We spend a lot of time in our homes. They are where we live, sleep, eat, play and celebrate. They are the backdrop for many of our lifelong memories.
However, most of us aren’t aware of the possible health risks in our homes. Mold, indoor air pollution, and exposure to toxic substances affect our living environments and can impact our health.
Thurston County Public Health and Social Services offers the Healthy Homes program, in which trained staff and volunteers conduct free, confidential visits to Thurston County homes to see if there are health risks present, and to problem-solve how to take care of them. The visits will help you make your living space healthier, by teaching you to identify housing-related health risks.
The visitors then show you how to take steps to prevent and correct the issues that are most harmful to vulnerable people: children, the elderly and people with asthma, allergies or compromised immune systems.
The program also offers similar visits to child care facilities in Thurston County.
Here’s how the process works: First, you’ll fill out a questionnaire to identify and prioritize areas of concern. Second, staff will walk through your home with you to look closely at potential health issues. They’ll measure the moisture in your walls and the humidity in the home. Third, they will give you a list of recommendations and educational materials based on the health risks identified. Finally, staff will work with you to determine three steps you can take to create a healthier home for you and your family.
These thorough visits last about two hours.
The Healthy Homes program supports Thurston Thrives’ Housing for Health action plan by helping to improve residents’ living conditions. In addition, this program helps maintain the housing stock in Thurston County.
If you enjoy working with people and would like to give back to your community while improving others’ health, consider becoming a Healthy Homes volunteer. The next training begins in late January, and no experience is necessary. Through the training, you’ll learn how to conduct Healthy Homes visits, hear from expert speakers, take field trips and conduct hands-on activities that will put your learning into practice.
Trainings will be 6-9 p.m. Thursdays, Jan. 21 through March 24, a total of 30 hours of free, fun, hands-on training. It will be held at the Thurston County Public Health Department, 412 Lilly Road NE, Olympia. It’s across from Providence St. Peter Hospital and served by Intercity Transit’s bus route 60.
But you can get started by following these five steps to a healthier home:
1. Use kitchen and bathroom fans. Bathroom fans should be run while bathing and for 30 to 45 minutes afterward. Kitchen fans should be on while you are cooking. These fans should be vented to the outside.
2. Open windows daily, even in winter, to bring in fresh air. This helps improve the indoor air quality and increase air movement.
3. Heat your home above 60 degrees. The ideal temperature to help reduce conditions for mold growth is between 65 and 68 degrees.
4. Open doors between rooms to allow airflow throughout the home. Air movement helps reduce conditions for mold growth.
5. Avoid “air fresheners” like plug-ins, wax melts, sprays, and candles. These scented products send tiny chemical compounds into the air, reducing indoor air quality.
If our homes truly are our castles, shouldn’t they contribute positively to our health? To schedule a Healthy Homes visit, to become a Healthy Homes volunteer or get more information, email HealthyHomes@co.thurston.wa.us or call 360-867-2674 (TDD: 360-867-2603).
Dr. Rachel C. Wood is the health officer for Thurston and Lewis counties. Reach her at 360-867-2501, firstname.lastname@example.org, co.thurston.wa.us/health, @ThurstonHealth on Twitter, or facebook.com/ThurstonHealth.