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Make yours a healthier home in 2004

By Nancy Maes
Special to the Tribune
January 2, 2004

People are cocooning these days because home is supposed to be a safe haven. But news stories sometimes tell a different tale.

"A search [by an indoor air quality testing laboratory] found 1,500 articles about the health problems caused by mold in homes," says William Gartner, president and CEO of Health Chek. "Sometimes the mold problem is so bad that houses have to be abandoned."

To add to the air-quality problems, people's desire to make their homes energy efficient has produced some unwanted side effects. Now pollutants that cause allergies remain locked inside.

To battle problems that prevent a home from being a healthy place, manufacturers are developing products that check for mold and allergens, purify the air, filter tap water and keep surfaces clean.

A variety of these products are described below, including suggested retail prices. Contact the manufacturer for help in finding a retailer in your area.

Testing, testing
Just because mold and allergens in your home may not be obvious to the eye doesn't mean they can't be hazardous to your health. Microscopic spores of cladosporium and alternaria, dust mites, pet dander and cockroaches may cause respiratory illnesses, skin infections and other health problems. The Mold Chek and Allergy Chek sampling kits from Health Chek offer the first step in detecting them. Samples collected are sent to an accredited laboratory that analyzes them. It then sends a detailed report of the results and suggested remedies for eliminating the problem.

Price: $14.95 each for Mold Chek and Allergy Chek, $39 for the Mold Chek laboratory analysis, $69 for the Allergy Chek laboratory analysis. Health Chek, 4250 E. Camelback Rd., Suite K-135, Phoenix, AZ 85018. Phone: 866-234-7579. Web site: www.moldchek.net and www.allergychek.net.

Clearing the air
Home Health Product's new air sanitizer was developed to purify the air throughout the whole house. Called air health, the sanitizer does not use a traditional filter but instead is installed in the main supply or return duct of central heating or air conditioning systems. It is based on a process of ultraviolet radiation, that, according to the manufacturer, kills airborne mold, bacteria, viruses and other pathogens. The device is designed to be installed in about 10 minutes, then operates 24 hours a day. The ultraviolet bulb should be replaced once a year.

Price: $199 for the air health air sanitizer, $49.95 for replacement bulb. Home Health Products, PMB 322, 9702 Gayton Rd., Richmond, VA 23233-4907. Phone: 866-765-1587. Web site: www.airhealth.com.

Getting misty
Breathing is easier when the humidity level is between 40 and 50 percent, but in heated rooms, the air can become drier. The Ultrasonic Personal Humidifier from Sunbeam stands ready to add moisture to the air thanks to an ultrasonic nebulizer that transforms water into a fine mist. The humidifier is small, so it's easy to carry from room to room. Yet it holds enough water to operate for up to 10 hours on one filling, and do so quietly. To help freshen the air, Sunbeam's Waterless Vaporizer uses pads scented with essential menthol, camphor and eucalyptus oils. When heated the aroma is released for up to 12 hours.

Prices: $34.99 for the Ultrasonic Personal Humidifier, $23.99 for the Waterless Vaporizer. Sunbeam Products, Inc., Consumer Affairs, P.O.Box 948389, Maitland, FL 32794-8389. Phone: 800-435-1250. Web site: www.sunbeamhealth.com.

Drinking to your health
Now you can have cleaner water for your refrigerator's dispenser and ice maker thanks to two products from Culligan. The company's IC-750 compact filtration system does away with the unpleasant taste and smell of chlorine. Model IC-1000 goes further by not only reducing the chlorine taste and smell but also filtering lead, cysts and certain herbicides and pesticides. The filters of both models are easy to change; all it takes is a quick twist to remove and another to install the replacement.

Prices: $16.99 for the IC-750 Easy Change Water Dispenser/Icemaker Filter, $12.99 for the 750R Replacement Cartridge, $29.95 for the IC-1000 Easy Change model, $19.99 for the 1000R Replacement Cartridge. Culligan, 502 Indiana Ave., P.O. Box 1047, Sheboygan, WI 53082. Phone: 800-634-1455. Web site: www.culligan.com.

Avoiding sticky situations
Goo Gone Spray Gel dissolves those annoying gummy spots left when stickers are removed from new purchases and gets rid of ink blots, crayon marks and candle wax. This citrus-based product, according to the manufacturer, is safe on hands, clothes, rugs and upholstery, doesn't use harsh solvents and is biodegradable. The goo is gone with no harm done.

Price: $5.59. Magic American Products, 23700 Mercantile Rd., Cleveland, OH 44122. Phone: 800-321-6330b. Web site: www.magicamerican.comCopyright (c) 2003, Chicago Tribune