Each year, Americans make New Year's resolutions to improve their health. In fact, a Nielsen health and wellness survey found that staying fit and losing weight are this year’s top two resolutions in the U.S.
However, health is not just about a number on the scale or the amount of fruits and vegetables we eat each day. The environment in which we live plays an important role in protecting us from illness and injury. Our home's health is as important as the health of our bodies.
Unhealthy living conditions can lead to lead poisoning; respiratory problems; fire-related injuries or deaths; acute poisonings; and chronic conditions such as cancer. It can also cause premature birth, low birth weights and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), these concerns are caused by common housing problems such as peeling paint in homes built before 1978, poor ventilation, inadequate insulation and leaks. A lack of working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors; pesticide use; and even general clutter also add to the health risks.
The CDC recommends these healthy-home New Year's resolutions for each area of your home.
- Use a kitchen exhaust fan that vents outside when cooking, and regularly clean the screen.
- Never use the stove or oven to heat your home.
- Inspect all appliances and under the sink for leaks, cracks or rust, and repair or replace as needed.
- Keep away insects and rodents by sealing openings; putting away food; keeping all areas and appliances clean; fixing leaks; and cleaning up spilled water. (Use baits, traps and gels if needed; never use toxic bug bombs or foggers.)
- Check under sinks for leaks and repair or replace as needed.
- Safely clean up moisture and mold.
- Open windows for ventilation.
- Use a bathroom exhaust fan that vents outside and regularly clean the screen.
- Install grab bars on the walls of showers, around bathtubs and near toilets; place nonslip mats on floors.
- Keep all prescription and over-the-counter medications locked away.
- Check for roof leaks and repair as needed.
- Ensure proper ventilation.
- Seal gaps and openings, and clear clutter to keep out insects and rodents.
- If you have older insulation containing asbestos, do not disturb the material or store personal items near it; hire an expert for removal.
Utility closet and laundry room
- Set the water heater at 120° F to prevent burns.
- Regularly change the furnace and air filter.
- Have gas appliances and furnaces inspected and cleaned yearly by a professional. (In San Diego, SDG&E provides free gas appliance checks.)
- Check behind the washer for leaks.
- Vent the clothes dryer to the outside and regularly clean the screen and vent.
- Test for radon (kits can be purchased at home improvement stores or online) and hire a mitigation specialist if needed.
- Use kerosene, gas and paint thinners with care.
- Never idle your car in a closed garage; keep garage doors open for a couple of minutes after you park your car.
In all areas
- Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors — test them monthly and change alkaline batteries at least once a year.
- Do not smoke or allow smoking in your home.
- Inspect all electrical cords for damage, and repair or replace as needed.
- Use safe cleaning, car maintenance, gardening and pest control products; store them in original containers; do not mix products; and keep all chemicals locked away from children.
- Fix all exterior holes, cracks and leaks, and repair or replace defective doors and windows.
- Inspect and clean fireplaces and chimneys before use.
- Fix loose or uneven flooring, steps and handrails; and ensure all areas, especially stairways, are free of clutter and well-lit.
A healthy home is a happy home. Resolve to make sure your home protects you and your loved ones from illness and injury in 2017.