5 Home Hazards You May Not Know About

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(BlackDoctor.org) — Home is where the heart is, but it’s also where tons of health hazards dwell. From mold, mothballs, dust mites, carpet chemicals and more, what you breathe and touch at home could actually be making you sick.

1. Mold

Does your bathroom, closet or basement have an old musty odor? Blame mold spores. They make themselves at home in damp spots.

“Mold can grow within 24-48 hours where there’s moisture and what they consider a food source,” says Jeff May, co-author of My House is Killing Me! and The Mold Survival Guide (both from The Johns Hopkins University Press).

It doesn’t take much to make mold happy and multiply: It loves dust, wood, paint, paper, cotton or oil, among other things. It’s also attracted to modern building materials like drywall. Complex heating and cooling systems can make mold matters worse, especially if you suffer from allergies or asthma.

Mold spores can trigger asthma symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath, the Mayo Clinic reports. Allergic reactions include: sneezing; runny or stuffy nose; itchy, watery eyes; and inflamed sinuses.

Common spots to find the fuzzy stuff – it often grows in a circular pattern and can be black, brown, white, yellow, pink or greenish-blue – are basement walls and carpets, closets and on wooden backs and bottoms of furniture stored in damp spaces.

Protect your family: Use a dehumidifier to keep the humidity in mold-prone rooms below 50%. Also, try using an oscillating fan in the bathroom after showering and fix leaks as soon as possible. Lastly, remember to keep all rooms well ventilated. If you suspect mold, check the area with a flashlight (some of the fungi can only be seen with a bright light). If you can’t find the mold, or it’s cause, contact a professional as soon as you can.

“An American Society of Home Inspector (ASHI) member can be very useful in determining moisture sources,” May says.

2. Medications

To tweens, toddlers and preschoolers, prescription and over-the-counter medications may look as tempting as candy, thanks to their interesting shapes and colors.

Protect your family: Store drugs where kids can’t find them and use a safety lock on that cupboard or cabinet. Never leave meds within easy reach, such as your purse, night-table or countertop. Make sure all bottles have child-resistant caps. Be sure to never call any drugs “candy” – no matter how desperate you are to get them to take it when they’re sick – or they may be tempted to dip into that “candy” on their own.

Most important: Put the number of your local Poison Control Center where you can easily find it in an emergency. Need the number? Visit the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) at www.aapcc.org.

3. Cleaning products

More than one million children under 5 years old are exposed each year to potential poisons such as medicines and household chemicals, the AAPCC reports.

And like medications, the bright colors and sweet scents of cleaning products make them look appealing to little ones.

But there’s nothing pretty about health problems they can cause. The most common products ingested by children are drain, oven and toilet bowl cleaners, bleach, detergents, furniture polish and rust remover.

Protect your family: Under the kitchen and bathroom sinks are common places to store cleaning products, but it’s better to keep them on high shelves, completely out of reach of curious little hands. If you must store cleaners in low cabinets, use baby-proof locks and make sure all tops are properly closed. When you take products out to clean, make sure they’re way out of your child’s reach and securely closed. You can also try putting a danger mark on all hazardous products (draw your own or use a sticker) and teach kids to steer clear when they see it.

4. Carbon Monoxide

This odorless, colorless gas is toxic and may even kill you. And you may not even realize it’s in your home!

Typically, the danger comes from fuel-burning appliances: furnaces, stoves, fireplaces, clothes dryers, water heaters and space heaters, as well as automobile exhaust from attached garages.

Low levels of this toxic gas may cause headaches, dizziness, disorientation, nausea and fatigue, according to the EPA.

Higher levels can lead to impaired vision and coordination, headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, confusion, unconsciousness and, at very high concentrations, death.

Protect your family: Buy a carbon monoxide detector, something the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends for all homes. Make sure it’s installed properly and test it regularly. Make sure fuel-burning appliances are installed correctly. To stay safe, have a pro inspect all your fuel-burning appliances annually. With gas stoves, use an exhaust fan vented to the outside. Make sure the flue is open when using your fireplace and that your space heater is vented. Lastly, never let your car idle in the garage.

5. Dust Mites

These microscopic critters with the naked eye, but they can still hurt your health. They may be one of the most common causes of allergies and asthma and can trigger the same miserable symptoms. Why? Because dust mites need moisture and feed off the dead skin cells our bodies shed.

Their favorite hiding place? Beds, pillows, mattresses and sheets.

Protect your family: Unfortunately, dust mites are a part of your life, and about the best thing you can do is create as much space between you and them as possible by covering all of your bedding with allergy covers. Also, wash bedding and area rugs in hot water at least once a week. Another trick is to put items that aren’ts machine washable, such as stuffed animals, in the freezer for a couple of hours – this kills the dust mites. In addition, don’t go to bed with wet hair, since the extra moisture attracts mites, and regularly vacuum all floors, particularly carpets.