Deep inside the cracks of your walls, in your refrigerator, in the air you breathe and even in the dishes on which you eat, hidden, not-so-sweet home dangers lurk and linger, waiting for their chance. That’s right. Your home may be trying to kill you.
But, with a little proactive prevention, foresight, fortitude and, in some cases, elbow grease, you can mitigate these harmful house guests. Ready to get to work?
Mold Sweet Mold – Inhale deeply. Smell something musty? Mold spores are roommates who never pay their share of rent or household expenses, but linger long in moist spaces (especially the bathroom). Even worse, it really likes to reproduce. Give it a steady diet of dust, wood, paint and paper and it is happy as a pig in a pen. What can you do? Go after it with mold remover. Get it where it hurts, on and beneath the surface. Once you’ve eradicated it, don’t let it return. Follow a cleaning regimen and, to double the health benefit, consider using non-toxic cleaners, which are usually available next to other cleaning products.
You can also use a dehumidifier in moist rooms (e.g., bathrooms, basements) as a good way of lowering humidity. Use a fan in the bathroom to help dry out the room after a shower and fix leaks quickly. If you think you have a moldy house guest but can’t find the source, consider asking a home inspector to come take a look.
Salmonella and E. Coli – Bacteria can form on contaminated raw food including beef, chicken, fruits, vegetables and eggs. An easy way to prevent contamination from spreading is to wash your hands before and after working with raw foods. If cutting raw foods, get out two cutting boards and use one for meat and the other for anything else you’re cutting, such as fruits and vegetables. Limit your use of raw foods in meals and keep raw foods on shelves separate from other food in your refrigerator. Any tableware or cutlery that has touched raw food should be thoroughly washed using hot water and soap (and washed twice, if possible). If you’ve been exposed to or ingested salmonella and/or E. Coli, you’re likely to have symptoms that include diarrhea and dehydration. Hospitalization may be necessary, so if you recognize symptoms call your primary care provider or go to a hospital. Safe, not sorry, should be the catchphrase when working with and eating raw food.
Dust – No easy fixes here. Dust is part of life, and the best you can do is decrease your risk of experiencing asthma-like symptoms (or full-blown asthma if you’re prone to it). What to do? Clean. Often. Vacuum. Probably more often. Breathing problems already? Consider getting protective bedding that seal in cushions in pillows and prevent dust from accumulating.
Cleaning agents – While it’s important to keep an eye on this in any home, a house with children is especially a danger zone. Exposure to cleaning agents and household chemicals is often a surefire way of seeing the inside of an ambulance and/or hospital room. Stay healthy by keeping these types of chemicals on high shelves, out of the reach of curious kiddos.
Carbon monoxide – Odorless, invisible and toxic, this gas is emitted from fuel-burning appliances (e.g., furnaces, stoves, fireplaces, dryers, space heaters and water heaters) and may be in your home without you knowing it.
Before you experience a host of symptoms (e.g., dizzy spells, nausea, fatigue, headaches, confusion, vomiting and impaired vision) buy and install a carbon monoxide detector (don’t forget to test it regularly) and make sure fuel-burning appliances are correctly installed.
Termites – They may be there, slowly eating you out of house and home, so get an inspection, especially if you see signs of termites including swelling or rotting wood. If termites are discovered, take the recommended steps to kill off the house-harming insects.
Lead paint – Homes built before 1980 may have had lead paint used on walls and in other spots. Most harmful for children, lead can hurt anyone. You’re probably thinking, “My kid doesn’t chew on the walls!” but you don’t have to eat the paint for it to harm your health. Just breathing in the lead paint as it flakes off your walls can do permanent damage. If an inspection reveals lead paint, you’ll need to have it removed as soon as you can.
Maybe your home isn’t going to creep into your bedroom late at night when you’re sleeping and suffocate you, but it may be exposing you to unnecessary health risks. Stake out these hidden home dangers and breathe a bit easier. Maybe you’ll literally breathe better.