by David B. Biebel
You may spend half of your life at work or school, but the other half you spend at home. Work places have safety rules with inspections and warnings for workers. How many homes have you been in where safety rules were posted? Many injuries and illnesses occur in the home environment. These include head injuries from accidental falls, lead poisoning of children, and poisoning from inhaling or ingesting a variety of common substances – all of which can be prevented with common sense and good housekeeping.
Chemicals may be found throughout your home such as bleach, ammonia, roach traps, nail polish remover, isopropyl alcohol, drain cleaner, carpet cleaner, paints, paint thinners, gasoline, glues, and other adhesives. Serious consequences can result from exposure to pesticides and their residues, indoor toxicants, tobacco smoke, solvents, and combustion gases such as carbon monoxide. Read the labels of all the chemicals you store in and around your house. You may be surprised by what you find. Labels contain important information such as warnings to keep them out of reach of children. This does not mean you should get rid of all these chemicals. Rather, you should respect them for what they can do if they are not handled and stored properly.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 250,000 children aged 1-5 years have blood lead levels greater than the level at which action should be taken. Lead poisoning can occur with no obvious symptoms or warning signs. However, children’s blood lead levels can be checked. Lead poisoning is preventable. Lead-based paint and lead contaminated dust are major sources of exposure even though leadbased paint was banned in 1978 in the US. Old homes deteriorate and the lead paint peels off and becomes dust around the house where children play. Children under the age of six years old are at greatest risk because of the effect of lead on their development. Other sources of lead exist such as with contaminated soil and toys, jewelry, cookware, and cosmetics that contain lead.
Other things in your home can also pose a risk, including access to electrical outlets (young
children), glues and other adhesives used in hobbies, alcohol that is made for consumption,
prescription drugs, and even – hard to believe – your office supplies, including various adhesives, solvents, even “canned air,” which some kids spray into their nose to get a quick high. It’s called “dusting,” and has contributed to several deaths.
There are probably a dozen or more things in your home right now that could seriously injure or even kill you or your kids. But you can protect yourself and your family. Here are some things to do in your house to create and maintain a healthier environment:
- Check for things that could lead to accidents such as uneven thresholds between rooms,
carpet that is not fixed in place, slippery tiles, steps without railings to hold onto, cords that run across the floor, and places where loose items may spill out onto the floor.
- Check for chemicals such as cleaning supplies that might be stored under the sink or in a closet, paints and varnishes and related chemicals, insecticides, and bleach near the washing machine. Store these is safe places, such as cabinets that can be locked. Make sure you take notice of the warnings on the labels.
- When you paint or use solvents, always provide good ventilation.
- Makes sure that heaters, ovens and stoves are working properly. Improperly operating combustion devices can fill the home with dangerous gases.
- Place smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors throughout the house.
- Check all items that a child comes in contact with for possible lead content. Make sure old paint and dust are cleaned away. Clean children’s hands when they come in from playing outside.
- Make sure you do not have old lead pipe in your house or in the service line that brings water to your house from the street main if you are supplied by a public water system.
- Restrict access to all prescription medications. • If small children sometimes visit, be sure your outlets are covered.
- Keep all your office supplies in a safe place.
- Remain sensitive and alert to allergies that might be developing in your family. Believe it or not, your house could be making someone sick.
Make safety and health checks of your home environments. Too many accidents happen every year in the home. You shouldn’t have to wear a hardhat, safety shoes, or a mask at home! Your home should be a safe and healthy place for you and your family, where you can also show hospitality to friends and strangers…safely.