You saved for years to afford your dream home. It has the kitchen you've always longed for, the perfect number of bedrooms, and a backyard that would make any space-loving squirrel jealous. However, lurking inside your home are dangers, hidden like villains ready to strike. Check out these ways your house might actually be trying to kill you and get some ideas for stopping it in its tracks.
1. Beware of Your Window Treatment Cords
The convenience of on-demand, natural light is something many of us never give a second thought. You pull the cord to open the blinds in the morning and go about your day. But one of the most dangerous places in your home is hiding in plain sight. Each month, a child dies due to strangulation from window cords, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
"We've known about this problem since the 1940s, yet we continue to see these deaths. This is simply unacceptable because we know how to prevent them," said Dr. Gary Smith, director of the Center For Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital.
If possible, houses should transition to cordless blinds and window treatments. If switching to a cordless option isn't in your budget, make sure cords are tethered and kept out of reach of children. Install a simple bracket to tie off window treatment cords; make it a habit to keep the ends wrapped up.
2. A Dangerous Oasis in the Desert — Humidifiers
For those living in particularly dry climates, humidifiers area a lifesaver and in a lot of ways can be good for your health. They add much-needed moisture to the air inside your home and help soothe dry, irritated sinuses. What's not to love?
However, without proper use and maintenance, your beloved humidifier can turn your home into a breeding ground for toxic mold. If you run your humidifier continuously, the additional moisture can build up on surfaces — leading to accelerated mold growth. Try to limit the use of your humidifier to a few hours each day and take care to clean surfaces with mold-killing cleaners. The Consumer Product Safety Commission also recommends changing the water in your humidifier daily to prevent the growth of bacteria and mold. There are also germ-killing humidifiers that use UV light to zap the mold spores and stop them in their tracks.
3. Poor-Quality Work and Lack of Permits
Beware of home improvement quotes that sound too be good to be true. When gathering bids for home repairs, it can be tempting to go with the lowest quote. After all, you think, it's just a simple addition to my garage — why would I need to pull a permit?
"The risk with unpermitted work is that if there is an issue down the road, even years later, and the homeowner files a claim, an insurance company will investigate," says Association of Construction Inspectors Welmoed Sisson. "If they discover that the problem originated in unpermitted work, they will most likely deny the claim, leaving the homeowner on the hook for all the damages."
In addition to racking up a serious bill for you, unpermitted work can also pose serious safety hazards. According to the Center For Disease Control, falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries. Sisson recommends any flight of stairs with more than three steps should have a solid, graspable handrail installed at the correct height. It should be firmly anchored so it can take the weight of a person trying to protect themselves from a fall.
4. The Aftermath of Leaking Pipes
"One of the biggest dangers that homeowners often forget about is behind the walls. Those pipes that send water throughout the home are susceptible to freezing or bursting," according to Mitchell Klein, Z-Wave Alliance executive director.
And due to their hidden nature, you may not realize you have a problem with a burst or leaking pipe until a decent amount of water accumulates. In addition to the thousands of dollars of damage and loss of valuables, leaking pipes also pose a longer lasting hazard: mold.
Mold can form in a home in as little as 24 to 48 hours after water contact. Exposure to mold can cause skin irritation, coughing, and respiratory infections in individuals with compromised immune systems. Thankfully, there are steps you can take to minimize the potential for damage. A water sensor, like the Z-Wave water and flood sensor, alerts you the second leaking water is detected — helping to mitigate, or even prevent, water damage and subsequent mold.
5. The Stuff in Your House
You love the layout and just-so accents of your living room. You painstakingly picked out the hand-woven wool rug that compliments the rugged armchair passed down from your grandparents. Everything has its place and looks amazing—— until you catch your foot on the edge of the rug and go flying head-first into your perfectly positioned coffee table. Every year, at least 800,000 people are hospitalized due to a fall in the home. Most falls are preventable with a few simple adjustments:
- Secure rugs and carpeting to the floor
- Remove clutter and unnecessary items
- Store shoes, bags, and coats in a closet
- Create proper spacing between furniture and decor
- Ensure adequate indoor lighting
6. The Everyday Scents You Love
Who doesn't enjoy the lemony-fresh scent of clean dishes? Or the crisp-linen smell that comes from spraying your favorite air freshener?
However, you need to consider what creates those lovely scents: volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs are present in nearly every fragranced home product (cleaners, detergents, and air fresheners). High levels of VOC exposure can cause nose, throat, and eye irritation. Additionally, they have been known to cause cancer in humans and animals.
"Most people don't realize that when something containing VOCs goes into a dishwasher that it can be a disaster," says Dr. Elizabeth Trattner, acupuncture physician. "As much as you want sparkling glasses, that awesome dishwasher liquid is toxic when heated. The more concentrated and scented the product, the bigger problems you're going to have. The water transforms those chemicals into gas in your nice, airtight home."
What can you do? Switch to natural cleaners, like borax, baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, rubbing alcohol, lemons, vinegar, and hot water. And explore the use of natural scents like eucalyptus, rosemary, tea tree oils, and cinnamon to achieve the aromas you desire.
With a great home comes great responsibility (I believe Voltaire said something like that). There are potential harms and risk around nearly every corner, but you don't need to be afraid. Armed with knowledge, you can karate-chop these dangers and keep your home the safe haven it should be for you and your entire family!