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10 Things to Consider When Apartment Hunting

make this move your best and healthiest one yet

We know apartment hunting can be confusing. Here's a list of 10 things to consider that will make your next apartment a healthier place to live.


1. Lead Paint

You have probably heard about this one- lead is bad for you, and many research studies have shown it negatively affects brains and so many more things. But, what you really need to know is lead paint is only a big deal in older buildings because lead paint was banned in the US in 1978. The manager of the building should disclose if there is lead paint, and it can be dealt with easily by making sure it is properly painted over, so it doesn't chip off and get spread around your apartment, which is the only real way it can get into your body. Lead paint is always dangerous, but it is a bigger deal if you have small kids or pets who like to lick things - generally adults don't do that. Read more about reducing your exposure to lead here. The EPA also has some great resources.

2. Mold

You wouldn't eat moldy food (except for delicious cheese), so why live in a moldy apartment. But really, mold can cause allergy symptoms or respiratory problems, making it dangerous to live with. You can't always see mold just by looking, so pay attention for a funky smell, black dust, or signs of water damage throughout the apartment. These could be signs of mold hiding in the walls or ceiling. Laws vary about if a landlord must treat mold, but if you suspect mold, talk to them about it and try to make a deal to have it treated before you move in.

3. Carpet and vinyl flooring

This one should be more obvious as you walk through an apartment. If you aren't sure if the floor is vinyl or not or want to know how old the carpet is, ask the landlord, they should know. While this isn't as easily fixed as some of the others on the list, if you are deciding between apartments and one has old carpet or vinyl flooring and the other doesn't, opt for the carpet free and vinyl free place. Chemicals in vinyl called phthalates have been linked to a variety of health concerns including cancer, and old carpets trap dust and particles that will continue to pollute the air in your home. Even newer carpets have some health hazards in the carpet padding from recycled foam that contains toxics like flame retardants.

4. Ventilation

When we say ventilation, we are talking about how to get air flowing through the space. This could be about actually having a fan or vent in your kitchen and/or bathroom, but it could also be as simple as being able to open multiple windows and create a cross breeze that would clear stale air (or smoke if you are prone to burning toast like I am) from your apartment and getting clean air in quickly. Clean air helps remove dust, smoke, and smells from the apartment. It is also just good for you.

5. Asbestos

Similar to lead paint, asbestos is common in older buildings. Its use dramatically decreased in the late 1970s, due to findings showing it causes mesothelioma, a type of cancer. It is still common in many buildings (and assumed to be in all buildings built before 1981). The landlord must disclose if there is asbestos in the buildings, but the laws beyond that vary from state to state. Asbestos is most risky if it is disturbed (like during remodeling or construction) when it can splinter off and get into the air. There are ways to remove it or cover it safely (often called abatement, which should be done by a professional) to ensure that you are not at risk. Learn more from the EPA.

6. Noise

While this may seem only like an annoyance, noise, especially at night, has actually been linked to various negative health outcomes, especially cardiovascular disease. (1) This is because our bodies have been evolutionarily trained to respond to noise, so we would know if someone were going to steal our food in the middle of the night, or something like that. Even if you don't completely wake up from the noise, your body may still be on high alert. Before committing to an apartment, go check out the neighborhood at night, ask the neighbors, and try to get a feel for how loud the unit will be throughout the day and when you would be home. If you have options, the unit with less noise is the better choice for your health.

7. Light

Just like noise, light matters. In this case, we are talking about both natural light during the day, and as little artificial light as possible at night. During the day, you want as much natural light as possible. This is better both in terms of energy use and is crucial to getting adequate Vitamin D. At night, you want as little artificial light as possible because artificial light can mess up your circadian rhythm. Besides making you tired, messing up your circadian rhythm has been linked with developing breast cancer and obesity. (2) So, bottom line, look for a place with lots of natural daylight and one that doesn't get a lot of artificial light at night. If you do have lights outside that may affect how dark the apartment gets, consider adding blackout curtains.

8. Pests

For many reasons, you should try to avoid apartments with signs of mice, cockroaches, or other pests. Besides causing you to jump up on a chair and call for help, many of these pests have been shown to cause different diseases. Dust mites and cockroaches are known to be bad for asthma. (3) If you notice this before you sign a lease or officially move in, you can ask the landlord to have this addressed before you arrive.

9. Neighborhood layout (aka the built environment)

What is in the neighborhood is just as important to your health as the apartment itself. Can you walk to places like a grocery store, go for a run, or hang out in a nearby park? Are there safe bike paths? How will you get to work? Think about these things because they all affect how you will live in your new home. If it is difficult to get to stores with fresh fruits and veggies, chances are you won't be eating as well. If you don't have safe sidewalks, you probably won't walk as often. Think about all of these things and determine which are most important to you when finding your new home.

