55 Lurking Home Hazards to Know for Better Health
Don't let these seemingly innocuous items put your life at risk.
Your home is a place of refuge, somewhere to relax and recharge after a long day at work. Unfortunately, though, it’s also full of potential hazards, many of which you likely aren’t even thinking about. Believe it or not, even things like your toothpaste and your bathtub pose potential risks to your health and well-being.
Of course, short of living in a bubble, you can’t avoid every danger. But knowing all of the potentially threatening things in your home can help keep you safer in the long run. So read on to learn about 55 hazards lurking in every home.
The pillow that you rest your head on every night is likely teeming with germs that could make you sick. In one 2005 study published in the European Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, researchers swabbed 10 pillows and found various species of bacteria, the most common being Aspergillus fumigatus, which causes fungal infections; Aureobasidium pullulans, a common allergen; and Rhodotorula mucilaginosa, which can infect everything from your skin to your lungs. To make sure you’re able to sleep peacefully and healthfully, be sure to wash your pillowcase at least once a week.
Though the functionality of your dryer is unlikely something you think of regularly, you might want to start considering it more often. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), there are 2,900 dryer fires each year that cause approximately five deaths and $35 million in property damage. To reduce your risk, make sure you clean the dryer’s lint trap and exhaust vent and get your machine serviced regularly.
Aspirin use can aggravate stomach conditions, cause bleeding in the digestive tract—and, for those with blood clotting conditions, this can cause serious blood-thinning issues. What’s more, it is possible to overdo it with aspirin: Researchers have documented several cases of dangerous and even fatal unintentional overdoses. Before you pop your next pill, make sure to consult with your doctor about the side effects and always, always keep bottles far away from children.
Before you pop another acetaminophen—more commonly known as Tylenol—consider the potential harm you’re causing to your health. Not only is it possible to overdose on the stuff, but acetaminophen can also cause serious liver damage or even death. Heavy drinkers, liver transplant patients, or anyone with liver health issues should talk to their doctor before taking acetaminophen.
If you aren’t washing your child’s stuffed animals on a regular basis, you’re about to start. Per one 2007 paper titled “Home Environmental Health Risks” published in the Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, pesticides in the home can “settle… on children’s stuffed animals and toys” and, when absorbed, can cause everything from nausea to seizures.
Since oven cleaner is meant to get rid of food that’s been baked onto your oven for weeks, it’s pretty caustic and corrosive. Getting oven cleaner on your skin can easily cause chemical burns. And using your oven’s self-clean mode after spraying oven cleaner in it can fill your home with ultra-hot chemical fumes, causing respiratory distress or even death, according to 1995 research published in the Journal of Accident and Emergency Medicine.
According to the American Lung Association, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are harmful substances that are emitted into the air, causing everything from cancer to pollution. Believe it or not, several of the aerosol spray products you have at home—including your cleaning supplies and beauty products—contain these toxic VOCs. When possible, the American Lung Association recommends opting for aerosol sprays that don’t contain these or other harmful ingredients.
Having a pool at home may seem like the ultimate luxury, but it can present a real danger to your safety, too. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that from 2005 to 2004, there were more than 3,500 people killed in unintentional non-boating-related drownings in the United States.
The good news is that there are easy fixes to this potential hazard. Install protective fencing around your pool, use a pool cover when you’re not swimming, don’t wear loose clothing that could get caught in a filter or drain, and make sure to skip a dip in the pool when you’re under the influence.
Hot tubs are a serious home hazard. These jacuzzis not only present a drowning risk, but they can also cause people to suffer from potentially fatal heat exposure. Scarier yet, the combination of people and heat presents the perfect petri dish for bacteria growth.
Did you know that flour is highly flammable? According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), it’s just one of the solid organic materials found in the kitchen—along with others like sugar and grain—considered a combustible dust, or a “fine material that has the ability to catch fire and explode when mixed with air.” Thankfully, these materials only cause a fiery fiasco when they make direct contact with a flame, so as long as you take care not to sprinkle flour on your stove, you should be fine.
