General Health Article:

Find out how you can make your home healthier

July 2, 2008

Home improvement can take more than a hammer and nails. The American Lung Association of Washington offers home environmental assessments to help residents learn how to make their homes healthier.

The assessments focus on recognizing indoor air pollution and reducing exposure to toxic chemicals in the home. These evaluations of the home environment are particularly good for people with asthma and/or allergies, children, the elderly or pregnant women.

“We spend 90 percent of our time inside and elders spend even more than that,” said Aileen Gagney, asthma and environmental health program manager. “Our indoor air can be five times as polluted as our outside air.’

The assessment doesn’t include testing or cleaning services, but does give homeowners recommendations for healthier living. Free indoor air quality assessments are available in Seattle.

For an application or more information, contact Casey Coulombe at 206-441-5100 or send an e-mail. You can also visit the website at

Meanwhile, here are some indoor air quality tips from Aileen:

  • Green cleaning methods can be used instead of chemical cleaners. Many grocery stores now stock green cleaning products including their own store brands.
  • Beware of cleaners that have a strong smell. They likely contain solvents or petroleum-based chemicals.
  • Baking soda and vinegar work great to clean most things like windows, floors and countertops.
  • Clothes-dryer sheets are laden with potentially dangerous chemicals. They are sheets of foam saturated with petroleum-based chemicals and perfume and phthalates (which are also used to make plastic soft and flexible, like in water bottles). Use liquid fabric softener or white vinegar instead.
  • Take your shoes off at the door. Wear indoor shoes and outdoor shoes.
  • The National Institutes of Health’s website allows you to examine the ingredients that are in your household products and evaluate them for their impact on your health. If you can’t pronounce it, it’s probably not good for you.
  • Household/bathroom fans keep the air circulating. To tell if a bathroom fan is working, hold piece of toilet paper up to it and if it sucks it up it’s working.
  • Before having new carpeting installed, ask the store to unroll the carpeting and leave it to air out for two weeks before they deliver and install it. Buy low-pile carpeting and a very good pad.
  • Don’t use anti-bacterial soaps and products. “It kills off really weak bacteria so the remaining stronger bacteria get really strong,” Aileen explained.