For most Americans, the assumption is that your house is your fortress. While the outside world may be dangerous, you’re safe when you cross the threshold and lock the door. But is this really true? What if your home is actually making you sick and unhealthy? As you’ll soon see, it’s not such a far-fetched idea.
3 Risks You May Face
American housing – even public housing – is far better than what most of the world is accustomed to. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean your house a safe haven for health and well-being. Sure, it might keep you warm and dry, but what if it’s actually hurting you in other ways?
1. Water Problems
You’ve likely heard about the problems many third world countries are having with sourcing clean drinking water – and you’re certainly aware of what’s been happening in Flint, Michigan over the last few years – but don’t automatically assume that the drinking water in your own home is safe. Though it may taste fine, millions of Americans – perhaps your family included – are actually consuming trace amounts of harmful bacteria, chloride and fluoride, copper, and heavy metals.
Exposure to harmful chemicals and contaminants can lead to a host of short-term and chronic health issues and diseases, including vomiting and diarrhea, skin rashes, kidney problems, cancer (including leukemia), reproductive problems (such as infertility), and developmental issues in young people (including learning disabilities).
Testing your water is obviously a big step in the right direction, but you also need to develop a strategy for purifying your drinking water. (Drinking bottled water for the rest of your life isn’t feasible – nor does it guarantee pure water.) A more effective approach is to install the correct refrigerator water filters in your home.
As you may know, there are three standards that apply to refrigerator water filters, set by NSF International (which is accredited by the American National Standards Institute, or ANSI): NSF/ANSI 42, 53, and 401.
There’s additional information available on the NSF website, but you essentially want a water filter that’s tested and certified against each of these standards. A filter that simply removes chlorine and funky taste isn’t the perfect solution. You need a filter that also removes lead, organic chemicals, and other harmful elements. Shop different brands, but know that Waterdrop fridge filters are especially effective (and range in price from just 4 cents to 10 cents per gallon).
2. Ventilation Issues
Indoor air quality isn’t as healthy as it should be in many homes. This has to do with several issues, but is often tied to the fact that new homes are far more airtight than homes built in previous decades. Though it’s great for energy efficiency (lowering heating and cooling costs), a home that includes extra insulation without better ventilation runs the risk of trapping airborne particles inside and lowering the air quality.
Potential causes of ventilation issues include negative pressure, humidifier issues, fan problems, lack of dampers, undersized ducts, and the presence of condensation and mold. While you’ll obviously need to address any underlying problems like mold or mildew, you can also enhance the air quality in your home by improving the ventilation. This may include installing a new vent system or purchasing a whole house air cleaner. (If pursuing the latter, GreenTech Environmental has some pretty exceptional options.)
Do you know what the second-leading cause of lung cancer is? Believe it or not, it’s radon – an odorless, colorless, naturally occurring radioactive gas that’s extremely dangerous to humans and puts people at an increased risk of cancer.
Radon forms when the uranium in water, rocks, and soil breaks down, releasing this dangerous gas into the dirt beneath the home. Radon has the ability to enter the home through cracks in the foundation and floors, spaces around pipes, wind blowing in from outdoors, fireplaces and furnaces, exterior air vents, and well water.
“Radon is a common problem in homes throughout the country — as many as one in 15 U.S. homes has high levels of radon, according to the EPA. But certain geographic regions are more likely to be affected,” Diana Rodriquez writes for Everyday Health. “In general, the Northeast, southern Appalachia, the Midwest, and northern plains areas tend to have levels over the recommended limit of 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) of air, while coastal areas tend to have lower levels.”
Since it’s odorless and colorless, the only way to know if radon is present in your home is to conduct a test. In-home kits are available at most hardware stores and provide pretty accurate results. If you find that your home has high radon levels, you’ll want to take steps towards reducing the presence of this dangerous gas. A radon removal system can be very effective.
Prioritize Your Family’s Health
Your family’s health is too important for you to remain unaware of what’s really going on inside your home. From water and ventilation issues to mold and radon problems, your house may not be as clean and safe as you’d like to think. And if you do uncover issues, it’s important that you act swiftly and confront these problems head-on. What are you waiting for? Start investigating today.