Did you know the typical American spends 65% of our life inside our homes?
They say ‘Home is where the heart is’, and it’s meant to be a figurative expression, but it turns out that it’s also a literal expression, too. The typical American spends 65% of their life in their home – our home is quite literally where our heart spends most of its time. And it turns out that heart health (and brain health and hormone health and mental health) is dependent on home health.
So, what to do? Where does one start in making their home a healthy home? The best place to start is right at the front door. Kick your shoes off at the door and keep all the junk that is outside from coming inside.
Anything you step on in the street or on the
sidewalk, you bring into your home. One of
the best healthy home steps you can take is to
kick your shoes off at the door. This will reduce
the amount of dirt and dust you track in from
outdoors. In addition to helping to keep your
house clean by reducing dust brought into
your home, it also limits corrosive road dust,
salt, and oils that maybe harmful for pets and
damaging to floor surfaces.
The concentrations of air pollutants are
often 2-5 times higher indoors than outside.
Ventilate your home as much as possible,
especially when the outdoor air is clean.
Higher ventilation rates (in other words,
more fresh air) have been linked to many
benefits, including reductions in so-called ‘sick
building’ symptoms, like headaches and eye
irritation, and help us dilute any contaminants
we generate indoors. When you can, bring
more fresh outdoor air into your home by
opening windows and skylights or increasing
the outdoor air intake through your central
mechanical system. In homes with mechanical
ventilation, make sure to install high efficiency
air filters and replace them every 3-6 months.
Every home must have smoke and carbon
monoxide detectors on every floor. These are
designed to alert you— loudly and quickly— in the event of a life-threatening situation.
Smoke detectors alert you to a fire in the
house, and CO detectors warn you about this
odorless and deadly gas, aptly named The
Silent Killer. Because CO is a byproduct of
combustion, things like the hot water heater,
boiler, or natural gas stove can all emit CO. If
not fully combusted, or not properly vented,
this can lead to a deadly build-up of CO in the home. Over 350 people die of unintentional
CO poisoning each year in the US. Test your
detectors regularly to be sure they’re working.
And a really good tip is to change the
batteries in all of your detectors every time
you change your clocks for daylight savings
time. This will ensure you change the batteries
twice per year, and it’s an easy way to remind
The human species evolved over millennia
in close connection with nature, and in close
alignment with light-dark cycles from the rising
and setting sun. Only recently have we walled
ourselves off from the natural environment
with our buildings. This made sense – homes
are designed to protect us from the elements,
after all. But it turns out that connections with
nature are good for our health, and exposure
to light (or darkness) at the right times is
critical to our natural circadian rhythm. So
consider the field of biophilic design and (re)
connect with nature in your home. Likewise,
open up those window shades in the morning
and let the light in.
If you’re in a home built before 1980, there
is a good chance you have lead in the paint,
indoors and outdoors. Lead is one of the most
potent neurological toxicants known, causing
lifelong impacts on IQ, learning and behavior.
If you’re in an old home, test the interior and
exterior paint for lead, and remediate it if you
find it. (University of Massachusetts has an
inexpensive test that will let you know about
lead in your soil, amongst other things.) This is especially important for homes with young
kids. Women of child-bearing age should
also pay close attention; the lead the mom is
exposed to, even before becoming pregnant,
gets passed down to the developing fetus