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Making Homes Healthier for Families

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Imagine that you are faced with a choice: a home you could afford, or a home that is healthy for your family? Of course, nearly everyone would respond that they want both, though sadly; too many families across America do not have that luxury. They must often sacrifice safety in favor of affordability. In fact, there are presently more than 6 million substandard housing units across the United States.

Established and emerging scientific evidence has linked adverse health outcomes such as asthma, lead poisoning and serious injury to substandard housing. And while many hazards are associated with older housing units and substandard structures, new construction is not immune. Even expensive homes may contain hidden dangers.

Children are especially vulnerable to these hazards. Although they are smaller than adults, their bodies are growing rapidly, and vital development is taking place. Children eat more food, drink more water and breathe more air than adults do, in proportion to their size. Children and especially babies crawl on the ground – and explore everything by grabbing whatever is in reach and putting it in their mouths.

Creating healthier housing can potentially save billions in health care costs. That’s the principle behind the Healthy Homes program, a collaborative effort of several organizations including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the National Safety Council and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  A highlight of the program is a 60-page booklet titled “Help Yourself to a Healthy Home.”  The booklet is filled with valuable information to make your home healthier for you and your family. It can be downloaded as a PDF document from the EPA website for no charge.

The concept that safe, decent and sanitary housing prevents disease and injury is centuries old. And while technology has impacted many aspects of maintaining our homes, others have remained simple. The HUD website features a one-page flyer that includes seven tips for maintaining a healthy home. At Minnick’s, we’ve adopted those principles and adapted them to fit our customers’ needs – adding an eighth principle in the bargain.

While some of these tips involve substantial upfront investment, the ultimate payoff more than justifies the expense. However, some tips are both easy and inexpensive – nonetheless making a significant impact on keeping your family home safe.

Keep It Dry (and Mold-Free)

Mold is one of the most hazardous elements in a home – especially for children. Prevent mold by fixing leaks in roofing systems and correcting poor drainage from downspouts. Check interior plumbing for leaks as well.

Keep It Clean

Airborne dust and contaminants are major contributors to asthma attacks and allergies.  Embrace the principle of spring cleaning year round by reducing clutter and controlling dust on windows and floors with a wet cleaning system.

Keep It Safe

Properly label poisons and toxic substances. Seal the containers tightly and keep them well out of the reach of curious little hands.  Install smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors and fire extinguishers – and test them regularly to ensure they are operating properly. Secure loose rugs to the floor and eliminate sharp edges and hard surfaces from children’s play areas.

Keep It Well Ventilated

Install adequate fans in kitchens and bathrooms to eliminate odors while cooking and reduce excess moisture from baths and showers.  Fresh air is vital for ventilation, though if you or other family members have allergies, check the weather forecast first, and open windows only on days when low wind velocity is predicted.

Keep It Pest Free

Insect and mouse droppings are major triggers for allergies and asthma attacks.  Vacuum carpeting and wash hard surfaces thoroughly to remove any residue. Control pests and rodents with inexpensive traps from the hardware store rather than toxic sprays and foams. If that approach doesn’t work, it’s time to call in the professionals. Once your home is pest free, seal cracks and secure other entryways to keep them out.

Keep It Contaminant Free

Homes built before 1978 are potentially subject to hazards from lead-based paint. Invest in lead abatement and repaint surfaces with non lead-based paint.  Radon is an especially toxic contaminant. This naturally-occurring gas enters homes through soil, crawl spaces and foundation cracks. This radioactive substance is colorless, odorless and tasteless, and can only be detected by specialized radon testing.

Keep It Maintained

Inspect and clean your home on a regular basis. Make small repairs quickly – before they develop into major problems. This includes your HVAC system – proper maintenance help you unit operate more efficiently while ensuring that airborne contaminants don’t escape into your home. Clean or replace small-particle filters in central heating and cooling systems and in room air conditioners at least once a month.

Keep It Thermally Controlled

Hot, humid environments are ideal breeding grounds for dust mites and mold. Maintain consistent indoor temperature in your home between 68 F (20 C) and 72 F (22 C), while limiting relative humidity to no more than 50 percent.  You’ll breathe better during the day and sleep more soundly at night.

Our children depend on us as adults to provide them with a safe environment. At Minnick’s we work with our customers to follow all the steps above, plus many more.  As a result, we’ve had many customers tell us, “Because of your services, the air in our home is now ‘Healthy Air.’ Thank you.”  We hope these tips will be helpful to you as well.

Rob Minnick

Posted In: Building Performance

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