Home renovation projects are done for several different reasons, whether to update styles, repair damaged or broken items or to achieve more living space. More than ever before, homeowners are choosing improvement projects geared toward making their homes healthier.
Establishing a healthy home means different things to different people. For example, to an environmentalist, a healthy home may incorporate eco-friendly or green products. To those with young children or mobility-impaired seniors, a healthy home may be one free from potential hazards. Others may view a healthy home as one that alleviates allergies.
The World Health Organizations says inadequate housing conditions, such as poor ventilation, radon, urban pollution, and moisture issues, can contribute to many preventable diseases and injuries — especially respiratory problems, nervous system disorders, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer. Furthermore, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ranks indoor air quality as a top five environmental risk to public health. EPA studies have found that indoor air pollution levels were roughly two to five times greater than outdoor pollution levels.
People interested in making their homes healthier can embrace these renovations and lifestyle changes.
• Be aware of furniture materials. Toxic PBDEs, which are chemicals used as flame retardants on furniture fabrics produced prior to 2006, can send toxins into the air. Some manufacturers may still use these flame retardants in new forms, but with similar risks. Before purchasing furniture, ask if a product is treated, and select naturally fire-resistant materials like wool and cotton.
• Lighten up. Lighting is often underappreciated but can have a dramatic impact on whether a home feels inviting, warm and/or uplifting. Experiment with different types of bulbs and lighting fixtures to turn drab and dreary environments into brighter places. Lighting may improve mood and productivity.
• Let the sun shine in. Modify window treatments to let more sunlight into the house. There is evidence that the sun, particularly UV light, is a potent bactericide. The Sunlight Institute advises that there’s no harm in letting natural sunlight do its work, as bacteria within eight feet of low-intensity UV light can be killed in 10 minutes.
• Inspect and service wood-burning appliances. A study published in the American Journal of Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology has found regular inhalation of wood smoke limits immune activity and function, and anyone who burns wood indoors should be aware of these potential health risks. Ensuring proper ventilation of smoke and routinely cleaning the chimney can help cut down on particulate matter.
• Turn to nontoxic cleaning products, pesticides and insecticides. Always opt for nontoxic, natural products when cleaning in and around the house.
• Declutter the home. A cluttered, hectic space can affect emotions and mental state, never mind attracting dust and making a home harder to clean. Spending time in spaces that do not elicit stressful feelings is healthier and can help residents to rest and recharge.