Is Your Home Toxic?
Five Common Health Dangers in Homes ...
and What to Do About Them Preparing for Fall & Winter
© 2015 Health Realizations, Inc. Update
Your home is your safe haven, but it may also be a Petri dish of sorts, growing, emitting and teeming with a variety of contaminants. These toxins can come from the environment, from the outdoors, from materials used to build your home and even from your tap water. But no matter what the source, awareness is the first step to detoxing your home.
With the tips that follow you can turn your toxic home into a pure safe haven.
Here we’ve compiled a list of some of the most common indoor toxins, along with the steps you can take to get rid of them. Fortunately, once you’re armed with the correct knowledge you’ll be able to take simple steps to make your home a healthy place for you and your family.
1. Radon in Your Home
Radon is a radioactive gas that can’t be seen, smelled or tasted and can get into any type of building. According to the Surgeon General, radon is the number one cause of lung cancer deaths among non-smokers and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated it to be the cause of 20,000 deaths each year. Plus, if you are a smoker and live in a home with elevated radon levels you are more prone to the risk of lung cancer.
Radon Points of Entry
Radon comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water and travels from the soil to the air and eventually into homes through seven entryways:
Cracks in solid floors
Cracks in walls
Gaps in suspended floors
Gaps around service pipes
Cavities inside walls
The water supply
All homes -- old and new, well-sealed or drafty, with or without basements -- are susceptible to radon problems. Statistics are showing that nearly one out of every 15 homes in the U.S. has elevated radon levels. Once it’s trapped inside your home, it builds up and exposes you to health risks such as lung cancer. This happens when the radon gas begins to decay into radioactive particles that are inhaled and trapped in your lungs when you breathe.
After further breakdown of the particles, small bursts of energy are released that can cause lung tissue damage and can develop into lung cancer over the course of your lifetime.
How to Reduce the Radon Levels in Your Home
One of the primary methods of reducing radon in your home is using a vent pipe system and fan also known as soil suction radon reduction. This works by pulling the radon from beneath your house and forcing it to vent outside. This method is much more effective and easy on the pocketbook if you combine it with sealing the foundation cracks and other openings in the home. You can hire an experienced radon contractor to make the necessary repairs.
Testing for Radon: The Only Way to Find Out if You’re at Risk
The only surefire way of knowing the radon levels in your home is by having it tested. Both the EPA and the Surgeon General recommend testing for radon in all homes below the third floor. The EPA-recommended Home Radon Test Kits that are extremely easy, do-it-yourself kit that allows you to accurately test for radon in your home.
It is especially important to have your house tested if you are planning any remodeling or renovation jobs, particularly to your basement. If you find you have a radon problem, radon-resistant techniques can be applied as part of your renovation. Once your work is completed, you should have the radon levels tested again as the levels can change in your home after major renovations.
Testing Your Home for Radon is Simple: Get Peace of Mind and Protect Your Family
Testing your home's air for this poisonous gas is easy with the Do-It-Yourself Home Radon Test Kits.
2. Radon in Your Water
A report released by the National Academy of Sciences that was required by the Safe Drinking Water Act reviewed the risk of radon in drinking water and confirmed drinking-water-related cancer deaths, mainly due to radon-induced lung cancer.
Further, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that radon in household water causes 30 to 1,800 deaths every year.
The two main sources of radon in the home is through indoor air and the water supply, which puts you at a higher risk as it poses an inhalation and ingestion risk. Most radon from water is released into the air during shower time and when using water for other household purposes. If your water comes from a well such as a private well or a public water supply system that uses ground water you are at greater risk of radon problems infiltrating your water supply.
Because radon is tasteless, odorless and colorless, the only way to find out if high levels are in your water is with a water test. Fortunately, you can easily test your water with Radon-in-Water Test Kit. It includes everything you need to determine your drinking water's safety.
