Children are more vulnerable to the negative effects of environmental hazards such as exposures to lead , pesticides, mercury, asbestos, and radon. Children eat, drink and breathe more per pound of body weight than adults, which means they are exposed to more pollutants in their food, water, and air. Because their bodily defense mechanisms are not fully formed, children are more vulnerable to the harmful effects of toxic chemicals and pollutant exposures. Research has shown that about 90% of a child’s brain has developed by age four. That is one reason why it is essential to provide young children with a safe, clean, and toxin-free home environment.
Healthy homes start with the 7 basic principles of housekeeping:
1. Keep it Dry
Prevent water from entering your home through leaks in roofing systems, rain water from entering the home due to poor drainage, and check your interior plumbing for any leaking. Use dehumidifiers in basements (especially during summer months) and run fans to help circulate air in moist or damp areas. Keeping water out of your home will help prevent potentially health harming molds and bacteria.
2. Keep it Clean
Control the source of dust and contaminants, creating smooth and cleanable surfaces, reducing clutter, and using effective wet-cleaning methods. Try to use non-toxic or chemical free cleaning agents when available, and keep the house well ventilated when cleaning with antimicrobial agents that have strong fumes and can cause unwanted health affects (like bleach or ammonia). Use products with low or no volatile organic compounds (VOCs) when painting, remodeling, or doing maintenance to your home.
3. Keep it Safe
Store properly labeled poisons (like cleaners and paints), medicines, and any type of weapon out of the reach of children. Secure loose rugs and furniture, keep children’s play areas free from hard or sharp surfaces, and keep stairways free of clutter. Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and keep fire extinguishers on hand.
4. Keep it Well-Ventilated
Ventilate bathrooms and kitchens and use whole house ventilation for supplying fresh air to reduce the concentration of contaminants in the home. Keep your furnace and air conditioner well maintained and avoid smoking in your home.
5. Keep it Pest-free
All pests look for food, water and shelter. Seal cracks and openings throughout the home, keep moisture out, store food in pest-resistant containers, and keep dishes clean. If needed, use sticky-traps and baits in closed containers, along with the least toxic pesticides (such as boric acid).
6. Keep it Contaminant-free
Reduce lead-related hazards in homes by fixing deteriorated paint (pre-1978 homes). Properly seal or remove asbestos if it is present. Test your home for radon, a naturally occurring dangerous gas that enters homes through soil, crawlspaces, and foundation cracks. Install a radon removal system if levels are found to be above the U.S. EPA action-level threshold. Keep floors and window areas clean using a wet-cleaning approach, and sanitize frequently touched surfaces.
7. Keep it Well-Maintained
Inspect, clean and repair your home routinely. Take care of minor repairs and problems before they become large repairs and problems.