Whether its environmental factors like pollen or pollutants like smog, it's not unusual for homeowners to have breathing issues while relaxing or working in their own home. But for many people these health problems are a function not of outside factors but rather what's lurking in their residences.

As noted in a recent article by the Washington Post, it's estimated that more than 30 million homes in the U.S. have health issues, based on data from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. And in a significant percentage of these cases, the problem can be fixed simply by removing the issue that's responsible.

For example, even though lead-based paint is no longer used after being banned by the Environmental Protection Agency several years ago, many homeowners don't realize their walls are lined with lead paint, having purchased a property before the paint's prohibition.

In February, a federal agency called Healthy Homes Work Group released its report called "Advancing Healthy Housing: A Strategy for Action." The 44-page manual goes into great detail about some of the factors that influence homeowners' poor health in their very own residences, and what actions have been taken by the government to fix this issue. It also establishes several goals that can be achieved through the efforts of consumers and legislators, such as how federal efforts can go toward funding health risks in housing and what community outreach programs can do as well.

Nancy Harvey Steorts, former chair for the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, told the newspaper that far too many homeowners aren't aware of the health traps that lie in waiting.

"There are so many elements to having a home that's truly safe," said Steorts. "Many consumers think that they don't have anything to worry about."

A home inspection can help property owners spot potential health hazards

One of the best things about enlisting the services of a home inspection company is that they have the professional background and expertise to not only determine if a home is up to code structurally but can also spot if there are potential health risk factors, such as mold that's accumulating in the basement or attic or if the home is vulnerable to radon exposure if a home is insulated with asbestos.

Fortunately, the National Center for Healthy Housing has produced a maintenance checklist of what homeowners can be on the lookout for when they perform their own home inspection.

The checklist has a chart that details various portions of the house and whether certain tasks need to be done seasonally, once a year or if the job is best left to a professional. For example. Basement and crawl spaces are traditionally dark places where mold and other allergens can grow. Thus, NCHH notes that these areas should be checked every spring and fall for signs of wetness and that the floor drain is working. Flood risk tends to increase in the spring and fall.

Something else that requires regular maintenance are appliances, fixtures and plumbing. Checking to see of the washer hoses are clear of buildup, the dishwasher hoses are free of leaks and the traps and drains under sinks should be done on annual basis, while any boiler maintenance work ought to be done in the fall - right around the time when it will be put to great use given declining temperatures.

As for what can be done on an as-needed basis, NCHH says this includes lubricating window fixtures so that they open and close smoothly and clean the kitchen range hood screens.