All you need to do is collect the water and ship it, preferably the same day, to the laboratory for analysis. This test is especially important for those who get their water from a well.
In the event you find elevated levels, the CDC reports that radon can be removed from water by using one of two methods:
Aeration treatment: Spraying water or mixing it with air and then venting the air from the water before use.
GAC treatment: Filtering water through carbon; the radon attaches to the carbon and leaves the water free of radon. (The disposal of the carbon may require special handling.)
It's important to note that to adequately remove radon, the water must be treated where it enters your home. Attaching a filter on your tap or under your sink will only treat a small portion of your water.
3. Chlorine in Your Drinking Water and Shower
Tap water in 42 states is contaminated with more than 140 unregulated chemicals that lack safety standards, according to an investigation conducted by the Environmental Working Group.. Despite these findings, public health officials have not set safety standards for these chemicals and millions of Americans continue to drink the water every day.
The study also showed that approximately 240 million Americans drink tap water contaminated with some level of Chlorination Byproducts (CBPs). CBPs are created when the disinfectants used to kill bacteria in the U.S. drinking water supply react with natural organic matter, such as decaying vegetation, or when certain compounds such as bromide are present in the water.
Health Effects of Chlorination Byproducts
CBPs cause up to 9,300 cases of bladder cancer deaths each year
CBPs are linked to miscarriages and birth defects, including neural tube defects, low birth weight and cleft palate
Exposures to other cancers such as rectal and colon
Kidney and spleen disorders
Immune system problems
Weight loss early in life
Increased risk of having small head size and body length in infants
There are two routes of exposure to CBPs: drinking chlorinated tap water and showering, bathing or swimming in chlorinated water.
Studies show that showers and baths may contribute more to your total exposure to chlorination byproducts than drinking water. When you shower or take a bath, the warm water opens up your skin's pores, making it like a sponge for chlorine. You also absorb the chemicals when you breathe in the steam from the shower.
In fact, the steam from your shower can contain up to 100 times the chemicals as the tap water itself.
Shower in Filtered Chlorine - Free Healthy Water
There are many shower filters that increase hydration of your skin and hair.
Meanwhile, when you drink chlorinated water some of these toxins get filtered by your kidneys, liver and digestive system. This is not so when you breathe in these chemical vapors because - there is no filtering, just a direct route to your bloodstream.
Take, for example, a study published in an issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology. The study participants who drank chlorinated water had a 35 percent increased risk of bladder cancer. However, those who spent time swimming in chlorinated pools had a 57 percent increased risk, and those who took long showers or baths also had an increased risk of bladder cancer.
According to some estimates, by taking a hot shower you end up absorbing over 600 percent more chlorine and other chemicals than you would from drinking the same un-filtered water all day!
How to Get the Chlorine Out of Your Tap Water and Shower
Since the risks of exposure to chlorine and chlorination byproducts from your shower and tap are widely known, it’s wise to remove these toxins from the water using high-quality water filters. High quality filters can reduce up to 99 percent of chlorine from your shower's water for up to 24 months. They also have the ability to enhance the water by adding delicate wellness ions and minerals that may benefit your body.
4. Dirt and Toxins Tracked Into Your House From Outside
When you walk in your home, do you immediately take off your shoes and leave them at the door or do you walk around the house in them? This is a particularly important question to ponder if you have small children who play on the floor. One recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Arizona found nine different species of bacteria on the bottom of people’s shoes -- bacteria that can cause stomach, eye and lung infections.
The following findings give solid reasons to take your shoes off at the front door:
Bacteria live on your shoes longer than in other places because as you walk you are constantly picking up more debris and feeding the growth of more bacteria
When tested, bacteria transferred from shoes to tile floors more than 90 percent of the time
Carpeting harbors even more bacteria than tile floors
Children under 2 years of age are most susceptible to germs that are tracked into the house as they play on the floor and put their hands in their mouths on the average of 80 times an hour
Leave the Bacteria at the Door
The quickest way to making sure you’re not tracking bacteria and germs into your house is to remove your shoes at the door and carry them in your hand to the closet. Another option is to strategically place a few high-quality industrial mats around your home (such as in doorways and other highly trafficked areas), to reduce the amount of dirt and dust that get into your home in the first place. Once inside, that dirt gets circulated into the air, and you breathe it in.