Numerous popular indoor plants, including peace lilies and snake plants, produce VOCs that can cause damage to the respiratory tract, liver, and central nervous system, according to 2017 research conducted at the University of Georgia’s Department of Horticulture. When you add in the poisoning risk from the pesticides and fertilizers used to help them grow, you’ve got a potential recipe for trouble.
“[Loofahs] don’t ever totally dry out, so that’s a beautiful breeding ground for bacteria,” dermatologist Melissa Piliang, MD, explained to the Cleveland Clinic. According to the doctor, using these germ-infested cleaning tools can lead to skin infections and fungal infections, especially if you’re using them on an area of your skin with an abrasion.
Magnets present a serious danger to your (and especially your kids’) health. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, if ingested, magnets can cause intestinal perforations, obstructions, and bleeding, all of which can lead to your untimely demise. That’s partly because multiple magnets can stick together and trap and compress portions of the bowel wall.
Refinishing that antique table you picked up over the weekend is a job best done outside. Wood stain not only emits dangerous fumes, but it’s also highly flammable, presenting a potential fire risk if kept in the home. Even worse, there are reports of stains heating while they dry, so even if you’ve tossed those stain-soaked rags in the trash, you haven’t necessarily eliminated your fire risk. For appropriate disposal, put the cloths you used to apply the stain in a container filled with water before tossing.
Great for your glutes and bad for your safety, stairs are among the biggest hazards in your home. One 2018 study published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine found that from 1990 to 2012, nearly 25 million patients were treated for stair-related injuries. To minimize your risk, go barefoot on the stairs, use the handrail, and leave those cool banister slides to stunt doubles.
Even if you consider yourself pretty handy with a stud finder, you might want to double-check the installation on your flat screen TV. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) notes that from 2014 to 2016, approximately 30,700 people went to the emergency room to be treated for tip-over incidents. When in doubt, use special TV straps to mount your TV, and make sure your wall bracket is properly anchored.
That trunk you’re using to keep clutter at bay could be putting you at risk for major physical trauma. Heavy wooden trunks have a reputation for being finger-crushers, and even worse, can cause head injuries if they fall on you while you’re peeking into them. In 2010, Target even issued a massive recall on woven storage trunks after a toddler suffered brain damage from a falling lid.
Though a wood stove can make your space feel like a charming rustic cabin, it may not be worth it in the long run. Improperly vented stoves can put you at risk for a house fire or carbon monoxide poisoning, and the American Lung Association lists exposure to wood smoke as a potential risk factor for asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
The National Fire Protection Association reports that from 2012 to 2016, there were an average of 23 candle-related fires breaking out every single day. Keep your home safe by making sure candles are completely snuffed, matches are properly disposed of, and that you never leave a candle burning in a room you’re not in or when you’re sleeping.
Bleach can cause chemical burns, and, if accidentally ingested, can cause serious internal bleeding and even death. Just cleaning with bleach can present some real dangers, too. According to the CDC, bleach is a major cause of inhalation injuries and is known to damage the lungs and cause long-term health issues.
Bleach-based toilet cleaners can cause chemical burns and can even be fatal for family pets whose beverage of choice comes from the commode. Some toilet cleaners are also brightly-colored or resemble something edible, making them a hazard for children with curious palates.
Curling up under an electric blanket may seem romantic, but it’s also a risky way to keep warm. Scrunching up that blanket while you sleep can fray its wires, putting you at risk for a fire. Not only that, but electric blankets can also cause heat-related injuries, particularly in pregnant women, children, and the elderly.
A less-than-spacious kitchen means having to get creative while you cook, and hot plates make it easy to do so. However, this kitchen accessory has the potential to cause serious burns or start an electrical fire; in 2015, a hot plate was cited as the cause of a fatal fire that killed seven children in New York.
