Most people view their homes as a relaxing place where they can feel secure and safe. However, many homes contain hidden dangers that might need to be addressed. To ensure that your home is the safe sanctuary you desire, you should carefully inspect its interior and exterior to identify any potential risks your home might contain. Knowing the potential dangers in your home and how to address them can help you to protect your health and the safety of your family and friends. Here are some potential dangers that might exist inside of your home and what to do about each of them.
Stairs and Flooring
The stairs and flooring in your home could present dangers to people. Those who are especially at risk include young children and older adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an average of 2.8 million children are injured in a slip and fall each year, which equals approximately 8,000 children injured each day. Older adults are also particularly vulnerable to serious injuries or deaths in falls. The CDC reports that an estimated 36 million elderly adults fall each year, and one out of five falls result in an injury. An average of 32,000 older adults dies in falls every year.
Flooring with slick surfaces and wooden stairs can be especially problematic for people in your home. As you take stock of your floors and stairs, there are a few things that you can do to make them safer for your family and guests.
What To Do
For your stairs, you should make sure that every staircase has a sturdy handrail on each side. To make the risers more visible, consider using reflective tape so that they can be more easily seen. The lighting in your stairwells should be bright so that people can clearly see where they are stepping. If you have young children in your home, install gates at the tops and bottoms of the staircase to prevent them from falling. If you have wooden stairs, consider adding a short-nap carpet runner that is secured to the stairs to prevent slips and falls.
If your flooring has a slippery surface, you can do the following things to increase its resistance and help to prevent falls:
- Make sure your floors are dry at all times.
- Promptly clean up spills.
- Use degreasing agents to keep your kitchen tiles free of grease.
- Avoid using cleaners that can build up on the floor’s surface.
- Use entrance maps at each exterior door.
- Use a dry mop after you finish cleaning hard floors.
- Consider installing short-nap carpeting if older adults live in your home.
Carbon monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas that can quickly kill unsuspecting people. This gas can be generated by gas appliances, stoves, vehicles, and wood-burning fireplaces. When carbon monoxide builds up in enclosed areas, people and pets can be poisoned and potentially die. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports an average of 430 people in the U.S. die from carbon monoxide poisoning each year, and 50,000 suffer injuries that require them to visit emergency departments after accidental poisonings from this potentially deadly gas. If you have gas heat, gas appliances, or a wood-burning fireplace, you should take several steps to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
What To Do
The first thing you should do is to install carbon monoxide detectors in your home near gas appliances, fireplaces, and gas heat sources. The National Safety Council recommends placing your detectors on the ceiling or at least five feet off of the ground on the walls. Make sure to test the batteries every six months to ensure that they are still working and replace them as needed. If the alarm sounds on your carbon monoxide detector, get everyone outside and call 911. If you have symptoms of poisoning, seek medical attention.
Make sure to have any appliances that you use that burn fuel serviced each year. Do not use generators or grills inside of your garage or home or close to a window or door. Do not use your stove as a heat source, and avoid burning anything in an unvented fireplace. Finally, avoid running your car’s engine in your garage. This can quickly cause carbon monoxide levels to build up to dangerous levels.
Being the victim of a home invasion is a nightmare for many people. Making sure that your home is secure is very important. Burglaries are very common. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, approximately 1,117,696 burglaries happened in the U.S. in 2019 alone, and 62.8% of those occur in private homes. Making sure that your home is secure is the best way to reduce the likelihood that you will become a victim of a home invasion burglary.
What To Do
There are several things that you should do to make your home more secure. Whenever you leave, make sure that all of your windows and doors are locked. This includes even when you plan to run a short errand and return soon. It only takes a few minutes for a burglar to break into your home.
Make sure that your locks are sturdy. Your exterior doors should be made out of solid-core metal to make them harder for burglars to force their way into your home. Install a peephole with a 360-degree view or consider a door camera. Investing in a security system can do a lot to help to reduce your risk of a home-invasion burglary. Homes that do not have security systems installed are 300 times more likely to be targeted for burglaries. Using a security system that automatically notifies a call center that will alert the police can help to protect your home while you are there or elsewhere.
