Note: This month we are offering an overview of broad actions to take to keep your home safe for your family. Next month, we will address individual steps you can take to make a huge difference in your family’s well-being.
According to a Housing and Urban Development flyer, following these tips can provide a healthy home environment:
- Keep it dry. Moisture—whether from leaking roofs and basements or plumbing or drainage problems—can lead to mold growth, potential electrical shocks or electrocution (standing water in the basement, for example), higher humidity levels (which can lead to greater air conditioning use and an increased level of danger from pollutants that thrive in humid conditions). The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has reported that one in 10 homes has a water leak.
- Keep it clean. Ranging from food contamination on countertops and cutting boards to dirty conditions that allow pests such as roaches to thrive, lack of cleaning creates an unsafe environment to live in. In addition, clutter can be a trip and fall hazard and dust aggravates allergies.
- Keep it safe. This tip covers a multitude of dangers to correct, including how poisons are stored and used, how safe children’s play areas are; whether you have extension cords trailing along floors, have loose or threadbare carpets and rugs, and whether your home has smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. The CDC estimates that one in four homes do not have a working smoke alarm.
- Keep it well-ventilated. During Covid, ventilation (or lack thereof) became a major discussion point when discussing how safe it was to be around others. While the Covid threat may have lessened a bit with vaccination, there are other reasons to keep your home ventilated. A too-tight home keeps it from “breathing” which can lead to the build-up of contaminants such as carbon monoxide, toxic chemicals and moisture.
- Keep it pest-free. Mice and roaches can carry diseases and certainly have an “ick” factor. Ants and other critters often take up residence in a home during the summer and early fall months. Some, such as carpenter ants and termites, can have long-term effects on the stability of your home’s structure. However, there is a dilemma in controlling these pests, as solutions often are dangerous to human health.
- Keep it contaminant-free. Pre-1978 homes may still have lead paint on walls and windowsills, and many homes have asbestos in one form or another (a few years ago, this writer discovered asbestos in degraded basement floor tiles during a remodeling project in my 1959 ranch home). Radon is a persistent problem in Iowa homes; it is a naturally occurring gas that enters home through soil, crawlspaces and foundation cracks.
- Keep it well-maintained. Vigilance in inspection, cleaning and repairing problems can keep you safe and prevent more serious problems from occurring. Taking care of minor repairs can keep them from turning into major ordeals.