Using the wrong light bulb in your lamp can put you at risk for a fire. Scarier yet, many CFL light bulbs contain small amounts of mercury, which can be harmful for humans and pets alike should they shatter. If you break a bulb, turn off your ventilation system, have everyone leave the room, open a window, and both wet and dry clean any areas that may have been affected by the shattered bulb.
Even if you fancy yourself pretty handy with a table saw, power tools can be a hazard to you and those around you. According to one 2011 report published in the Journal of Hand Surgery (European Volume), there were approximately 16,000 visits to the emergency room from 2000 to 2002 in the U.K. due to tool-related accidents.
Chipped paint is as dangerous as it is unsightly. This chipping may indicate the presence of lead, which, if ingested or inhaled, can cause organ failure, brain damage, and death. And you aren’t in the clear just because your house was built after 1978. Everything from toys produced overseas to cosmetics have been shown to contain lead, and, as evidenced by the scandal in Flint, Michigan, it can even show up in your water.
Sure, that plug-in pheromone diffuser may keep your cat from losing its mind every time the doorbell rings, but it could be doing more harm than good in terms of your safety. That’s because pheromone diffusers often have a flammable, waxy build-up that congregates around their heating element, and this can put you at risk for a house fire.
Deck the halls all you want—just try not to burn your house down in the process. From 2011 to 2015, the National Fire Protection Association saw an average of 200 home structure fires per year caused by Christmas trees with $14.8 million done in direct property damage. Thankfully, you can minimize your risk by buying a freshly-cut tree, opting for LED lights, unplugging your tree at night, keeping trees away from heat sources, tossing broken lights, and making sure your tree is adequately watered.
Keeping your furnace well-maintained is the first step in keeping your home safe. Furnaces are not only a fire hazard, but they can also cause dangerous gas leaks and carbon monoxide poisoning. Make sure you’re getting yours serviced at least once a year.
Don’t let a faulty A/C unit pose a risk to you or someone else. According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International, air conditioners were responsible for 7,400 fires in 2010 and claimed 29 lives. Improperly installed window units can also cause serious trauma or even death to people walking under them should they come loose and fall.
Those swirling blades in your lawnmower do a number on your grass—and your health. The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that lawn mowers caused more than 83,000 injuries in the U.S. alone in 2011.
Revving your mower’s engine in the garage can even put you at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning.
The little batteries giving your devices life could be putting yours at risk. Battery acid is highly corrosive, meaning it can burn your eyes and skin. And not only that, but batteries can also be fatal if ingested, so it’s especially important to keep them far away from children.
Working out is good for your health—when used correctly, that is. One report published in the British Medical Journal found that from 2007 to 2011, the emergency room saw more than 70,300 mechanical exercise equipment-related injuries, the majority of which happened on the treadmill.
Before you think of bringing a trampoline home, consider the fact that trampoline accidents cause more than 240,000 injuries per year. In fact, trampolines are so dangerous that many insurance companies won’t cover you if they find out that you own one.
Don’t let your pursuit of coziness land you in the hospital. A 2018 report from the National Fire Protection Association notes that a staggering 86 percent of home heating fire deaths and 78 percent of injuries were caused by space heaters from 2012 to 2016. So if you own one, make sure it’s far away from flammable materials, clean it regularly, and unplug it when you leave the room or go to bed.
Non-Stick Pots and Pans
If you’re feeling a little worse for wear, it could be your cookware. The fumes emitted from non-stick cookware can cause flu-like symptoms, and chipping pots and pans can taint your food with hazardous flakes of non-stick coating and metal.
Almost 1.25 million people are killed on the road each year, with as many as 50 million additional injuries attributed to car accidents. Just as scary is your carbon monoxide poisoning risk in your car; running a car in a closed garage or driving with a blocked tailpipe can lead to serious injury or even death.
When in doubt, use a power strip. According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International, extension cords cause approximately 3,300 house fires each year that result in 50 deaths and some 270 injuries.
