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Statistics show that 1 out of 7 children in the United States will suffer from asthma or allergies. And for children of color, that number falls to 1 out of 5 which is often due to environmental conditions. The first place to look for triggers for asthma and allergies is within the home because indoor air quality can be 5-10 times worse than outdoor air and often people can implement simple steps to help limit “wheezing and sneezing” in their home.
Asthma and allergic reactions typically occur because of a trigger response to irritants such as smoke, pollen, dust, food, mold, animal dander, dust mites, or chemical smells. We spend more than a third of our lives at home, so you want to ensure that you recognize moments when you can prevent the entry of toxins into your home.
The four principles of eco-friendly design — sustainable, recyclable, renewable and non-toxic — should be applied within your home as it is the foundation to your ecosystem. Imagine entering your space and the “wheezing and sneezing” decreases, instead of having more issues than with outdoor air.
Here are some things you can do to help prevent hidden health hazards in the home:
- Take your shoes off when you enter your home
- Keep an outdoor pet out of your sleeping area during pollen season
- Remove wall-to-wall carpet if possible, and use hardwood floors with rugs
- Ensure kitchen cabinetry has no added urea formaldehyde or adhesives with formaldehyde
- Use low-to-no VOC (volatile organic compounds) paints and stains in your home
- Check for mold in dishwashers, under the fridge in water pan and regularly change water dispenser and icemaker filters
- Change your shower curtain to nylon, use non-toxic cleansers, always lower the toilet seat when flushing and fix a leaky faucet (which will also save you money!)
- Consider using slipcovers, which can be washed regularly on your upholstered sofas and make sure to limit use of drapes as they are “dust catchers”
- Change or wash your bed pillows every 6 months and cover with hypoallergenic covers
- Cover your mattress with a hypoallergenic cover and wash every two months; Ensure that it is non-toxic without formaldehyde-based fire retardants
- Wash your sheets in warm water
- Wash or freeze your child’s stuffed animals to kill dust mites
- Switch your pillow from a feather one to a hypoallergenic foam pillow
Learn more when you visit the Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America at www.aafa.org.
Robin Wilson is a eco-friendly and healthy home interior designer focused on sustainable, reusable, recyclable and non-toxic options from the ‘foundation to the furniture’. She is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council, an affiliate member of the International Interior Design Association (IIDA), and she is currently studying for her LEED accreditation. She is the author of “Kennedy Green House: Designing an Eco-Healthy Home from the Foundation to the Furniture,” (Greenleaf Book Group Press, $30).