For most people, home is a place to relax after work or school, spend time with friends and family, and have some down time. Your home should be a place where you feel secure. But in some instances, your home may not be as safe as it seems. When you think of home safety, you may think of intruders or fire prevention, but there may be hidden health hazards you may not have considered. Continue to read below to learn what hidden hazards may be around your home.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC), exposure to carbon monoxide sends over 15,000 people in the Unites States to the hospital each year, some of whom will die. Carbon monoxide is an odorless gas, which can be released into your home by inefficient burning from items such as gas space heaters, leaky furnaces, fireplaces and gas water heaters. Proper ventilation and maintenance of heaters and installing a carbon monoxide detector in your home can reduce your risk of exposure. (To learn more about carbon monoxide in the home, read Carbon Monoxide Poisoning.)
Pesticides are often used in and outside the home to get rid of various insects, rodents and weeds. The chemicals used in the pesticides can cause symptoms including nausea, muscular pain weakness and headache. Using pesticides with natural components and following directions exactly can help reduce health problems.
Radon is a gas that is considered to be one of the causes of lung cancer, according to The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Radon is usually emitted into the air through well water, soil or from certain building products. It is possible to have your home tested for radon to determine if levels are unsafe. If levels are considered too high radon reduction systems are available for home use.
Sometimes health hazards in the home are things you would not suspect. Pressed wood products are used to make items, such as interior molding, shelving and furniture. The glue that holds the pressed wood together contains formaldehyde. Various symptoms, such as itchy eyes, asthma exacerbations and nausea can be caused due to exposure to formaldehyde. To reduce exposure, consider buying furniture made with exterior grade pressed wood, which may have lower levels of formaldehyde. Also, pressed wood products that are laminated may also emit less formaldehyde.
Mold spores are everywhere and can easily enter your home. If surfaces are wet, mold spores can start to grow inside your home, which may lead to health problems. Breathing in mold can cause an increase in allergy and asthma symptoms. It can also lead to infections. You can reduce mold growth by keeping surfaces, such as bathroom counters dry, repairing water leaks and keeping rooms ventilated to reduce humidity. (For more information on the dangers of mold, read Health Hazards Of Mold Exposure.)
Although you use kitchen sponges to clean and keep things sanitary, it is possible the opposite is happening. Kitchen sponges can be a breeding ground for bacteria, which can be spread to surfaces and then to you. For example, if you clean a cutting board, which may have juices from uncooked meat on it, and use that sponge to clean a countertop, you may have transferred bacteria. Put sponges in the dishwasher or microwave for one minute between each use to reduce bacteria. (To learn more about kitchen hazards, check out Hidden Germs In The Kitchen: What You Should Know.)
Some household cleaners contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which, if absorbed through the skin or inhaled, can lead to health problems such as a sore throat, headache and eye irritation. You may not realize your cleaner has the compounds, since they are odorless. Look for cleaning products which contain bicarbonate, silicate or sodium citrate all of which are considered nontoxic.
New carpets have a distinct smell most people will recognize. In part, that smell is from certain chemicals in the carpet itself and the glue used in the installation process. Those chemicals, which may include formaldehyde and benzene, can make some people sick. Their symptoms may include rashes, headache and coughing. The EPA suggests asking for a carpet which is low in chemicals. After carpet installation, opening windows and using fans to increase air circulation may also help.
Lead exposure at home is most often due to dust from paint. Although lead in paint has been banned since the late 1970s, it may still be in older homes. Lead poisoning can be especially problematic for children. Symptoms may include learning difficulties and nervous system damage. If old paint needs to be removed, hire professionals to do the job.
Dust mites are microscopic insects, which may live in carpet and bedding. Dust mites may be an allergen for some people causing symptoms, which may include, sneezing, congestion, watery eyes and coughing. Using allergen free bedding and washing it once a week can help reduce the presence of dust mites. (Read more helpful tips on washing bed sheets in The Importance Of Washing Bed Sheets Regularly.)
It may be impractical to try and rid your home of every possible chemical, but some home health hazards should not be ignored. The first step in creating a healthy home free of hazards is identifying what can be making you sick. Taking the necessary preventive measures and precautions can help keep you and your family healthy in your home.