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Health Hazards at Home
Home is where the heart is, but can you believe it is also where tons of health dangers dwell. What you breathe and touch could actually be making you sick.
Odorless gases, fumes from your carpet, even the innocent-looking cleaners in your cabinet can harm you and your family. EHC discussed with experts to find out what could be lurking in your home-sweet-home. Read on for the revelations.
Does your bathroom, closet, or basement have an old musty odor? The reason is mold spores. Mold can grow within 24-48 hours where there is moisture and what they consider a food source. It thrives on dust, wood, paint, paper, cotton or oil, among other things. It is attracted to modern building materials like drywall. Complex heating and cooling systems can make mold matters worse, especially if you suffer from allergies or asthma. Mold spores can trigger asthma symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath, sneezing, runny or stuffy nose itchy and watery eyes, and inflamed sinuses.
- Use a dehumidifier to keep the humidity in mold-prone rooms below 50%.
- Operate an oscillating fan in the bathroom after showering and fix leaks as soon as possible.
- Keep rooms well ventilated.
- If you suspect mold, check the area with a flashlight (some of the fungi can only be seen with a bright light).
Dust mites are microscopic, but they can wreak havoc on your health. They may be one of the most common causes of allergies and asthma and can trigger the same miserable symptoms. Dust mites, too, need moisture and feed off the dead skin cells our bodies shed. Their favorite hiding places are beds, pillows, mattresses and sheets.
The fact is that dust mites are a part of your life. There is no way to get rid of dust mites, so you need to put a barrier between you and them.
- Allergy covers can help because they are woven, so even dust mites cannot slip through them. Seal your mattress, box spring, comforter and pillows.
- Wash your bedding and area rugs in hot water (120 degrees F) at least once a week.
- Put items that are not machine washable – like a special pillow or stuffed animal – in the freezer for a couple hours at a time to kill dust mites.
- Don’t go to bed with wet hair − you’re just giving the mites more moisture.
- Regularly vacuum all floors, especially carpets, where dust mites can hide.
Redecorating or renovating your house can give you a headache – literally. When your rug gives off that new carpet smell, it is usually shedding 4-PC, a chemical in carpet backing. Though the smell probably will go away within days or weeks, it can cause temporary headaches and hoarseness in people sensitive to chemicals.
Ideally, new carpet should be aired before installation. But if that is not possible, keep the carpeted room well ventilated and stay out if you are sensitive to 4-PC. If the odor is strong despite ventilation for a week, you may want to have that carpet removed.
Many of the medications may look as tempting as candy to teens, toddlers and preschoolers, thanks to their interesting shapes and colors.
- Store these drugs where kids can’t find them and use a safety lock on that cupboard or cabinet.
- Never leave medications within easy reach, such as your purse, night-table, or countertop.
- Make sure all bottles have child-resistant caps.
They may keep your favorite clothes from smelling like cheese, but the stinky naphthalene balls that keep moths away also emit chemicals that can irritate people. Most of them are pesticides, which can be harmful to anyone’s health. Signs that you have had short-term exposure to naphthalene include headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, confusion, anemia, jaundice and convulsions.
- Play it safe by replacing moth balls (and their horrible aroma) with natural moth repellants like cedar blocks or chips or dried lavender.
- Find out alternative methods of keeping the moths away. Asking your grandparents, for instance, would be a good idea.
Study reports indicate that more than one million children under 5 years old are exposed each year to potential poisons such as medicines and household chemicals. And like medications, the bright colors and sweet scents of cleaning products make them look appealing to little ones. But there is nothing pretty about health problems they can cause. The most common products ingested by children are toilet cleaners, bleach, detergents, furniture polish and rust remover.
- High, not low: Under the kitchen and bathroom sinks are common places to store cleaning products, but it is better to keep them on high shelves, out of reach of kids.
- If you have to store cleaners in low cabinets, use baby-proof locks and make sure all tops are properly closed.
- When you take products out to clean, make sure they are way out of your child’s reach and securely closed.
- Put a danger mark on all hazardous products (draw your own or use a sticker) and teach kids to steer clear when they see it.
This odorless, colorless gas is toxic and may even kill you. And you may not even realize it is in your home! Typically, the danger comes from fuel-burning appliances like furnaces, stoves, fireplaces, clothes dryers, water heaters and space heaters, as well as automobile exhaust from attached garages. Low levels of this toxic gas may cause headaches, dizziness, disorientation, nausea and fatigue. Higher levels can lead to impaired vision and coordination, headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, confusion, unconsciousness and, at very high concentrations, death.
- Buy a carbon monoxide detector and make sure it is installed properly and test it regularly.
- Make sure fuel-burning appliances are installed correctly. To stay safe, inspect all your fuel-burning appliances annually.
- With gas stoves, use an exhaust fan vented to the outside.
- Never let your car idle in the garage.
- You may also gather information on child safety measures at home.