Healthy Homes



Resources for the Washington DC area      


Things you might not think about can affect the environmental quality of your home or work environment. This section highlights things to keep in mind to make a truly healthy living area.

1. Select products such as cleaning products that are water-based or have low amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Glues, nail polish, and cosmetics such as hair sprays may release unhealthy vapors. This is particular a problem for some people who have chemical sensitivities. You may not be chemically sensitive, but guests in your home, or infants or pets that can't communicate their distress,  may be, so it's good to be considerate of them.

2. Use water-based paints. Look for paints labeled "zero-VOC."

3. When painting, use a brush, not a sprayer. If possible, "air out" a room for a day or two by opening that room's window, but closing it's door to the rest of the house.

4. When you're finished using things like paint or solvents, make sure the container is tightly closed.

5. Just about any fabric product made from synthetic materials will release chemicals into the air, especially when it's new. This would include carpeting, drapes, upholstery, and clothing. Also, this applies to new cars. By choosing natural materials, such as organic cotton or hemp, this problem is avoided. Also, thinking twice about whether you really need to buy a product is a good idea. If ya don't buy it, ya won't have to smell it. Good sites: Real Goods and Abundant Earth

6. Cleaning frequently will minimize dust and mold. Mold is more of a problem in damp areas such as basements and bathrooms.

7. Nearly one in 15 homes in the U.S. has a high level of indoor radon. Radon test kits can be purchased at some local hardware stores and from the National Radon Hotline at 1-800-SOS-RADON [1-800-767-7236].

8. Carbon monoxide can make you sick or it can kill. Carbon monoxide detectors are available for about $40.00. Have your gas furnace and water heater inspected regularly.

9. Water filters can remove a lot of lead, chlorine, and other compounds from water. Most filters don't remove significant amounts of fluoride, but a few expensive ones do. Not only is drinking water an issue; your body absorbs a lot of chlorine when you shower or take a bath, so a shower head filter (or whole house filter to ensure filter water for a bath) can be a good investment.

10. Plants can absorb a lot of airborne pollutants. NASA has tested various plants to see which are most effective. The reason you see peace lilies in a lot of public buildings is that they remove a lot of pollutants and are extremely easy to grow. They are very tolerant of a wide range of lighting conditions and are hardy if you forget to water them for a while. A good book on this is How to Grow Fresh Air: 50 Houseplants That Purify Your Home or Office by B. C. Wolverton.

11. Wood products can release formaldehyde. These products include: particleboard (used as sub-flooring and shelving and in cabinetry and furniture); hardwood plywood paneling (used for decorative wall covering and used in cabinets and furniture); and medium density fiberboard (used for drawer fronts, cabinets, and furniture tops).

12. Be sure to replace your furnace air filter as recommended. Newer replacement filters such as electrostatic filters can remove smaller airborne particles than conventional filters.



Good reference site:

Indoor Air Quality (EPA)





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