The choice to educate your children at home can be made for a multitude of reasons, but many parents decide to homeschool because it is a safer environment than many traditional public or private schools. However, with the winter weather here to stay and flu season upon us, there are many ways that children’s health can be compromised while learning at home. Besides frequent hand washing and disinfecting of communal areas, there are a variety of factors that can improve health and safety for the whole family in a home classroom and elsewhere in the house. Below are five ways that even the most germ-free homes may be harboring toxic chemicals and substances, and ways to make sure your family is not exposed to them.
1. Avoid harsh chemicals in your home environment
From chlorine to laundry detergent pods and everything in between, a closet full of cleaning supplies can be a game of Russian Roulette for a curious child. Even older children can be harmed by the harsh chemicals in cleaning supplies if bleach comes into contact with food preparing surfaces, or if your child has a reaction to phthalates in “fresh” scented cleaning products.
2. Remove any mold
Mold can be causing sickness and disease in your family without anyone even knowing that it is hiding inside the home. If water damage ever happened to sheetrock, subflooring, insulation, carpeting or even structural wood framing in your home at any time, your family may be at risk for developing mold poisoning. The damage may have even happened prior to moving in, but you can still be harmed by lingering toxic black mold. The symptoms of mold poisoning can include
coughing, difficulty breathing, and itchy eyes and skin. While these can mimic seasonal allergies such as hay fever or a mild virus like strep throat, untreated mold poisoning can lead to hair loss, numbing of extremities, and even weakened immune systems. If you are worried about any water damage or mold that may be in your home, contact a mold professional in your area immediately.
3. Cut down on allergens with HVAC
Many parents who homeschool choose to do so because of a child’s allergies. However, if your home uses forced air or radiant heat, you may be exacerbating your family members’ dust, pollen, pet dander or seasonal allergies. These systems push dust particles in the home into the air and circulate them into living areas and bedrooms, where your children may experience reactions. If you or your family members experience environmental allergies in your home, it may be time to consider swapping out your current heating system for a new HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) unit. These are known to filter the air while they regulate the temperature of your home, and they are likely to save you money on your utilities as well.
4. Test for and remove asbestos
If your family lives in an older home, you reap the benefits of added charm and character, having privacy in many closed-off living spaces, and you probably found many fun antique trinkets and furniture pieces left over from residents past. However, your one-of-a-kind home may also be increasing your risk of cancer. If your home was built or renovated between 1930 and 1980, there is a very good chance that your ceiling material, flooring tiles and insulation contain asbestos, a heat and flame resistant carcinogen known as the sole cause of mesothelioma cancer. This rare, aggressive disease occurs when microscopic asbestos fibers are inhaled or ingested and become lodged in the soft tissue of the lungs, or sometimes the abdominal cavity. It typically takes between 20 and 50 years to show symptoms following asbestos exposure, and after such a lengthy latency period, the average patient lives less than two years after diagnosis. To test your home for asbestos, contact an abatement professional and do not attempt to remove the materials yourself.
5. Have healthy, unprocessed food
Lastly, a way to ensure your children’s health and safety at home is to feed them unprocessed, healthy snacks and meals. This means eating fruits and vegetables for snacks, making meals from scratch, and avoiding foods that come in plastic packaging, which may contain Bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical that can change hormonal rates in the human body. While cooking everything at home may seem like a daunting task, this can become part of a home economics curriculum for your children, as well as a chance to bond with your little ones over a stove or a dinner table.
With these simple substitutions and safety precautions, your little ones are sure to be in a safe, healthy environment to learn, live and prosper. How does your family ensure health and safety in your homeschooling?
About the Author:
Emily Walsh is the Community Outreach Director at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance. Her role is to connect the alliance in different relevant online communities in order to help raise awareness around the dangers that asbestos still poses today and to help prevent future outbreak of mesothelioma cancer. She is passionate about helping cancer patients discover holistic complementary therapies that address the wellbeing of the mind, body & spirit.