You probably think of your home as a safe haven. A place where you can relax and forget about the problems of the world. However there are still dangers you have to be aware of. There are plenty of pitfalls to consider, everything from carbon monoxide poisoning to your tumble dryer catching fire.
To make sure you know what you are up against, here are 10 ways your home can kill you.
- Carbon monoxide
- Tumble Dryer
- Carpets and wood
Carbon monoxide is a ‘silent killer’ because it is flavourless, colourless and odourless and the first thing you will notice are the symptoms. The symptoms are comparable to that of the flu and include headaches, dizziness, nausea and shortness of breath.
Should you notice any of these symptoms it’s important to see if there is a pattern to identify a carbon monoxide leak. For example, if they go when you’re out of the house, if visitors experience similar symptoms when they visit or if you only experience the symptoms when the heating is on, then these are danger signs.
Carbon monoxide can escape from appliances like boilers, cookers and gas fireplaces when they have been incorrectly installed or if they have poor ventilation.
To keep yourself safe, have your appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year which will ensure that everything is being safely maintained. Ideally you should get your boiler serviced in summer as it will be cheaper than winter.
Equally you should get a carbon monoxide detector which will let you know if the gas levels in your house are high. You’ll be able to pick up a detector from a DIY store for about £20-£30, so make sure you have one!
Mould might not be particularly uncommon, but an excessive amount can cause respiratory problems, allergies and asthma. In the most serious case it can lead to anaphylactic shock which makes it difficult to breathe and is potentially life threatening.
As you are probably well aware, mould is produced by excess moisture so if you do find mould in your house it is important to find out what is causing it. If there is only a little bit of mould you may be able to move it yourself using dishwasher soap and water, making sure you use protective gear to keep yourself safe.
If, however, there is a lot of mould you may have to call in a professional.
Good ventilation is one way to help prevent the build of mould as is constant low level heating, which will keep surfaces warm and therfore prevent condensation.
Electrical appliances must be handled with caution if you are to avoid injury. Before carrying out any maintenance on an appliance, make sure there is no electricity going to them.
Equally, although it may be tempting in today’s world of countless electrical goods, it’s important you don’t overload adaptors as this can cause fires.
You must be careful to keep all electrical appliances away from water and make sure your hands are dry before touching them, otherwise electricity could travel through the water and into your body. Look out for frayed wires and make sure you know there are no electrical cables in the wall you are about to drill in.
One of the best things you can do is get an RCD (Residual Current Device) which, in the case of an accident, will cut off the power instantly and reduce the chance of a fatal accident.If you don’t know what you are doing it makes sense to get in a professional electrician so you’re not putting your safety at risk.
Charlie Harris, chief executive of The Handy Squad, says: “Get your electrical installations checked periodically to ensure you have equipment that abides by current regulations – such as a modern consumer unit with requisite isolation switches to replace your old fuse box.”
“You can have a portable appliance test done to ensure all your non-hard wired stuff isn’t going to electrocute you,” he says, “and ask your electrician to verify that every part of your home wiring system is earthed.”
Believe it or not, something as simple as paint could be a risk to your health. Paints that contain high levels of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) can lead to intense headaches and respiratory problems. To be safe, always use paints that have no VOCs or a low amount of VOCs.
If your house was built before the 1960’s and still has original coats of paint, then there’s a good chance that it is lead based. If there is a layer of paint over the original lead paint then it is safe all the while it is locked in but if you’re thinking of decorating, or the paint is flaking or peeling, then lead dust could be released into your home which is extremely dangerous to pregnant woman and children under the age of six.
If you’re in any doubt you should get a professional to inspect the paint and, if it does turn out to be lead based, a professional to remove it.
A neglected chimney is a cause for real concern. If you do not keep your chimney clean then there will be a buildup of creosote, which is flammable and may lead to carbon monoxide levels rising in your house. Eventually it can also catch fire, engulfing your whole house with it.
To be safe, make sure your chimneys are regularly swept and inspected. Even something such as a gap between flu tiles or a cracked flu tile, which could be caused by a lightening strike, may let poisonous gases into your home so make sure your chimney is well maintained.
Charlie Harris says: “There are strict regulations about chimneys dictating that they should be correctly flued/lined and have sufficient measurable airflow.”
The worry is that methane could travel from disused coal mines and landfill sites into people’s homes.
It was only in the 1990’s that the housing sector started taking adequate precautions by adding ventilation to make sure homes were safe.
Houses built before that are potentially at risk. For example, in 1986 methane gas migrated from a landfill site into the village of Loscoe, in Derbyshire, which resulted in a house being completely destroyed by the blast.
Experts are unsure how big a threat methane really is, but it is good to be aware of it. Unfortunately, unless the gas has had an additive added to it, the gas doesn’t smell so it’s hard to detect. The affects of an intense concentration of methane include headaches and heart palpitations.
Mothballs often contain naphthalene, which is a possible human carcinogen and, if eaten or inhaled, can cause anemia, damage to the eyes and liver damage. To young children it can even cause neurological damage.
Instead of mothballs we recommend you use a safer, non-toxic alternative such as cedar balls.
Not only that, the lint may well contain chemicals that comes from the clothing and fabric softeners which mean, if it is inhaled, it can cause respiratory problems, can be carcinogenic and could even cause a central nervous system disorder. In order to be safe, ensure that your dryer is regularly cleaned.
You might think that your carpet and wooden floor boards are completely safe, but they can release VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds). VOCs can cause respiratory problems, make any allergies you suffer worse and, after high levels of exposure, can increase your chances of cancer.
Carpets can give off VOCs including styrene and formaldehyde. Styrene, for instance, can cause skin irritation and can alter kidney function.
Sealants, stains and glue used on wood may also contain VOCs such as formaldehyde, which is considered as a possible carcinogen.
Where possible you should try to limit your exposure to VOCs. An undyed carpets made from natural fiber (such as wool) should contain few, if any, chemicals. On wood, using a water based woodstain is also a good alternative to a solvent-based woodstain which contains around 75% white spirit (which is a VOC).
The stairs, in particular, are a dangerous place to fall so it is better to take preventative action so you can avoid an injury.
Make sure you don’t leave items on the stairs that you could potentially trip over and ensure all the carpet is well maintained – if the carpet is worn or frayed you should get it immediately replaced. Equally just making sure that the stairway is well lit could help prevent a painful injury.
Another cause of falls are slippery floors, which can be avoided by cleaning up spillages and using non-slip mats. Take no chances with your safety and if anything poses a risk, get it seen to right away. Decorators, such as The Handy Squad, should be able to get your home in safe shape if you think there’s a problem.
“Good housekeeping is vital to prevent slips, trips and falls,” says Charlie Harris. “Contractors like us, when working on site premises, should be storing materials safely and in such a way that the risk of slips, trips and falls is reduced to absolute minimum, both for the tradesmen and for the occupants and visitors.”
More great reading
- Buying a property to make a profit
- Save money by doing winter things in summer
- Get your home insulated for free
- Complaining: How to get what you want