Monthly Archives: June 2016

Have It in Your Home

Lead poisoning is a serious health issue for both children and adults. It can affect anyone, even affect a fetus in the womb, if the mother inhales or ingests lead from paint.

And if you think you can’t come into contact with lead paint, think again. If you live in an older home, your walls, doors, trim work, and handrails may be covered with lead paint. And even if the original paint has been painted over many times, you may still be at risk for lead poisoning. Old paint that chips off can pose a problem, as can dust from lead paint that is sanded down.

A Short History of Lead in the Home

Lead is a highly poisonous material, and lead paint is not the only culprit. Before the dangers of lead were fully recognized, however, many commonly used materials like paint and gasoline were made with lead. Lead is everywhere and, unfortunately, you can’t see it or smell it. Lead can be found in:

  • House paint made or used prior to 1978
  • Plumbing materials like faucets and pipes in homes
  • Dirt and soil
  • Utensils, plates, and other serving ware made from pewter
  • Some batteries
  • Paint and art sets for children
  • Items like fishing sinkers and bullets
  • Furniture and toys that were painted prior to 1976
  • Some painted toys and household items that were made in countries other than the United States
  • Small figurines

Health Problems Caused by Lead Paint

If lead paint chips are ingested or dust from sanding off old layers of paint is inhaled or swallowed, lead poisoning may result. Lead poisoning can cause these symptoms and complications:

  • Lack of energy
  • Frequent headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Constipation
  • Abdominal pain (usually from ingesting a large amount of lead)
  • Moodiness and irritability
  • Problems paying attention
  • Behavioral issues
  • Hearing difficulties
  • Damage to kidneys

Carpeting trouble that you should to know

You’re diligent about changing your air filters to improve the quality of your indoor air and keep air pollutants out of your home, and you vacuum your carpets regularly to keep them clean, too. Still, that lush pile carpeting may actually be a source of air pollutants that are negatively affecting your indoor air quality.

Carpets and Indoor Air Quality

Few carpets are made from natural products, and the processes that are used to create them are even less natural — they’re often made with chemicals that can cause health problems when released into the air in your home.

Carpeting, padding, and the adhesive glue used to lay carpets can release irritating, potentially harmful chemicals. It’s not uncommon for people to experiencing strange health effects after new carpets have been installed in their homes.

And older carpets can pose health risks as well. Dust, dirt, dander, bacteria, mold, and mildew (especially if the carpeting has water damage or is frequently damp) can settle in and get buried down deep, making it difficult to get them out. Chemicals used around the home, from cleaning products and pesticides to actual carpet cleaners, can also nestle in deep, release harmful substances into the air, and worsen your indoor air quality.

Health Problems Caused by Carpets

Many different pollutants call carpets home before they make it into the air and into your lungs. Unfortunately, there are a number of health problems associated with these pollutants:

  • Irritated skin
  • Frequent headaches
  • Persistent cough or sore throat
  • Fatigue
  • Red, irritated eyes
  • Irritation of the nose and throat
  • Difficulty breathing

If dust and allergens are deeply embedded in your carpets — or circulating in the air throughout your home — allergy symptoms can become worse. Sneezing, stuffy or runny nose, and itchy eyes may occur, depending on the specific pollutants.

Keeping Carpets Cleaner

Of course, frequent vacuuming and deep cleaning of your carpets will help to limit and remove many potential contaminants, leaving less to circulate in your air. An air purifier and good ventilation can also help improve indoor air quality.

If you’re having new carpets installed in your home and are concerned about the potentially harmful chemicals that may be released, consider these suggestions:

  • Air out the carpet before it’s installed. Have it unrolled outside or in a well-ventilated room.
  • Research the VOC (volatile organic compound) emissions of particular brands and types of carpets before you buy; choose low-emission or “green” carpets and padding for fewer health effects.
  • Ask that the installers use low-emission adhesives to install the carpet or, instead of using adhesives, consider just tacking down the carpeting without glue.
  • Make sure carpets are installed according to the proper standards.
  • Don’t stay in your home during and right after installation.

Avoid for Pest Control

You can still protect your home, yard, and garden from harmful pests like fungi, rodents, and insects without putting yourself at risk of health effects due topesticides. While there are many potential risks associated with pesticide use, natural, chemical-free alternatives for pest control are safe and effective.