Asbestos is a mineral that occurs naturally. It is fibrous and is resistant to heat and fire. Because of its properties, it was widely used in construction materials, including insulation, flooring, and siding from the 1940s through the 1980s. Unfortunately, asbestos fibers are tiny and can easily float through the air and be inhaled. If you are exposed to disturbed asbestos, the fibers can lodge in your lungs and cause scarring, asbestosis, and mesothelioma.
What To Do
If your home contains asbestos, the Environmental Protection Agency reports it is not necessarily dangerous as long as it is not disturbed. However, if you plan any renovations, you will want to test for asbestos before you begin the work. If your home is older, you can hire a professional to take a sample of the suspect material and safely test it. If the material is asbestos and it is damaged or fraying, you will need to get professional help to have it removed. Do not attempt to remove it yourself. In some cases, you might also need legal assistance from an experienced asbestos attorney. If you are diagnosed with asbestosis or mesothelioma, getting help from a mesothelioma attorney might help you to recover compensation for your losses.
Trees and Landscaping
Trees and landscaping can add significant beauty to your home. However, they can also be dangerous to people who visit your home. Falling branches or trees can cause serious injuries or death, making it important for your to make sure that your trees are properly cared for. Similarly, your landscaping and trees can be a fire hazard that threatens your home. Trees and foliage can provide fuel for a wildfire that leads straight to your home, endangering it and your family.
What To Do
There are several things that you can do to make your trees and landscaping safer. Consider hiring an arborist to inspect your trees and treat them. This can help to reduce the risks involved with falling branches or trees. Trees that have damaged branches should be pruned, and the trees should receive routine maintenance and care. In some cases, diseased trees might need to be removed.
To help to make your lawn and landscaping fire-resistant, the University of California recommends that you do the following things:
- Maintain a defensible space with at least a 100-foot perimeter around your home.
- Have plenty of irrigation available.
- Make sure trees are spaced apart and properly pruned.
- Make sure plants have plenty of space between them.
- Choose fire-resistant species of plants.
- Clear brush, and keep your lawn and property maintained to limit fuel for fires.
Radon is a radioactive gas that forms when radioactive metals contained in rocks in the ground break down. This gas can escape and enter your home through cracks. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, exposure to radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer second only to smoking. An estimated 20,000 people in the U.S. die from radon-related lung cancer each year. Radon is dangerous when people are exposed over the long term. The risk of developing lung cancer is even higher if you also smoke cigarettes and are exposed to radon in your home.
What To Do
You can’t tell just by smelling or looking in your home that elevated radon levels might be present. However, you can ask a certified radon professional to measure the radon levels in your home. You can also purchase a device and use it yourself. Radon levels are tested by placing the device at the lowest area of your home that you routinely use. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends repairs if the radon levels test at 4 picocuries per liter or higher.
If your home has elevated radon levels, radon mitigation might be necessary. This is not a do-it-yourself job since it requires expertise and specialized tools. You can also ask a certified radon professional to install a system in your home to reduce the levels of radon.
Mold in your home is more than an unsightly nuisance. It can also be dangerous to your health. According to the EPA, the presence of mold in your home can cause allergic reactions, asthma attacks, and irritation to the lungs, eyes, throat, nose, and skin even in people who do not have allergies or asthma. If there are areas of moisture in your home, mold spores may attach and spread. Excess moisture and the presence of mold can also cause damage to your home.
What To Do
Most people can tell that they have mold growing even if it is not visible. Mold has a musty odor. You might also inspect your home near water sources to find mold growth. You can also hire a professional to test the surfaces and air in your home to detect mold. To prevent mold from growing in your home, you will need to reduce the interior moisture. You can use a dehumidifier to reduce the humidity levels and promptly fix leaks that you discover. Use fans or open windows to vent moisture in rooms such as your bathrooms or laundry room.
