5 Hidden Dangers in Your Home
Learn about the five most dangerous toxins commonly found in homes.
In-House Health Threats
Sometimes, the biggest dangers to your health are the ones you can’t see. Discover five potentially harmful problems that threaten a healthy home and tips on how to protect against them.
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Salmonella and E. Coli
These two forms of bacteria can affect the intestinal tract, causing symptoms ranging from diarrhea to life-threatening dehydration. Humans are most often infected with salmonella after eating or handling contaminated raw foods, such as beef, poultry, eggs, fruits, and vegetables. Salmonella contamination can occur during harvesting, butchering, or preparation. E. coli infection may occur when you accidentally eat contaminated foods that weren’t properly cooked or cleaned.
Solution to Salmonella and E.Coli
Before handling food, wash your hands thoroughly. Use two cutting boards if possible—one for fruits and vegetables and another for raw meat. Keep raw meat, seafood, and poultry separated from other refrigerated foods. Clean with hot soapy water all utensils and plates that previously held raw meat before using again. Cook all meats, especially pork and poultry, to safe temperatures.
This flavorless, odorless gas gives no warning before making you very sick (think flu-like symptoms) and can even cause death. Each year, approximately 500 people die from this "silent" killer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Contamination usually occurs when an organic fuel is burned without proper ventilation. Common sources of carbon monoxide include kerosene and gas space heaters, gas water heaters, wood stoves, fireplaces, automobile exhaust, and tobacco smoke.
Solution to Carbon Monoxide
Have a qualified technician service your heating system, water heater, and other coal, oil, or gas appliances every year. Install a carbon monoxide (CO) detector in your home. Never heat your house with a gas oven or use a gasoline-powered or coal-burning device inside your home. Check out the Best Air-Purifying Plants slideshow to learn which houseplants remove carbon monoxide and other harmful toxins from the air.
Exposure to this highly toxic metal has been associated with serious health problems that range from measurable changes in mental development and behavior to nerve disorders and other ailments. Although regulatory standards by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) have minimized or eliminated lead in consumer products since 1978, it remains in homes that haven’t been updated. Lead-based paints in older homes, household dust, drinking water (if you have lead pipes), and contaminated soil are the major sources of lead exposure.
Solution to Lead in the House
Test your home and water for lead—especially if the structure was built before 1978. You can buy a lead home test kit, consult an environmental lab or organization, or hire a licensed risk assessor.
A certified lead paint removal company can remove lead paint. If you have lead pipes, never use hot water from the tap for drinking or making baby formula. Hot water causes more lead to seep from the pipes. Above all, have your child tested for lead.
These microscopic living organisms grow where moisture, oxygen, and organic material are present. You can expect to find mold in practically any damp area in your home with poor ventilation. Exposure to mold spores can cause nasal and sinus congestion, chronic cough, and eye irritation. According to the Mayo Clinic, it may also trigger asthma attacks and lung infections for those with chronic respiratory disease.
Solution to Mold in the House
Use a non-ammonia cleaner or dishwashing soap and water to remove mold. Wear gloves, long sleeves, pants, eye protectors, and a respirator to protect yourself from spores. After cleaning the mold, use a HEPA (high efficiency particulate absorbing) vacuum or air cleaner to eliminate mold spores from the air. For large areas, hire a professional cleaner. Discard carpet, drywall, insulation, and other items if they have been wet for more than two days.
Insect repellant, weed killers, flea and tick shampoo, and roach sprays and baits are just a few of the pesticides you’ll find in your home. There are other "hidden" dangerous chemicals in products such as mothballs, wallpaper, and pressure-treated wood. If used in the wrong way or stored improperly, pesticides can be dangerous to your health, causing nerve damage, breathing problems, and more. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), household pesticides are one of the leading causes of childhood poisonings.
Solution to Pesticides
Only use these products according to instructions on the label. Keep all household pesticides in a locked cabinet and out of reach of children. Protect yourself from direct exposure and never eat or drink while using them. Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after working with poisonous products.
Fighting these five toxins is a great start to making your home a safer, healthier, and happier place. Here are some more ways you can improve the cleanliness of your living space: