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Aug 26, 2008

Household Hazards

The word home often conjures up thoughts of safety and security. It may make you think of your family, or where you go to escape the stresses of the outside world. But what you may not realize is that while you're enjoying the comforts of home, secret dangers may be potentially threatening the health of your family and your pets. So before you declare home sweet home,  make sure your house doesn't contain any of these hidden hazards.  

There's no place like home—but it might not be the safe haven you think it is.

 Scented Laundry Products. They make your linens and shirts smell deliciously fresh and clean, but according to a recent University of Washington study, the scents in your favorite laundry supplies could be hiding potentially toxic chemicals. According to the study, which was published by the journal Environmental Impact Assessment Review, each of six top-selling laundry products and air fresheners tested emitted at least one chemical that federal laws regulate as toxic or hazardous. However, the makers of these products are not required by law to list the chemicals used to make the fragrances, so none of the toxic chemicals were listed on the labels. To help reduce exposure to these potentially dangerous chemicals, the researchers recommend choosing fragrance-free versions of laundry products—even if they don't smell quite as good.

 Pool and Spa Drains. Those fortunate enough to have a pool or a spa in their backyard should also be aware of the numerous potential hazards, especially if there are children in the household. Drowning, slipping, and falling are obvious risks, but the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) notes that there are other risks. The unforgiving suction power of drains can trap anything from hands, feet, hair, and even the bodies of both adults and children. The ability of the swimmer is irrelevant if the individual is held under water for an extended amount of time. To help reduce the possibility of these types of drowning incidents, the CPSC stresses the importance of closely supervising young children and recommends having your pool or spa inspected by a professional for entrapment hazards before using it for the season. Another option is to install a safety vacuum release system, which detects blocked drains and automatically shuts off the pool pump or interrupts the water circulation to prevent an entrapment.

 Molds. Part of the natural environment, molds play an essential part in nature when located outdoors, but when growing inside, they produce irritants, allergens, and potentially toxic substances (known as myotoxins). What's more, they can lead to a variety of health problems, ranging from allergic reactions and asthma attacks to skin rashes, fatigue, nausea, and even respiratory irritation and lung inflammation. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI), molds are among the most common allergens. Because mold requires moisture to grow, it's important to regulate the moisture levels indoors. If you find a mold problem and it's contained to a space that is less than 10 square feet, you can get guidelines for taking care of the situation yourself from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). If you choose to hire a contractor or other professional to do the cleanup, the EPA recommends checking references and confirming that they follow standard government guidelines.