Many home health hazards have easy, no-cost or low-cost remedies almost anyone can perform.
Once you identify the problems in your home it is easy to TAKE ACTION and rid your home of hazards.
(These "Action Steps" are adapted from our popular publication, Help Yourself to a Healthy Home.)
Asthma & Allergies
Mold & Moisture
Hazardous Household Products
Indoor Air Quality
Do not smoke commercial cigarettes in your home or car, especially near your children.
Pay attention to housekeeping. Taking care of food and spills right away keeps bugs and pests away. A clean home is a healthier home.
Open windows or use fans to let in fresh air whenever someone uses chemicals in the home or garage.
Ask the salesperson to unroll new carpet and let it air out for at least one day before bringing it into your home. Put in carpet during a season when you can open windows for several days afterward. Vacuum old carpet well before you remove it to keep down dust.
Let new furniture and building materials air out for a few days before bringing them inside. Before buying new things for your home, ask
for products made with nontoxic chemicals and materials. Sometimes nontoxic or green building products cost more money.
You need to decide if the cost is worth it to protect the health of your family.
Keep pets out of bedrooms and living areas.
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Asthma & Allergies
Pay Attention to Your Asthma and Allergies
Know what triggers your or your children's asthma or allergies. Talk to a doctor or nurse about keeping emergency medicine around
if your asthma or allergies are severe. If people you love take asthma or allergy medications, make sure they know when to take it
and make sure you know how to help administer it yourself.
Clean your home often. Since cleaning puts dust into the air, have someone without asthma or allergies do it.
Wear a dust mask if you can't find somebody else to clean. You can buy one at a drugstore.
Keep clutter down. Clutter collects dust and makes it harder to keep a clean home. Store your belongings in plastic or cardboard
boxes instead of keeping them in piles or stacks. You can move the boxes to make cleaning easier.
When possible, don't have carpeting or rugs. Hard floors (vinyl, wood, or tile) are much easier to keep dust-free. If you do have rugs or carpet, vacuum often. You may be able to borrow or buy a vacuum with a special HEPA (High Efficiency Particle Air) filter to get rid of dust.
Call your tribal or local health department for more information.
Keep Down Dust Mites
Use zippered plastic mattress and pillow covers beneath sheets and pillowcases. You can buy them at your local department
store or through the mail. If the mattress cover is uncomfortable, put a mattress pad over it. Wash bedding, including blankets, pillow covers,
and mattress pads in hot water every week. Temperatures above 130 degress F kill dust mites.
Control Other Pests
Roaches and rodents can trigger asthma and allergies. They need food, water, warmth, and shelter to survive.
You can control roaches, mice, and other pests by making these things hard to get. Here are some tips to keep pests away:
-Store food in tightly sealed containers.
-Clean up crumbs and spills right away.
-Empty your garbage often.
-Wash your dirty dishes right after eating.
-Don't leave out pet food or water overnight.
-Fix plumbing leaks and drips.
-Seal cracks where roaches and other bugs hide or get into your home.
Furry pets like dogs, cats, and gerbils can cause asthma and allergy attacks because of their saliva and skin flakes. It is best to either not have pets or keep them outside. If you do have pets inside, make sure to keep them out of sleeping areas and off fabric-covered furniture.
Check Your Appliances
Make sure your gas appliances and fireplace, furnace, or wood-burning stove have yearly checkups to keep down soot
(and protect you from the dangers of carbon monoxide).
Check the filter on your furnace and air conditioner a couple times each year. Change when needed. Think about buying filters that cost a little more than the most economical ones. They will clean the air in your home better. They trap more dust so you will need to change them more often. You can buy air filters at a hardware store. Check labels and packaging to find out about these products. If you rent, talk to your landlord about these steps.
Commercial Cigarette Smoking
Commercial cigarette smoke causes health problems, especially for people with asthma. Contact the American Lung Association at
(800) LUNG-USA for help if you have an addiction to commercial cigarettes. Otherwise, smoke outside and away from children.
