may seem to be keeping germs at bay, but in many homes,
itís doing harm. Surprisingly, there are items lurking
in most homes that are unhealthy because theyíre old
or contain harmful ingredients. The good news? For the
most part, these things simply can be tossed to make the
Antibacterial soap with triclosan
itís harmful: This was believed to be more effective
than regular soap, but a 2013 Food and Drug
Administration report found that long-term daily use of
the active ingredient triclosan may have unanticipated
hormonal effects and may lead to antibiotic resistance.
a healthy home: While the agency continues to collect
additional information on antibacterial soaps and body
washes, consumers should wash their hands with plain
soap and water. If those arenít available, use an
alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60
percent alcohol, said Andrea Fischer, FDA spokeswoman.
itís harmful: Many people donít realize that older
flooring can contain cancer-causing asbestos, a
significant threat. Especially in homes built before
1980, asbestos was used in a variety of construction
products ranging from vinyl floor tiles to cement, said
Elizabeth Ward, senior vice president of Intramural
Research with the American Cancer Society Inc. Asbestos,
which is a mineral fiber, was added to numerous products
to provide heat insulation and to make them resistant to
fire, but breathing asbestos can increase your risk of
lung cancer and mesothelioma.
a healthy home: If the flooring is in good condition and
you donít need to touch it or bother it, you can leave
it alone, according to the Consumer Product Safety
Commission. Asbestos in good condition wonít release
asbestos fibers, and thereís no danger unless the
fibers are released. But if itís damaged or if youíre
going to renovate your home, you need a professional to
remove the asbestos. Itís tricky because you canít
tell if something contains asbestos by looking at it, so
you should treat everything as if it contains asbestos
or have a professional take a sample for analysis.
itís harmful: Formaldehyde is released from the resin,
which could be on paneling or veneers, said Dr. Albert
Rizzo, senior medical adviser to the American Lung
Association and section chief of pulmonary/critical care
medicine with the Christiana Care Health System in
Delaware. The average home has more than 25 parts per
billion of formaldehyde in the air, and levels between
40 and 500 ppb can cause health issues, according to the
California Air Resources Board, which said formaldehyde
causes 115 cancer cases per million people because many
homes have more than 200 ppb.
a healthy home: Newer pressed wood is the worst culprit.
In older materials, the formaldehyde stops being
released after it has been ventilated for a while. The
time it takes varies depending on the degree of
ventilation of the room and the size of the item. If you
canít get rid of the pressed wood, try airing the room
out as often as possible. You will know the air is
improving if you feel better in it (you wonít cough as
much or feel stuffy, especially if youíre susceptible
to asthma or hay fever, Rizzo said).
Contact lens case
itís harmful: If you donít replace your contact lens
case every six months, you increase your risk of
microbial keratitis by more than five times, and poor
lens case hygiene increases your risk by more than 6
percent, according to a 2012 study from Ophthalmology,
the journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
"The problem with keratitis and also corneal ulcers
are that they can affect your long-term vision,"
said Dr. Thomas Steinemann, clinical spokesman for the
academy and an ophthalmologist at MetroHealth Medical
Center in Cleveland.
a healthy home: Because a dirty lens case is the primary
risk factor for eye infections in contact lens wearers,
Steinemann recommends changing the case at least every
three months. Wash the case with disinfecting solution
(not just saline), and then air-dry it upside down
daily. "Itís important to note that even if you
care for your lens case fastidiously, a film builds up
on the surface of the case," Steinemann said.
"Itís called a bio film, and itís a magnet for
dirt and germs. If you donít change it out for a new
one, you end up with this grimy layer that puts you at
risk of a potentially serious eye infection." He
also said not to clean the case with water, which is not
sterile and can also cause serious eye infection; thatís
the same reason you shouldnít shower or swim in your
itís harmful: Liquid makeup, including mascara, can
harbor a lot of germs, Steinemann said. "If you
think about it, each time you use mascara, you are
brushing it and any germs on your lashes and also
contaminating the brush even more with bacteria or
viruses naturally present on your skin or eyelash
hair," he said. "In fact, one of the primary
functions of eyelashes is to keep debris and germs from
entering your eye, so then plunging into a moist
room-temperature environment, like a mascara tube,
encourages bacterial growth."
a healthy home: Replace mascara every three months.
itís harmful: Indoor air quality is 25 to 100 times
worse than it is outdoors, according to the
Environmental Protection Agency. Thatís because the
average 1,500-square-foot house contains 40 pounds of
a healthy home: You canít remove your air, but you can
clean it. Philip Tierno, professor of microbiology and
pathology at the New York University School of Medicine,
suggested using a HEPA air filter to remove tiny
materials in the micron range. Even a small portable
HEPA filter for the bedroom will lessen the number of
allergens that youíre exposed to, he said. Tierno said
to change the air filter once or twice a year or else it
will prevent efficient airflow.