If mold has already taken hold in your home, mold remediation might be necessary. If it is in a small area, you can eliminate the source of the moisture and then use a detergent to clean away the mold. If the area is large or will require you to remove a wall or ceiling, you should contact a mold remediation professional to perform the job.
Many people consider pets to be important members of their families. Pets offer many benefits, including a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, lowered stress levels, and improvements in social skills for people with autism, according to Medical News Today. However, pets can also be dangerous to your health since they can carry multiple types of microorganisms that can easily spread to the humans who care for and play with them. Some of the types of illnesses that you might suffer because of your pets include the following:
- Toxoplasmosis from cats
- Diarrhea from campylobacter in the feces of dogs or cats
- Tapeworm from infected fleas
- Hookworm from contact with infected dog or cat feces
- Salmonella poisoning from reptiles
- Rabies from bites by infected dogs or cats
- Parrot fever from infected birds
- Cat-scratch disease from infected kittens
- Dog bites
What To Do
You do not have to give your pets away to prevent these potential health problems. Instead, taking simple steps can help you avoid them. Make sure to wash your hands after handling your pet, and promptly remove animal feces in areas where your children play. Make sure your pet’s vaccinations are kept up-to-date. Teach children not to play roughly with dogs or approach them while they are sleeping or eating. Train dogs not to bite. If a cat or dog scratches or bites you, wash the bite with soapy water. More serious injuries might require you to go to the doctor for additional treatment.
While having a clean and sanitary indoor environment is important, common household cleaners can be hazardous to your health and might be particularly dangerous to vulnerable people, including young children. According to the Cleveland Clinic, some of the following common cleaning supplies can be dangerous and toxic to humans:
- All-purpose cleaners containing ammonia
- Pet flea and tick treatments
- Laundry detergents
- Dishwashing detergents
- Oven cleaners
- Antibacterial sprays and cleaners
- Window cleaners
- Toilet bowl cleaners
- Drain cleaners
- Mildew and mold removers
- Carpet and upholstery cleaners
- Air fresheners
What To Do
It is important to keep all household cleaners safely locked away when they are not in use to prevent young children from getting into them. When you use cleaners, you should also make sure that the room has plenty of ventilation. Avoid mixing cleaners as doing so can lead to dangerous and volatile interactions.
You can also try using non-toxic cleaners like vinegar solutions. When you clean, always use protective rubber gloves. Leave your home for several hours after deploying a fogger or insecticide.
In some cases, cleaning products may contain defects. You should check for recalls on the website of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. If you or a family member has been injured by a defective cleaning product, you might need to contact an experienced product liability lawyer for help with securing legal remedies.
Many homes contain items that can increase the risk of fires. If your home catches on fire, it can quickly spread before it can be contained. Fires that break out at night when people are sleeping can be particularly hazardous as people might not wake up in time to safely exit their homes. Some of the major fire hazards contained in homes include the following, according to the American Red Cross:
- Space heaters
- Clogged dryers
- Multiple appliances plugged into a single outlet
- Clogged chimneys
- Flammable items too close to stoves
- Old wiring
- Clutter stored too closely to heat sources
- Grills placed too close to homes or under overhanging branches
What To Do
While it is not possible to prevent all fires, you can take steps to minimize your risks. Make sure to have smoke detectors installed throughout your home and test the batteries regularly to make sure they are still working. Avoid overloading electrical outlets, and unplug electronics when they are not in use. Clean the lint filter on your dryer after every load, and make sure to clean the dryer vent duct every few months. Remove curtains, towel rods, and other flammable materials from the area surrounding your stove. If you have clutter piled up near your heat sources, clean it up. Avoid using space heaters as a heating method in your home. If the wiring in your home needs updating, consider hiring an electrician to make the needed upgrades. Finally, make sure that your family has an evacuation plan in place in case a fire breaks out so that all of you can get to safety.
Understanding the hidden dangers that might be present in your home is important. When you know what to look for, you can make the needed repairs to create a safer environment for you, your family members, and your guests.