Healthy homes: the short list

Every family, household, neighborhood and community has its unique combination of environmental health challenges and benefits. So: with such a long list of concerns and choices to be made, where do you start? Perhaps the most important thing is to make changes that work for you, and that can become part of your budget and lifestyle. This low- and no-cost list is a place you can start today.

Get fresh air: use the fans in your bathroom, kitchen and laundry room. Turn them on when you cook or shower, and let them run for 20 minutes or so.

Why? No matter what might be polluting the air in your home, these fans will help draw stale air outside. Most homes (unless they are very energy-efficient) have enough drafts so that fresh air can get in, too.

 Take your shoes off at the front door. Consider posting a “shoe-free home” sign, or putting a shoe cubby or rack near the front door.

Why? Most of the stuff we track in from outdoors (pesticides, fossil fuel residue, contamination, etc.) comes off of our shoes in the first four steps. You can keep that pollution from becoming part of household dust by removing your shoes.

 Run your faucet for 30 seconds for drinking or cooking. It takes different times in different homes to flush the pipes, but water should be noticeably colder. If you are worried about wasting water, you might consider running it into a pitcher to use on plants.

Why? Old pipes and plumbing fixtures in houses may be made with lead, which can leach into standing water. There is no safe level of exposure. Even if your home is safe, it’s a good habit for when you travel.

 Don’t put plastic in the microwave. Put food and drink in a ceramic or glass mug or on a plate before heating. If you cover food with plastic in order to control splatter, do not allow plastic to touch the food.

Why? While some types of plastic may be microwave safe, there’s a lot we don’t know about how chemicals can migrate into food and drink, especially when heated.

The way you maintain your home can make a big difference to your family’s health. Get a healthy homes checkup with our guide and tips.