November 11, 2020
When most of us hear the word “home,” we think of certain words: comfort, peace, food, shelter, safety, family — or maybe favorite meals and activities that take place at home.
We don’t usually consider the negatives of home, but the home has a number of not-so-pleasant words associated with it, too: injury, accident, emergency, broken — words that describe the hazards and obstacles present in everyday life.
While we don’t intend to alarm you and have you walking on eggshells, it’s important to be aware of all the variables that present themselves in a home and can cause dangerous situations. These variables are especially worthy of consideration if you have young children.
Remember: Preparation first, peace of mind second. Here’s the crash course of all the dangers in a home:
Good question. There are a number of places in the home that are important to make extra safe. It might be the garage, stairs, bedrooms, and the kitchen that present a challenge. Trouble spots may vary depending on size of the home, number of children or pets, and other variables. Don’t worry, though, we’ll cover it all.
But where is the main culprit? Where is the most dangerous place in the home? In the United States, injury is the leading cause of death for children and young adults, and almost half of those incidents occur in the home. Of all places in the home, the majority of these injuries occur in bathrooms.
The bathroom is where the majority of injuries occur. This includes falls, deadly hazards, and accidents for older adults.
What are some common bathroom issues
Slips and falls on wet surfaces, in showers, and bathtubs
Scalding water causing severe burns and injuries
Electrocution from appliances that are improperly placed and get wet
Bathtub drowning, most notably with toddlers
Accidental chemical poisoning, most common with toddlers
How do you make the bathroom safer?
Have products that reduce slips, like grab bars, non-slip stickers or mats, tub rails, and similar devices. Consider installing walk-in tubs or showers, which are the safest solutions.
Always keep an eye on kids. Never leave a child in a bathroom unattended, especially in a shower or bathtub. Remember that bath seats for children can tip over, no matter how sturdy they appear.
Turn hot water on, and wait for a shower or bath to cool down before getting in. Set your water heater no higher than 120°F (49°C).
Check tubs frequently for malfunctions. Place a soft, insulated cover over bathtub faucets to safeguard against accidental bumps or burns.
Never leave electrical appliances close to water or a water source. Always make sure appliances are far enough away from a bathtub so cords can’t fall in water.
Place all bath necessities within reach before you start a shower or bath so they are readily available once you get in.
Keep all medicines and cleaning products out of the reach of children. This is true for any part of home, whether it’s the bedroom, laundry room, or kitchen.
The most common place for a fire in the home is the kitchen. Outside of cooking hazards, the kitchen stores sharp objects and knives, cooking devices, cleaning chemicals, and a number of other items that pose threats.
Keep these kitchen tips in mind:
Never allow children to play in the kitchen unsupervised.
Always keep kids away from stoves and ovens.
Never leave open flames or cooking unattended.
Always turn pan handles away from the front of the stove so a child can’t grab the pan or knock it over..
How to handle a grease fire
Grease fires are common in the kitchen, but many people aren’t familiar with how to actually put out a grease fire. If you have a fire extinguisher, don’t use it on a grease fire. Using a fire extinguisher or water on a grease fire in a pan can only spread the fire instead of putting it out. The best approach is to use a lid or a cooking sheet to put out the flames, but only after you’ve turned off the burners. Never lift or carry a burning pan because you may send the fire onto other surfaces.
What to know about bacteria
Salmonella and E. coli are forms of bacteria that affect the intestinal tract, and they’re the most likely found in your kitchen. These two bacterias cause symptoms ranging from life-threatening dehydration to diarrhea. Salmonella results from handling, eating, or contaminating food with other raw food. This can happen while preparing or consuming a meal. An E. coli infection usually occurs from consuming foods that aren’t properly cooked or cleaned.
How to avoid these dangers:
Always wash hands thoroughly.
Use a different cutting board for fruits and veggies than the one used for raw meat.
Make sure to separate raw meat, seafood, and poultry from one another in the fridge.
