As a healthy home expert, it is my job to help physicians and clients understand the relationship that our homes play to our overall health and wellness. When we examine homes around the country, we find that many have mold problems, clutter and dust, chemicals, pesticides and fertilizers that are associated with health complaints of the homeowners. Physicians are now using our services to test homes for contaminants to better understand the relationships that exist between how we live and our wellness. In public health, we believe that about 90% of our health is determined by genetics, environment, socioeconomic status and behaviors. That is why examining our living spaces is so important for understanding our health and wellness.
As an inspector, many of the things that can lead to symptoms in our homes are not visible to the naked eye. Mold spores, animal dander, pet proteins, dust mites, VOCs and pesticides can either be hidden or undetectable to our vision. Only through testing can you know if levels are too high or if these invisible invaders could be affecting your body. Many of these things can promote inflammation in the human body, and how that affects us is still being determined. One thing we do know is that if you are experiencing unexplained health complaints (e.g., headaches, sinus infections, achy joints, digestion problems), testing your home for toxins may be a good place to start to look for answers.
Two of my most important recommendations for homes is to test for mold and test your water. Both can impact your wellness and can be expensive to fix if you are buying a home and are unaware of the problem prior to purchase. You can easily test for both and can save yourself time and money by knowing what you have in your home prior to moving… or deciding not to move in, depending on what you uncover.
We often look for mold in homes, because it can do many things that can cause problems in the body. Molds are comprised of protein which can cause inflammation, they produce MVOCs, which are like chemicals (you may be familiar with VOCs from paints), and they can produce mycotoxins if they are “toxic” molds. This trifecta of skills make molds of concern to our health. Though most studies indicate that mold is a concern for respiratory issues and asthma, the verdict is still out on mold’s overall effects on our immune system. To make sure your home is safe, test for mold every 3-5 years. It can be hidden in walls or behinds showers and kitchens places you cannot detect with your eye. There are DIY mold kits that are very reliable for this application.
After scares like the one in Flint, Michigan, it should be apparent that we should all be testing our water. Whether you have a well or public water, contaminants can creep in and could potentially lead to health effects. You can hire a company like ours to test your water, or we also recommend a water testing lab. Either way, testing is important. Carcinogenic compounds like arsenic, radon and radio activity can all make their way into your water supply, as well as pesticides, fertilizers and VOCs (chemicals). Additionally, heavy metals like lead, high nitrates and more recently boron, have all been linked to health effects of various kinds and can be found in your water.
Many times, I hear clients say, “I do not drink my water.” Remember, your skin is your body’s largest organ and you bathe or shower in water every day. Your skin absorbs those chemicals just as much as drinking, if not more. Studies suggest that items placed on the skin can be absorbed into the blood stream in 26 seconds or less. It is important to know what is in your water and your potential exposures. We recommend testing your water every 3 years to ensure safety and quality.
Photo from here, with thanks.