The Dangers of Chemical Pesticides

The problem with pesticides is that they can be extremely harmful, and exposure can cause a variety of symptoms and health problems:

  • Pesticides can enter the bloodstream if they’re inhaled or come in contact with skin; they can also be potentially fatal if they are swallowed.
  • Children, pets, farm animals, and wildlife are particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of pesticides. Nausea, headaches, vomiting, and dizziness are common effects of pesticides, which can also severely damage the skin, nervous system, and respiratory system.
  • It’s not always easy to store or dispose of pesticides, either. They have to be kept where they won’t spill or be found by animals or children, and they must be brought to recycling or collection centers specifically designated for household hazardous waste materials.

Discouraging Pests at Home

To minimize the need for any kind of pest control, start by making pests unwelcome in and around your home:

  • Clear clutter. Keep leaves, yard waste, trash, or even old newspapers from piling up inside or outside your home. These cozy little piles make welcome homes for rodents and insects. Don’t give them the opportunity to settle in.
  • Close up cracks. Cracks, gaps in doors and windows, or other open areas where pests can sneak into your home should be sealed or fixed. Without an easy way into your home, pests won’t be as much of a problem.
  • Take care of pets. Keep pets groomed, clean, and free of fleas and ticks. Regular vaccinations and other health precautions will help keep your pets healthy and pest-free.
  • Clean house. Make sure your home is tidy. Keep all areas clean, especially kitchens and bathrooms where mold and mildew may grow, and vacuum carpets and rugs regularly to discourage pest accumulation.
  • Starve pests. Are pests feeding on your pet’s food and water? Cut off their food supply by keeping pet supplies indoors and out of reach of pests; this will be safer for your pets as well.

Going Chemical-Free

Given the health risks associated with pesticide use, you may want to consider these natural methods of pest control to avoid harmful chemicals:

  • Baking soda. Problems with mildew or fungus in your garden? Use a sprayer containing one quart of water and one teaspoon of baking soda, plus a little squirt of dishwashing soap.
  • Insecticidal soap. Instead of a harsh pesticide, try a gentler solution of water, alcohol, and soap to keep bugs out of your garden. You can also purchase this type of pest control solution at certain stores.
  • Get better bugs. Harmful bugs that invade your home and garden, but “good” insects like ladybugs will actually eat the harmful ones. Birds can also help control insects. Plant nectar-rich flowers that tend to attract good bugs, invest in bird feeders, and mulch your garden to encourage nature to take care of your pest problem.
  • Plant a diversion. Find out what your particular pest prefers to eat, and plant it away from what you want to protect in your garden.

Tips for Detect Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a highly poisonous gas that can be fatal if inhaled in large amounts. You can’t see or smell carbon monoxide gas, which makes it even more dangerous. Carbon monoxide can infiltrate your home without you ever knowing until symptoms strike.

The longer and more significant a person’s exposure to carbon monoxide, the more severe the symptoms can become, ultimately leading to death.

Carbon Monoxide in the Home

A malfunctioning or inappropriately used heating, cooking, or ventilation system in the home can allow leakage of carbon monoxide gas into the air, leaving you breathing toxic gas without knowing it.

Carbon monoxide can come from a number of sources within the home:

  • Furnace systems and chimneys with leaks
  • Kerosene heaters
  • Wood-burning stoves and fireplaces
  • Gas ranges
  • Generators
  • Appliances fueled by gasoline
  • Gas-fueled space heaters
  • Fireplaces that aren’t vented
  • Cigarette and pipe smoke

Carbon Monoxide and Your Health

When carbon monoxide gas contaminates the air, you breathe in more carbon monoxide than oxygen. Once it enters the body, carbon monoxide gets into the blood, where it takes the place of oxygen; this happens most notably in vital organs like the brain and heart, which then become oxygen-deprived.

The first symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include:

  • Chest tightness or shortness of breath
  • Tiredness
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness

How carbon monoxide affects your health depends on the amount of carbon monoxide exposure and on how long the exposure lasts. Carbon monoxide poisoning may cause some of the immediate short-term effects noted above, but it can quickly turn serious, with nausea, vomiting, and loss of muscle coordination coming next. Inhaling high quantities of carbon monoxide can quickly lead to unconsciousness and suffocation.

Preventing Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

A carbon monoxide detector is a must for any home and just as important as a smoke detector. CO detectors should be placed near all bedrooms; they’re the only way you will know if carbon monoxide is affecting the air quality in your home, and can help prevent serious illness and even death.