10. Outdoor space

Similar to the neighborhood you live in, access to outdoor space shapes how you will go about your life. If you're looking for an apartment, you might not have your own backyard, but is there shared outdoor space you can spend time in? If not, is there a nearby park or coffee shop with a patio where you can get some fresh air and spend some time outside. These things promote healthier lifestyles and help clear your head too.

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Non-Toxic, Eco-Friendly Alternatives to Swiffers

Or convert the Swiffer you already have into a non-toxic, planet-friendly option

Who hasn't had a Swiffer before? The promise of an easy-to-use and affordable sweeping, mopping and dusting solution is hard to say no to! While Swiffer products are quite convenient and user friendly, have you ever thought about how much trash those single-use pads generate and what toxic chemicals might be used in their cleaning solutions? Well we're here to give you the low down. If you already have a Swiffer, we have some tips on how to use your Swiffer in a more environmentally conscious way with non-toxic ingredients. And if you don't have one, but want some just as convenient recommendations on mopping and dusting we have you covered too.

Why You Might Want to Think Twice About Swiffers

Ever take a big whiff when you bust open your new package of refillable Swiffer wet pads? Well, sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but those flowery and attractive smells contain fragrances and other harmful ingredients, which often carry phthalates, asthmagens (1) and other chemicals of concern. When these fragrance chemicals vaporize into your household, they can trigger asthma attacks, and aggravate sinus conditions; they can disrupt hormones, cause headaches, eyes, nose and throat irritation, and produce neurotoxic symptoms, like loss of coordination, and forgetfulness (2).

Other ingredients in Swiffer products have also been found to aid in developing resistance to antibiotics over time (3). This means that germs like bacteria and fungi start building the capacity to defeat the drugs that are designed to kill them. When this happens, this can require extended hospital stays, more follow-up visits to the doctor, and other costly and toxic treatment alternatives (4). It's not just humans that are impacted either, these products are also very toxic to aquatic animals (5,6). Makes us think twice about using them all around the house!

Not only is it a good idea to steer clear of these chemicals, but can we talk about the trash? Easy disposal of these toxic, non-biodegradable products, like the refill pads, has resulted in an exuberant amount of unnecessary waste and has nearly destroyed our environment (7). Refillable Swiffer pads are made from polyester which is derived from fossil fuels (8), and are contributing to the degradation of our ecosystems and wildlife (9). These persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are harmful toxins that will continue to corrode our environment for centuries, as they occupy landfills and slowly leak toxins into soil and water over time (9). What a mess!

The good news is that there are simple alternative methods you can start using that are more protective of our health (and the planet's) well-being. Plus, since you don't have to purchase refill pads, they are great for your budget too. There are even easy hacks to turn the Swiffer product you already have into a non-toxic option.

How to Make Your Swiffer Non-Toxic and Earth-Friendly

Get a reusable washable microfiber pad and ditch the single-use ones. Microfibers are extremely effective at capturing germs and small particles (10). These microfiber mop pads work for both the Swiffer sweepers and WetJet. Here are some we like:

Just throw that bad boy into the washer after you're done using it and it's ready to be used the next time you need it. And if you want a completely free way to do this, you can even try using an old fuzzy sock and wrap that around the bottom of your WetJet and voila, you're all ready to start moppin'.

If you have an old washcloth you can also place that into the corners of the holes of your traditional Swiffer to secure the cloth. You'll want to make sure to dip the cloth into your cleaning solution before you attach it to the mop and/or you can add the cleaning solution to a spray bottle to spray the surface as well.

DIY Your Own Safe and Effective Cleaning Solution

If you've got the Swiffer WetJet, make sure the refill bottle is thoroughly cleaned out with soap and water, then go ahead and add your preferred non-toxic cleaning solution. There are several ways you can create your own safe and effective floor cleaner, but here are some of our favorites:

  • Add ½ tsp of liquid soap to each gallon of water
  • Add ½ cup vinegar to every gallon of water

When the floors are really dirty use liquid soap solution to really mop up that grime and dirt. If things have been more chill around the house, use the vinegar solution. We've heard that using the vinegar on hardwood floors is not a problem, but you should check what type of finish your floors have, and do a test sample somewhere out of sight just to be sure.

Convenient, Non-toxic, and Budget Friendly Swiffer Alternatives

If you don't own a Swiffer, bless your heart. Here are two of our favorite Swiffer alternatives for getting your floor clean.

Steam Mops

Another green alternative you can use is a steam mop. Steam mops work by heating up the water to really high temperatures inside it's chamber and dispensing it as steam, which is then dispersed through a cloth or pad. The steam helps to loosen up the dirt and grime from your floors, and the high temps help to kill germs and bacteria on hard surfaces. No harmful chemicals needed!

Steam mops are typically safe to use on vinyl, ceramic, and porcelain tile floors, but you may want to double check with your flooring brand to make sure using steam won't void your floor's warranty. You should also never use steam mops on any unsealed, peeling or unfinished floors, and although manufacturers claim it is safe to do so, use caution with any wood or laminate flooring.

Spray Mops

Spray mops are super convenient and easy to use on all types of floors, including hardwood and laminate flooring. Plus, no need for any buckets or wringing! Just add your washable/reusable microfiber mop pad and pre-made non-toxic solution to the dispenser and you are ready to have at it!



References:
  1. https://zsds3.zepinc.com/ehswww/zep/result/direct_link.jsp?P_LANGU=E&P_SYS=2&P_SSN=11337&C001=DISC2&C002=ZCAL&C003=E&C013=AF7231E
  2. https://noharm-uscanada.org/issues/us-canada/fragrance-chemicals
  3. https://www.ajicjournal.org/article/S0196-6553(18)30424-3/pdf
  4. https://www.cdc.gov/drugresistance/about.html
  5. https://www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners/5288-SwifferSweeperWetMoppingClothsOpenWindowFresh/
  6. https://www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners/2819-SwifferWetJetMultiPurposeCleanerOpenWindowFresh/
  7. https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/realestate/2005/05/21/disposable-wipes-no-throw-away-issue/22e091b2-7bc9-4b01-a9c3-6ca1c00f9cfc/
  8. https://www.cmu.edu/gelfand/lgc-educational-media/polymers/natural-synthetic-polymers/index.html#:~:text=Synthetic%20polymers%20are%20derived%20from,polyester%2C%20Teflon%2C%20and%20epoxy.&text=Examples%20of%20naturally%20occurring%20polymers,%2C%20DNA%2C%20cellulose%20and%20proteins.
  9. https://sciencing.com/environmental-problems-caused-by-synthetic-polymers-12732046.html
  10. https://archive.epa.gov/region9/waste/archive/web/pdf/mops.pdf
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Roundups

Non-Toxic Floor Cleaners

Because just shuffling around in fuzzy socks doesn't really count

Updated for 2020!

We walk on them all the time, so it's not hard to believe that floors get dirty. Sure vacuuming and sweeping are a good start, but you also need to wet mop them. We did the research and came up with a roundup of 7 of the safest, healthiest floor cleaners out there. They are all well reviewed and widely available. Take your pick!

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COVID-19

Preserving Your Sanity During COVID-19

Why it's so important to look after your mental health throughout this pandemic

The Re-Opening Waiting Game

It's beginning to feel like the "end" of COVID-19 will never arrive. The surging, flattening, and re-surging of Coronavirus has created a roller coaster of emotions that often leave us feeling like we've reverted back to square one (or worse). It's no wonder why some of us have been feeling drained, moody, hopeless, and unable to think straight.

Fears and concerns surrounding this virus are becoming increasingly common (1), as many of us are worried about our health and the health and well-being of our loved ones. This level of uncertainty has really put a damper on our emotions and has strained our mental health (1). Social and physical distancing, economic uncertainty, and the onslaught of bad news has left us feeling isolated, anxious, depressed and unsure of how to cope with these feelings, and left wondering when our lives will return back to normal.

Fortunately, there are tons of things we can do to mitigate the negative impacts many of us are experiencing. Keep reading for some tips and advice on trying to reach some level of zen through these trying times.

How COVID-19 Can Impact Mental Health

The rise and spread of COVID-19 has subjected us to a whole new lifestyle, one that many of us have had difficulties adjusting to. Some are grieving the loss of loved ones or economic stability, while others are grieving the social connection we had pre-COVID-19. Around half of all US adults have recently reported that COVID-19 has negatively impacted their mental health (1).

From front-line workers to non-essential workers, the level of stress, anxiety, and depression is negatively impacting mental and physical well-being. Health care workers and grocery store workers, along with others, are faced with choosing whether to keep working and increase the risk of contracting the virus or leaving their jobs and losing their income (2). On the other hand, many non-essential workers who are losing their jobs are not only losing their income, but are faced with increased rates of depression, anxiety, distress, and low self-esteem, which can lead to higher rates of substance abuse and suicide (1). Shelter-in-place orders, business and school closures and travel restrictions are fueling the impacts of loneliness and social isolation, and for many, financial distress (1).

How Mental Health and Physical Health are Intertwined

Mental health is just as critical to our well-being as our physical health, as the two are inextricably linked (3). Have you ever been so stressed you get a stomach ache or headache? Yeah, us too.Social isolation and loneliness are public health concerns, as the latter is associated with reduced lifespan and is a risk factor for mental illness (1), an increased risk of a heart attack (4) , and suicide (1). Anxiety, stress, and depression can physically manifest itself as heart disease, asthma, gut problems and dermatitis, among a list of other health concerns (5,6,7,8). Stress can also cause shortness of breath, trigger asthma symptoms, and can flare up your eczema too (6,7). Taking care of your mental health is a critical component in staying healthy.

