure to lead, asbestos, radon, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), formaldehyde, and airborne particulate matter (PM).
Structural hazards include inefficient equipment, excess moisture, poor ventilation, and safety issues throughout the home.
There are eight principles that define what a healthy home is. These principles focus on protecting the health and well-being of its occupants in the short-term and long term duration they live in the home.
The eight principles of a healthy home are:
- Keep it dry. Damp houses provide a nurturing environment for mites, roaches, rodents, and molds, all of which are associated with asthma.
- Keep it clean. Clean homes help reduce pest infestations and exposure to contaminants.
- Keep it pest-free. Recent studies show a causal relationship between exposure to mice and cockroaches and asthma episodes in children; yet inappropriate treatment for pest infestations can exacerbate health problems, since pesticide residues in homes pose risks for neurological damage and cancer.
- Keep it safe. The majority of injuries among children occur in the home. Falls are the most frequent cause of residential injuries to children, followed by injuries from objects in the home, burns, and poisonings.
- Keep it contaminant free. Chemical exposures include lead, radon, pesticides, volatile organic compounds, and environmental tobacco smoke. Exposures to asbestos particles, radon gas, carbon monoxide, and second-hand tobacco smoke are far higher indoors than outside.
- Keep it ventilated. Studies show that increasing the fresh air supply in a home improves respiratory health.
- Keep it maintained. Poorly-maintained homes are at risk for moisture and pest problems. Deteriorated lead-based paint in older housing is the primary cause of lead poisoning, which affects some 240,000 U.S. children.
- Keep it energy-efficient. An energy-efficient home reduces the costs throughout the home, increases the comfort of its occupants, and prolongs the life of the mechanical and electrical systems of the home.