15 Hidden Dangers in Your Home
Stepping through the front door of our home should transport us to a place of peace and safety. Unfortunately, hidden dangers that we can sometimes overlook can put that safety at risk. As anyone who has downloaded the Citizen app knows, there are concerning home safety issues that get reported to the police on a daily basis. On the app, we primarily see people reporting gas leaks and issues related to smoke, but there are plenty of other health and safety concerns that can arise in the home. Keep reading to find out what household issues might be harming our family’s health, and how we can protect ourselves and our loved ones.
One of the best groups of people we can turn to for basic home safety tips is firefighters. These heroes risk their lives to save people in house fires, but they also do a lot to help us prevent these kinds of problems from ever occurring. Be aware of health and safety hazards that can cause fires — and other common problems — by checking out these things firefighters wish everyone did at home. Or give your kids basic safety training. It includes a list of safety issues that every kid should know about, and can be an effective parenting tool.
1. Cleaning Products
They help defend the family against potential disease-causing germs, but cleaning products can put the health of our dearest ones at risk. Harmful chemicals, such as 2-Butoxyethanol, can be found in many multipurpose cleaners and are known to cause digestive system issues, among other problems. Also, combining certain chemicals, including anything containing bleach (never mix bleach!), can cause respiratory problems, kidney and liver damage, and even lead to cancer. Consider switching to natural cleaning agents, such as vinegar, to keep home and health clean and clear.
BPA is a shortening of the chemical name “bisphenol A.” It’s been a component of common plastics since the 1960s, and higher doses have been linked to issues such as infertility. Avoid BPA by switching to BPA-free plastics, glass, and silicone, and removing items such as plastic tongs and pancake turners from the kitchen.
3. Air Humidifiers
Mold and bacteria thrive in moist conditions. When we neglect to clean air humidifiers regularly or don’t clean them well enough, they promote a breeding ground of germs that can be especially harmful to children with asthma or breathing problems. The best way to prevent health issues a humidifier could potentially cause is to clean it using dish soap and water, not harsh chemicals that could contribute to respiratory and lung issues. Also, avoid using tap water to fill a humidifier and opt for distilled water instead.
Piping is usually tucked away behind walls or hidden beneath sinks. That’s probably why leaks, once spotted, escalate quickly in cost and concern for homeowners. Patching up pipes runs up plumbing expenses, but the greatest cost could be our family’s health. Mold and mildew spores thrive and grow in moist environments, such as the wet insides of a wall in the wake of a leak. Learn to look for signs of broken seals, corrosion, and high water pressure. Knowing when to call a plumber can save time, energy, and cash.
Some think that because their homes are neat and clean they have no reason to suspect the growth of mold and mildew — but they’re wrong. These harmful organisms don’t need much to manifest themselves almost anywhere they can find oxygen, moisture, and food. Basements, heating systems, pipes, and wallpaper are a few favorite places where mold can grow. Exposure to mold can cause a range of symptoms, from an irritated throat to long-term respiratory damage for those with breathing issues.
The scents in perfumes and household cleaners that give our noses such pleasant experiences are often made of chemicals simulating the sweet smells. Phthalates and volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, can both be found in the majority of aromatic products. Although more research is needed, past studies suggest a link between phthalates and fertility rates, and VOCs from these home products contribute to roughly just as much air pollution as car emissions.
7. Disease-Causing Bacteria
When asked where the most germ-ridden place in a home is, naturally most people think of their bathrooms. In fact, the kitchen is far more likely to have hazardous bacteria such as E. coli and salmonella. Dish rags and kitchen sinks tend to harbor the most disease-causing microorganisms of all. Coffee makers and sponges, items easily neglected, are also warm and moist germ incubators.
Before the ban of consumer uses of paints containing lead in 1978, those paints were widely promoted. Most homes have been repainted inside since then, but poisonous dust containing lead can result from chipped, cracked, or damaged paint. Lead can even be found in the soil of yards and playgrounds. The more exposed and less frequently painted exterior of homes, such as decks, sheds, and outdoor structures, can have traces of lead as well. To cut back on tracking dust inside, leave shoes on a doormat and wash hands when first coming home.
9. Carbon Monoxide
The scariest threats are those we can’t detect, such as carbon monoxide. The phantom gas is odorless, tasteless, colorless, and produced from burning certain types of fuels. Carbon monoxide prevents oxygen from being absorbed by our body properly, and breathing in a large enough amount can be fatal.
Experts believe that CO poisoning is underreported because doctors don’t think to ask about possible leaks. Because carbon monoxide is undetectable without equipment, it’s recommended to have a detector that can indicate when high levels of the substance are in the air.
Pets become part of the family, but animal amigos can be carriers of dangerous germs and parasites that could cause chronic health issues. Bacteria-borne illnesses, such as cat scratch disease and leptospirosis, can be transmitted to humans without pets showing any unusual signs. Diseases like these can develop into serious conditions and even become fatal. Keep critters clean, vaccinated, and up to date on wellness checks at the vet for peace of mind.
Even when they’re not an actual threat to our bodies, allergen molecules infiltrate our homes and can trigger immune systems as if we were sick. There are times we may think we have a cold, but allergies — triggered by dust mites, animal dander, mold spores, or insects — could be to blame. There are ways to keep a home as free of allergens as possible, including covering all of the beds with a polyurethane liner, dusting, and drying laundry on high heat.
12. Antibacterial Soaps
Contrary to what their titles might lead consumers to believe, soaps that have been marketed in the past as antibacterial aren’t better for our health, and they can be worse. The US Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency are collaborating to determine the long-term effects of antibacterial soaps’ main ingredient, triclosan.
A chemical that’s a common ingredient in products from kitchenware to clothing, triclosan might be responsible for making bacteria resistant to antibiotics, along with the possibility it could contribute to infertility rates and even cancer. For the record, plain soap and water work well for germ control.
Phthalates are chemicals commonly used in manufacturing to make plastics more flexible. However, they also have been linked to kidney and liver damage, and can be found in all sorts of places in the home — including laundry detergents.
14. Formaldehyde and Formaldehyde-Releasing Agents
Formaldehyde is an excellent preservative, as we can easily imagine, but it’s not great for us to come into contact with regularly. However, there are both formaldehyde and chemicals that can release formaldehyde when they come together in a lot of consumer products, including nail polishes.
15. PEG Compounds
PEG compounds are derived from petroleum, and are often used in cosmetics and other personal care products. The problem with PEG compounds is that there have been some links to them being carcinogenic. Switch to clean beauty versions of face wash and lotion to avoid these.