How to Maintain a Healthy Home
Homes are intended to be safe and healthful places to live. However, there are many hazards in homes that can lead to asthma, lead poisoning, injuries or other health problems. By using these seven principles, most housing-based hazards can be eliminated.
Keep the Home Dry
By maintaining the roof, gutters, drainage, and interior sources of moisture, most homes can be kept dry.
- Excess moisture in homes creates conditions that can affect health including an increase of asthma symptoms and upper respiratory tract infections.
- Moisture in the home comes from inside sources (cooking, bathing, breathing, and washing) and outside sources (rain, groundwater, plumbing leaks, damp crawlspaces).
- Excess moisture in the home should be prevented through good construction and plumbing systems, temperature control, ventilation and home maintenance.
- Excess moisture and leaks in the home may lead to mold growth, pest infestations, and poor indoor air quality.
- Make sure windows and siding stay in good repair and are covered with intact paint.
- Keep gutters and downspouts clear and intact and make sure that rainwater drains away from the structure at the foundation.
- Most plumbing leaks occur at fixtures.
- Seals at toilets, P-traps under sinks, and shower surrounds and pans need to be inspected and maintained to prevent leakage.
- Cooking and bathing generate moisture and require adequate ventilation to prevent excess moisture from building up. All exhaust fans in kitchens and bathrooms and clothes dryers should be vented to the exterior of the building, not in an attic or crawl space.
- EPA A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture, and Your Home (PDF - 1.0mB)
Keep the Home Clean
Through regular cleaning, reducing dust brought into the home, and eliminating clutter, homes can be kept clean.
- Pesticides, allergens, and general chemicals in the home can cause allergic reactions, asthma and asthma exacerbation, and toxic exposure effects.
- Potential sources of allergens and contaminants in the home come from outdoor and indoor sources.
- Keeping a home clean includes controlling the source of dirt and other contaminants, creating smooth and cleanable surfaces, reducing clutter, and using effective cleaning methods.
Keep the Home Pest-Free
By sealing entry holes, eliminating water sources, and keeping food in sealed containers, most pests can be eliminated.
- Pests can create allergens and be vectors of disease.
- Control of pests through pesticides can lead to poisonings and other neurological problems.
- Some pesticides found in homes have been banned. Use materials that are less toxic to humans such as diatomaceous earth and boric acid to kill drive away insect pests.
- Integrated Pest Management is the recommended strategy.
- There are materials which are toxic to pests and not very toxic to humans.
- The house should be made less hospitable for pests by preventing entry into the home by sealing holes, denying pests food, water, and places for shelter.
- For more information, call your local vector control agency. In Alameda County, call Alameda County Vector Control at 510-567-6800.
Keep the Home Ventilated
Homes can be kept well ventilated by using exhaust fans in kitchens and bathrooms and opening windows.
- Ventilation plays an important role in maintaining health.
- Ventilation is necessary to add heat, remove heat, add or remove humidity, and dilute or remove contaminants.
- Local exhaust ventilation (like kitchen and bathroom fans) removes contaminants from a point source, while whole house ventilation (by opening windows) uses fresh air to dilute contaminants.
Keep the Home Safe
Homes can be kept safe by maintaining the home and safety equipment such as smoke detectors.
- An injury is NOT the same as an accident. Most injuries are preventable.
- There are many simple and inexpensive ways to prevent home injuries.
- Children and older adults are more at risk for injuries in the home.
- Falls, poisoning, and fires or burns are the most common causes of injuries and deaths.
- Keep clutter to a minimum to avoid tripping hazards in your home.
- Outdoor porches, stairs and decks should be inspected regularly to ensure that they are structurally sound.
- If a structural hazard is suspected, do not use the component until repairs are made.
- Outdated and overloaded systems and makeshift modifications are the most common causes of electrical hazards.
- Outlets near water sources or outdoors should have Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) protection.
- Overloaded circuits and faulty fixtures can overheat and cause fires. Bare wires can be an electrocution hazard.
- Place smoke detectors in hallways, bedrooms and living rooms and change the batteries at least yearly; a good time to do this is when the change to Daylight Savings Time occurs.
- Keep flammable materials in a cool, well-ventilated space.
- Buy a fire extinguisher and mount it on the wall of the kitchen and read the directions so you'll know how to use it.
- In case of fire, leave the building and call 911.
- If you can, retrofit your home for earthquake safety and make sure the water heater is secured so it doesn't fall over during an earthquake
- For more information call The California Seismic Safety Commission at 916-263-5506.
Keep the Home Contaminant-Free
Homes can be kept contaminant free by using safe household products and keeping painted surfaces in good condition.
- It is easier to prevent exposure to contaminants than it is to remove them and treat their effects.
- Should contamination occur: control, contain, and clean-up.
- Contaminants are not always detectable by our senses.
- Older homes (built before 1978) may have lead in the paint. Keep all painted surfaces in good condition.
- For more information, call your local lead poisoning prevention program. In Alameda County, call the Alameda County Lead Poisoning Prevention Program at 510-567-8280.
- Keep all materials that are toxic (cleaners, paints, solvents, and medicines) out of the reach of children and in locked cabinets.
- Never mix cleaners together.
- To dispose of household chemicals, contact your local waste management company. In Alameda County call the Alameda County Household Hazardous Waste disposal site at 800-606-6606.
Keep the Home Maintained
- Internal and external home systems should be inspected regularly to ensure they are functioning properly.
- Some maintenance activities require the use of trained professionals