People often worry about the most remote dangers instead of attending to more present threats. Learn about some common home health hazards and what to do about them here.
Especially dangerous for seniors, falls in the home cause thousands of injuries per year. Inadequate railings, slippery floors, bathtubs, area rugs, and inappropriately placed electrical cords can all cause trips and falls. Broken hips, head injuries, and sprains are common results of falls. To prevent falls in your home, make sure your staircases are sturdy and free of debris. Stow away toys, install railings, and place support bars in bathrooms where needed.
Smoke, Gases, and Fumes
Carbon monoxide is odorless, colorless, and deadly. Make sure your home has functioning carbon monoxide detectors on each level. Radon is another invisible gas that enters homes through cracks in the foundation or walls. It’s radioactive and known to cause lung cancer. Have your home tested for radon levels, and hire a professional to remediate the problem if levels are unacceptably high. Ban tobacco smoke from your home, as it’s linked to lung cancer and worsens the effects of radon exposure.
Faulty wiring, overburdened outlets, stoves, space heaters, and smoking can all cause house fires. Clogged dryer vents or lint screens are the culprits of thousands of fires a year. Clean the lint screen after every dryer cycle, and have a professional vacuum out your dryer vent once a year. Test smoke detectors regularly, and change the batteries at least yearly. Plan fire escape routes and rendezvous points where all residents can gather to determine if everyone got out. Have the correct type of fire extinguisher on hand for kitchen fires, electrical fires, and other types of fire hazards.
Volatile Organic Compounds
Many household products, such as paint and varnish, cleaning supplies, and pesticides, emit chemicals. These can cause respiratory irritation and even damage to major organs such as the liver and kidneys. They also carry risks of neurological damage. Try to buy products labeled as zero- or low-VOC. When using products that do emit these gases, ensure proper ventilation.
The crisis in Flint, Michigan, shined a spotlight on the dangers of contaminated water. Municipal water systems in the U.S. are required to report to residents on the quality of water. However, even municipal water with acceptable levels of contaminants can pick up bacteria and sediment between the city pipe and the inside of your home and in your plumbing. Well water is at risk of contamination from nearby industrial or construction sites. Stay alert to the possible signs of water contamination in your home. If you suspect a problem, have your water professionally tested and talk with a licensed plumber about options for purifying your home’s water.
Asbestos, Lead, Mold and Pests
Common home health hazards in older homes include lead paint, asbestos-containing insulation or tile adhesive, or mold from years of water seepage. Pests and vermin may have found a home in the walls or attic. Before buying or renovating an older home, have a home inspector check for these issues.