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Breaking The Link Between Unclean Homes And Unhealthy Children

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), over 3 million children below the age of 5 years die annually due to environment-related causes. This means that maintaining a clean home environment is a vital factor in raising healthy children. In particular, it is important to eliminate air pollutants, contaminated water, toxic chemicals, mould, decaying household waste, and accumulated dirt from the home. Here is a brief discussion on the influence of cleanliness on a children’s health.

A Bad Environment Limits a Child’s Growth Potential

A poorly maintained indoor and outdoor environment can adversely affect a child’s mental and physical development. Children who live in noisy, overcrowded and disorganised homes usually have negative behavioural traits. According to a renowned developmental scientist and researcher, Dr. Gary Evans, from the Department of Human Development and Environmental Analysis at Cornell University, there are significant delays in the time it takes for children, who live near airports, to learn how to read. He said that a child’s reading ability, cognitive development, and physiological indicators are affected negatively by noise from cars, music and air planes.

Another major environmental hindrance to a child’s development is overcrowding and clutter. Clutter makes it difficult for a child to sustain mental focus. A study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, on the influence of many objects in a child’s field of vision, showed that excessive clutter will lead to over-stimulation and eventually cause slower learning in toddlers. In addition, children who live in an overcrowded environment tend to be withdrawn. Although, working class parents may find daily housekeeping difficult, cleaning the home for about an hour every week will create a more conducive environment for children to learn, play and develop mentally.

A Clean Home Will Lead to Fewer Missed School Days

A well-kept home, with a pleasant aroma, will enhance the academic performance of the children living in it. For children who are in elementary school, a clean home will enhance the immune system of the child. Consequently, strong resistance to disease germs will enable the child to remain healthy throughout the school term. Absence from school due to illness will be drastically reduced or completely eliminated. Similarly, the mother will not have to take several days off from work to attend to her sick child at home.

Recent research, which surveyed over 5,000 students in high school, showed that children living in clean homes obtained higher grades than students who were not. Over 80% of those who had top grades said that their home had a clean and pleasant scent. On the other hand, more than 30% of the students with poor grades said their homes had an unpleasant odour. A clean home will enable a child to study better at home and obtain better grades at school. The academic performance of the child and productivity of the parents will be influenced positively by the clean home environment.


There is a strong link between unclean homes and unhealthy children. Children who are raised in poorly maintained and untidy homes perform poorly at school because their learning is impaired by their environment. However, through regular cleaning and re-arrangement of items in the home, a child’s health, mental development and academic performance will be enhanced.

1. http://www.who.int/ceh/publications/factsheets/fs284/en/, The environment and health for children and their mothers
2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21228167, Interactions of Top-down Mechanisms in the Human Visual Cortex
3. http://www.wilderness-programs-info.com/news/research-suggests-link-between-a-clean-home-and-academic-performance-04307.php, Link Between A Clean Home and Academic Performance
4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4489931/, Effects of Physical Environment on Children’s Development

Ensuring Healthy Homes: Taking Action for the Future

Most people spend more than 50% of their time every day, inside their homes. Therefore, a healthy, affordable, accessible and safe home supports basic psychological and physical needs and protects the residents from injury and illness. As such, action must be taken to make sure housing conditions and homes are safe for the current and future generations.

The Connection between Health and Homes

There are several factors that influence safety and health in homes. These include safety and structural aspects of a home including design, construction and maintenance. There are also physical characteristics, water quality, air quality, resident behaviour, chemicals and the immediate neighbourhood surrounding the house.

The connection between illness and injury and housing features is clear. The safety and structural features of a home can increase blood lead levels, increase injury risks, and escalate other conditions. Poor quality of indoor air can contribute to cardiovascular diseases, asthma, cancers, and other medical complications.

Poor quality of water can contribute to gastrointestinal illnesses, among other complications such as cancer and neurological effects. Chemicals found within the home can lead to toxic effects and acute poisoning. All these are issues that are directly or indirectly influenced by the behaviour of the residents home’s physical environment.

How a Clean Home Promotes Healthy Families

Home-related injuries and illnesses are not inevitable. However, many housing injuries, illnesses and hazards derived from them can be eliminated or reduced through designing new construction properly, changes in behaviour related to housing, and modifications of current structures.

Success prevention and control of injuries and diseases that are housing related depends on how building inspectors, architects, maintenance and renovators, residents and property owners adopt healthy housing knowledge in their service delivery and daily activities. Many changes that are not complicated can promote safety and health across all families. Additionally, housing interventions can be applied to improve accessibility, environmental friendliness and availability of homes.

Reducing Allergens and Asthma through Home Cleaning

Indoor allergens like pet dander, dust mites, cockroach droppings and mold can lead to allergy and asthma symptoms, to majority of people who suffer from these conditions. Research has shown that there are more than six different allergens, found in 50% homes. Transported through the air, these allergens can be found on the floor, on furniture and other different surfaces within the house.

There are effective ways of home cleaning that can help reduce the presence of allergens. The cleaning process should be done by someone who has no reaction to these allergens. However, for people who suffer from allergens and they must clean their houses, it is advisable to use detergents or chemicals that have minimal chances of creating allergic reactions.

Allergen sufferers should make cleaning the home a regular routine. Some of the cleaning tasks that should be done frequently include reducing dust-collecting items, regular vacuuming of carpeted floors, frequent washing of bedding’s, maintaining counter surfaces clean, storing food in secure containers, and not leaving food scattered around.

Improving Air Quality through Home Cleaning

When home cleaning, the powerful chemicals used might leave behind a toxic effect on the lungs and skin. It is advisable to use pump products and avoid aerosols that can be easily inhaled. Room size cleaners can also be installed, especially in areas where the room items cannot be easily moved.

Two efficient and proven ways of reducing the levels of indoor air pollution are reducing or eliminating indoor sources of pollution and enhancing ventilation. The most effective way is through emission control. For example, this can be achieved through eliminating smoke, use of coats and paints that emit low amounts of volatile compounds, reducing the amount of emission created by gas stoves, using friendly building materials and use of cleaning products that emit minimal levels of pollutants.

Refrigerators and air conditioning systems should have an efficient ventilation rate to minimise the build-up of toxic gases at homes. Additionally, proper ventilation can be achieved through opening windows and doors, for a specific amount of time each day. Bathrooms and kitchens should have exhaust fans that promote air mixing and circulation, and reduces concentration of toxic gases.

Most residential air conditioning and heating systems are not effective in bringing the outdoor air inside. However, new building plans are coming pre-designed with mechanical features that allow natural ventilation to seep through.

Closing Thoughts

Healthy homes promote the well-being of an individual and families. It also reduces chances of hazards and illnesses and subsequently, the funds spent in health centres. It is therefore advisable to keep the home clean, free from any sources of pollution or hazards.