Is Your Home Poison-Proof

Whether you are a new home owner, a new parent or simply concerned for your own safety, you may wonder what kind of dangers lurk around your household. With cleaning chemicals widely available, recent reports of lead found in common items and the resultant widespread product recalls, knowing if your home is poison-proof is a legitimate concern.

Household Cleaners
Most people know that many cleaning agents, such as Draino, ammonia or bleach, are extremely harmful if swallowed, inhaled or contacted with skin. But there are several products that don't often bring the word danger to mind. Even air fresheners, which kill bacteria and cover-up odors, or all-purpose cleaners contain small amounts of bleach, formaldehyde or phenol. These chemicals can cause irritation of the skin; if enhaled, they can even cause serious respiratory system damage. Use caution when using these kinds of products.

Dishwasher and laundry detergents are also unsuspected hazards in the home. Both contain phenol, ammonia and bleach; they often leave residue on your dishes and clothes. Dishwasher detergent has been one of the leading causes of accidental household poisoning, so be sure to keep away from children and animals.

Many cleaners contain carcinogens, which cause various types of cancers. Any cleaning product, especially those with high concentrations of chemicals, should be used sparingly. Seek out some of the new, safer alternative cleaners now appearing on store shelves. These products often have plant-based and natural ingredients. Be sure to read labels before purchasing new products.

If you have children, keep cleaning cabinets locked, or out of reach. Use rubber gloves or masks if you must use very harsh chemicals, and only use these when children and pets are far out of harm's way.

Carbon Monoxide
Carbon monoxide is an extremely dangerous poison, mostly because it cannot be seen, tasted or smelled. Most who suffer carbon monoxide poisoning do not initially recognize the cause of their symptoms; in many cases, the root of the problem is only found when it is too late.

When burning gas, wood or oil in the home, make sure to have proper ventilation and be sure that all appliances are clean and in the best working condition. Install carbon monoxide detectors in bedrooms and any room that contains appliances that use gas or oil. These detectors will alert you if there are any levels of carbon monoxide in the air. As with smoke detectors, test these often to ensure maximum effectiveness.

Lead is often found in older houses or buildings, contained in paint, dust, even some toys and cosmetics. Lead poisoning has severe effects especially on children under the age of six, and can cause growth and development issues. In adults, lead poisoning can cause cataracts and memory loss.

Lead poisoning is usually built up over time, so protect yourself early on. Have your house tested for lead, especially if it was built over 30 years ago or you have small children. Testing is easy and there are several approaches, including risk assessment and screening. Call a local professional who is certified in inspection and assessment to do testing. Also, be sure to read labels for children's toys and cosmetics, and keep up on any reports of product recalls.

Arsenic is also only dangerous when ingested or exposed in large amounts, but vulnerability is often unnoticed. Long-term exposure can lead to various types of cancer. Arsenic is often found in water and paint products, so protect yourself by getting your home tested for arsenic levels.

Methane Gas
If you use natural gas in your home to fuel appliances or for heat, or you have a septic tank, you could be at risk for methane gas poisoning. Carbon monoxide is a byproduct of burning natural gas, so be sure to also have a methane gas detector in your home.

If you feel that you may be at risk for poisoning, call local experts and poison control right away. Research the signs and symptoms of poisoning, and the ingredients on products and paints that you use. The best way to cure household poisoning is by starting with prevention.

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