You can also throw your gym shoes in the washing machine on the cold cycle with natural detergent. If the bacterium has already been tracked onto your carpets, your best bet is to give your carpets a thorough cleaning.
Getting Rid of Dust, Germs, Viruses, Bacteria and Other Dirt
When you walk around or vacuum, dust particles are stirred up into the air, and along with them come the slew of potential toxic chemicals and other unsavory items like rodent waste and insect parts. You may then breathe in these particles or absorb them through your skin once they settle back down onto a surface you touch.
Since Americans spend 90 percent of their time indoors, there's plenty of time to be exposed to this potentially toxic dust. This is especially concerning if you have toddlers or infants. Children who crawl and put their fingers in their mouth can ingest 10 grams of dust per day. And, since they're smaller than adults and their systems are still developing, they are at a higher risk from contaminants.
This is why dusting horizontal and other surfaces regularly is necessary to get dust out of your home.
5. Indoor Air Pollutants
Studies have shown that indoor pollutants in our homes can be greater than the pollution outside. This is linked to everyday activities such as cooking, heating, cooling, cleaning and redecorating that can trigger the release and spread of indoor pollutants in the home, along with synthetic materials in carpets, pressed wood furniture, cleaning products, pesticides and other toxins. People who spend a lot of time inside the home such as infants, young children, the elderly and those with chronic illnesses are at greater risk of developing health problems due to breathing in these indoor air pollutants.
Five of The Most Common Indoor Pollutants
Animal Dander (minute scales from hair, feathers, or skin)
Dust Mite and Cockroach parts
Infectious agents (bacteria or viruses)
Where Pollutants Live in Your Home
Dirty air conditioners
Dirty humidifiers and/or dehumidifiers
Bathroom without vents or windows
Kitchen without vents or windows
Dirty refrigerator drip pans
Laundry room with unvented dryer
Carpet on damp basement floor
Closet on outside wall
Dirty heating/air conditioning system
Dogs or cats
Water damage (around windows, the roof, or the basement)
The most common health problems associated with indoor air pollutants is allergic reactions. The following are common signs and symptoms:
Runny nose and sneezing
Wheezing and difficulty breathing
You can minimize your risks of indoor air pollution by purifying your indoor air width air filtration.
Controlling Dust Mites
Dust mites are a common allergen, and keeping dust mites down to a minimum are crucial to people who suffer from allergies. Dust mite infestation is common sofas, stuffed chairs, carpets, and bedding. Other popular areas include open shelves, fabric wallpaper, knickknacks, and venetian blinds. Dust mites live deep in the carpet and cannot be removed by vacuuming.
Here are some tips for alleviating dust mites in your home:
Wash your bedding every 7-10 days in hot water, as cold water won’t kill dust mites.
If you are allergic to dust mites, use synthetic or foam rubber mattress pads and pillows, and plastic mattress covers and stay away from fuzzy wool blankets, feather or wool-stuffed comforters, and feather pillows.
Do a thorough cleaning of rooms and closets and vacuum to remove surface dust. Keep in mind that vacuuming and other cleaning may not remove all animal dander, dust mite material, and other pollutants. To ensure you are picking up as much bacteria as possible while cleaning, use hospital-grade terry cloths,
Purify your indoor air width air filtration - effective against particulates such as pollen, dust, pet dander, and smoke, AS WELL AS mold, mildew, organic odors, and chemical vapors (such as formaldehyde).
Environmental Working Group
Environmental Protection Agency: Indoor Air Quality
Environmental Protection Agency: Radon