Be Proactive About Your Mental Health

With so much uncertainty, isolation, and fear surrounding COVID-19, we have to remind ourselves to pay attention to our mental health and to what our bodies are telling us. In addition to the typical things people think when they hear about ways to enhance your mental well-being like meditation, yoga, exercise, and eating healthy, here are a few other strategies to boost your mood and achieve better mental health:

You can find additional resources below for you or your loved ones to assist with navigating with mental health emergencies:


References

(1)https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/issue-brief/the-implications-of-covid-19-for-mental-health-and-substance-use/

(2)https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/issue-brief/double-jeopardy-low-wage-workers-at-risk-for-health-and-financial-implications-of-covid-19/

(3)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1071612/

(4) https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/psychosomatic-disorder

(5) https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/psychosomatic-disorder

(6) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5260801/

(7)https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-981-10-5541-6_13#:~:text=Psychological%20stress%20is%20a%20major,deterioration%20in%20quality%20of%20life.

(8) https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0706743719874168

Roundups

Non-Toxic Kitchen Items Roundup

Bye bye plastic, hello reusable!

Looking for a way to be more sustainable but don't know where to start? Try the kitchen! Kitchen utensils are usually made from plastic and other harmful chemicals. Some items, like sponges, are also meant to be periodically thrown away, which just creates more trash. That's why we rounded up our favorite non-toxic kitchen items! These items are made from natural or reusable materials like wood, natural sponge, and copper. They're all durable and can stand up to the toughest kitchen messes!


Non-Toxic Kitchen Items


a) REDECKER Horsehair and Beechwood Bottle Brush

b) If You Care 100% Natural Sponge Cloths

c) Küchenprofi Classic Dish Washing Brush

d) Miw Piw Natural Dish Sponge

e) REDECKER Copper Cleaning Cloth

f) REDECKER Natural Fiber Bristle Pot Brush


We rely on EWG's consumer databases, the Think Dirty App, and GoodGuide in addition to consumer reviews and widespread availability of products to generate these recommendations. Learn more on our methodology page.

*Because Health is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program so that when you click through our Amazon links, a percentage of the proceeds from your purchases will go to Because Health. We encourage you to shop locally, but if you do buy online buying through our links will help us continue the critical environmental health education work we do. Our participation does not influence our product recommendations. To read more about how we recommend products, go to our methodology page.

COVID-19

Safer Cleaning and Disinfectant Use During Coronavirus for Early Childcare Providers and Schools

why it's important, other best practices, and a comprehensive resource list

This is a toolkit that is an easy to understand guide to best and safe practices for reopening childcare providers and schools during COVID-19. The toolkit has summaries of best practices from the CDC, EPA, and others in one place. Our recommendations also take into consideration disinfectants with safer ingredients. If you are a parent who is concerned about safe and best practices when schools are reopened, please download our toolkit to send to your childcare provider or school administrator. We even have a sample email that you can use to write your school administrator or childcare director and attach these materials. Or if you work as a childcare provider or at a school, we have made this resource for you. We hope that it is helpful.

Download the complete toolkit with sample email and all the links here:

Because Health Safer Disinfecting at Schools During Coronavirus.pdf

Here is a version of the pdf without the sample email to send to administrators and staff:

Because Health Safer Disinfecting at Schools During Coronavirus to send.pdf

safer disinfectant use during coronavirus for schools




hand washing and hand sanitizer during coronavirus



safer cleaning and disinfecting resources for schools during coronavirus

As childcare facilities and schools gear up for reopening, water quality is another area that can be affected by COVID-19 closures. Water stagnation in closed or sparsely used school facilities can lead to buildup of harmful pathogens and contaminants. This is a toolkit that is an easy to understand guide to best and safe practices for water quality when reopening childcare providers and schools during COVID-19. The toolkit has summaries of best practices from the CDC, EPA, and others water quality experts in one place.

If you are a parent who is concerned about safe drinking water when schools are reopened, please download our toolkit to send to your childcare provider or school administrator. Or if you work as a childcare provider or at a school, we have made this resource for you. We hope that it is helpful.

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COVID-19

Safer Cleaning and Disinfectant Use During Coronavirus at Home

plus DIY disinfectant and cleaning recipes and when and how to wash hands or use hand sanitizer

We've created a one stop shop for all your questions on using safer disinfectant at home to reduce COVID-19 transmission. Please share with your family and friends. We hope they are useful!

You can download the entire PDF with links here with both toolkit and sample email:

Because Health Safer Disinfecting at Home During Coronavirus.pdf

safer cleaning and disinfectant use during coronavirus at home


hand washing and hand sanitizer during coronavirus


DIY cleaners, disinfectants, and hand sanitizers during coronavirus

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