Healthy home. A home is supposed to be a haven – a place you and your family can go to feel safe, secure, and happy. Some estimates show, on average, you’ll spend 65 percent of your time in your home. If you work from home, that number can be even higher.
But, unfortunately, too many homes are built with toxic materials, turning that sanctuary into a potential source of disease and misery. This isn’t a new phenomenon. Toxic substances have long been used in the construction of homes. However, the health hazards sometimes weren’t discovered until later, as was the case with asbestos.
In recent years, having a healthy home has become a top priority for health-conscious people who want to protect themselves and their families. Wondering how you can make your house a safe place in which you can rest easy? We’ve got you covered.
Identifying the Issues in Your Neighborhood or Town
The healthiest buildings consider everything a person needs for their physical and mental well-being. That can include things such as access to nature, food, high-quality air, light, and community.
One thing to check before you begin building or decide upon a location for your new home is a community’s overall health and underlying issues. You can do that with the help of the Community-Focused Exposure and Risk Screening Tool or the Compare My Area tool through the Environmental Protection Agency.
These tools help you identify health concerns or information you’ll want to know, such as ambient air toxic concentrations in your area and health risks associated with them.
It would help if you also mapped out how close you are to other areas in your town that can directly impact your health.
Noting where the nearest green space or park is or if there is a grocery store within short walking or driving distance is a good idea.
You may also want to consider how close a doctor’s office or hospital is, in case you need urgent medical treatment at some point.
Using Non-Toxic Building Materials
The building materials you use for home renovations or construction can set the overall tone for how healthy your house is.
By eliminating as many chemicals or substances as possible that are known to be toxic, you can better protect your health and safeguard the health of those you love.
For optimal health, you’ll want to limit your exposure to volatile organic compounds, known as VOCs. VOCs can impact a building’s air quality – they are some of the worst things you can breathe in, causing both short-term and long-term health consequences. VOCs are a known asthma trigger and can worsen COPD.
To cut down on the VOCs in your house, you need to be aware of where they come from. VOCs are in:
- Isopropyl alcohol, which is in many disinfectants and cleaners.
- Formaldehyde in molded plastics and many building materials.
- Treated lumber.
- Air fresheners.
- Wood-burning fireplaces.
- Adhesives and glues.
- Paint remover.
- Caulk and sealants.
To avoid VOCs and other harmful chemicals from building materials, look for non-toxic building options, like clay plaster and natural lumber.
One option for construction is using a magnesium oxide-based ExtremeGreen Board. This material’s breathability helps it be mold repellent, fireproof, impervious to damage from insects, and it doesn’t contain formaldehyde.
Other excellent non-toxic building materials to ask your contractor about include:
- Murco M100.
- Titebond Weather Master Sealant.
- Ceramic tile.
And if you’re worried about the level of toxins you’ll face in your home, then you may want to consider buying a home that is 10 or 20 years old, instead of building your own.
Fresh builds have higher levels of chemicals in them because of all the new materials in them that contribute to off-gassing. The levels go down with time, which is why a slightly older home might be a better choice if you can’t use healthy building materials.
Renovating Your Older Home
When doing renovations, you shouldn’t dive right in without taking some precautions or speaking to experts. There are potentially a number of harmful substances already in your older home that can negatively impact your health. These include:
- Lead paint.
- Airborne dust that may circulate during remodeling work.
Talk to your contractor to see what steps they can take to make the renovation as safe as possible for everyone living in the house.
Extra Items for Self-Sufficiency and Health
You don’t have to include add-ons that will allow you to be self-sufficient in your home. However, they can save you money and give you extra assurance that you’d be fine in your home if a worst-case scenario happened.
Here are some things to consider including in your home plans:
- A water capture and reuse system: This will ensure you’ll have a freshwater back-up supply if your water quality or availability is ever affected.
- Solar panels: They provide a clean, renewable energy source for your home and can be especially beneficial in more remote areas.
- Edible plants: Saving space for a container garden or a full-on vegetable garden can give you affordable access to healthy foods. And better yet, you are in total control of any pesticides you use. With care and a little ingenuity, you can have organic food at your disposal.
- Having open or green space: This can give your mental health a boost. Multiple studies show that having a green space, such as a backyard or park, can lead to less stress, improved moods, increased creativity, and stronger overall mental health.
- Checking your radon levels: Radon is a gas that can lead to lung cancer when you’re exposed to high levels for a long time. Whether you’ve recently completed a new build, have moved to an older home, or want to evaluate the house you’ve lived in for years, it’s a good idea to check your levels. You can do it on your own through a mail-in test kit or hire an expert.
Consider Your Whole Health
A healthy home goes far beyond having a place to rest your head and providing shelter from the elements. Look at your overall well-being, your budget for a new healthy house or renovations, and the healthy building materials that are now available.
That will help you make informed choices that will better protect your health and anyone who steps foot in your home.