Clean all kitchen tools with hot, soapy water before using again — especially tools used for raw meats and veggies.
Cook fish, poultry, pork, and other meats at proper and safe temperatures according to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service.
The kitchen may be the most common place for a fire to occur, but one of the most common appliances to cause a fire is a clothes dryer. Dryer fires happen when unkempt machines accumulate lint in the lint trap, which may ignite.
Clean lint traps in machines before every load. This improves performance and keeps machines from overheating.
Frequently check on the dryer's ductwork. If clothes are taking a long time, there may be lint blockage that can cause ductwork to overheat.
Make sure there is enough space between the dryer unit and the wall so the vent is not restricted in any way.
Only run the dryer whenever you are home and awake.
The last risk that a dryer or washing machine poses is the threat of trapping a kid. Curious and adventurous kids might think it’s a good idea to explore inside these appliances. Remind them that household items and appliances aren’t meant to be toys.
Stairs pose the risk of falling down, tripping up, or falling off — but wooden stairs are especially dangerous due to the ability to slip and fall from slippery socks or a wet surface. If you have wooden stairs, add treads or a well-anchored runner.
Equip all stairs with sturdy handrails, and use them when going up and down stairs.
Never let children play on stairs or run up and down them.
Don’t allow toys or other devices to accumulate on stairs.
Children ages 1 to 4 have the highest drowning rates, and most often, these are avoidable situations. The Centers for Disease Control reports that from 2005 to 2014, there were 10 unintentional drowning deaths per day.
Never leave children unattended. Many drownings occur while parents, babysitters, or other caregivers are present. They simply lose sight of their children, and a devastating accident occurs.
Never allow children to swim alone without supervision. Use security fences around pools that prohibit access from the area. Consider installing pool gates that self-close and self-latch. You can even attach home security sensors to these gates or doors to receive alerts when they open. All doors leading outside of a home should have motion sensors, as well. The standard height of a pool fence is around 4 feet.
When the pool is not in use, all toys, floats, and other products from the pool and surrounding decks should be removed to reduce any temptation for children.
Pro tip: Small kiddie pools also present danger. Young children can drown in as little as an inch of water. Empty your kiddie pools after every use..
Cooking, candles, heaters, and any other open flame in the home can be a fire safety hazard. Never leave candles or cooking unattended, and only smoke cigarettes outside.
When grilling outdoors, do so away from guests, children, and the home. Also keep grills a safe distance from trees, buildings, and any flammable material.
If your grill doesn’t start or the flame goes out for any reason, wait at least 15 minutes for propane to dissipate. Propane is heavier than air, and lighting the grill may light everything in proximity.
If using a charcoal grill, don’t squirt lighter fluid on burning coals. Always properly dispose of burning coals after cooking.
Space heaters and electric heaters are common alternatives for heating a home, but they also cause their fair share of fires. Any space heaters you purchase should be UL certified and safety tested. Make sure heaters have emergency tip-over shut off features and heating element guards. Never allow children to play around these devices.
Extension cords aren’t commonly thought of as fire hazards, but they pose a risk, especially when tacked or nailed to walls and door frames which causes a fire or shock hazard. Fires are also possible when cords are under rugs due to the wear and tear from people constantly walking over them. This can cause a heat buildup, and worse-case scenario, the carpet degrades until it catches on fire. Make sure outlets are in convenient places so that you aren’t running extension cords everywhere.
Don’t allow children or animals to play near or with electrical sockets. Cover these with guards.
Seal off doors that lead to terraces and balconies so children can’t wander to these locations.
If a child’s room is upstairs, install a guard door so they can’t wander downstairs and fall.
Be aware of small and hazardous items in the home that can cause choking
Don’t let children play near plants that have thorns, like roses.
Keep random objects out of reach. To a young child, everything looks like food. This includes decorative flowers, medicine, and household cleaners..
Don’t leave behind jewelry, scarves, belts, or other items of clothing in the home that can choke a child.
Remove plastic bags, large shower curtains, or similar items.
