3 DIY Repairs to Eliminate Health Risks in Your Home

This is a guest post by Charlotte Meier.  Ms. Meier operates Home Safety Hub, which provides resources on preventing injury and property loss.

People don’t like to think that their homes are responsible for their illnesses, but if you feel worse when you are at home and better when you are not, there is a good chance that something in your house is making you sick. If you suspect that your home is making you sick, there are repairs you can make to reduce the health risks found in your home.

Install Water Filters

If your family has stomach pain or unexplained bouts of diarrhea, you may have an issue with your water. Whether you have well water or municipal water, there may be impurities, toxic chemicals, and carcinogens in it that can harm your health. Water filters reduce and remove the impurities, making your water cleaner, better tasting, and better for your skin and overall health.

Some people opt for whole-house water filters that deliver clean, odor-free water to the whole home. By removing chlorine, chloramines, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), pesticides, and herbicides, these filters improve the taste and odor of your water. Whole-house water filters improve the appearance of skin by eliminating chlorine and reduce stains in tubs, sinks, and toilets. Other people opt for point-of-use water filters to get clean, delicious, odor-free water from the sink. Point-of-use filters are known to block more impurities than whole-house systems and provide better-tasting water.

Improve Indoor Air Quality

Unfortunately, the Environmental Protection Agency is finding that indoor air is often more polluted than outdoor air in some of the largest cities. This means that the air you breathe every day in your home most likely is making you ill because it contains pollutants that cause health problems after a certain amount of exposure. These pollutants are caused by space heaters, dryers, gas stoves, water heaters, fireplaces, household products like paints and varnishes, cleaning supplies, building materials, craft materials such as glue and adhesives, air fresheners, dry-cleaned clothing and textiles, mold, dust, pollen, pet dander, and many other sources.

Your family may experience headaches, irritated eyes, ears, and throats, allergies, and asthma flare-ups if you have poor indoor air quality in your home. To improve the air quality in your home, you can take several steps, including the following.

  • Clean and change the filters in your heater or furnace, air conditioner, air purifier, and vacuum. Be sure to follow the instructions from the manufacturer and clean and replace them regularly.
  • Avoid artificial air fresheners and petroleum-based candles that emit chemicals. Use homemade air fresheners, simmer pots, and natural soy or beeswax candles instead.
  • Place green plants in your home.
  • Adjust humidity levels to around 45% to keep the air moist enough for your family while prohibiting mold growth.
  • Opt for low or no VOC paint and non-toxic adhesives, finishes, and varnishes.
  • Use a HEPA air purifier that does not produce ozone and that eliminates VOCs.
  • Use a HEPA filter in your vacuum.

Address Lead-Based Paint

If your home was built before 1978, there is a good chance that you have lead-based paint. The good news is that if the paint is in good condition – it’s not peeling or chipping – and has been painted over, it is not likely posing a health risk to your family. However, if the paint is peeling or has been damaged by scraping, sanding, or burning, it is posing a health risk to pets and your family members, especially young children.

Lead enters the bloodstream when people ingest contaminated dust, eat paint chips, or breathe fumes or dust from sanding and torching. Symptoms of lead poisoning include headaches, hearing problems, muscle and joint pain, high blood pressure, digestive issues, reproductive problems, pregnancy complications, and loss of memory and concentration.

Before you attempt to do any home renovations, you should test the paint in your home for lead. You may use a professional service, send paint chips to a laboratory, or use a DIY test kit that is found in most home improvement stores. It is important to test all layers of paint and read and follow the directions carefully. If your home tests positive for lead paint, you can make the repairs yourself as long as you take all of the necessary precautions. Some people don’t want to risk exposure to the lead and hire a contractor trained and certified in lead removal.

A note from ‘Becca:

If you suspect there is lead-based paint in your home or in any other place where your young child spends a lot of time, have your child’s blood lead level tested annually.  Ask for a “venous” test (blood drawn from the inner elbow) because this is more reliable than a capillary sample (finger prick), which can be contaminated by tiny particles of lead dust on your child’s fingertip that are not fully removed by the alcohol swab.

After any disruption of lead-based paint (including removal), clean your entire home very thoroughly, and for several months be especially diligent about routine cleaning of areas where your child eats or plays on the floor and about washing her hands before eating.  Even the most cautious lead-removal project can scatter dust into cracks from which it may be dislodged later.

My local Allegheny County Health Department has been very helpful in explaining what we need to do about Lydia’s slightly elevated blood lead level.  Check out their tips to prevent lead poisoning.

If you think that your home is making you sick, don’t delay in testing for problems and making the necessary repairs or hiring someone who can.

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