Before you fire up the BBQ this summer, make sure you have these safety rules committed to memory: Always make sure the coals are fully out, turn off the propane once you’re done grilling, and never grill inside. If you forget, you could be one of the nearly 17,000 people injured or killed by grills each year.
Don’t let that relaxing steam session turn into something scary. Saunas put users at risk for overheating, respiratory failure, and can even be a good breeding ground for bacteria like staph and E. coli.
Smoking cigarettes is bad for more than just your lungs. Researchers at the University of California, Davis estimate that children using cigarette lighters cause 100,000 fires in the United States alone each year.
Your love for accessories might just put your life in danger. Scarves present a surprising strangulation risk, particularly when worn in motor vehicles, elevators, or escalators. In fact, scarf strangulation is so common that one 2016 study in the Journal of Health Education Research & Development has a term for it: long scarf syndrome.
Those ammonia-based cleaners may leave your mirrors glistening, but they’re more dangerous than a streaky surface ever was. Ammonia is not only corrosive—making it dangerous if applied to the skin or ingested—but it also can turn into a toxic gas that has a suffocating effect if inhaled.
While a few mothballs on the closet shelf might not be hazardous to adults, children are another story. Unfortunately, not only do mothballs present a choking hazard to curious kids, but the ingestion of naphthalene and paradichlorobenzene—the most common active ingredients in mothballs—can cause organ damage or death.
Leaving a gas stove on for too long can be downright dangerous. Not only do these stoves put you at risk for burns and house fires, but a little gas leak can turn your home into a tinderbox or potentially lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.
While harmless and beneficial for your oral health in small quantities, the fluoride in your toothpaste can cause serious health issues if ingested in large amounts, ranging from damage to your central nervous system to metabolic problems.
Your Bath Tub
Don’t let that bubble bath relax you so much that you decide to take a snooze in it. According to the CDC, bathtub drownings accounted for approximately 10 percent of both fatal and non-fatal drownings from 2005 to 2009. What’s more, children under the age of 5 are most likely to suffer from a serious drowning incident, so never leave your children unattended during bath time.
You might want to stick to shoveling your snow rather than blowing it. According to the Amputee Coalition, approximately 9,000 people lost a finger in snowblower accidents between 2003 and 2016. Your snowblower’s gas engine can also ignite and start a fire, and clothing—like long scarves, as we mentioned—can get caught in the machine, putting you at risk for strangulation.
Before you decide to channel your inner Bob Vila, make sure you have a spotter. According to 2014 findings from the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 43 percent of fatal falls involve a ladder, and up to 81 percent of falls that require an ER visit started on one.
Keeping your chimney clean does more than just keep Santa soot-free. When chimneys are used over the years, dust and debris can stick to their interior, blocking the proper exit of smoke and putting you at risk for lung damage, a house fire, and carbon monoxide poisoning.
Think twice before you bring a portable generator inside when the power goes out. They can emit toxic carbon monoxide, one of the most vicious and potent silent killers out there.
One 2011 report from the CDC found that in 2008, more than 234,000 nonfatal bathroom injuries were treated in the United States alone, 81 percent of which were caused by falls. Seeing as slippery substances like shampoo and conditioner only serve to increase your risk of falling, make sure to be careful whenever using these products.
Using air freshener can put you and your home in jeopardy. Not only do these fresh-smelling sprays put people at risk for respiratory health issues like lung cancer, but plug-in air fresheners also have the potential to overheat and cause a fire.
Though you use it to clean your dishes, your kitchen sponge is one of the dirtiest and most dangerous things in your home. One 2006 study published in Saint Martin’s University Biology Journal notes that some of the bacteria found on sponges includes E.coli, Salmonella, Klebsiella pneumoniae, and Enterobacter cloacae.
Sitting on your couch might just be the most dangerous thing you can do in your home. Why? Research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine shows that a sedentary lifestyle contributes to heart disease, diabetes, and early death. And for more great health advice, check out these genius 40 Ways to Never Get Sick After 40.
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