Is Your Home Making You Sick?

  • Apr 5, 2023

You may be eating well, exercising regularly and sleeping enough, but if you are still not feeling optimal, one of the causes could be your living environment, particularly if symptoms tend to act up when you are at home.

Turns out, your home may be affecting your health more than you think. Many of the risks are invisible to the eye and the harmful effects may take a while to become apparent so you may not be aware of them until it’s too late.

You may not be aware of the dangers at home that are causing you to be sick.

Image: Pexels

In this article, we take a look at some of the potential health risks at home and offer recommendations on the steps you can take to reduce and eliminate them.

Jump to a specific risk:

 


 

Risk: Formaldehyde Emissions from Carpentry and Interior Products

Formaldehyde is often present in renovation materials.

Image: Pexels

Love that ‘new house’ smell when you step inside a newly renovated home? Unfortunately, that smell is likely that of formaldehyde, a volatile organic compound (VOC) that is harmful to health.

Formaldehyde is commonly found in adhesives, coatings and paints and composite wood, materials which are often used in carpentry work like cabinets, furniture and other interior furnishings such as flooring and wallpaper. It can also be found in common household products including candles, air fresheners and detergents.

This harmful VOC and known carcinogen releases particles in the air that are harmful to health at high levels of exposure, resulting in symptoms such as eye, nose and throat irritation as well as headaches. It may even result in certain types of cancer after long periods of exposure.

Recommendations:

Where available, look out for low or zero-VOC renovation and household products to reduce levels of formaldehyde at home.

Minimise the use of carpentry and furnishings made from composite wood. Instead, rely on products made from materials that do not give out formaldehyde such as stainless steel.

Song-Cho has a range of stainless products that are 100 per cent free of wood and formaldehyde. The range includes wardrobeskitchen cabinets and bathroom vanity units, which are customisable or come in various sizes so just like conventional carpentry, can fit right into your home’s unique dimensions. They are made from 304 grade stainless steel, one of the most popular grades of stainless steel known for its durability and hygiene.

Protect your health and avoid the use of built-ins made from composite wood. Instead, use ones made of stainless steel. As seen above, Song-Cho's kitchen cabinets are 100 per cent stainless steel.

Song-Cho's bathroom units include wall-mounted mirror cabinets (seen above) and vanities, all crafted from stainless steel.

One of the newest additions from Song-Cho is the fully customisable stainless steel wardrobe.


 

Risk: High Humidity

Higher levels of humidity = higher chance of mould.

Image: Unsplash

With Singapore being as humid as it is, our homes are likely to have higher levels of humidity. This not only causes us to sweat more and be more uncomfortable, but it also provides a conducive environment for breeding microorganisms like mould.

Mould is problematic and even dangerous as it destroys the surfaces and products it lives on and can lead to health issues such as triggering symptoms in those with allergies and asthma.

Recommendations:

Use a hygrometer to maintain a healthy level of humidity (approximately 45 to 50 per cent) at home. In homes with excessive levels of moisture, regularly ventilate your space by opening the windows, and rely on fans and dehumidifiers to wick away moisture. Exhaust fans are useful in wet zones to quickly eliminate excess humidity in the air.

If mould has already manifested, eliminate it early with anti-mould solutions. If the problem persists, rope in the help of a professional.

Prevention is always better than cure, however. Particularly in high-moisture environments at home such as bathrooms and kitchens, avoid using porous materials like wood to prevent mould growth.

Rather than wood, which isn't waterproof, go with a material like stainless steel, which isn’t susceptible to water damage. Song-Cho’s 304 grade stainless steel kitchen cabinets and bathroom vanities also comprise a high chromium content of approximately 18 to 20 per cent, making them highly rust-resistant.

Song-Cho's 304 grade stainless steel vanity cabinet will hold up better than a wood-based vanity in a high-moisture environment like the bathroom.

From the carcass to the doors, Song-Cho's 304 grade stainless steel kitchen cabinets offer protection against high humidity.

Instead of conventional drawers, you can opt for pull-out baskets with Song-Cho's kitchen cabinets. These are also constructed from 304 grade stainless steel.

For total protection, Song-Cho also carries a range of 304 grade stainless steel accessories for the kitchen and bathroom. Kitchen products include pull-out baskets, dish racks, multipurpose shelves and utensils holders, giving everything its place all while protecting your kitchen from damage. 

For bathroom accessories, Song-Cho’s range is equally comprehensive and comprises shower caddies, towel rails and dedicated holders for essentials like toilet paper. 


 

Risk: Dust

Dust is another risk factor at home, leading to allergy triggers.

Image: Pexels

Household dust is derived from a wide variety of sources. They can come from the outside, from traffic pollution, the soil on the ground, plants in the field and birds in the air. Anything that can be broken down into tiny pieces eventually becomes dust.

