Since the Pandemic, many homeowners have spent more of their time inside their homes, whether for entertainment or work. IAQ (indoor air quality) and water have, thus, become increasingly focused, especially during the winter. As we spend more time indoors, our health can become negatively impacted by contaminants in our residence that we are not aware of yet should be. If you are experiencing acute symptoms such as allergies, frequent colds, nasal congestion, fatigue, dizziness, nausea, or fever only when present at home, it could be due to certain toxins in the air and water. Here are some steps to identify and address a current issue and some easy preventative measures to preserve the air and water quality in your home and protect your health.
Let’s start with the air. You may be aware through smell that something isn’t right, yet some toxins may exist in large quantities that you are not privy to because they cannot be smelled, seen, or tasted. Mold and tobacco have a distinctive odor that can easily tip you off. Yet, carbon monoxide and radon are dangerous examples of colorless, odorless, and tasteless contaminants that can cause illness or death without warning if you don’t take steps to prevent onset. Let’s look at some safe and affordable ways to safeguard indoor air.
CO2 and smoke detectors—Everyone should have these installed in or near the bedroom or wherever they sleep. These can detect carbon monoxide and smoke and alert you with an alarm to awaken you, as necessary. Check functionality and change batteries at least twice per year.
Radon test—Although there is no federal mandate, certain states require testing before selling a home. Test kits are inexpensive and can be purchased at a home improvement store or check with a professional at your local home inspection company.
Check for signs and symptoms of mold—If a moldy smell is not removed after cleaning, you could have an infestation that needs to be addressed by a mold specialist. Check for black spots, leaks, and damp areas.
Air filters and purifiers—Change your filters every three months or more frequently if you have pets, allergies, or a recent construction that could emit paint fumes and dust particles. Use a filtered or electronic air purifier which helps remove most of the dust particles, mold spores, and other airborne allergens. Opt for an electronic one as it is more efficient and put it in the bedroom where it will benefit you most.
Ventilation and humidity level—Use an exhaust fan while cleaning, cooking, and showering. Have a few house plants that will absorb some CO2 in the air. Keep the relative humidity in the home between 30 and 50%.
Regular cleaning schedule—It’s easy to neglect areas tucked away or not in frequent use. Dust regularly and carefully clean all crevices that could collect bacteria and mold. Spot clean mold before it becomes unmanageable. Be mindful of diluting strong cleaning products or use environmentally friendly products.
As important as the air is your drinking water. You can evaluate your water’s safety by a simple senses test. Strong indicators of contamination or poor quality are cloudiness, color, and a rotten egg or fishy smell. Toxicity in water can come from bacterial contamination and overtreatment with chemicals. Ingestion over time can lead to symptoms such as dehydration, diarrhea, high blood pressure, and muscle weakness. More serious complications include gastrointestinal, nervous system, reproductive issues, liver and kidney failure, and bone damage. If the water smells or tastes bleachy or metallic, it has an overabundance of chlorine or metals. If you suspect your drinking water may be contaminated, It’s best to stop drinking tap water and consult your utility company for safety measures. In the meantime, here are some helpful guidelines and common-sense steps to monitor and ensure your home’s water quality.
Be a smart consumer—You can obtain water quality reports from your local utility company that provide information about any toxins and health risks they pose. Check with your state’s EPA for any news about hazards and actions to improve water quality. You may consider investing in formal testing and analysis by a lab or special monitoring device for extra assurance.
Perform DIY water test—If you use a private and unregulated water source, you can contact a local water testing organization or the Water Quality Association to obtain a testing kit. Testing for lead should be done over time as it may not initially be detected.
Install a water-infiltration system—This is especially important if your home is over 20 years old and the plumbing shows signs of corrosion. This system can remove lead and other contaminants. Ask your water company or a plumber if you need a professional evaluation.
Maintaining indoor air quality and drinking water in your home is an ongoing process that should be prioritized for your health. Through safe and affordable means, you can protect and preserve those two life-giving elements in your home that we often take for granted. It’s important to assess your home’s environment regularly and to keep track of any unusual changes or chronic symptoms.