June 23, 2011 at 4:59 pm , by Beth Roehrig
Did you know that many things inside your home can trigger asthma attacks? Common allergens, such as dust mites, mold, pet dander, and pollen, as well as irritants like smoke and VOCs in paint and adhesives all cause problems for asthma sufferers. Luckily there are ways to make your home more asthma-healthy, and there’s a new campaign called Build Smart, Breath Easier that’s working with HGTV host and carpenter Carter Oosterhouse (that’s him at left) and Habitat for Humanity in order to raise awareness.
I sat down with Carter and Dr. Reynold Panettieri a few weeks ago to learn more about the program and what homeowners can do to improve their own indoor air quality. Carter is working with Habitat to design four asthma-healthy homes around the country for families affected by the disease. The first house, being built in Detroit for a family of four, recently kicked off construction. Homes in Philadelphia, Georgia, and Los Angeles will follow.
Inside these homes, you’ll find:
Hard surface flooring rather than carpeting, since carpet can harbor dust mites. Hardwood, vinyl, and tile are all good choices.
Low-VOC paints and varnishes
Cabinets made without plywood or pressed wood, which can release high levels of VOCs
HVAC systems with high quality HEPA filters to reduce dust and pollen in the air
But even if you’re not building a brand new house, you can reduce asthma triggers with a few simple strategies.
- Ditch dust mites. Look for hypoallergenic pillows that can be washed at high temperatures. Use pillow and mattress protectors as a barrier to dust mites.
- Filter the air. If you don’t have a HEPA-equipped HVAC system, try portable room air filters. (Remember to clean the HEPA filters as directed.)
- Cut the curtains. Heavy window treatments can be magnets for dust and allergens. Simple blinds or shades can be easier to keep clean.
- Be a clean freak. Dust often. Vacuum often (with a unit equipped with, you’ve got it, a HEPA filter). And when it comes to the cleaners you choose for your counters, your floors, and your bathroom, go for gentle, unscented formulas that give off fewer VOCs.
- Choose pesticides wisely. Many have high levels of VOCs. Ask an exterminator about asthma-friendly and chemical-free options.
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