Don't light up cigarettes in your car because smoke will linger there and affect children.
When people breathe in mold, it can cause allergies and asthma to act up. Mold needs water to grow.
Keep your home dry to control mold. That will also help with roaches and dust mites.
Mold & Moisture
Outside Your Home
Use downspouts to direct rainwater away from the house. Make sure your gutters are working.
Slope the dirt away from your house’s foundation. Make sure the dirt is lower 6 feet away from the house than it is next to it.
Repair leaking roofs, walls, doors, or windows.
Prevent moisture from collecting on windows by using storm windows.
If you live in an apartment, talk to your landlord about putting on storm windows.
Cover window wells if they leak.
Inside Your Home
Keep surfaces clean and dry - wipe up spills and overflows right away.
Store clothes and towels clean and dry - do not let them stay wet in the laundry basket or washing machine.
Don’t leave water in drip pans, basements, and air conditioners.
Check the relative humidity in your home. You can buy a kit to do this at a home electronics or hardware store.
Stop using your humidifier if the relative humidity is more than 50 percent.
If the humidity is high, don’t keep a lot of houseplants.
Wipe down shower walls with a squeegee or towel after bathing or showering. Cut down on steam in the bathroom while
bathing or showering; run a fan that is vented to the outside, or open a window.
Run a fan vented to the outside when cooking.
If you have a dryer, make sure it is vented to the outside.
Use a dehumidifier or air conditioner to dry out damp areas. When you use your air conditioner, use the “auto fan” setting.
If you use a humidifier, rinse it out with water every day. Every few days, follow the manufacturer’s directions for cleaning it, or rinse it out
with a mix of 1/2 cup chlorine bleach (sometimes called sodium hypochlorite; Clorox is one brand) and 1 gallon of water.
Throw away wet carpeting, cardboard boxes, insulation, and other things that have been very wet for more than 2 days.
Increase airflow in problem areas - open closet doors and move furniture away from outside walls
where mold is growing. Move your furniture around once in a while.
Keep people with asthma or allergies away from damp areas of your home.
After cleaning up mold, using a high efficiency (HEPA) vacuum or air cleaner may help to get rid of mold spores in the air.
You may be able to borrow a HEPA vacuum. Call your tribal health department to ask.
If you find an area of mold greater than 15 square feet, it’s best to hire a professional to get rid of it.
Clean up mold with a mix of laundry detergent or dishwashing soap and water OR chlorine bleach with soap and water.
Do not mix chlorine bleach with any product that contains ammonia.
If you think mold may be causing you or your family health problems, see a doctor.
Never use charcoal grills or run engines inside your home, garage, or basement even for a short time. Charcoal grills and small gasoline engines make a lot of carbon monoxide. Even opening all the windows and doors will not give you enough fresh air to prevent CO poisoning.
Never warm up a vehicle inside the garage. Warming up your car, truck, or motorcycle on a cold day for just a couple of minutes (even with the garage door open) can make enough CO to make you sick. Start lawn mowers, snowblowers, and other yard equipment outdoors.
Have a heating contractor check your furnace, chimneys, and other sources of CO every fall to make sure everything is okay.
(You can find one in the telephone book.) Make sure the contractor uses a tool that measures CO.
To get harmful gases out of a home, many heating appliances have chimneys. (Chimneys on gas appliances are called vents). The chimney carries CO and other gases from the appliance outdoors. If your appliances and vents are working right, there should be little CO in your home.
If you rent, ask your landlord to have the heating system checked.
Make sure chimneys are in good shape - clean and working right. Have your chimney, wood-burning fireplace, or wood stove swept every year. Burning wood nearly always makes a lot of CO. It is very important that all the smoke goes out the chimney.
If you use unvented kerosene or gas heaters OR a vent-free gas fireplace, follow instructions carefully and
always open a window for fresh air. Do not use them while sleeping.
Put carbon monoxide alarms near each sleeping area and on each floor of your home. (Older models are called carbon monoxide detectors.)
