January 11, 2023
From increased accident risk to poor air quality, an improperly maintained home can pose a wide range of health hazards.
Fortunately, there are proactive steps you can take to ensure your living space will enhance your health and well-being.
Multiple government agencies and nonprofits offer guides for keeping your home healthy, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Health and Human Services, the National Center for Healthy Housing, and the Environmental Protection Agency.
The guidelines follow the principles of Healthy Homes, a concept that the Department of Housing and Urban Development defines as an environment that is dry, clean, safe, well-ventilated, pest-free, contaminant-free, well-maintained, and thermally controlled.
Here are some highlights from these guides.
To keep water from getting into your home, keep your gutters and downspouts clean. If you have a chimney, check around the flashing for signs of leaks. In the fall, turn off your outside faucets and leave them open to prevent the pipes to them from freezing and bursting.
For safety, make sure the surfaces of your driveway and sidewalks are even and unbroken. If you have a pool, make sure it’s properly fenced.
To help keep pests out of your home, make the area near your home inhospitable to them. Make sure there is no place water can accumulate, and keep your trash cans tightly sealed. Also check your foundation and doors for places where rodents can get into your home, and make sure your screens have no holes in them.
Inside, your home should have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on every floor, in the kitchen, and near bedrooms. Test them regularly and change the batteries annually.
You should also keep your house free of clutter, which can provide places for insects and rodents to nest, as well as for dust to accumulate. If it’s on the floor, it can also be a tripping hazard, as can electrical cords and rugs that aren’t skidproof.
Check your windows for evidence of leaks, such as water stains around the frames or damage to the frames and sills. Leaks may also cause chipping paint or ceiling stains.
If your paint is chipping and you think it may date back to the 1970s, you may need to have your home tested for lead-based paint. Children ages six and younger who are exposed to the dust released by chipping lead-based paint are at high risk for lead poisoning, which has serious long-term effects on physical and mental development.
If you have a basement, check it for signs of moisture, such as a musty odor, discoloration, and mold. Waterproofing a basement can be a complex job that may involve putting in a sump pump, but it may be necessary if water is getting inside.
You should also check your pipes for leaks and make sure your furnace is venting properly. If your dryer is also located in the basement, you should check that vent as well.
In your kitchen, it’s important to have a fan over your stove that vents to the outside. To keep out pests, seal any holes in the outside walls and seal any holes around your pipes so pests can’t come up from the basement. Keep your trash can covered and make sure your pipes aren’t leaking so pests that do get in can’t get food and water.
Your bathrooms should have a fan or window that vents to the outdoors. Any rugs should be non-skid. There also should be grab bars next to bathtubs and showers.
Your stairs should have handrails on both sides, and working lights over or by their landings, so you’re not climbing or descending in the dark.
If you have an attic, check it for evidence of leaks from your roof and make sure it’s properly vented to avoid mold growth. Seal any gaps around vents and other openings to keep out birds and pests.
If you’re like most Americans these days, you probably spend most of your time at home. Following these guidelines can help ensure that it’s a healthy and safe place for you and your family to live and thrive.