8 Health Risks In Your Own Backyard
You have a fence around your pool, you’re not a lighter fluid fiend, and you generally steer clear of planting anything known to be poisonous. So you have nothing to worry about, right? Actually, there are a few outdoor dangers you may not be aware of. Here are eight of the most common—and all are easily remedied:
1. Dangerous Grill Placement
Is your grill right next to the edge of your deck? You may want to move it. A charcoal grill next to combustibles (say, a wooden deck rail or low-hanging tree branches) is a leading cause of BBQ fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
Easy Fix: Always make sure to leave a 10-foot clearing between your grill and deck rails, the side of the house, and overhanging plants.
2. Toxic Plants
More than 68,000 people a year are poisoned by plants, reports the American Association of Poison Control Centers. Most end up with nothing worse than an upset stomach or an itchy skin rash. However, some plants can be fatal, especially to pets and small children.
Easy Fix: Do your homework before choosing backyard vegetation. A few common plants require caution: Oleander, datura (also called jimson weed), and castor bean are all dangerous if swallowed.
3. Tiny Pools of Water
Even the smallest amount of standing water can give mosquitoes a hospitable place to multiply. This raises your risk of annoying bites—and even infections such as West Nile virus.
Easy Fix: Do a weekly check of buckets and plastic covers and dump any water to keep pests away. Also change the water in birdbaths and fountains.
4. Not-Quite-Extinguished Charcoal
Tossing still-warm coals can spark a fire. Charcoal may feel cool to the touch, but if you throw away coals while the insides are hot, you risk starting a fire.
Easy Fix: When you’ve finished grilling dinner, soak coals with cold water and then place them in a noncombustible metal can for safe disposal. Keep the can on a nonflammable surface, such as the driveway or a cement patio.
5. Unfenced Pool
According to the Home Safety Council, nearly a quarter of all drownings in the United States happen near home. Even if your kids are older, consider this: Easy access to your pool may lure neighborhood children or pets into the water when you’re not around.
Easy Fix: Whether your pool is built in or above ground, install a four-sided fence that is at least 5 feet high, with a self-latching gate. Don’t use the house as one side of the fence, because an open door provides an easy entry, and never place patio furniture close enough to the fence that it could be used to scale the barrier.
6. Pesticide Residue
Misusing these bug-killing chemicals may make you sick. Homeowners often use too many pesticides—conventional or natural—or apply them incorrectly. This not only wastes money but, in extreme cases, allows chemical levels to get high enough to cause flu-like symptoms, she adds.
Easy Fix: Cut down on pests naturally by attracting birds and insects that eat the bugs that are attacking your prized roses. Install a birdhouse designed for bluebirds, which feed on insects. Or grow plants—such as those in the parsley and sunflower families—that attract predatory insects such as assassin bugs and parasitic wasps. Despite their ominous-sounding names, these critters do your garden good; predatory insects don’t hurt plants or people but destroy the bugs that do. Growing plants native to your region, which are less susceptible to infestation, can help, too.
7. Weather-Worn Deck
When was the last time you water-proofed your deck?
If you don’t do this every 2 to 3 years, moisture can seep in and warp the wood, upping your risk of falls.
Easy Fix: Inspect your deck every spring, paying extra attention to the ledger board, the place where the deck attaches to the house—it’s the most vulnerable to water damage. Keep your eyes peeled for splits and cracks—signs that moisture has gotten in. If you can easily penetrate 1/4 to 1/2 inch of the wood with a screwdriver or ice pick, the wood should be replaced.
8. Too-Short Ladder
This tempts you to overreach—and increases your risk of falling.
Use a ladder that lets you work while standing four steps from the top. Your max reach should be no more than 4 feet above the ladder
Easy Fix: If you’re going up 8 feet, choose a ladder that’s at least 4 feet high. Always follow the 4-to-1 rule: For every 4 feet the ladder extends up the house, bring the base out by a foot.