5 Signs of an Unhealthy House (and How to Mitigate the Risks)

The environment we live in is the biggest building block of a healthy lifestyle. Our home, in a way, is like our second skin. And the way we treat our home will eventually trickle down to affect our bodies and minds in positive or negative ways. Creating a healthy living environment is key when it comes to the building blocks of a well-rounded healthy life. So how do you create a healthy house?

We’ve pinpointed the biggest offenders of an unhealthy or sick house. By avoiding and changing these things in your own house, you can create a beautiful, healthy house where you will love spending your time.

 

HIGH HUMIDITY

The level of humidity in your home DOES make a difference in the health of your home and ultimately, the health of your household. A home that has high humidity (anything higher than 45%) indoors attracts some of the worst health problems a house can experience. A home with elevated humidity easily becomes a breeding ground for toxic mold growth.

Throw in a small leak under the kitchen sink and you’re asking for mold to take hold and spread throughout your home. If the humidity levels are high enough it can affect the drywall, creating an environment where mold can take hold and spread behind your walls. We know now that toxic mold causes a plethora of health issues ranging from chronic sinusitis to severe issues with the nervous system.

High humidity is also a great environment for dust mites to breed. Any place where dust mites live becomes a place where they can multiply where there is 45% humidity or higher. Dust mites being present will greatly decrease the indoor air quality of any home as their byproducts cause allergic reactions in humans. If they take hold in your body through inhalation, they can cause even more than allergies – they can cause stomach issues, sleep disorders, and even affect the nervous system.

To lower the humidity at home:

  1. Purchase a humidity monitor to measure the level of humidity.
  2. Make sure you run fan vents when showering and cooking.
  3. Open windows during seasons with drier air whenever you can.
  4. Purchase a dehumidifier if necessary (and stop using a humidifier).

 

DUST

Not only is dust just a nuisance, but it carries with it many things that are irritating to those that reside in your house. As we mentioned before, where there is dust, there are dust mites. We know that the byproducts of dust mites are irritating to our nasal passages and eyes. Studies have recently been done showing that dust mites put stress on our immune system, weakening it over time.

Dust also brings with it dirt and particles from outside. These dirt particles can contain pesticides and herbicides, which are toxic to our bodies, especially our nervous system. Once the dust is in the house, it can easily become airborne throughout our house thanks to the HVAC system. As the particles are airborne, humans and pets can easily inhale them into our own bodies, wreaking havoc on our lungs and nervous system.

How to minimize dust:

  1. Vacuum often and make sure your vacuum has a cleaned filter.
  2. Use a HEPA filter in your HVAC system to minimize the spread of dust.
  3. Don’t wear shoes in the house and wipe off pets’ paws before they enter.
  4. Wash bedding, drapes and stuffed animals often.

 

WATER DAMAGE

Many homes have had water damage to some extent. Most people, if not everyone, has had a small leak at one time or another. Some people have experienced basement flooding, some have experienced leaks from windows, or even water damage from environmental flooding.

Any of these forms of water damage can greatly reduce the health of your home if not cleaned up properly. Any house that has visible water damage most likely has a mold problem behind it. All it can take is a small drop of water for a mold problem to ignite behind drywall or underneath the basement carpet.

If you spot water damage or a current water leak, it’s important for the health of your home that it’s cleaned up and taken care of properly. If you let it go and mold starts growing, there’s no telling where toxic mold will spread to in your walls. The mold spores produce mycotoxins, which become airborne and can be easily inhaled.

Toxic mold byproducts can embed themselves into your lungs and can continue on to your bloodstream. This is when we see mold affect the frontal cortex of the brain (where decisions are made) as well as the nervous system.

How to spot Water Damage:

  1. Cracked, peeling paint on walls or ceilings.
  2. Soft or warped walls or ceilings.
  3. Trim that is not flush with the walls or floor.
  4. Warped or buckling floorboards or flooring.
  5. White mineral deposits of wood or basement floors.

 

TIGHTLY SEALED HOMES

The energy-efficiency movement is in full swing, which means many houses are sealed ultra-tight, preventing any sort of outdoor air from reaching the inside. While this is great for energy bills, it’s a huge problem for the health of those who live there.

The air inside our homes is naturally toxic due to the carbon monoxide we exhale and the combustion gasses our gas appliances give off. These toxins need to be filtered out by clean, outdoor air. When a house uses a furnace or air conditioner, it isn’t pulling in air from outside. Rather, it’s filtering and recycling the indoor air, leaving the toxins in our houses. It’s important for the health of our homes and bodies to make sure our home is ventilated either naturally or mechanically to prevent poor indoor air quality.

Another way a tightly sealed home can quickly become sick is by pulling Radon gas inside through floor drains and cracks at the foundation level. When the pressure in a house becomes negative (because little air is coming in and more is going out through the roof vents), the air at the lowest levels of the home gets pulled upwards. This means if there are floor drains or small cracks around the foundation, Radon gasses, which tend to be heavier will be drawn into the house. Radon is the number one cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers and has recently become a huge issue in houses.

How to reverse the effects of a tightly sealed home:

  1. Use natural ventilation by opening windows and doors when possible.
  2. Use mechanical ventilation by installing an air-to-air heat exchange.
  3. Utilize fan vents that pull air outside when bathing and cooking.

 

MOISTURE INTRUSION

Moisture intrusion can refer to ANY water that comes into your house. That means it could be coming from inside OR outside, as well as its less-talked about counterpart, condensation.

Water coming in from outside can obviously cause water damage behind walls and in ceilings. And we now know that water, even in small amounts, causes mold problems. Water can also show up from unknown water leaks indoors. That means any part of your plumbing system can cause a huge problem. Sinks, drains, faucets, showers, tubs, toilets….the list goes on and on for prime spots a leak can spring up, causing health-altering mold problems.

The second way moisture can enter our homes is through condensation. This little problem may sound harmless, but in actuality, it can put your home at a higher risk for mold growth.

Condensation often is seen on windows when the outdoor air is cooler and drier than the indoor air of a home. If the moisture sits on wooden windowsills, the actual window and its casing can both begin to grow mold. If the moisture continues to drip down the windows, it can drip down into the inside of walls, causing black, toxic mold without the homeowner knowing.

How to prevent moisture intrusion:

  1. Check the outside of your house for holes, gaps and leaks.
  2. Check gutters to make sure rainwater is properly diverted away from the house.
  3. Keep tabs on plumbing fixtures and drains, watching for any sign of a drip.
  4. Keep indoor humidity between 35% – 45% to reduce the risk of condensation.

 

It’s important to keep up with our indoor environment. You wouldn’t expect an apple to stay fresh in a wet paper bag full of worms. In the same way, we shouldn’t expect to stay healthy in a toxic environment where we spend up to 80% of our time.

2017-06-17T22:19:16+00:00

About the Author:

Amanda Klecker is a Certified Building Biology Practitioner and the creator of Healthy House on the Block. She's passionate about helping homeowners create their own healthy living environment and teaches just that online through her Healthy House University. She’s always looking for new ways to make it easy to create a healthy home environment for her husband and daughters. Healthy homes = healthy lives.

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