Saturday, March 26, 2011

5 Hidden Dangers in Your Home

Sometimes, the most dangerous things around us are the ones we can’t see. Here are five potentially harmful problems that threaten a healthy home and tips on how to protect against them.

1. Salmonella and E. coli
These two forms of bacterial diseases can affect the intestinal tract in people (and animals), causing symptoms ranging from diarrhea to life-threatening dehydration. Humans are most often infected with salmonella after eating or handling raw foods — such as beef, poultry, eggs, fruits, and vegetables — that have been contaminated by feces. Salmonella contamination can occur during the butchering or harvesting process or if those preparing the food don’t wash their hands thoroughly after using the bathroom or changing a diaper. For E. coli, infection may occur when you accidentally eat contaminated foods that were not cooked or cleaned properly.

Solution:  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.

2. Carbon Monoxide (CO)
This flavorless, odorless gas gives no warning before it can make you very sick (think flu-like symptoms) or even kill you. Approximately 500 people die each year of this "silent" killer. Contamination usually occurs when an organic fuel is burned without proper ventilation. Common sources include:

kerosene and gas space heaters
gas water heaters
wood stoves
gas stoves
generators and other gasoline powered equipment
automobile exhaust from attached garages
tobacco smoke
Solution:  Have a qualified technician service your heating system, water heater, and other coal, oil, or gas appliances every year. Install a 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. To learn which houseplants remove carbon monoxide and other harmful toxins from the air,

3. Lead
Exposure to this highly toxic metal has been associated with serious health problems in children including measurable changes in mental development and behavior. In adults, chronic exposure can lead to nerve disorders and other ailments. Although federal and state regulatory standards have minimized or eliminated lead in consumer products since 1978, it still remains in homes and other places where it was once used. 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:  Test your home and water for lead, especially if the structure was built before 1978. There are three ways you can test for lead:

purchase a lead home test kit (sold at most hardware stores)
consult an environmental lab or organization
hire a licensed risk assessor
If you find lead in your wall paint, have a certified lead paint removal company eliminate it. If your home has lead pipes, reduce the amount of the metal in your water by never using 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.

4. Mold
These microscopic living organisms grow where moisture, oxygen, and organic material are present. It’s easy to spot mold (unless it is under carpets or in walls), but what you can’t see are the tiny spores that are released into the air when it is disturbed. Exposure to spores can cause health-related problems such as nasal and sinus congestion, chronic cough, and eye irritation. It may also trigger asthma attacks and lung infections for individuals with chronic respiratory disease. Mold can be found in your bathroom, basement, crawl spaces, attic, or practically anywhere in your home that is damp with poor ventilation.

Solution:  Use a non-ammonia cleaner or dishwashing soap and water to remove mold. Wear gloves, long sleeves, pants, eye protectors, and a respirator because spores will be released as you clean. After cleaning the mold, use a HEPA (high efficiency particulate absorbing) vacuum or air cleaner to eliminate any mold spores in the air. For large areas, hire a professional to get rid of it. Discard carpet, drywall, insulation, and other items if they have been wet for more than two days.

5. Pesticides
Insect repellant, weed killers, flea and tick shampoo, roach sprays and baits. These are just a few of the pesticides that could be 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. Household pesticides are one of the leading causes of childhood poisonings.

Solution:  Only use pesticides according to the instructions on the label. Keep all household pesticides in a locked cabinet and out of reach of children. Protect yourself from direct exposure while using pesticides, and never eat or drink around them. Wash your hands thoroughly after working with a pesticide.

To learn which houseplants remove harmful toxins from the air,


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