At home, dust usually comes from the dead skin and hair cells shed by occupants at home, leftover food crumbs, fibres from soft furnishings and clothes, pets’ dander, and even the carcasses and waste products of dead insects.

Because of their wide range of origins, dust may sometimes even contain toxic materials that are harmful to health when inhaled. Forgotten to dust a spot for a year? The dust buildup can give rise to serious lung infections and trigger allergies or asthma.

While it’s not possible to eliminate dust completely, you can still take steps to reduce dust buildup at home.

Recommendations:

Clean your home regularly. Invest in a good vacuum cleaner that will pick up even the most microscopic of dust particles. (Also, remember to empty your vacuum canister after every vacuuming session!) When cleaning, always start from the highest surfaces at home. Then dust using a top-to-bottom approach.

Pay attention to areas that typically trap dust and clean in these places: electronics, ceiling fans, light fixtures, air-conditioning units, the top of refrigerators, the top of cabinets/closets, corners of the home hidden behind furniture or curtains, window furnishings and indoor plants.

Get a vacuum to pick up microscopic dust particles.

Image: Pexels

When planning for storage, build all the way to the ceiling so that there will not be any gaps in between that can trap dust. These areas often get overlooked during cleaning as they are harder to reach.

This is exceptionally crucial for closets in the bedroom since the sleeping chamber is likely one of the dustiest parts of the home thanks to the huge number of common sources of dust in the space. Your mattress, the bedding, clothing, and soft furnishings like rugs, throws and cushions are all big contributors to dust in the bedroom.

With Song-Cho’s customisable 304 grade stainless steel wardrobes, you won't have to worry about collecting dust at the top of the cupboards as they can be completely tailor-made to fit the height of your ceiling, no matter how tall it is.

Song-Cho's 304 grade stainless steel wardrobes let you go full height.

Keeping clothes in a closed wardrobe can also minimise dust in the bedroom as it will prevent clothing fibres from settling down outside the closet. While Song-Cho’s stainless steel wardrobes can go open-concept, they also come with customisable doors. You can choose from ones made of either stainless steel or glass.

The former lets you go with a variety of finishes and colours—even ones that mimic the look of wood! The glass options come in transparent, opaque, semi-transparent or embossed and are a great choice if you need the convenience of seeing where all your clothes are just like in an open wardrobe but still want dust contained.


 

Risk: Poor Ergonomics

Ergonomics is also a part of building a healthy home.

Image: Pexels

We don’t always think a lot about ergonomics in the home, but this is an important aspect of our overall health. Poor ergonomics are often linked with musculoskeletal problems such as poor posture and back pain, but it can also cause higher levels of fatigue and stress and may even impact digestion. When we think about designing for ergonomics at home, we take into account the best ways for our bodies to interact with the different spaces.

While the home office is the first thing that comes to mind, ergonomics at home is really about every area of our living space. For instance, think about not having to strain your back when you reach for things in the kitchen or ensuring that you won't have to squint just to look for something at the back of the wardrobe. These are all part of designing for ergonomics.

Recommendations:

KITCHEN:

Ensure traffic flow around the kitchen is smooth and without obstruction. Try to plan around a ‘work triangle’—plan for the refrigerator, hob and sink to be located within an imaginary triangle for maximum efficiency. Have a countertop height that is not too tall or short so that it’s comfortable to do a variety of tasks (prep, washing, cooking).

Song-Cho's 304 grade stainless steel kitchen cabinets are fully modular and customisable so you can make height adjustments to fit in with your physique and space.

Store items within easy reach, particularly if you use them regularly. In hard-to-reach places, invest in appropriate cabinet systems to make it more convenient to reach out for things.

Song-Cho’s kitchen cabinets come with various features that will boost ease of use. These features include full cabinet height drawers that ensure all available space is optimised and easy to organise, dedicated inner drawer systems to allow items to be within easy reach without bending down, and electrical systems that descend to eye level with a touch of a button (available with the made-in-Japan kitchen ranges).

At a touch of a button, the top cabinet of this Song-Cho's kitchen can descend to eye level.

BATHROOM:

Ensure that the bathroom flooring is covered in non-slip tiles. Add task lighting alongside a general ambient light for the bathroom. Demarcate the splash zone with a shower screen.

Fixtures, fittings, vanities and other storage units should be installed at the appropriate height so that you can use them easily without strain or without bumping your head or elbows on them.

Song-Cho’s bathroom accessories come in a variety of sizes and configurations so you can maximise storage space all while maintaining an ergonomic and safe bathroom.

BEDROOM:

Set your bed at the right height to get in and out of the bed without putting a strain on your body and knees. Dimmers are a great choice to improve ergonomics in the bedroom as they allow you to turn down the light as the evening progresses.

