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How to have a healthier home

Many Americans now spend a lot more time at home than ever before. While your home may feel like a safe haven, it won't be much of a haven if what's in your home makes you sick.

Exposure to cleaning products, mold, radon and toxic substances in furniture, paint and building materials can cause short- and long-term illnesses that threaten your health. Fortunately, improving the health of your home can be as easy as following these recommendations.

Choose Cleaning Products Wisely

Harsh cleaning products may irritate your skin, cause headaches or even make breathing difficult. When you shop, look for products labeled "green" or "non-toxic," but read the list of ingredients to verify that the products don't actually contain toxic substances.

Keep in mind that if someone in your home is sick due to COVID-19 or another virus, you may need to use stronger cleaning products temporarily. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that diluted bleach (1 quart of water and 4 teaspoons of bleach), hydrogen peroxide and isopropyl alcohol containing at least 70% alcohol are effective against coronavirus. Tea tree oil, distilled vinegar, vodka and homemade hand sanitizer won't kill the virus, according to the CDC.

Decrease VOCs in Your Home

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are toxic gases or vapors found in paint, flooring, furniture, adhesives and other products. Headaches, dizziness, sore throat and eye irritation can occur after exposure to VOCs, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Long-term exposure may increase your risk of kidney, liver or central nervous system problems.

Look for paint, adhesives, stains and varnishes that contain a low level of VOCs if you're planning a home improvement project. Solid wood furniture and cabinets offer a safer alternative to engineered wood products. If you're adding new flooring to your home, opt for wool carpets, stone tiles, factory-finished wood flooring or natural products that don't produce VOCs.

Fix Leaks Promptly

Mold thrives in moist environments. Leaky pipes and water heaters, dripping window air-conditioners and unventilated kitchens or bathrooms increase the likelihood of mold problems in your home. The black substance isn't just unsightly but can cause itchy eyes, nasal congestion and coughing. It can also trigger allergy and asthma attacks. Repair leaky pipes promptly and ventilate kitchens and bathrooms to help reduce moisture in your home and prevent mold from forming.

Check Your Home's Radon Level

If you haven't tested your home for radon, now is the perfect time to do so. The odorless gas is commonly found in the basement or crawl spaces of homes and can cause lung cancer. Do-it-yourself radon test kits are available at home improvement stores or you can contact a professional radon company for testing. Radon mitigation techniques vary depending on foundation type but usually involve venting the gas outside your home.

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Date Last Reviewed: April 13, 2020
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor
Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD
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