Follow all the manufacturer’s directions, including how often the unit needs replacing, and always make sure there’s a UL (Underwriters Laboratories) certification tag on the model you buy. Unfortunately, not all carbon monoxide detectors are 100 percent effective — some brands did well during independent testing, and others didn’t. Investigate models before you buy to choose one that rated highest in tests.

If you experience any carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms, even if the detector alarm hasn’t sounded, get everyone out of your house into fresh air immediately.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, using a carbon monoxide detector is only a part of effective prevention. Also be sure all fuel-burning appliances get regular maintenance and are working properly. To reduce the risk of carbon monoxide in your home, follow these tips:

  • Always open the flue when using a fireplace.
  • Never leave your car turned on in the garage; for instance, if you warm it up before driving in the winter, do it outside.
  • Be cautious using wood-burning stoves: Make sure they are certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and that the doors close tightly.
  • Use appropriate fuel in kerosene heaters.
  • Keep all gas appliances in your home working properly and inspect them often.
  • Have your furnace and entire heating system inspected and cleaned each year by a professional.

What do you know about pills, plants, chemicals

If you have children or pets, you’ve probably looked around your house to see what potential hazards you need to lock up or move, like the cleaning products under the sink. But it’s easy to overlook something a child might find appealing.

That windshield washer fluid in the garage might look like a big jug of blue fruit drink to a child. Medication that’s red and round can look a lot like a candy to a youngster.

No home can be 100 percent safe, but you can take steps to protect your family from the most serious threats in your home.

“You have to anticipate what kids might do,” said Rose Ann Soloway, a clinical toxicologist with the National Capital Poison Center in Washington, D.C. “They’re smart and fast, and they like to imitate us.”

“I compare children getting into medicines and poisons to a young child rolling over for the first time and falling off a bed or couch,” Soloway said. “How often do you hear parents say, ‘I didn’t know he could do that’ when a child rolls over for the first time? While it’s not possible to be with a child 24 hours a day, it’s important that the things that can really hurt them have as many barriers as possible. Keep anything dangerous locked up and out of reach. Children rely on us to provide a safe environment.”

So what are the biggest problems that could be lurking in your home?

“The most dangerous are probably medications,” said Dr. Jennifer Lowry, a medical toxicologist at Children’s Mercy Hospitals and Clinics in Kansas City. “Parents don’t always put them away. Grandparents don’t always remember that they could be an issue. Their medications may be in pill boxes that are easy to open. And, older adults are on more medications that can be toxic to children.”

Soloway said that the medications of greatest concern when taken by those who don’t need them are blood pressure and heart medications, as well as narcotic medications to relieve pain. It’s also not always children who are an issue with medications. Poison control centers get lots of calls from older adults who’ve mixed up their medications.

But even pills people might think are safe can be an issue if the dose is large enough.

“Everything can be a poison depending on the dose,” said Lowry. People might not be concerned about leaving vitamins accessible, but iron can be extremely toxic, she noted.

Soloway said that personal care products also prompt a lot of calls to poison control centers. “The ones we worry about are those with alcohol in them,” she said. “Children can get alcohol poisoning from mouthwash. Children see adults putting it in their mouths, so why wouldn’t they? But, they don’t get the swish-and-spit part.”

Then there are pesticides, which can be dangerous if they’re swallowed, breathed in or gotten on the skin. “It’s so important to understand that these products are intended to kill an organism,” Soloway noted.

Products called hydrocarbons, such as gasoline, kerosene, lighter fluid and lamp oil, are also a concern. Though they generally pass through the digestive system without causing too much damage, they can get into the lungs, causing a serious condition called aspiration pneumonia, if a child swallows one of the products and then vomits it up.

Immediate harm can come from products that can cause chemical burns on contact, including drain openers, toilet bowl cleaners and dishwasher detergent.

But preventing poisonings at home really boils down to common sense, Lowry said. Store cleaning products and other chemicals in their original containers and store them on a high shelf. The same goes for medications — or, even better, keep them in a locked box. Replace childproof caps tightly after you use a medication.

If you have to use a pesticide or a cleaning product, use them in well-ventilated areas and follow the label instructions. “If a warning is there, pay attention to it,” advised Soloway. She also recommended using just the amount of product that you need.

People who have plants in their homes need to know exactly what they are, as some can be irritating and others safe, Lowry said. And without knowing the kind of plant, it’s difficult for poison control to help.