Is Your Home at Risk? Seven Toxic Hazards You Should Avoid

Written by Karen Lawson on February 3, 2010 & Posted in Home Insurance

Never mind smashing your finger with a hammer, there are less-straightforward household hazards that can threaten your health and increase your insurance costs. The following toxins can cause health risks ranging from allergic reactions and respiratory distress, to serious illnesses including cancer.

  • Asbestos: If your home was built prior to the 1970's, it may contain asbestos. Roofing, insulation, floor padding, and certain wall and ceiling treatments are examples of materials that may contain asbestos. Minute asbestos fibers are invisible to the eye and can be inhaled without your knowledge. Exposure to asbestos over time can cause lung disease or cancer. If you suspect asbestos is present in your home, do not touch or disturb affected materials. Asbestos detection and removal should be handled professionally.
  • Biohazards: Your home may contain biohazards including bacteria, viruses, molds, mildew, fungus, animal hair, and dander. Removing biohazards through regular cleaning can significantly reduce risk. Inspect appliances that use water, like swamp coolers or humidifiers, to ensure proper ventilation and/or drainage, and to detect mold and mildew. Clean bathrooms and kitchens often. Keep pets clean and groomed; animal hair and dander can cause allergies and lead to illness. Using a HEPA vacuum can help minimize symptoms associated with biohazards.
  • Carbon Monoxide (CO): A colorless and odorless gas, CO is a byproduct of incomplete combustion when burning carbon-based fuels. If allowed to accumulate, it can induce unconsciousness and cause death. Investing in a carbon monoxide detector significantly reduces risks. Avoid operating fuel powered machinery, using barbeque grills, or running vehicles indoors; opening doors or windows may not provide sufficient ventilation.
  • Household Chemicals: Common cleaning agents and other household chemicals can pose a safety hazard if not used according to directions. Mixing bleach and ammonia, for example, may seem like just the ticket to get those tough stains up, but the combination produces a deadly gas. Work in well ventilated areas and avoid inhaling fumes. Store household chemicals in a secure location beyond reach of children and pets.
  • Indoor Air Pollutants: One of the most common indoor air pollutants is dust, or more accurately, the waste produced by dust-mites. Dust-mite allergies can cause severe respiratory distress. Using a HEPA vacuum and air purifier can help control indoor pollutants. Don't smoke indoors, and make sure that stoves and fireplaces have appropriate ventilation.
  • Lead: Homes constructed prior to 1978 may contain lead paint; both interior and exterior paint can contain lead. Peeling paint can be ingested by children, who are more vulnerable to lead poisoning than adults. Lead can produce dust that can be inhaled. If you suspect that your home contains lead-based paint, please call (800) 424-LEAD to learn more.
  • Radon: This colorless, odorless gas is generated by deteriorating rocks containing uranium. If your home was constructed on or around such material, radon can infiltrate. You can purchase do-it-yourself test kits. The National Safety Council notes that radon is the second largest cause of lung cancer after smoking.

Protecting your household and health from these hazards can help you stay healthy while reducing insurance claims, which impacts the costs of home insurance and health insurance.

National Safety Council, IAQ Community Leader Kit for Women & Children

About the Author

Karen Lawson is a freelance writer who enjoys writing about topics in science and medicine. She holds an MA degree in English from the University of Nevada, Reno.


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