Leave enough clearance space to open and close wardrobe doors. Consider a soft-close mechanism to minimise slamming.

Song-Cho's wardrobes are equipped with a soft-close mechanism with Blum hinges and slides, helping to promote a more restful environment in the bedroom.

No need to worry about stainless steel doors being too heavy and a strain on your wrist. The stainless steel used to make Song-Cho’s wardrobes features an internal honeycomb structure, making them lightweight without compromising on durability.

Don't underestimate the hardiness and durability of the honeycomb structure.

For added ergonomics, Song-Cho’s wardrobes can also come installed with hidden LED strips to help light up even the darkest corners of your wardrobe. No more having to bump your head while searching for the perfect outfit.

They are also working with Basistem to offer dedicated compartments within the wardrobe that not only level up your organisation but also make things easier for you to reach out for clothes.

LED strips provide better illumination for darker rooms or deeper compartments.

LIVING ROOM:

Arrange the layout such that there’s enough walkway space (~60-90 cm) between furniture pieces. Ensure the TV is mounted at the right location, height and distance to avoid strain on your eyes and neck. To reduce glare, avoid placing the TV opposite a window or just in front of it. If you spend a lot of time watching TV, get a comfortable lounge chair that will also provide adequate back support.

A comfortable viewing distance is approximately 1.2 to 1.5 times the diagonal width of your TV screen.

Image: Unsplash

HOME OFFICE:

Is your office chair comfortable enough and does it provide necessary neck and lumbar support for long hours of sitting? Make sure you are not hunching over your laptop! Have your desk at the right height for your eyes to be near the top of the monitor and your elbows to be resting comfortably on the table surface.

Prop your monitor on a stand and get a separate keyboard if necessary to get your body in an ergonomic sitting position.

Image: Pexels

Lighting is really important in a home office as well. Layer your lighting (get ones that serve different functions) and ensure there's a bright enough task light if your home office doesn’t receive enough natural light.


 

Risk: Poor Hygiene at Home

Good personal hygiene but bad hygiene practices at home? It can still make you sick.

Image: Pexels

It should come as no surprise that poor hygiene at home is a health hazard. Even with relatively clean personal hygiene, a home with bad hygiene practices can still make you sick.

Left unchecked (and uncleaned), our home is a trove of germs, bacteria and viruses. Not maintaining proper hygiene at home leads to a variety of health issues and can lead to the spreading of diseases more easily when someone at home falls ill.

While a lot of that can be circumvented through cleaning, disinfecting and sticking to a regular housekeeping schedule, a part of it also has to do with design i.e. you want to design a home that makes it easier for you to maintain good hygiene.

Recommendations:

When cleaning, pay extra attention to high-traffic zones as well as areas that are frequently touched: cabinet and door knobs/handles, light switches, keyboards, remote controls and toilet flushes.

Bacteria, germs and viruses tend to accumulate in places like the bathroom and kitchen, as these areas are more heavily used and tend to be moist (perfect breeding ground!). Depending on use, do a deeper clean in these two places every other week or so.

To make it easier for you to keep to a regular cleaning schedule, you’ll want also to design a kitchen and bathroom that is easy to clean. Invest in renovation materials that are easy to upkeep. Without grooves or crevices to hide grime, stainless steel is one of the more hygienic materials around and is relatively easy to clean and wipe down.

As one of the more hygienic materials out there, stainless steel is often used in commercial kitchens where hygiene is a big priority.

Stainless steel is also non-porous, making it impervious to stains and discolouration, unlike other materials such as quartz, wood or natural stone. This makes it a great choice for hardworking zones like the bathroom and kitchen which also require a high level of hygiene.

For those considering a seriously sanitary kitchen, it doesn't get any better than with Song-Cho’s made-in-Japan CENTRO and STEDIA kitchen systems. The stainless steel countertop has a unique embossed finish to minimise scratches when working on the surface, and the special Japanese technology 'e-coat' makes sure that tough grease, stains and dirt are easily removed. This e-coat is applied throughout the stainless steel full-piece countertops, sinks and drainage areas to make clean-up a breeze.

Cleaning grease off a surface without the 'e-coat' versus a surface with the 'e-coat'.

Song-Cho’s stainless steel kitchen cabinets also come with fully integrated sinks that offer a seamless transition from counter to sink. No joints provide better hygiene since it will be easier to wipe down counters with no food waste or other grime getting stuck in between.

Song-Cho's stainless steel kitchen cabinets come with integrated sinks that promote even greater levels of hygiene.

Start minimising the different health risks at home with Song-Cho's 304 grade stainless steel products and accessories for the kitchen, bathroom and bedroom.

This article is brought to you by Song-Cho. For more information on their range of products, visit https://www.songcho.com.sg/Products or head down directly to their showrooms (see the various locations here). 

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