If you're like most people who own a computer, you spend ninety per cent of your time indoors and indoor air quality may have a more profound effect on your health than outdoor air pollution, contributing to respiratory problems, headache, fatigue, dizziness, chest pain, poor concentration, and even promoting cancer. Several types of pollutants may cause Sick Home Syndrome. Your exposure--and your family's--can be readily controlled by a number of simple, inexpensive and potentially life-saving steps. Why would anyone ignore them?
(1) Don't smoke at home. Exposure to tobacco smoke, whether your own or someone else's, increases your risk of developing lung cancer, bronchitis and heart attacks and your child's risk of developing frequent colds, allergies, asthma, and recurrent ear infections.
(2) Remove shoes upon entering your home. In homes where people do not routinely remove their shoes, the house dust is loaded with lead and pesticides which are tracked in from outdoors. Carpeting holds up to a hundred times the amount of dust as bare flooring; the deeper the pile, the harder it is to remove the dust. Dr. David E. Camann of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas, isolated dangerous pesticides and wood preservatives from carpet dust five years or more after these had been sprayed outside homes.
House dust is the commonest source of chronic low-level lead exposure for children. A great deal of attention has been focused on old, lead-based paint, peeling and flaking from walls and ceilings, as a source of this contamination. It is less well-known that roadside soil is still poisoned with lead deposited by gasoline fumes emitted before the ban on leaded petroleum additives, or that the soil around houses becomes contaminated with lead during new home construction or home renovations. This lead is tracked into the house, elevating lead levels in air and dust. The lead levels in carpet dust often exceed levels requiring clean-up at Superfund sites. Toxins trapped in home carpets pose a particular hazard to crawling toddlers.
Taking shoes off upon entering the home, wet-mopping of all horizontal surfaces (including window-sills) and regular hand-washing markedly lowers the blood lead concentration of children living in homes with high lead exposure.
Although lead has been banned from house paint, it may still be used in printer's ink, along with other toxic metals. Burning newspapers or magazines can liberate lead into the air.
(3) Control Moisture. People who live in housing that is damp or shows visible mildew have a higher rate of sickness than people whose housing is free of dampness or visible mold growth. These problems are not dependent upon smoking habits, occupation or income; they occur because dampness encourages the growth of mold and of dust mites, microscopic insects that live in dust and secrete enzymes that damage the respiratory lining. Heavy exposure to dust mites and mold in childhood increases the rate at which allergy develops. Exposure to airborne or food-borne mold toxins increases the incidence of cancer. Because high humidity encourages mold and mite growth, you should maintain a relative humidity of 3 5% to 45% in each room of your house. Relative humidity can be measured with an inexpensive meter, available in hardware stores. Detailed advice on measures for controlling excess humidity and its attendant ills is presented in my book, The Four Pillars of Healing.