Most people these days have heard of the unhealthy house syndrome. They may not know it by that name but they have heard of the problems with some houses, which cause them to be unhealthy for their occupants. Many new houses are treated for termites and other nasties, as they are being built and the poison residue is in sufficient quantity as to make the occupants feel unwell. The formaldehyde in new carpets, while being a low dose, contributes to the ill feeling. Often the paint or wall treatments, the glue used on the tiles, even the lining inside the walls all contribute to the unwellness of the occupants. The quantities of the chemicals are not sufficient to cause illness on their own but the continued combination of the chemicals and their residue cause a feeling of unwellness in some occupants.

Unhealthy Houses

Small children and babies are particularly susceptible to minute doses of chemicals and parents need to be aware of this. They may feel fine themselves but find their babies are often sick with cold symptoms, or just generally not completely well. If you are a parent and have just moved into a new home please make sure to ventilate the rooms the rooms adequately while the house is still new. Most new homes don’t have the old fashioned air vents because it makes the air-conditioning system inefficient. Therefore, the rooms are totally sealed from the outside fresh air and are not properly ventilated. Any chemical residue and associated odours are trapped in the room and in the fibres of the furnishings of the room.

Older homes too have their dangers. Dirty air vents or ducts can be full of bacteria, moulds or dust which can aggravate allergies and lung problems. The paint is often lead based, especially outdoor surfaces. Red Lead was often used as an undercoat to preserve outdoor wood from the effects of the elements.

When doing renovations be very careful as asbestos was often used to line the walls especially in areas near heat sources like the hot water service.

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Proper airing and ventilation can eliminate most of the unhealthy house syndrome problems. Once a year you should have all duct work cleaned. When doing maintenance or renovating please on the lookout for lead based paint or asbestos. Proper precautions must be used when disturbing any of these. Make sure all surfaces, like walls are fully washable and fabrics like furnishings and drapes are aired well after cleaning. Use low odour paint if painting indoors. Consider rugs instead of carpet in the bedrooms. If you have carpet make sure the room gets adequate ventilation especially if the carpet is new.

Most importantly when cleaning your home use safe cleaners. Vinegar and bicarbonate of soda are cheap and effective and have no dangerous residue. There are alternative products on the market, which look pretty and smell nice but have a minimal impact on the environment and on people. You could consider these.

There is a lot of things most people take for granted e.g., the government controls the amount of dangerous chemicals in toiletries and make-up. This is not possible, given the amount of new chemicals and combinations of chemicals developed every year. We need to take a proactive approach and look out for ourselves.