You can find them at your local hardware, discount, outlet, or building supply store for $20 to $50.
Never use the kitchen stove or oven to heat your home.
Always turn on the kitchen exhaust fan when using a nonelectric oven or range top.
Have the kitchen range top fixed before using it if the flames burn orange or yellow.
Don't use a smoking fireplace until you fix the problem.
Have Your Children Tested for Lead
This test is often free at local health clinics.
Find Out if Your Home Has Lead
You may need to have your home or water tested. Your tribal or local health department can tell you how to do this for little or no cost.
Many hardware stores also sell low-cost lead testing kits.
Don't try to remove lead on your own. It should be done by trained and certified workers. You can find a certified lead paint removal
company by contacting your tribal or local health department. Getting rid of lead in the wrong way can make the problem worse!
Children and pregnant women need to stay away during a lead removal project.
Protect Your Children From Lead
Wash children's hands and faces often with soap and water, especially before they eat.
Wash toys every week.
Keep down lead-based paint dust with housekeeping. Wipe windowsills, floors, and other surfaces with paper towels,
warm water, and soap once a week. Rinse well.
Never sweep, vacuum, or dry-dust in a room that has lead dust. You will not remove the harmful dust and can stir it up.
This includes porches, which were often painted with lead paint.
Don't let children chew or put their mouths on windowsills. Keep cribs away from windowsills and walls.
If any remodeling is being done, be sure you find out if work is happening on something that contains lead-based paint.
Never dry-scrape or dry-sand lead paint. Don't burn or torch it. Children and pregnant women should stay away while work takes place.
Afterward, test dust for lead around the remodeling area.
If people in your home work with lead, they can bring it home on their clothes. Make sure they shower and change
clothes and shoes before coming inside. Wash these clothes by themselves.
If your yard or the yard at your children's daycare may have lead in the soil, don't let your children play there. Have the soil tested for lead to make sure it's safe. Put in grass or other plants to help keep children away from the soil in the meantime.
Feed your children a healthy diet. Foods with vitamin C, calcium, and iron can help reduce lead poisoning. Children with
lead poisoning often don't get enough iron or other minerals in their diets. Making sure your children get enough of these
nutrients can lower how much lead their bodies take in.
If you have lead pipes or pipes joined with lead solder, you can take steps to cut
down on the lead in your water.
Never use hot water from the tap for drinking, cooking, or making formula. Hot water can take more lead out of the pipes.
When you haven't used any water for a few hours or overnight, let the cold water run for a few minutes before using it again.
You will know it has run long enough when the water changes temperature. Usually it gets colder.
This clears out any water sitting in the pipes that may have collected lead or other metals.
Have your water tested for lead. Call your tribal or local health department to learn how.
Keep a Clean Home
Keep a tight lid on trash cans and empty them often.
Wash children's hands, bottles, pacifiers, and toys often.
Regularly clean floors, windowsills, and other surfaces.
Store food in tightly sealed containers
Make sure people in your home eat at the table. Don't let them walk around with food.
Wipe up spills and crumbs right away.
Clean up dirty dishes right after eating.
Clean your home well after treating for roaches to reduce roach allergies.
Pests need water. Keep them from getting it by fixing leaks and not leaving dishwater in the sink overnight.
Control fleas by washing bedding often, shampooing pets, vacuuming floors, and using flea combs and traps.
Get rid of stacks of newspaper, papers, bags, and cardboard boxes that make good homes for pests. Recycle them if you can.
Keep Pests out of Your Home
Seal cracks and crevices where pests can get in your home.
Check things like bags and boxes for roaches before bringing them inside.
Teach your children not to share combs, hats, or coats at school or daycare.
Use Pesticides Safely
Read the label and follow the instructions. Use only the amount directed and for the purpose listed.
Place all pesticides, including baits, out of the reach of children.
When using a pesticide, keep children away until it has dried or for the time the label recommends.
