Health trends in homes

By Philip S. Chua, M.D., FACS, FPCS

In a previous article, we cautioned the public about the risks lurking within our own homes, where at least a dozen toxic chemicals are found, in the form of common household cleaning agents, deodorizers, carbon monoxide emission from our cars, and potential gas leaks.

Besides the chemical risks in our own homes, we also have bacteria, molds, spores, dust mites, animal dander, mildew, (bed bugs in some homes), pollen brought in  from the outside, odors and smokes from our cooking, and cigarette smoke, that pollute the air we breathe in. The synthetic materials used in our carpet, furniture upholstery, curtains, etc. also slowly “emit” chemicals that contaminate the air we breathe in.

Since we spend between 50 to 90% of our time at home, all these affect our health, especially those with asthma, allergy, or other forms of upper respiratory disease. In the case of allergy and asthma, the effect could be immediate and obvious, but the complications of chronic chemical exposures could take years before they show, like impairment of the immune system, metabolic illnesses, cancer, etc. Common sense tells me that anything that is poison to our body when swallowed should be toxic to our health when inhaled.

To preclude the need for donning on a decontamination suit before we enter our home to protect ourselves, new concepts in future home building to address the health issues we raised above are being explored. This will be a super high-tech home building design, incorporating “protective” materials and gadgets to build and maintain healthy and safer homes.

One of the pioneers in this new technology and trend in future home design and construction is a company called Battelle. The Battelle scientists and researchers have cited the Top Ten Trends in Healthy Homes for this year, in the following excerpts, in their sequence of importance:

Indoor air quality

What you’re likely to see on the market and in homes are products for advanced air venting, air filtration and biosensors that help fight humidity, mold and other indoor pollutants.

Home-based medical monitoring, diagnosis and care

Healthy lifestyles and disease prevention have never been more important than they are today. This will be easily achievable with the use of the Internet and wireless communications with attending physicians, nurses and clinics. Rising medical costs and the health care industry’s increasing reliance on home-based care and outpatient procedures will go far toward making this a reality.

Monitoring-sensing for home safety and personal protection

Ever wonder if you left the iron on, or forgot to close a window? Or if a water pipe has burst while you’re on vacation? People often worry about their homes when they’re not there. Those worries will be easily put to rest with remote home security monitoring through home sensors and cameras that can transmit pictures and information to you via the Internet and other wireless devices. Computers can be trained with data and software to match the correct home motions with disruptions to normal activity. Members of the “Sandwich Generation” also will welcome these monitors in their efforts to care for children, the elderly and the ill. Affordable biosensors also will be able to alert you to the presence of potentially harmful bacteria and viruses.

Absolutely reliable and high quality power

What’s the answer to this dilemma? Home power generators, especially highly efficient Micro-turbines and engines that run on natural gas.

Fuel cells also are a solution that will grow in popularity over the next decade. Equipment that generates both heat and electricity-known as micro-combined heating and power-is already used in Europe and is likely to make the ocean crossing by this year.

‘Whole-house water quality

Pure water has become important to most people-witness the $22 billion bottled water industry and the interest in faucet filters. When the public water system is accidentally compromised by E coli or cryptosporidium, people can become seriously ill and die. In the future, homes will have whole-house water safety systems-new appliances not yet developed-to supply the best water for all home uses.

Food quality and safe handling, storing and cooking

The risks involved with eating these days can be scary. Households will shift back to traditional, tasty and high-quality foods that can be prepared quickly. Food safety comes to the forefront and homes are likely to have tools for the detection of bacteria in food and water. Waving a wand over your countertop or cutting board will tell you if you have removed bacteria from uncooked meats. Foods of the future also may be engineered to have disease-preventing qualities.

The baby boomer don’t want to get old

The health and grooming-conscious Baby Boomer generation of 78 million people is a built-in market for healthy home products and services. Witness the popularity of home gymnasiums, teeth whitening home treatment kits and anti-aging skin creams. It’s probably not too far-fetched to predict that if there is a way for Baby Boomers to perform minor plastic surgery at home, they’ll do it.

Battling Mites and Molds in Bedding, Furniture and Carpets – These buggers are hard to get rid of and increasingly are being blamed for a host of different major allergies.

Researchers today are exploring the ways to kill mites using light and to fight mold by reducing humidity. This work will be stepped up in the coming years as the government and companies declare war against mites and mold.

Drudgery-free housecleaning

Super products and services can make the crucial difference in the hygiene of a home. Some of those might include a single cleanser for all surfaces and one appliance that will clean all fabrics. Laundry time may be greatly reduced with machines that might wash and dry in the same appliance.

Sterile surfaces: germ resistant materials, coatings and fabrics

Homeowners are looking for new cleansers that provide lasting protection on kitchen and bathroom surfaces. This protection from disease-causing microorganisms might be built into surfaces with disinfectant treatment and materials.

If only peace and good governance in the Philippines and around the globe could be a reality and added to these and future advances in technology to make life for every one healthier, safer, and happier, what a wonderful world it would be.

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