Make your home healthy in the new year

By Tom Phelan - ReminderNews
Featured Article - posted Thu., Jan. 2, 2014
- Contributed Photo

We all worry at some time about our own health and that of our family members. Part of thinking about our health also means thinking about how healthy our home environment is. When we move into a new home, just getting everything stored and functional is the main concern. We might leave health concerns to a later date, and perhaps even overlook them completely.

The Centers for Disease Control has a checklist for healthy homes that is quite extensive and goes to something of an extreme. Many of the things listed there have been covered in this column at one time or another. Here's a review of some of the things I think are most important - a “short list” of things you can check pretty quickly.

Keep the air inside of your home healthy by installing carbon monoxide detectors near the bedrooms. Prevent moisture from accumulating anywhere in the home that will foster mold growth. Mold can create respiratory problems, which can be severe to anyone with a sensitive respiratory system. Install fan-driven vents in bathrooms to take moisture outside the home. Safely vent your clothes dryer to the outside, and check it for lint accumulation at least annually.

Use a dehumidifier in the basement and any other areas that hold moisture, especially in the humid months of the year. Conversely, you might need to use a humidifier in living areas during the heating season, when the house is tightly sealed and humidity is low.

Test for radon in your home. The test kit is inexpensive and easy to use. Like carbon monoxide, radon is odorless and colorless. According to the National Cancer Institute, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States.

Test for the presence of lead in paint. If your home was constructed after 1978, this should not be a concern. If you find the oldest layers of paint contain lead, research ways to address this exposure and fix any peeling or chipped paint.

Stairways with more than three steps should have handrails on both sides. Position them for easy access by people of all ages in the home. There should also be a working light on stairways and in halls as well. Attach carpet tightly on steps, or install non-slip rubber treads on bare wood steps.

Talk to your local fire department and find out where to install smoke alarms on each floor in your home. These alarms only have a 10-year useful life, so if yours are old, they may need replacing. Be sure to check the batteries at the same time every year.

Toxic products used for cleaning, maintaining your automobile, gardening and controlling insects and other pests should be kept in secure cabinets or shelves. Accidents involving these products can be severe. It is not uncommon, for example, for a pet to drink the coolant used in your car's engine.

It should go without saying that, if you have little children in your home, there should be safety covers on electrical outlets. That includes those anywhere on the walls, as well as the vacant receptacles in power strips. Most power strips lie on the floor, well within the reach of curious toddlers.

Fix any holes, cracks and leaks on the house's exterior, to prevent invasion by insects and rodents. This can be an exhausting exercise, but one that is well worth the effort. Once your home has been infested, detecting the infestation might be difficult, and ridding the home of these pests can be very expensive.

In the bathrooms, mats should have non-slip rubber backing, to prevent slips, trips and falls. The temperature of the hot water in baths and kitchens should be set no higher than 120 degrees. That's plenty hot for laundry and dishes as well as bathing and hand-washing.

Make sure your home is a healthy one in which to live this year.

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