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Household Dangers 101 -- Tips for Homeowners


Electrical Issues


One of the greatest safety hazards lurking in homes today is electrical issues stemming from improper and unsafe wiring. This often becomes an issue when homeowners attempt to do DIY electrical projects around the house without having the proper experience and expertise. Other potential sources of electrical issues are faulty outlets, bare/exposed electrical wires, and problems with the home's circuit breaker.


Fire Hazards


Most homeowners rarely give any thought to house fires, but believe it or not, their homes likely contain more than one potential fire hazard. Check the following list for things to be aware of when doing your periodic maintenance and safety checks around the house.



*Faulty Smoke Detectors:

First and foremost, make sure that all smoke detectors in your home are working properly and have new batteries.


*Overloaded Extension Cords:

This one speaks for itself. Always be aware of the dangers of plugging too many household items into one extension cord or surge protector.


*Gas Water Heaters:

Combustibles (piles of laundry, books, etc.) should never be on or near your gas water heater, because they can very easily catch fire when it comes on.


*Stoves and Ovens:

Most don't realize that cooking is often a cause of house fires. It is imperative that you always cook on a clean stove (free of grease and food particles) and that you are mindful of your cooking temperature, making sure not to turn the temperature up too high on your stove and oven when preparing food.


*Fireplaces:

In order to prevent a fire on or near your fireplace, it is a good idea to have your chimney swept once a year, removing all combustible dirt and debris that could cause a fire. Additionally, when using your fireplace, make sure that all flammable household items are far from the flame.


*Loose Electrical Outlets:

Loose electrical outlets pose a fire hazard because they can cause the electrical wiring to come loose, thus making an electrical fire more likely.


*Batteries:

Most homeowners have no idea that the loose batteries in their junk drawers can spark a house fire! Loose batteries, especially 9-volt, can spark a fire if they come in contact with metal that causes them to short out. This is not a common cause of fires, but as always, it's better to err on the side of safety.


*Dust Bunnies:

One very important reason to keep your house free of dust bunnies -- aside from the obvious unsightliness of them! -- is that they can very easily cause a fire if they make their way to a space heater, electrical socket, or other heat source.


*Exposed Light Bulbs:

Light bulbs that are exposed, rather than contained within a shade or lamp, can get very hot and potentially start a fire if they make contact with any flammable materials in the home.


*Dryer Lint:

It's always a good idea to empty your dryer's lint trap before drying your next load of laundry, because the lint is flammable and can pose a problem if it is near the motor or heating element.


Carbon Monoxide


Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless gas that, when inhaled for

a significant period of time, can deprive a person of oxygen and essentially poison him/her. Because it is invisible and has no smell to alert homeowners of its presence, it is very important to be aware of the risks and take measures to protect yourself and your loved ones in your home. Fuel-burning appliances produce CO, so common household sources of this gas include dryers, water heaters, furnaces, fire places, gas and wood stoves, automobiles, grills, generators, power tools, and lawn equipment. The most important steps you can take to ensure that CO is not a problem in your home are to make sure that all fuel-burning appliances are properly vented and maintained and additionally to install CO alarms throughout your home.

Water Intrusion


It is very important for all homeowners to be on the lookout for signs of moisture in the home, because water intrusion can lead to a whole host of issues down the road. Water can get into your home via plumbing leaks, roof leaks, flooding, improper air ventilation, improperly sealed building materials, and humid air. Your activities within the home, such as cooking and bathing, can also lead to an accumulation of unwanted moisture. Water intrusion in the home can cause mold growth (and resulting allergies), decaying wood, metal corrosion, foundation issues, and other issues, so it is best to consult a local home inspector if you suspect moisture issues in your home.


Asbestos


Although this is not an issue in newer homes, homes that were built before 1980 can potentially contain asbestos, a mineral which contains fibers that are harmful to one's health when inhaled. In the past, asbestos was often a component in various house/building products, such as roof shingles, cement, ceiling and floor tiles, textured paint, insulation, and steam pipes. If left undisturbed, it doesn't necessarily pose a problem; however, home renovations and repairs (such as pulling up old tile, replacing insulation, etc.) tend to agitate the fibers and render them airborne so that they can easily make their way into your airway and lungs. If you have an older home and are concerned about the presence of asbestos, it's best to consult a professional who can send samples to a lab for a definitive answer.


Mold


One household issue that gets a lot of attention today is the presence of mold in

homes. Although it is oftentimes harmless -- especially when found in its natural habitat outside -- it can cause a multitude of health problems for susceptible people when found in high numbers inside the home. For this reason, it is vital for homeowners to be on the lookout for possible sources and/or causes of mold in their homes. Mold thrives in warm, moist conditions, so potential problem areas include improperly ventilated bathrooms, crawl spaces, and attics in addition to any areas of the home that are susceptible to water intrusion. If you suspect mold overgrowth in your home, a home inspector can very easily test a single area (via a swab) or the household air for mold spores.


As you can see, home ownership is a big deal, folks! As a general rule, it's best to keep a checklist of potential hazards handy so that you can keep yourself and your loved ones safe at all times.


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