June is National Healthy Homes Month. Geselle, joining United Way for the summer as an intern through The Jaggar Community Fellows Program at Adelphi’s Center for Career and Professional Development, reflects on what a healthy home is, and why it is so important to ensure that your home is healthy for your family.
How much of your everyday life do you think you spend indoors? According to United Way of Long Island Senior Vice President of Housing & Green Initiatives, Rick Wertheim, the answer is a staggering average of 90%.
A large percentage of that time is spent inside your home, but for as much time as we spend inside our house, we rarely acknowledge the potential dangers that may reside right alongside us. These overlooked offenses often give rise to a slew of other problems that threaten the health of not only our homes, but the health of our family. To raise awareness for this prevalent problem, June is recognized as National Healthy Homes month – a time to learn the value of maintaining a healthy, environmentally friendly home.
Of course, the question is: what makes a home “healthy”?
Believe it or not, about half a million homes on Long Island have at least one indoor environmental hazard. These hazards include the likes of mold, lead and asbestos. Unfortunately, issues like this toxic trio can have a serious effect on the wellbeing of those living inside. Studies conducted by the University of Warwick and the University of Brighton revealed a direct link between housing quality and resident health. Respiratory illnesses, asthma, eczema, strokes and even cancer have been proven to be connected to the way a home is maintained. Additionally, physical damage such as water leaks and electrical deficiencies are known to put residents at risk of physical injuries like bone fractures and burns.
Coupled with Long Island’s susceptibility to high coastal humidity, seasonal floods, hurricanes and winter storms, these misfortunes threaten to spell disaster for many residents. Healthy homes are those which not only keep their residents free from risk of illness and injury, but also provide a reliable shelter in the face of natural disasters.
Oftentimes, having a healthy home requires little more than routine maintenance and inspection. From clearing out unnecessary items with daily 3-minute clean sweeps to testing your smoke alarm, it takes only a handful of habits to maintain a home that is healthy, durable, and sustainable. Other methods include using borate treatments in place of pesticides for pest and vermin control, and using damage-resistant material like paperless gypsum drywall for flood resistance.
The most basic principles of keeping a healthy home are as follows:
- Keep it Dry (prevents mold from growing)
- Keep it Clean (reduces dust and exposure to contaminants)
- Keep it Pest-Free (non-toxic, non-pesticide treatments are recommended)
- Keep it Safe (prevents physical injury, usually by falls or home objects)
- Keep it Contaminant-Free (reduces chances for chemical explosions and illnesses to occur)
- Keep it Ventilated (studies show that fresh air supply improves respiratory health)
- Keep it Maintained (poor maintenance increases likelihood of hazards such as lead poisoning)
- And Keep it Temperature-Controlled (keeps residents from exposure to extreme heat or cold)
Many underestimate the importance of ensuring their home remains safe and sanitary. That’s why the United Way of Long Island’s Housing and Green Building department works to both promote and create high-performance, healthy homes for residents across Long Island. By collaborating with various agencies, and offering courses at our E3 SmartBuild Training Center, United Way provides healthy homes for countless individuals and families, including veterans and those with special needs.
For more information on how to retrofit your home into a healthy home, or if you want to learn more about United Way’s Housing and Green Building department, go to www.unitedwayli.org/HealthyHomes.