5 Hazardous Items Hiding in Your Garage, According to Experts
Are they putting you in harm's way?
It should come as little surprise that your home garage is a potential safety hazard—after all, that's where many Americans store their tools, vehicles, and heavy duty home maintenance equipment. But experts say that some of the biggest threats to your safety aren't always obvious: While you may take care to store your saws, drills, and other sharp tools away from children or pets, many of the dangers lurking in your garage are likely flying under your radar.
We asked experts to shed some light on the common hazards that could be hiding in this corner of your home. Read on to learn five dangerous items they say could do you harm, and how to avoid a serious accident in your garage.
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Car maintenance supplies
Auto supplies are a common hazard that could be putting you at risk of poisoning, and it's especially important to take extra precautions with these products if you have children or pets in the household.
"Antifreeze, windshield washer fluid, carburetor cleaner, fuel additives, and similar products for cars have a wide range of formulations," says the Missouri Poison Center. "Some ingredients, such as ethylene glycol or methanol, can be toxic even if only a mouthful is swallowed," their experts warn.
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Lawn care products
Lawn care products can pose a similar threat, experts warn. "Lawn care products such as insecticides, herbicides, and fertilizers can be dangerous if not stored correctly or used improperly," says Phi Dang, director of Sidepost, a home services company in Australia. "Always read the instructions on the labels before using any product and make sure that it is stored away from children or pets when not in use," he adds.
Lawn care products can be dangerous not only if ingested, but also if they come into contact with your skin. If you come into contact with lawn care products and experience any numbness, tingling, or pain, you should wash the area immediately and apply vitamin E, the Missouri Poison Center suggests. If you develop more severe symptoms, such as "drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, sweating, difficulty breathing, and muscle weakness," call a poison control center or go to an emergency room.
Paint, paint thinner, and varnish
Paint, paint thinner, and varnish pose a triple threat in your garage: they can produce dangerous fumes, irritate the skin, and run the risk of being a fire hazard. According to Dang, that's why "it is important to store these in airtight containers and away from heat sources to prevent any accidents."
"Always store paint in a cool, dry location away from sunlight and where the temperature stays above freezing," hardware store True Value writes in a blog post. They also recommend wiping away any excess paint from the outside of the can, covering the top with plastic wrap before replacing the lid, and firmly sealing it with taps from a rubber mallet.
"If you have young children, it's a good idea to purchase a lockable storage cabinet for all paints, chemicals and solvents," their experts add.
Carbon monoxide is another silent killer that could be lurking in your garage, according to experts from Iowa State University's Department of Agriculture and Biosystems Engineering. They say that running an engine in a closed or poorly ventilated garage can cause a build up of the odorless, colorless gas. That's why they say this should "never be done, even for a short time."
Symptoms of CO poisoning include headaches, dizziness, weakness, vomiting, upset stomach, chest pain, and new confusion. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that breathing in carbon monoxide can quickly prove lethal, and that "people who are sleeping or drunk can die from CO poisoning before they have symptoms."
According to a report from the CDC, pool chemical injuries led to an estimated 13,508 emergency department visits in the U.S. between 2015 and 2017. "Most injuries occurred at a residence, and two thirds occurred during the summer swimming season," the report states.
The Missouri Poison Center explains that these accidents can occur "even when used as directed, and sometimes just by opening the container." However, one common mistake is mixing pool chemicals. "Add the muriatic acid to the pool at the wrong time, and you may release a gas that can reach the eyes and lungs in seconds. Mix a little bit of water and incompatible pool chemicals together, such as a dry bleach and trichlor, and you could cause a small explosion plus a gas release. These are dangerous chemicals, need to be handled only by the adults in the house, and kept far away from everyone else," their experts write.