For Earth Day, check your home for these top 10 hazards

The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) offers ten tips to make sure your home is free from common health hazards. In honor of Earth Day 2013, take time to find out what you can do to make your home healthier place to live.

Top 10 environmental hazards in the home Tobacco smoke

The ACOEM urges you to stop smoking in the home. Second hand smoke can put your family at risk for cancer. Studies show third-hand smoked can also be dangerous to health. Make a commitment to stop smoking. You can get help and support online at Freedom From Smoking® , 1-800 QuitNow, by speaking with your doctor about medications that can help. Another resource to tap into is the American Lung Association HelpLine at 800-LUNGUSA [586-4872] or visit www.lung.org. Advertisement

Radon gas

Radon is an odorless gas that can get into your home in a variety of ways that include cracks in floors, gaps around service pipes, emitted from building materials and well water. Health hazards from the gas are higher for smokers.

Radon occurs naturally from the breakdown of soil, rocks and water to enter the air we breathe. According to the EPA, the gas is responsible for approximately 21,000 deaths from lung cancer each year.

You can buy a kit to test for radon in your home or hire someone to test levels. You can find out how to reduce levels of the gas by reading the EPA’s “Consumer’s Guide to Radon Reduction”.


If you live in a home built between 1920 and 1978 check for asbestos that was commonly used for insulation. If you find the substance, do not disturb it. Call a licensed contractor to remove and replace it.

Breathing asbestos is linked to lung cancer and scarring of the lungs or ‘asbestosis’ that can appear 20 years after exposure to the mineral fiber.


Lead poisoning can harm children by interfering with mental and physical development; especially those under age 6. Lead was commonly used in paints in homes built before 1978.

Most states require that homes be tested for lead before they are sold. If you think your child may have been exposed to the toxin that also comes from soil and the air, speak with your healthcare provider about testing.

A licensed, trained professional should be hired to remove lead from the home. Trying to do it yourself could lead to even greater exposure.

Check your furnace, heaters and chimneys

Carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide are gases that can cause flu-like symptoms, respiratory illnesses, or death. Sources include kerosene heaters, clogged chimneys, gas stoves, water heaters and furnaces.

Check your appliances. If you use a gas stove, make sure the pilot light stays on. Consider an alternative stove that doesn’t require a pilot light to stay on. Use a vent above the stove.

Have your furnace and chimney cleaned every year and make sure your furnace and water heater are well-vented.

Install a carbon monoxide detector in the home.

Make sure your water is safe

Make sure your tap water is safe. If you have a well, have it tested annually for bacteria, nitrates, radon, pesticides and other chemicals. Check your plumbing to see if you have lead pipes that were more common before 1988.

Let your water run cold before using it for drinking or cooking. Water that has been sitting has higher levels of lead.

Consider using a water filter in the home, but make sure it is maintained.

Store household chemicals properly

Limit pesticides

We all want a beautiful pest free lawn and garden. If you are using toxic products, consider finding ways to naturally repel insects and keep your lawn ‘green’.

Store your food tightly to eliminate household pests and the need for more pesticides.

Keep firewood away from the home to avoid infestation from insects.

Allergy-proof your home

Keep your food safe

Food-borne illnesses are on the rise, according to recent reports from the CDC, making it more important than ever to ensure you handle and store food properly.

Earth Day 2013 is a great time to focus on healthier environment at home and in your own community. Keeping your home free from environmental toxins and allergens benefits everyone. Other tips for making Earth Day a celebration include taking part in a community cleanup, planting trees, picking up trash in your neighborhood or along the roadside or just planting a backyard or container garden.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

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