Although most people recognize the dangers of a car accident or a home fire, they often overlook some of the ordinary items in their homes that can also pose a safety risk. The Consumer Product Safety Commission, the organization that regulates recalls, estimates that 33.1 million people are injured each year by household consumer products in the United States. Here are eight common but dangerous items you can find in your home and what to do to minimize their risks.
1. Household Cleaners
Although people use household cleaners everyday, they rarely think about the dangers they pose.
Read the labels of most of the commercial cleaning products in your home, and you’ll quickly notice the list of warnings and dangerous ingredients. Some warnings caution you to avoid contact with the eyes or skin, but that’s not the only danger they pose. In fact, many of these also release toxic pollutants into the air. Using them in an area that isn’t well ventilated can pose serious health hazards. Here are a few common cleaners and the hazardous ingredients they contain:
Air fresheners can contain compounds like nitrogen dioxide which do more to pollute your indoor air than to freshen it.
Anyone who has come into contact with undiluted bleach can attest to its danger. Not only can it cause burns on the skin, it’s also dangerous to inhale in an unventilated area.
Toilet Bowl Cleaners:
Like bleach, most toilet bowl cleaners can cause burns if they come into contact with the skin or eyes.
There’s a reason that commercial oven cleaners power through caked-on grime. The corrosive alkalis in oven cleaners make quick work of a dirty oven. Unfortunately, they can also do serious damage to your respiratory system if inhaled and to your gastrointestinal tract if ingested.
Even if you banish dangerous household cleaners, you don’t have to give up on a clean house. It’s easy to mix together effective cleaners with less toxic, common household ingredients. With an initial investment in vinegar, baking soda, borax, and liquid soap, you can whip up batches of cleaners whenever you need them. There are also many nontoxic, natural cleaners on the market.
From shampoos to lotions to makeup, most bathrooms are overflowing with cosmetic products. However, many popular cosmetics actually contain harmful ingredients. One common ingredient–specifically, parabens–is a plasticizer. Although parabens may extend the shelf life of cosmetic products, they are linked to reproductive and developmental problems in animals. Read labels carefully and opt for products with short lists of recognizable and natural ingredients.
3. Lead Paint
Lead paint is probably one of the more recognized dangers in the home. With recent attention and educational campaigns, most homeowners are aware of its hazards. Exposure to lead paint can affect the central nervous system, blood, brain, and kidneys of people who are exposed.
Lead paint was commonly used in homes built pre-1978. If you have an older home, have the paint tested. If you notice peeling paint in your older home, don’t tackle the job yourself. Instead, call in professionals experienced in lead paint removal.
Even if you don’t own an older home, you may be exposed to lead paint. Many toys and dishes made in China contain lead paint. In particular, watch for made-in-China products that are red or yellow, colors that are frequently made with lead.
4. Pressed Wood Furniture
From wood paneling to chipboard or particle-board furniture, pressed wood can be found in many homes. Pressed wood is made by gluing many thin layers of wood together to create a stronger, lighter product than solid wood. The glue, however, can pose health hazards. Many pressed wood products use urea-formaldehyde in their construction. Exposure to formaldehyde can cause a host of health ailments ranging from watery or burning eyes to asthma attacks. Because new pressed wood releases more formaldehyde, avoid purchasing any new products containing it.
Mothballs are another dangerous item often found in our homes. Mothballs contain naphthalene, which can actually destroy red blood cells. Although scientists don’t yet know if naphthalene causes cancer in humans, it has been proven to cause cancer in animals. The EPA requires mothballs to come with a warning label cautioning buyers to avoid breathing in their vapors. Trade out your mothballs for cedar chips. Not only do they smell better, they are a far safer alternative.
6. Extension Cords
In and of themselves, new extension cords are not dangerous. However, without proper use and care, they can quickly become hazardous. They are, in fact, a leading cause of house fires. To avoid dangers, check the voltage capacity on any extension cords you use. Just because there is an open spot on the extension cord doesn’t mean that you can plug in all your appliances. Also, be sure to check extension cords frequently to make sure they are not showing any signs of wear. If you notice exposed wires or worn spots in the cord, it’s time to trade it in for a newer model.
Prescription medications can be dangerous to anyone that misuses them. Be sure to always follow your doctor’s orders when it comes to the proper dosing of your medications. If you have small children or pets around your house, you should be extra wary of where you keep these prescriptions. Consider keeping them on the top shelf of your pantry or cabinet. Another option is to invest in child-locks for your cabinet doors, which makes it challenging for little hands to open them and grab what is inside.
8. Gas Space Heaters
Gas space heaters put out a lot of heat quickly, making them a popular purchase. Most are labeled as suitable for outdoor use only. However, people sometimes overlook that and use them inside. In enclosed spaces like a garage or bedroom, gas fumes are extremely dangerous, carrying a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Be sure to only use gas space heaters outside, and stick to electric space heaters inside your home.
Make your home a safe haven. Weed out as many dangerous household items, like toxic cleaners and mothballs, as you can. Use caution when using things like extension cords. Read labels carefully and look for safer alternatives whenever possible. By eliminating or limiting these eight hazards, you can rest easy knowing that you and your loved ones are safe in your home.