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How Healthy is Your Home?

10 Problem Areas and Ways to Fix Them

PORTLAND, Ore., February 02, 2010

The inside of your home may not be as healthy as you think. Recent facts suggest that people, especially children, are sicker today than ever before. For example, 1 in 8 children has asthma and 1 in 6 has a neurological disorder. In 1989, 1 in 2,500 children was diagnosed with autism. Today, 1 in 150 children is autistic. Instances of leukemia are up 30% since the 1970s. Unfortunately, most of these statistics are significantly higher for low-income families. Although other factors such as diet and exercise contribute to these problems, consumers need to be more aware of the materials and products they have in their homes. The following ten home features can influence the health of a home’s indoor environment.

Carpeting vs. Hard Surface Flooring

There are varying opinions about whether carpet is better or worse for air quality than hard surface flooring. Carpeting traps dust, debris, allergens, and mold. Some believe that this is better for air quality because carpeting prevents these irritants from circulating. On the other hand, hard surface flooring is much easier to clean and disinfect. And that new-carpet smell? That odor comes from the volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) emitted by standard carpeting. Purchasing carpeting and carpet cleaning products that have been certified by the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) will help reduce the potential health risks associated with carpet.

Granite Countertops

The United States is seeing a small increase in radioactive or hot granite countertops. Exotic varieties from South America and Africa have been found to contain harmful levels of radon and other radioactive elements. If you suspect that you may have a hot countertop, call a radon technician.

Paints, Stains, Glues, and Sealers

Lead paint is still a hazard in pre-1975 paint coatings, but even newer dry paint coatings and stains off-gas VOCs. When the time comes to refinish a surface, strip off the old coating completely and finish with a low or zero VOC product, which are commonly available from most major paint manufacturers. Caulking, sealers, and glues also off-gas VOCs and are now available with low or no VOC versions.

Combustion Byproducts

From hot water heaters to fireplaces, there are many different systems that operate using a combustion process. Combustion byproducts include carbon monoxide and other harmful, odorless gasses. Installing a ventilation system or replacing combustion systems with non-combustion or direct vented models will help reduce the risks associated with these byproducts.

Dirty Ductwork

This would seem like common sense, but most builders install HVAC ductwork and do not cover it, allowing the duct systems to trap dust and debris for the duration of the construction process. In these cases, every time the HVAC system is used, the homeowner inhales construction debris. There are many dirty ductwork cleaning services available that can rid the system of construction dust.

Ventilation Systems

Ventilation systems replace stale, indoor air with fresh outdoor air. Many older homes do not have these systems. While purchasing a ventilation system or having one installed can be expensive, it is one of the best ways to improve the air quality of your home. A properly ventilated home can also reduce heating and cooling costs. If you are unsure as to whether your home is properly ventilated, then you might want to find a company that offers hvac repair services so that you can have some check-ups and/or repairs done.

Air Filters

Every air-based heating and cooling system has an air filter, which is given a MERV rating. A MERV filter of 9 or higher is ideal. Replace old air filters and make sure you clean the filter regularly. By replacing our old air filter you will be able to create cleaner air which will help with conditions like asthma.

Cleaning and Freshening

Traditional cleaning products and air fresheners can do more harm than good. If using traditional cleaning products, make sure the space is well ventilated and the product has time to dry before children are allowed to enter. There are a variety of green, natural, and alternative cleaning and freshening methods available today. Also, leave your shoes at the door.


Plastics are one of the most toxic household materials. From food storage to children’s toys, plastics are being linked to a number of health problems. When purchasing plastic products, look on the bottom for numbers 1, 2, 4, or 5. These are the safe plastics. Avoid numbers 3, 6, and 7, unless marked as BPA-free. Immediately discard all of the plastics in your household that are marked with these numbers.


Many building products, including certain particleboards and composite materials, contain and will off-gas formaldehyde, a highly toxic chemical than can cause reactions ranging from headache to nausea. Although the use of formaldehyde has decreased in recent years, when replacing old flooring and cabinetry, look for formaldehyde-free new products.

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