Properly store any pesticides, and keep locked away from children. Always wash hands after use, and follow instructions while handling.
Keep humidifiers clean, and only fill with distilled water. Water that sits at the bottom of a humidifier for a long period of time can harbor mold spores, fungus, and bacteria. That means the humidifier may send dirty germs back into the air you’re breathing.
Home material No. 1: lead
It wasn’t until 1978 that regulatory standards from the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) minimized or eliminated lead from consumer products, but not all homes are updated.
Many older homes, in fact, still have lead-based paint, household dust, and even drinking water contaminated with lead that travels through lead pipes. Contaminated soil is another common area for lead exposure.
What can you do?
You can test your home for lead, especially if the structure was built before 1978. This can be done by buying a home test kit that is specifically for lead, consulting with an environmental lab or organization, or hiring a professionally licensed risk assessor. It’s possible to remove lead paint via a professional.
Pro tip: If your pipes are lead, never drink hot water from the tap or use it to make baby formula. Hot water causes even more lead to seep from pipes. If you have give your children tap water and suspect you have lead pipes, have your children tested for lead exposure.
Home material No. 2: pressed wood
Pressed wood is a dangerous material in the home because it often has formaldehyde, a substance known to cause watery eyes and a burning sensation in the eyes and throat. It also may trigger asthma attacks for those with the condition. Evidence shows that the substance causes cancer in animals, so it’s also possible to cause cancer in humans if they are faced with prolonged exposure.
Pressed wood is most often present in hardwood, plywood, wall paneling, particleboards, fiberboards, and furniture.
If your home has pressed wood and you are experiencing any of these symptoms, speak with a doctor or medical professional. The best solution is to avoid pressed wood altogether.
Home material No. 3: carpet
As common as carpet is in the home, it’s also the likeliest place you’ll find VOC (volatile organic compounds) that accumulate from glues and dyes in the carpet, and pollutants like dust mites, pet dander, mold, dirt, and others that get trapped in the carpet. These substances all interfere with respiratory health.
To combat some of the issues with carpet, you should open windows and keep them open for a few days after new carpet is installed so that chemicals can escape, and vacuum floors regularly to get rid of the fibers of potential pollutants. You can also avoid these issues entirely by simply not purchasing carpet.
Home issue No. 1: mold
Mold will grow anywhere there’s moisture, oxygen, and organic materials. It can be found in just about any damp area in the house that has poor ventilation. Exposure to mold spores can cause nasal and sinus congestion, chronic cough, and eye irritation. Mold will also trigger asthma attacks and lung infections in people with chronic respiratory diseases.
The best solution to remove mold is using non-ammonia cleaners, dishwashing soaps, and water. If you’re cleaning mold, wear gloves, long sleeves, pants, eye protectors, and a respirator to protect yourself from spores.
After cleaning, use a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate-absorbing) vacuum or air cleaner to eliminate mold spores from the air. If the area is very large, hire a professional cleaner. Always discard carpet, drywall, insulation, and any item that has been wet for more than two days.
Home issue No. 2: mothballs
Mothballs are tiny orbs of pesticides used when storing clothing or other items susceptible to damage from moths or mold. They aren’t as common as they once were, but if you have them in your home, they pose some threats.
Naphthalene is the main substance in a mothball. This chemical causes a breakdown of red blood cells in children with a genetic condition called G6PD deficiency. The other common substance in a mothball is paradichlorobenzene. Exposure to this chemical causes nausea, vomiting, dizziness, fatigue, headaches, eye and nasal irritations in humans, and kidney and liver damage in pets.
If moths are a problem, washing and drying clothing followed by shaking them before putting them away is the best solution. Always vacuum drawers and closets to clean areas of potential larvae.
At Brinks Home™, we know how important it is to maintain home as a safe place. Call us today so we can work with you to build your perfect home security system.
Jason Stevens is a senior writer for Brinks Home. He is a "tech guy" who enjoys sharing home security and automation tips with others.
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