Protect your skin, your eyes, and your lungs while using pesticides.
Always wash your hands after use. Never smoke, eat, or drink while using a pesticide.
Look for signal words. All pesticide labels include words such as caution, warning, or danger to warn you about a product's hazards.
Help Protect Water Supplies
You may not know it, but the public water supply is local. Your water may come from the groundwater that is under your home.
It may come from the river or lake nearby. What you do can help keep it clean or pollute it.
If you use poisons to kill bugs or weeds, follow what the label says. Never use more than the label says.
Watch where you store chemicals (such as bleach, paint, or pesticides) outside. Make sure that the bottles are
closed tightly and have labels that say what they are.
Do not throw chemicals in the garbage or down the drain. Read the label for disposal instructions.
Give leftover chemicals to someone who will use them or call your tribal or local health department to find out how to get rid of them.
Clean up after your dog. Don’t leave pet waste on the ground where rain can wash the germs into rivers and lakes.
It’s best to flush it down the toilet or put it in a plastic bag and then into the outside garbage bin.
Private Water Supplies
You may have a private water supply, such as a well, for your drinking water.
Your well is your responsibility. You need to make sure it is clean and safe.
Test Your Well Water
Has it been more than 2 years since your water was tested? You cannot see, smell, or taste most problems so you need to have your water tested at a laboratory. Well water is usually tested for bacteria and nitrate. You may want to have your water tested more often or for other pollutants, like pesticides, if you have had problems in the past. Call your tribal or local health department to find out how to have your water tested.
Protect Your Water Supply
You also need to take care of your well, especially if it is old. Do you know where your well is? Find your well. Is it uphill from animal pens,
manure, pet waste, septic systems, dumps, and places where chemicals are stored?
What kind of well do you have?
A dug or bored well usually has a big hole, 2 feet across or more, and is less than 50 feet deep. These wells may be less safe because chemicals and bacteria can easily get into the water through the top and sides. A drilled well usually has a narrow hole (4 to 10 inches around) and is deeper, sometimes hundreds of feet. A driven point or sand-point well is 1 to 2 inches around and may not be deep.
If you do not know what kind of well you have, contact a local well driller. You can find one in the telephone book.
Do you know how old your well is? If it is more than 20 years old, it may need a checkup. You may need to test your water more often.
Is your well in good shape? You want to keep things from above ground out of your water supply.
The well casing needs to stick up above the ground, up to 12 inches, but local rules
vary. Your tribal or local health department has the information.
There should be no gaps or spaces between the well casing and the material or soil around it.
Make sure the casing does not have holes or cracks.
Does the well cap fit tightly? Are any openings or vents covered by a screen?
Be sure there is not a low area near the well where rainwater can collect. Rainwater carrying pollutants can get into well water.
Don’t keep gas, oil, weed killer, or other chemicals in your well house.
Do you have unused wells on your property? Unused wells that have not been properly filled and capped can let pollution into groundwater and make your drinking water unsafe. If you have an unused well, ask your tribal or local health department how to seal it.
Use devices on the ends of faucets to keep water from flowing back into your water supply. These are called back flow prevention devices.
They help keep pollutants from washing back into the hose and into your drinking water.
What kind of pipes do you have? When you haven't used any water for a few hours or
overnight, let the cold water run for a few minutes before using it again. You will
know it has run long enough when the water changes temperature. Usually it gets colder.
This clears out any water sitting in the pipes that may have collected lead or other metals.
Use products known to be safe when possible.
Read and follow directions on product labels - always!
Post the Poison Control Center telephone number next to the phone.
Never mix two products together unless you are certain it is safe to do so.
Never mix bleach and ammonia.
Keep all hazardous products, including bleach, in a cabinet out of reach of children.
Buy products in childproof containers.
Keep hazardous products in their original containers.
Give leftover products to someone else to use.
Find out about your community's hazardous waste collection points.
Recycle products that you can - oil, antifreeze, products with mercury.
Never burn or dump leftover products or containers.